Things to Do in Buenos Aires - page 2
El Cabildo, a modest, two-story colonial building along the edge of Plaza de Mayo, once served as Buenos Aires’s original city hall. Within the white facade, meetings were held about Argentina’s declaration of independence in the first decades of the nineteenth century, the Uruguayan constitution was signed within the building in 1830, and it housed the National Court of Justice during the late 1800s.
Today, Cabildo is one of the few colonial structures still standing in Buenos Aires. The facade now houses a small museum showcasing paintings, furniture, antiques and costumes from the colonial period. The windows of the building offer some of the best views of the historic plaza just outside.
Think of Buenos Aires and you think the tango. Café de los Angelitos and its evenings of dining and performances roll everything iconic about Buenos Aires into one night. The “café” (really a nightclub) is a longtime icon of this Argentine city and has been putting on shows here for over 100 years. The name comes from a tango song composed and written by José Razzano, a longtime duet partner of Carlos Gardel, often considered to be the father of tango. The 1944 song was called “Cafe de los Angelitos.”
The café has come a long way since its 1890s beginning, when it was founded in a marginalized part of the city by an Italian immigrant and had dirt floors. In the time since then, the city has filled in around it, and though the café fell on hard times and was actually closed from 1992 to 2006, the doors have reopened for dining and entertainment in an elegant spot offering the best Argentina has to offer.
The Estadio Boca Juniors, locally known as La Bombonera, plays host to one of soccer’s greatest rivalries, that between porteño teams Boca Juniors and River Plate. The two floor Passion for Boca Juniors Museum (Museo de la Pasión Boquense) is housed within the stadium and chronicles the team’s history, dating back to their beginning as a modest neighborhood club in 1905. A giant soccer ball-shaped auditorium houses a 360 degree theater screens footage from a match, while jerseys, photos, trophies and other team memorabilia from the last century are on display. For an extra fee, visitors can tour the stadium, which includes a visit to the locker room and Diego Maradona’s box.
Red wine and red-hot tango are two of Argentina’s top exports and few places do both as well as El Querandi, one of the most famous tango venues in Buenos Aires. The atmospheric restaurant and wine bar is as popular with locals, who fill up on lunchtime steaks, as it is with tourists, who frequent the legendary dinner tango shows, and serves up an acclaimed menu of Argentine cuisine and local wines.
The historic venue has been making its mark in the tango world since it first opened its doors in 1920 and while the nightly dinner shows are now mostly for the benefit of tourists, the passion and artistry of the tango is still very much alive. Tracing the history of the sultry tango from the late 19th century bordellos, through its many generational interpretations and including plenty of gasp-inducing modern twists, the El Querandi tango show is a stylish introduction to the iconic dance.
The sultry passion, intricate footwork and dramatic embraces of the Argentine tango always make for a show-stopping performance and attending a professional tango show is the highlight of Buenos Aires for many visitors. With its award-winning shows, gourmet cuisine and lavish surroundings, Rojo Tango is arguably the most luxurious venue to experience the tango and it’s an intimate spot, with just 100 seats.
Guests can attend the show or opt to couple it with a pre-show dinner, where you’ll dine in style in Hotel Faena’s dramatic red velvet and gold cabaret theater. The dazzling tango performances, which take you on a journey from the roots of tango to modern-day, are equally impressive, including an extensive repertoire of jazz and classical tango by legendary Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla.
The neighborhood of Palermo is not just fashion and shopping and tony places to drink wine. It is also home to the ñeafu park 3 de Febrero, and inside, is the Galileo Galilei Planetarium. At night the exterior is lit up with blue and purple lights, and during the day, you’ll recognize it by its distinctive dome.
The building’s dome is 66 feet in diameter and seats 260 people. Shows are put on display with 100 different projectors and the use of Dolby 5.1 audio, meaning that in addition to the sun, moon and visible planets, nearly 9,000 other astral features such as stars, constellations and nebulas can be seen. The seating is 4-D and interactive, for an immersive experience for guests, and while the shows, such as Colisiones Cósmicas, are narrated in Spanish, they are mostly visual in nature, which means you’ll still get a lot out of it, even if you don’t know the language.
Buenos Aires enjoys a vibrant cafe culture, but few of the city’s cafes are quite as iconic as Cafe Tortoni. Opened in 1858 by a French immigrant, the cafe soon became a popular haunt of tango singers and literati, most notably the founding members of La Peña. Many of their old photos still adorn the walls.
Much like in the early twentieth century, Cafe Tortoni remains a popular place where locals come to chat over a morning or afternoon coffee. The art nouveau cafe, filled with marble tables and Tiffany lamps, specializes on coffee and pastries, but visitors with a bigger appetite will also find sandwiches, salads and steaks on the menu. Each evening, Cafe Tortoni hosts a live tango show.
Most people come to Palermo to enjoy the urban sights that Buenos Aires has to offer. There are several different sections, from mainstream to bohemian and from fashion and design to residential. And then there is Parque Tres de Febrero. This nearly 1,000-acre park is also referred to as the “Bosques del Palermo” (Palermo Woods).
The park has been in existence in a variety of forms since 1875, and over the years it has undergone additions including a zoo, a botanical garden and a rose garden, as well as the world’s largest Japanese garden outside of Japan. The park is popularly used by pedestrians and cyclists and is busiest on the weekends, when you can even take a boat ride in one of the artificial lakes. Visitors can spend a couple of hours walking among the trees and over the bridges that cross some of the lakes, or sitting in one of the gazebos to enjoy the tranquil park.
Few activities whip Argentines into a frenzy like a nail-biting futbol (soccer) match and watching local team River Plate – one of the country’s top teams - playing at their home stadium. El Monumental is a popular pastime for locals and tourists alike. Built in 1937 in the Belgrano district of Buenos Aires, El Monumental Stadium boasts an illustrious history and many of the nation’s most prominent matches, including the 1978 World Cup finals and the athletics events of the First Pan American Games in 1951, have been played out on the famous pitch. Those looking to watch Argentina’s national team play at home will likely find themselves at El Monumental, where the River Plate home games and even a number of National rugby matches are also held.
As well as hosting some of the world’s best soccer players, the 75,000-capacity stadium (the largest in Argentina) is also used as a music concert venue for international bands and artists.
More Things to Do in Buenos Aires
Art lovers will find plenty to marvel over at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Argentina’s number one fine-arts museum, located in the Recoleta district. With 24 ground-floor galleries devoted to pre-20th century European art, the museum is a trove of classic works, dominated by famous names like Renoir, Monet, Gauguin, Cézanne and Picasso. Most impressive is the beautifully curated galleries of Argentine art, the largest collection in the world, including works by legendary artists like as Xul Solar, Edwardo Sívori, Lino Enea Spilimbergo, Raquel Forner, Cesáreo Bernaldo de Quirós and Benito Quinquela Martín, whose colorful depictions of the city’s La Boca port are some of the museum’s most evocative pieces.
The striking museum, designed by acclaimed local architect Alejandro Bustillo in 1933, also hosts a number of popular temporary exhibits, a small cinema and a display of pre-Columbian artifacts.
The white bell tower and baroque pediment of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar sits at the heart of the affluent residential enclave of Recoleta.
The baroque interior features a golden statue of the Madonna, ornate altars, lovely cloisters and a small museum of religious artifacts.
The basilica overlooks the Recoleta Cemetery, one of Buenos Aires’ more unusual attractions. Follow the crowds to the grave of Eva Peron (Evita).
On weekends, Plaza Francia in front of the basilica comes alive with a large arts and crafts fair.
Once the tallest building in South America, the grand Barolo Palace (Palacio Barolo) might have since been eclipsed by Buenos Aires’ modern skyscrapers, but its magnificent architecture has still stood the test of time. Built by Italian architect Mario Palanti in 1923, the building’s fanciful style was inspired by Dante Alighieri’s ‘The Divine Comedy’, with its three parts representing Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.
The most famous part of the building is its central lighthouse, which looms 100-meters over the central boulevard of Plaza de Mayo and once shone a beacon that could be seen in neighboring Uruguay. Today, the Barolo Palace is open to the public by guided tour and the undisputed highlight is a visit to the top of the tower, from where the 360-degree views span Plaza de Mayo, Plaza de Congreso and much of the city.
Located on the already shopping-centric Florida Street in Buenos Aires, Galerias Pacifico is one of the city’s most historic shopping centers. The Beaux Arts building — it was inspired by the Gallerias Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan — was built during the 1890s as the Argentine headquarters of Le Bon Marche, a Parisian department store. Soon other businesses began renting other parts of the building, including offices of the Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway, which lent the building its name.
A range of midrange and upscale international brands now make their home within Galerias Pacifico, including Adidas, Chanel, Swarovski and Tommy Hilfiger. But what sets it apart from similar malls in the capital is the architecture of the building itself. Of particular note are the huge murals painted across the interior dome of the mall, commissioned in 1947 and painted by Argentina’s best artists of the time.
One of Buenos Aires’ biggest draws for visitors is the chance to see a live tango show. And while there are tango performances on the street (for example, on El Caminito), or even in San Telmo, it would be difficult to beat the all-encompassing experience of going to a tango show. One of the leaders in this arena is the Viejo Almacen, a name which means “old general store,” and behind the traditional old exterior in San Telmo is space for eating, dancing, and even a third floor terrace for outdoor dining. The building dates back to the late 18th century, and has been used for the dinner tango show since 1969. The show (with or without dinner, you decide), features more than 20 tango dancers, interspersed with Andean pan pipe music, and other forms of music, dance and even poetry. Dinner consists of traditional Argentine empanadas, pastas, vegetable risotto and two glasses of wine per adult.
On a corner of Plaza San Martin in the Retiro neighborhood of Buenos Aires stands one of its most iconic buildings. The Kavanagh Building was designed in 1934 and built in 1936, and at 394 feet (120 meters) it was for a time the tallest building in Latin America. The story surrounding the origins of the building is just as interested as its distinctive art deco facade.
According to local lore, a wealthy Irishwoman by the name of Corina Kavanagh commissioned the building as a form of revenge. Corina, who was not part of the Buenos Aires aristocracy, fell in love with the son of the prominent Anchorena family. The boy’s parents didn’t approve of their engagement and ended it. In response, Corina had the building put up to obstruct the view of the Anchorena church, at the time the private mausoleum of the Anchorena family, from the family’s mansion.
Palermo Viejo is the old quarter of Buenos Aires’ largest barrio, Palermo. The old residential area is well worth visiting to stroll past grand buildings and gardens, and get a sense of the enclave’s increasing modishness as a current Buenos Aires' hot spot.
Drop into trendy cafes and fashion boutiques on Plaza Serrano, and unwind in the area’s many parks clustered around Avenue del Libertador. The city’s main polo field is also in Palermo Viejo.
Buenos Aires’ Chinatown, or Barrio Chino, is a lively pocket of oriental culture tucked in the heart of the Belgrano residential area. A small four-block area crammed with family-run restaurants, curiosity stores and specialist Asian supermarkets, as well as the Tzong Kuan Buddhist temple, Chinatown has been a popular gathering place for the city’s Taiwanese and Chinese immigrants since the late 1980s. For the majority of portenos (city dwellers), this is the go-to place for authentic Chinese food, with traditional restaurants serving specialties like egg fried rice and steamed dumplings, and a selection of Japanese, Thai and Korean eateries providing a wide range of ethnic cuisine.
The barrio also draws a large crowd during the annual Chinese New Year celebrations, when the central Arribeños street comes alive with a vibrant street market and revelers can enjoy live music and costumed entertainers.
Gaze up at the Paz Palace, and it’s easy to see why many consider Buenos Aires to be the Paris of South America. The mansion, designed to be the private residence of La Prensa founder Jose C. Paz, was built between 1902 and 1914 by French architect Louis Sortais. Paz died in Monaco in 1912, but while he never got to live in the palace he’d commissioned, his wife and children did.
When it was built, Paz Palace was the largest private residence in Buenos Aires, complete with 140 rooms and 40 bathrooms spread throughout its 129,000 square feet (12,000 square meters). All the construction materials and furnishings — marble, chandeliers, wood tiles and gold gilding — were imported from France. Today, the palace serves as the headquarters of the Military Officers’ Association social club and also houses the National Museum of Armaments.
Plaza Italia, a small perk located in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, was originally built in 1898 and named Plaza de los Portones, or Plaza of the Big Gates. In 1909, the city of Buenos Aires renamed it Plaza Italia after a statue of Italian general and politician Giuseppe Garibaldi was erected in the center of the plaza in 1904.
A small tile located on the northeast side of the park along Avenida Santa Fe commemorates another important moment in the history of Buenos Aires. In 1894, the city’s first electric tram departed from Plaza Italia, and the area remains a significant public transportation hub to this day.