Things to Do in Buenos Aires - page 3
Each Sunday morning, the historic San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires plays host to the city’s most famous street fair, the San Telmo Market. Locally known as the Feria de San Telmo, the market brings hundreds of vendors to the streets surrounding Plaza Dorrego, most of them dealing in one-of-a-kind antiques. Leather goods, colorful glass soda siphons and antique knives are particularly popular items.
What started as a gathering of 30 or so antique vendors in 1970 when the fair was inaugurated has expanded to nearly 300. Tango dancers, buskers and other entertainers vie for attention of the thousands of shoppers that flood the neighborhood during the weekly event. Hungry shoppers can fuel up on fresh squeezed orange juice and choripan, a sandwich made with spicy chorizo sausage.
Located in a quiet corner of Recoleta, the Argentine National Library is the largest library in the country and one of the most important in South America. In a city like Buenos Aires, famous for its belle epoch architecture, the National Library stands out as one of the best examples of contemporary architecture in the country.
The Brutalist structure was the work of architect Clorindo Testa, winner of a design contest staged in the early 1960s. Construction of the library wouldn’t begin until a decade later, and it wasn’t until 1992 that the completed library was inaugurated.
Visitors access the public library through a small, grassy reading garden. Inside, the collection is available to the public. The view from the top floor of the library is worth a look, and there are often special exhibitions on display within the building.
Located in the heart of the Palermo neighborhood, the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden opened in 1898 based on a design by French architect Carlos Thays. Today the national monument encompasses 18 acres (7 hectares) of gardens showcasing some 5,500 species of plants from six different continents: Asia, Africa, Oceana Europe and the Americas.
Highlights of the green space include a Roman garden, designed by Carlos Thays in the fashion of early Christian-era gardens, as well as a French garden inspired by the gardens of Versailles. While not open to the public, the botanical garden also houses a stunning Art Nouveau greenhouse that was displayed at the 1889 Paris World Fair.
Aside from the plants, the botanical gardens also serve as a home to a sizable population of cats, most abandoned by their owners but now cared for by a local volunteer committee.
One of Buenos Aires’s most famous landmarks, the Obelisco (Obelisk), is located in the center of Plaza de la Republica. Erected in 1936 to commemorate the first (and ultimately unsuccessful) founding of Buenos Aires by Pedro de Mendoza on its 400th anniversary, the monument stands in the center of Avenida 9 de Julio where it intersects Corrientes.
The obelisk, designed by Argentine architect Alberto Prebisch, is famously visible from Plaza de Mayo. When Porteños have something to celebrate, particularly a significant soccer victory, flag-waving fans flood the plaza surrounding the monument.
Before the obelisk went up, Plaza de la Republica was the site of the Church of Saint Nicholas, built on the spot where the flag of Argentina was first flown in 1812 after gaining independence from Spain.
The Palais de Glace, French for “ice palace,” was built in the early 20th century as an ice skating rink and social club catering to the city’s high society at the time. As the popularity of ice skating waned, tango quickly became the new trend, and the circular building was converted into an oak-floored dance hall, where some of the most important orchestras of the time performed.
Today, the Belle Époch building in the Recoleta neighborhood houses an always-changing selection of cultural, historical, musical and artistic exhibitions, as well as the National Visual Arts Exhibition (Salon Nacional de Artes Visuales). The building has been listed as a National Historic Monument since 2004.
In 1967 Dr. Salvador Kibrick, a prominent member of the Argentine Israeli Congregation, donated his personal collection of Torahs, paintings, coins, siddur, ceremonial items and religious art to start the Jewish Museum of Buenos Aires. This museum, known locally as the Museo Kibrick in honor of its founder, is housed beside Argentina’s largest and oldest synagogue. Since its founding, many other works have been added to the collection, including manuscripts by Albert Gerchunoff and Samuel Eichelbaum and letters of Albert Einstein and Martin Buber. Special exhibits recount the history of Judaism in Argentina, including the role of Jewish agricultural colonies in the rural parts of the country.
Few tango venues have as illustrious a history as the Esquina Homero Manzi, built in 1917 and earning a reputation as an important cultural hub in the 1940s, where local tango musicians, dancers and poets would gather to drink, talk and perform. Today, the protected building has been beautifully restored in period style and named after one of its most famous former visitors – legendary tango lyricist Homero Manzi, who wrote his famous tango 'Sur' within its walls.
The atmospheric 300-seat restaurant now hosts one of the city’s best tango dinner shows, where guests can dine on Argentine cuisine and wine, and watch a nostalgic show of iconic tango songs and dances by talented local performers.
Located in a former tobacco warehouse in the historic San Telmo neighborhood, the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art (Museo de Arte Moderno), or MAMBA for short, showcases a 7,000-piece permanent collection of contemporary art from largely Argentine artists.
While the building has been renovated, its exposed brick facade and wrought-iron fixtures remain throughout, where gallery spaces display art from the 1920s through to the present day. While paintings and other more traditional mediums are represented, the collection also encompasses photography, graphic design, printmaking, concrete sculpture, audiovisual experiences and works of new media.
A burgeoning hotspot for gourmet cuisine, Buenos Aires’ lively barrio of Villa Crespo lies just southwest of Palermo and has become a fashionable haunt for the city’s young and hip. The district is most notable for its array of bars and eateries, just as chic yet more affordable than many of those in neighboring Palermo and makes an atmospheric place to spend the evening hours.
The variety of cuisine on offer is the biggest draw, with popular restaurants including the Middle Eastern themed Sarkis, a favorite among locals; Almacén Purista, one of Buenos Aires oldest and most celebrated vegetarian restaurants; and Scannapieco, specializing in delicious homemade Italian gelato. Other dining options include Italian, Argentine, Jewish, African and Chinese cuisine, and the area also boasts two of the city’s most exclusive nightclubs, Ocho7Ocho and Club Silencio, both hidden behind unsigned doors.
More Things to Do in Buenos Aires
The Barrio Norte neighborhood encompasses parts of Palermo, Recoleta and Retiro around Santa Fe Avenue. This part of town got its name from its location in relation to the city center during the late nineteenth century, when San Telmo and Montserrat were the center of things. Wealthy residents began relocating north after an outbreak of yellow fever. Today, what was once a rather poor part of town is now among the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods.
You may hear Barrio Norte referred to as Villa Freud, as Buenos Aires is known for having the highest per capita rate of psychologists in the world, many with businesses set up in this area of town.
Visitors and residents alike come to Barrio Norte for its moderate and upscale shopping and numerous cafes. Many of the neighborhood’s belle epoch buildings remain, lending the area a distinctly European feel. The small but well-kept Las Heras Park is popular with sun bathers in the summer months.
While the weekly San Telmo antiques fair is the most famous of the outdoor markets in Buenos Aires, the Mataderos Fair is considered to be the most authentic. Staged in and named after the Mataderos neighborhood, the fair features more than 700 vendors selling traditional Argentine arts and crafts; leather goods, silver jewelry and mate gourds are particularly popular items.
Just as important as the shopping are the other fair traditions: folk music, dancing and gauchos showing off their skill on horseback. Come hungry, as Argentine street cuisine features heavily, with specialties like choripan (chorizo sandwich), locro (a corn and meat stew), tamales and various types of empanadas on offer.
With over 350 different animal species and an acclaimed exotic breeding program, Buenos Aires Zoo is the go-to place for urban wildlife spotting, hitting headlines at the start of 2013 when one of its Bengal White Tigers produced a rare litter of four cubs. Located close to Plaza Italia in the heart of the city’s Palermo district, the zoo has been running since 1888 and today houses over 2,500 animal inhabitants, as well as spearheading Argentina’s zoological research, education and preservation efforts. The 18-hectare park aims to mimic a range of different ecosystems, with a variety of unique enclosures and architecturally impressive buildings, set around a boating lake and island inhabited by a population of Madagascan Lemurs.
Located in the northern part of Puerto Madero, the Fortabat Art Collection (Coleccion de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat) houses and displays Argentine and international art from the collection of the late cement heiress and socialite Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat. Argentina’s wealthiest woman was closely involved in the design of the largely concrete building, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly and completed in 2003, and among the pieces on display are a colorful Warhol portrait of the woman herself, as well as several works my her granddaughter. The museum is divided between Argentine art — with galleries devoted to Raúl Soldi and Antonio Berni — and international works. Highlights include pieces by Salvador Dalí, Auguste Rodin, Brueghel and Pablo Picasso. The museum’s dockside cafe is a wonderful spot to watch the sunset in the evening.
While San Telmo gets much of the attention as the center of tango culture in the Argentine capital, the neighborhood of Abasto has equally deep roots. It was in this barrio just outside the city center where Carlos Gardel, the nation’s most famous tango star of the 1920s and 1930s, lived. While off the typical tourist track, present day Abasto is home to many milongas where visitors can come practice the tango, as well as Casa Carlos Gardel, a small museum dedicated to the singer.
If you don’t come for the tango, come for the shopping. Barrio del Abasto is anchored by the Abasto Shopping Center, one of the biggest and best commercial centers. Formerly a produce market, the mall within the brilliantly restored historic building now features top local and international brands, as well as a cinema.
San Ignacio de Loyola Church began as a small adobe church built by the Jesuits in 1675. The structure as it stands today, located in the Montserrat neighborhood, was built between 1710 and 1734, making it the oldest colonial church in Buenos Aires.
San Ignacio de Loyola briefly served as the city cathedral after the Jesuits were expelled in the late eighteenth century. During the social unrest of 1955, this church, along with numerous others in the city, were burned by Peronist mobs.
The church interior required significant renovation, but the facade remained relatively unscathed. The church is immediately recognizable by its Baroque facade fronting Bolivar Street. Within the church, visitors will find several paintings and pieces of furniture dating back to the eighteenth century. Most notable is the canvas of San Ignacio de Loyola, made in 1767.
Located in the pampas of Buenos Aires Province outside the capital city, Estancia Santa Susana (Santa Susana Ranch) is one of the region’s most popular destinations for experiences a taste of traditional gaucho culture. Founded at the end of the last century by an Argentine citizen of Irish decent, the ranch encompasses 2,965 acres (1,200 hectares) of land, originally used for agricultural activities, including cattle ranching.
Visitors to Santa Susana Ranch are greeted with two Argentine specialties, piping hot empanadas and wine. After a tour of the grounds by carriage or on horseback, including a stop at the Spanish-colonial house which now contains a museum, guests are treated to a parrillada, an Argentine-style barbecue that remains a popular weekend tradition even among modern Porteños. Tango dancers and folk singers entertain during the meat-centric lunch.
With its scenic waterways, riverside funfair and lively handicrafts market, the charming provincial town of Tigre offers a welcome change of pace from nearby Buenos Aires and draws a steady stream of porteños year-round. Located on the Tigre Delta (one of the world’s largest), at the meeting point of the Paraná River and the Río de la Plata estuary, Tigre is renowned for its idyllic surroundings, as well as its colonial architecture, Parque de la Costa theme park and modern casino.
The most popular pastime for visitors is cruising around the delta, a scenic expanse of marshlands dotted with islands, traditional stilt houses and floating markets. Water sports like kayaking and wakeboarding are also possible along the river during the summer months.
Presiding over the historic town of San Isidro in the northeastern region of Buenos Aires Province, the San Isidro Labrador Cathedral is the crown jewel of suburban Buenos Aires and a popular pilgrimage site for those taking the famous Train of the Coast railway along the coast of the Rio de la Plata.
Stood on the site of an early 18th century chapel, the cathedral was built in 1895 by French architects Dunant and Paquin, in an elaborate presentation of neo-gothic style and is named for the patron saint of Madrid. The architectural masterpiece features three naves, decorated with a series of exquisite French stained glass windows and images of San Isidro Labrador. Highlights include the 69-meter tall clock tower, an 18th century statue of Santa Maria de la Cabeza and, most notably, a part of the incorrupt body of Saint Isidro, gifted to the church by Spanish King Alfonso XII.