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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrEvery famous bustling metropolis around the world generally has a well-deserved nickname, and Buenos Aires is no exception to this rule. Often referred to as ‘the Paris of South America’, this city is renowned for its customs, food, nightlife, sightseeing, and for being not only the place from which tango originates, but also a true cultural pole in Argentina.
A little History and Background about Buenos AiresThis city was founded twice by Spanish settlers, and remained subordinate to Spain by a viceroy until May 25, 1810. After Argentina had officially gained independence, on July 9, 1816, the province of Buenos Aires refused to participate in the congress that was created, therefore separating itself from the rest of the country. Only when Bartolomé Mitre became Argentina’s president in 1862 and made Buenos Aires the country’s capital was national political unity finally achieved. The pampas became heavily farmed as the railroad system expanded throughout the country. The produce yielded was exported by Argentina, rocketing its economic growth due to the exportations in the 1920s and the years that followed, which was a time of scarcity in the rest of the world. This economic growth continued through the first half of the 20th century.
Nowadays, Buenos Aires can well be considered a melting pot of sorts. Europeans immigrants brought with them their own culture, which gave shape to the Buenos Aires we see today, from the birth of tango to spectacular mansions, San Telmo, and the architecture of the place itself.
Sightseeing in Buenos AiresThis city has so much to offer it feels like you’ll never have time to see it all. Tourism revolves around the city center, the theater district in Lavalle Street, dozens of galleries located along and near Calle Florida, and concerts often held in football stadiums and theaters in Avenida Corrientes. The city's principal avenues are, in fact, 9 de Julio, Avenida Rivadavia, and Avenida Corrientes. For those interested in Argentina’s national dance, tango, you can not only enjoy it but learn how to dance it in the hundreds of milongas, dance halls, parks, squares, and ballrooms strewn all around the city. Hundreds of plays are held each weekend.
The city has numerous museums related to history, fine arts (whether it’s modern, decorative, popular or sacred), crafts, theater and popular music, as well as the preserved homes of noted art collectors, writers, composers and artists. MALBA, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, and Usina del Arte are only a few. Buenos Aires also has many hundreds of bookstores (do not miss El Ateneo), cultural societies and public libraries are also very popular, which is the reason it is referred to as the ‘city of books’. It is also home to a world-known zoo and botanical garden, along with a large number of squares, parks, and various places of religious worship that are not all Catholic churches. There are entire neighborhoods that hold their own particular styles, such as Belgrano (home, also, of Buenos Aires Chinatown), Retiro, Puerto Madero, Palermo, Parque Patricios, Recoleta (its enormous graveyard is a fascinating tour to take), and La Boca.
Buenos Aires also prides itself in its gorgeous and dynamic street art, with major murals everywhere in the city, but particularly concentrated in the oldest and more traditional quarters. All of these museums, libraries, neighborhoods, parks, and centuries old cafés, such as Tortoni -selected as one of the top ten most beautiful cafés in the world- are a must-see. Buenos Aires hosts many music festivals as well, the best known being Creamfields BA, Quilmes Rock, the Buenos Aires Jazz Festival. There are also many breathtaking landmarks such as:
It is located in the heart of the city, on 9 de Julio av. which is considered by porteños as one of the widest streets in the World (but really isn’t) And Corrientes, which is known for its many theaters. With 67.5 meters high, the Obelisco was founded in 1936 to celebrate the fourth centennial anniversary of the city’s Birth. It is considered by many as the most representative monuments of the city. If you happen to visit the city in the middle of some political event of some significance, this is also the place where most Argentinians congregate to celebrate, protest or get together for any kind of public manifestation.
Plaza de la Republica.
Home of the Obelisco, this place is a mandatory meeting place for any massive celebration or rally for both Argentinians living in Buenos Aires or in any other province. This landmark, which is also one of the most characteristic monuments in Buenos Aires, suffered numerous alterations throughout its history. It can be an interesting view if tourists happen to visit when there is some sort of protest or celebration taking place, which is also fairly common in Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina.
Site of the head of the government, this building is located in 50 Balcarce Street, in front of Plaza de Mayo Square. It was built over the old main fort of the early Buenos Aires town and it is kept almost in its original state although a couple of modifications, such as the Gardens and its characteristic Pink color, took place over the years. The Pink (rosado) color commemorates peace between the two main political views that were in dispute throughout the nineteenth century: Unitarios (red) and Federales (white).
With a capacity for 2500 people with its own Ballet school, orchestra and choir, Teatro Colon is the main stage of the Argentinians. In 2006 the government issued a massive restauration project that ended in 2010 with the celebrations of the bicentennial anniversary of the early revolutions and major concerts which included very celebrated music personalities such as Placido Domingo. The restauration process gave this opera house a remarkably attuned acoustic making it one the finest opera theatres in the World.
This popular neighborhood is widely known for its colored houses, the tango that is constantly played and danced on its streets, and for being the birth place of the football clubs River Plate and Boca Juniors were this last one still has its famous stadium. Every tourists in the number of thousands go in to see the inside field and the "Museo del Hincha" (fan museum), where the topic of the Argentinian football passion is addressed. On its emblematic street Caminito local artistry such as music, dance and artwork can be appreciated and purchased, and has become an emblem of tango worldwide.
This traditional neighbourhood is also one of the oldest in Buenos Aires, and considered by many a true reflection of the typical architecture of old Buenos Aires; it is kept in a remarkably preserved state. Bars and antique stores flood the streets and in the weekends so do craftsmen and local fairs. Here Argentinean gastronomy offers a wide variety of options from the old traditional cafe to the new and glamorous gourmet restaurants. Do not leave San Telmo without trying one authentic Argentinian empanada.
Other must-see destinations within the city are: the Cabildo, the National Library, the Water Company Palace; National Museum of History, the Planetarium and the parks that surround it and the city legislature, among many others.
Sports in Buenos AiresIf you’re a sports fan, this capital offers Luna Park, Campo Argentino de Polo, Truck Dakar Rally, and Hipódromo de Palermo, as well as football stadiums like La Bombonera (located in La Boca)and El Monumental. Soccer is extremely popular in Argentina and the passion experienced by sports fans in some of the most popular games (such as the superclásico, a football match between the two-star football teams, River and Boca) is an experience hard to forget for tourists.
Shopping in Buenos AiresBuenos Aires is also considered a fashion center, and shopping centers such as Alto Palermo, Paseo Alcorta, Patio Bullrich, Abasto de Buenos Aires, Dot Baires Shopping, and Galerías Pacífico are very popular.
Though the exchange rate has hampered shopping quite a bit, Buenos Aires has thousand of clothing, music, book, and antiquities stores around every corner. The designers’ fair in Palermo is a place worth visiting. There, fashion designers who are starting their careers offer unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of clothing for a very small price. It is a very colorful and festive environment as well, as most of this beautiful city.
Dining in the World Capital of Grass-fed BeefAs for dining, you couldn’t ask for a more varied menu to fit your fancy, from the traditional and delicious parrilladas (after all, it’s a perfect city for meat lovers) to cuisine from all around the globe, such as Chinese, Indian; French, Italian; Vietnamese, Lebanese; Thai, Scandinavian; Mexican, Brazilian; Peruvian, Armenian; and American at the drop of a hat. Restaurants open, most times, at 9PM, bars at midnight and clubs at 2AM at the very earliest. Nightlife in Buenos Aires starts late and lasts until dawn (unless you choose to go to clubs where you can dance until 11PM of the following day). Live music such as rock, blues, jazz and even folk are particularly enjoyable as you dine.
Some openly-recognized restaurants by travelers are I Latina, Aramburu; Steaks by Luis, Don Julio; Los Salones de Piano Noble, and Adentro Dinner Club. You can also opt for fantastic pizza restaurants such as Pizzeria Guerrin, El Cuartito, and La Mezzetta. Of course there are, too, tons of fast food joints (McDonalds, Burger King) as well as small, rather homely restaurants, often hidden among more spectacular buildings, where they serve typical Argentinian food called ‘minutas’ at very reasonable prices.
Remember that grass-fed, free range farming is the norm in Argentina, where industrialized farming is yet to arrive. Therefore, any normal restaurant will offer top quality beef that is well known in the whole world. A little tip to remember before entering a restaurant, is to ask whether they charge a “service” fee which could easily add 10% to the bill. Many restaurants and pubs in the city offer a Tango show on weekends.
Hotels and LodgingIn Buenos Aires you can find a wide range of places to lodge in, according to what you’re looking for. Hostels, boutique hotels, guest houses, rental apartments, and international five-star hotels such as Claridge and Alvear Palace, or four-stars hotels such as Ba So Hotel and Lafayette, are among the options. Other options are Chill House guest house and Solar Soler B&B, for example. These are perfectly available as long as you book ahead and/or pay in cash.
TransportationAs for transportation, there are also many options. For starters, Buenos Aires is, for the most part, a pedestrian friendly city, Florida Street even being partially car-free. That doesn’t mean that traffic is light and pedestrians shouldn’t be careful (the opposite tends to hold true); but the majority of residents in this city use public transportation such as buses (there are over 150 city bus lines), the underground, taxis (it is recommended that, should you take a cab, choose radio taxis, which can be most easily identified by having a sign on top of the cab. A radio taxi is one that works for a taxi company, rather than being an independent driver), bicycles — there is a municipal program, launched by the government of BA,that enables to rent a bike free of charge upon registration. There are 31 stations, located in densely populated areas—, and a commuter rail. There is also a very wide bike lane system within the city.
Buses, however, are the most popular choice because of their routes and cheap tickets. A new bus line, called MetroBus, was recently opened. Its median stations which go in both directions, enabling a multiple door, prepaid boarding that makes it easier for tourists and workers to travel to and from the city. There is also a ferry system that communicates the port of Buenos Aires to the main cities of Uruguay. In every kiosk or magazine stand you can buy a map (which is a must, actually) with all of the bus and subway routes to get around this intricate city.
Safety ConcernsAs it happens in all large, cosmopolitan cities and tourist destinations, security risks and places you ought to avoid are ever present. In Buenos Aires, petty theft, pickpockets and scams are very common, as opposed to violent crime. The best way to avoid trouble is to stay alert and well prepared. Don’t go out with anything you don’t need, such as all of your cash, passport and credit cards; be discreet when counting money and, if possible, avoid flashing expensive technology on the streets. Don’t leave purses, bags, backpacks, etc., unattended, whether you’re in a café or walking down the streets, and watch out for bill swapping (try to always have small bills or the correct change) when riding a taxi. Another sensible rule to follow in any city of the world, not just Buenos Aires, is trying to avoid, as much as possible, wearing costly jewelry, clothing or accessories that could draw unwanted attention to you. Some areas of the city are safer than others.
Do pay special attention when visiting San Telmo or La Boca, which are very popular areas for tourists. Nonetheless, it is not a good idea to visit them at night, especially alone. Other neighborhoods such as Palermo, Barrio Norte and Recoleta are much safer and very popular destinations to walk or go sightseeing both in daytime or at night. However, when sightseeing it is always best to take caution and not leave any possessions unattended. Buenos Aires is a wonderful tourist destination and it is to be enjoyed, and certainly can be enjoyed by taking some basic precautions and not being too fearful. This metropolis has many positive and good things to see and do—just don’t let your guard down. As in all big cities, being aware of your surroundings and valuables is inevitable, but worth the price.
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Author: eymili. Last updated: Feb 02, 2015