South America’s most fascinating metropolis fulfils all its promises – except the one that its name seems to give.
The 13 million Porteños, as only those born in Buenos Aires may call themselves, breathe “good air”, namely rather rarely. With “Buenos Aires”, the Spanish from the Pedro de Mendoza expedition thanked the Virgen de Bonaria, the Virgin of Good Wind, for the favourable conditions at the mouth of the River de la Plata.
The second successful city foundation near today’s Plaza de Mayo was in 1580 by the expedition leader Juan de Garay.
The important trading post grew rapidly towards the end of the 18th century, but it was the targeted settlement policy of the government towards the end of the 19th century and the waves of immigration in the 20th century that made Buenos Aires the cosmopolitan metropolis it is today.
Argentina’s capital has countless sights to offer visitors: Theatres, museums, historic buildings and modern skyscrapers, elegant boutiques, shopping malls and colourful (flea) markets, sophisticated restaurants and nostalgic cafés, bars, discos and finally the tango, which for many people reflects the city’s attitude to life and rhythm in one word.
In order to experience at least the so-called “Imperdibles”, i.e. those attractions that you should not miss, you need a good physical condition and the ability to adapt to the rhythm of the metropolis. If you come to Buenos Aires twice during a trip to Argentina, the longer stay should be at the end of the trip due to the time difference.
Hardly any restaurant opens before 9pm and only the tango shows staged for tourists start before 11pm.
Despite the enormous dimensions of the city, which can also be seen in the wide boulevards, which like Avenida 9 de Julio as the widest inner-city street of all, run through Buenos Aires’ centre as pulsating veins, practically all classic sights are located in a relatively small area of about five square kilometres.
One of the most important lifelines of the metropolis is the representative Avenida Corrientes. It begins in Puerto Madero and ends after 70 generously dimensioned blocks of houses in Chacarita. Avenida Corrientes is the street of theatres, bookshops, cafés and pizzerias.
In the Plaza de la República, where the Avenidas Corrientes and 9 de Julio meet, stands with the obelisk one of the landmarks of the city. Each of its four sides is dedicated to an important event in the history of the city.
Political power is concentrated in the Avenida de Mayo, which is lined with government and administrative buildings and ends at the “Casa Rosada”, the official residence of the president. In the Plaza de Mayo in front of it, the mothers of those who disappeared during the military dictatorship protested for years.
Buenos Aires’ 48 districts have traditional names in addition to their official names.
The following are of particular interest to visitors: Abasto (the area around the former central market and today’s shopping centre in the districts of Almagro and parts of Balvanera), the Barrio Norte (residential area of the rich population in the districts of Recoleta and Palermo), Microcentro (the stock exchange and business centre in Retiro and San Nicolás), Palermo Viejo and Palermo Soho are parts of Palermo, Barrio Parque Lezama (district of San Telmo), the Barrio Chino (was and is district of the Chinese population and part of Belgrano) and finally La Boca and San Telmo.
The port district La Boca south of San Telmos was the poorest part of the city, where mainly Italian immigrants worked on the docks. There was usually no money to build houses, often corrugated iron and wooden slats were used. The colourful painting on the houses, which makes La Boca a tourist attraction today, is also due to the shortage, as the dockworkers hired on a daily wage basis were often paid in kind, which also included remains of marine varnish. The colourful Caminito, the alley between Magallanes and Del Valle Iberlucea, is particularly well preserved.
In the course of time, San Telmo, which in the 19th century was considered to be one of the most elegant districts of Buenos Aires, became one of the liveliest and most popular.
Mansions became cheap rental apartments for immigrants, the many small shops and backyard pubs, which today make up San Telmo’s charm, were built around the turn of the 20th century. Antique shops and tango cafés are grouped around Plaza Dorrego, where a popular flea market is held on Sundays. The Porteños have by now rediscovered San Telmo and visit its many restaurants and pubs.
The Palermo district is divided into four parts: the chic Palermo Chico, the designer district Palermo Viejo, Palermo Hollywood, which is characterised by show business, and the actual Palermo with the large park of the Bosques de Palermo from the late 19th century.