Buenos Aires is the most visited city in South America, and for good reason. More than 400 years old, the city is famous for its outstanding cultural life and its European-influenced architecture. That sensuous dance, the tango, was invented in Argentina, and Buenos Aires is a good place to take lessons or see it performed to perfection. An overview of the top tourist attractions in Buenos Aires:
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Sleek buildings line the Rio de la Plata waterfront at Puerto Madero, the largest urban development project in the capital. Puerto Madero served as the main port of Buenos Aires during the late 19th century, but larger cargo ships soon made it obsolete. The port fell into decay until 1989 when it was decided to turn the aging warehouses into something grander: buildings that could be used as residences, restaurants, shops and other businesses. To give the project a bit of flair, all streets in the district were named after women. Strolling through the Puerto Madero is a great way to spend a pleasant afternoon.
The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), located in the Recoleta district, earns high praise from visitors, some of whom have compared it to a mini-Louvre because of its outstanding collection of European and Argentine artists. There are not too many places where people can see this art and for free, to boot. The museum opened in 1895 and moved to its present location – a renovated drainage pump station – in 1933. Its collection of fine art, the largest in Argentina, ranges from art in the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
Opened in 1908 with a performance of Verdi’s “Aïda,” the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires was designed by a succession of architects, which may explain the structure’s eclectic style. With nearly 2,500 seats and standing room for 1,000 people, the Teatro Colón stood as the world’s largest opera house until the completion of the Sydney Opera House in 1973. It remains one of the top tourist attractions in Buenos Aires.
Carlos Thays was a French landscape artist who came to Buenos Aires when he was 40 years old, and proceeded to change the face of the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Under his supervision, a number of parks were developed and existing ones renovated. But the botanical garden was his pet project. Located in the Palermo district near the zoo, the botanical garden is home to more than 5,000 species of plants, many in organized displays and others not. Past visitors say the park is a great way to escape the capital’s hustle and bustle whether strolling winding paths or just sitting on a bench reading.
El Obelisco is a much-loved attraction that stands 68 meters (223 feet) high over the city. It was built in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city, naming the city as the national capital and as the site where the Argentinean flag first flew. The flag actually first flew in 1812 at the church of St. Nicholas de Bari, which was demolished to build the obelisk. It reaches proudly into the sky where 9 de Julio Avenue intersects with Corrientes Avenue. Said to be the widest street in the world, 9 de Julio Avenue is named after the 1816 date on which Argentina declared its independence from Spain.
Travelers who collect dining experiences may want to visit Café Tortoni, Argentina’s oldest and most famous café. Started by a Frenchman in 1858 who modeled it after a Parisian café, the Tortoni remains a popular place to enjoy coffee or snacks with friends as well as hobnob with writers, painters and other artists. It’s also a good place to see the tango performed on stage by professional dancers. Located on Avenida de Mayo, the Cafe Tortoni entices the hungry with sandwiches, steaks and desserts that look too good to eat.
Travelers who are in Buenos Aires on a Sunday won’t want to miss the market at Plaza Dorrego, especially if they’re in the market for antiques and curios. The Plaza Dorrego is one of the oldest public squares in Buenos Aires, getting its start as a market in the 18th century when farmers filled wagons with produce to sell to locals on Sundays. The present antiques market started in the early 1970s; visitors who can’t make the Sunday market might enjoy the plaza’s surrounding area, as San Telmo is the capital’s antique district. Tired shoppers can rest at an outdoor café and watch tango dancers perform or even take a few lessons themselves.
Caminito, which translates as “little street,” wasn’t always a street. It was originally a stream; when the water dried up, railroad tracks were built on the dry bed. When the tracks were removed, it became a landfill. Today it is considered one of Buenos Aires’ most colorful streets. Located in the neighborhood of La Boca, the street is a good place to watch artists at work and view their completed works. It’s also known for inspiring Juan de Dios Filiberto to write his famous tango, “Caminito.” Several museums also are located along the street.
Recoleta Cemetery isn’t just an ordinary cemetery. It’s where the elite of Buenos Aires and Argentina are buried, including the country’s former presidents, Eva Peron and even one of Napoleon’s granddaughters. Established in 1822, it contains more than 4,500 above-ground vaults, of which 94 have been declared national historical monuments. The cemetery is a good place to view fantastic marble mausoleums and best statuary, sculpted by notable artists. The BBC called it one of the best cemeteries in the world while CNN ranked it among the world’s 10 prettiest cemeteries.
Starting from the 1810 revolution that led to independence, the Plaza de Mayo has been a focal point of political life in Argentina. Several of the city’s major landmarks are located around the Plaza including the Cabildo; the city council during the colonial era. Located in the center of the Plaza de Mayo is The May Pyramid, the oldest national monument in Buenos Aires. The plaza is also the square where the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have congregated with signs and pictures of desaparecidos, their children, who were subject to forced disappearance by the military junta in the 1970s.