Walking Tour of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the most European city in all of South America. Its stately architecture, broad avenues, and squares evoke an earlier time. The city is known far and wide for the Tango, that sensual dance that captivates all who see it. It is imperative, while in Buenos Aires to either learn or at least watch a tango performance. One of the best places to start is at a local Milonga (Tango dance hall).
Keep in mind that the city is large and it sprawls, so that to see the major sights on foot requires many miles of walking.
My walk begins at the Plaza de Mayo, the heart of the City Center, which is framed by elegant Colonial buildings and contains beautiful flower gardens and majestic palm trees. Wander through the square to view the important structures which surround it from various angles and to enjoy the ambience of this wonderful setting.
On the eastern side of the plaza, admire the stately Casa Rosada and the Presidential Museum. It is no longer the residence of the president, but it does contain the offices of the leader and his staff. There is a Changing of the Guard ceremony here, hourly. The balcony on the north wing of the building was the site of Eva Peron’s famous address to the crowds.
On the northern side of the square, at the corner of San Martin and Rivadiva, the Metropolitan Cathedral is perhaps most important as the final resting place of South American liberator, General Jose de San Martin, considered the “Father of Argentina.” There are also several paintings, presumably by Rubens, inside the church.
Now, exit the plaza at its western edge and walk west on Avenida de Mayo, one of Buenos Aires’ most well-known thoroughfares. The Cabildo, the city’s Old City Hall, is on the left as you begin to walk. Opposite it is the Palacio la Prensa (Casa de Cultura), well worth a visit to its impressive interior. Next to the palace is the New City Hall (Palacio de Gobierno).
At the intersection with Calle Peru, you may want to descend into the subway station below ground, just to see the city’s impressive effort to capture its turn-of-the-century ambience.
Now, continue west on Avenue de Mayo to Piedras, where you can take a break at, or at least peek into, the Café Tortoni, a city institution since 1858. After your visit, continue west on the avenue. Ahead, the Palacio Barolo is one of the most unusual buildings in the city. Its design is based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, with the lower floors representing Hell, the middle floors symbolizing Purgatory, etc. Be sure to take the elevator to the store, on the top floor, in “Heaven,” for fantastic views from its terrace.
A bit further to the west is another great square, the Plaza de Congreso, the location of one of the city’s most impressive buildings, Congreso, home of Argentina’s legislative branch. Take the tour to see the amazing interior. Congreso sits at the western end of the square, facing the enormous fountain, Dos Congresos.
From here, you have several options. One will add several miles to your walk. It involves travel to the Recoleta section of the city, northwest of the City Center. You will visit the Recoleta Cemetery, final resting place of Eva Peron and many other distinguished Portenos. Alternatively, you could take a taxi to the cemetery and then return here to continue the walk. If you choose to walk to the cemetery, be sure to take a city map with you, and then meet up with the remainder of the walking tour at the Plaza San Martin.
To continue the walking tour, without the detour described above, retrace your steps on Avenida de Mayo as far as Avenida 9 de Julio, and then turn left. This boulevard is the widest in the world. A few blocks to the north is the famous Obelisco, a widely-recognized symbol of the city, built in 1936. While you are here, you may want to check out the underground shopping area, Paseo Obelisco, beneath the monument, before proceeding.
Now, walk one block west, to Calle Libertad, and turn right. There are several buildings here that merit a look. The Colon Theater, the city’s opera house, is spectacular. Next to it, the Escuela Presidente Roca looks like a Greek temple. Also on the Plaza Libertad is the Templo Libertad, a Byzantine-style edifice.
Then, continue north to Avenida Santa Fe, and turn right. This street will bring you to the Plaza San Martin, another impressive park. At the southern end of the plaza is the Circulo Militar, another glorious structure. It was originally the palatial mansion of one of the wealthiest Argentine families.
Work your way to the north, along the plaza, to find the Falkland Islands War Memorial, a somber reminder of the short conflict with England. Further north is the British Clock Tower, perhaps with some irony.
Now, return to the southern end of the plaza and exit onto Calle Florida, heading south. This is the main shopping street in Buenos Aires. As you peruse the shops along the way, be sure to take note of the Centro Naval building, at the intersection of Cordoba. It displays an unusual combination of architectural styles.Continue on Calle Florida to Avenida de Mayo, and then turn left to return to Plaza de Mayo, where the walk began.