First of all my Friends, WELCOME to the Paris of South America! So, if you are coming to this unique city, you should prepare your necks to spend many hours looking up at the beautiful cupolas, facades, and architecture. Here are my Top 5 things to see and to do in Buenos Aires!
1. Explore the Architecture
Buenos Aires is the wish of the wealthiest aristocracy of the 19th Century, who decided to re-build Paris here, at the end of the World. So, they hired French architects and garden designers, also sculptors like Rodin to create this city practically from zero. (It was initially an almost rural big village made from adobe). The neighbourhoods of Recoleta or the Ave of May are samples of this urbanistic idea, but not the only ones, so, check carefully anytime, looking for the beauty up close to the sky.
2. The great Café Tortoni
We started talking about the Ave of May; now, in the middle of your walk, you are probably thirsty, so visit the oldest café of Buenos Aires: The Tortoni. Founded in 1858, very aristocratic and luxurious, the Tortoni is a sample of 19th century Portenean behaviour: Italian name, French style, Spanish owner, native millionaires as customers. At least, back in those times! You don’t have to be a millionaire to sit here today. At the Tortoni, you have a secret drink to discover, which is a secret, unique variety of the chocolate with churros.
3. The Boca Stadium
This is a part of my list not due to its size, or its beauty. The Stadium is a small, ugly old stadium, but you know what? When it’s full of 55,000 crazy soccer fans shouting and jumping, you have a unique event, ranked as the most exciting sport event on Earth by The Guardian when the Boca Team plays against its arch-rival: River Plate. The reason is that you have a combo of fanatism (really, they are so fanatic!) and lack of space, that’s the reason why it is called the Chocolate Box (Bombonera). The stadium literally trembles, while the passion flows, and the lateral side of the field is just separated from the public by a tiny glass…at 10 feet from the first line of seats.
This stadium is close to the heart of the Boca Neighbourhood, so we can next jump to the heart itself!
4. The Caminito, heart of Boca
When the millions of immigrants started to arrive to Buenos Aires, they were stocked in a flood-prone neighbourhood, in flimsy houses. They used the waste of paint from the shipyards to protect the thin walls against rusting, due to the proximity to the water. But in the late 50s appeared a well-known neighbor rose to fame: Benito Quinquela Martin, who lobbied the city’s different mayors over the next 20 years to get benefits to that abandoned area. He got a Hospital, a School, a Kindergarten, a Theatre, but also, he got an abandoned railroad to create a colourful pedestrian street. The thin houses brighten as never before, the happy neighbours helped him and he developed Caminito. This is one of the most famous pictures of Buenos Aires, a line of colourful thin houses. The name is due to a Tango, the duty is to not miss this place, where in addition to the street artists, you can enjoy a well danced stage-tango while you have a coffee or a drink. BUT IMPORTANT: Boca, is so much bigger and nicer than Caminito or the Stadium alone; you need an expert to deeply explore this unique lost-in-time place.
5. San Telmo, with or without the flea market
San Telmo is old-town Buenos Aires city. In its streets, the battles of the British invasion were fought, the slave sold their handcrafts, and the merchants traveled through the area to reach the central square (today called the Square of May). On Sundays, from 11am till 4 pm, you can see the 2nd largest flea market in the World. Everything is on sale there: crystal glasses, collars, knives, toys, dresses, and whatever else you can imagine. The market is set on the square of San Telmo (Dorrego Square) but the main street (Defensa) is also pedestrian and full of artisans and artists. Don’t miss the excellent Tango Orchestra in front of the church. But the other days of the week, San Telmo is still amazing! It possesses its own rhythm and melancholy; the curved stones bring a nice colour to the area, and in the square, the stores of the market disappear to leave space for tables and tango dancers. San Telmo deserves at least an afternoon of your holidays.
5. Recoleta Cemetery (Hey there are two number 5s!)
Sorry, if you think I could really fit Buenos Aires’s top attractions into 5 items; it’s just not possible! The Recoleta Cemetery must be included in our list. Five thousand sculptures are part of a competition between the most wealthy families on Earth to see who was most important, most wealthy, who have the finest taste. So, you have a unique place which is so much more than Evita’s grave. When you visit Buenos Aires you cannot miss the visit of her grave, but please, take advantage of the expertise of a local private guide and explore the entire Cemetery, the art and the stories (not creepy, but fun) are waiting for you to bring you an unforgettable experience.
Thank you so much, Pablo, for this enlightening look at the attractions of Buenos Aires! It sounds like a beautiful, fascinating, and above all FUN city to explore. If any travelers are headed to Pablo’s “Paris of South America” anytime soon, consider starting a conversation with him. You can find his guide profile here: Pablo’s guide profile.