The centre of Buenos Aires is dominated by the Plaza de Mayo, the main square. As with all South American cities, this is where life happens in all its forms – from young couples to pensioners, buskers and businessmen. The magnificent Cathedral – Catedral Primada de Buenos Aires, overlooking one side is home to some of the nation’s heroes, while ensconced on another side is the Casa Rosada the presidential palace with its pink balconies made famous by Eva Peron.
A few blocks to the north, Av 9 Julio is apparently the world’s widest road. At 16 lanes plus a few extra side streets, it’s a taxi-clogged torrent of traffic that needs a few well-placed traffic islands to rescue straggling pedestrians.
Catedral Primada de Buenos Aires
Open: 7.30am-6.45pm Monday to Friday, 9am-7pm Saturdays & Sundays
Open: 10am-6pm seven days a week May to November, 11am-7pm December to April
This elegant neighbourhood has been home to some of the city’s most famous residents. And some of them are still here – in the evocative Recoleta cemetery. Here you can wander the avenues and marvel at ornate tombs and family crypts – look out for the most famous of all: Recoleta is Eva Peron’s final resting place.
This section of the working class area around Buenos Aires’ old port has been reinvented as a creative centre. It still retains as raffish charm, but the houses are brightly painted, buskers dance tango on the streets and galleries and pavement cafes jostle for space on the cobbled streets.
Palermo contains the city’s lungs – a series of parks, gardens and sports grounds that make a break from the frenetic traffic and crush of the city centre. It’s perfect for people watching, look out for paseaperros – Buenos Aries’ famous dog walkers who can lead (or be dragged by) a dozen hounds or more.
Once the home of wealthy Porteños, San Telmo became a down-at-heel bohemian quarter in the early 20th century. It’s a wonderful neighbourhood of old mansions overlooking small squares and cobbled streets, and it’s now highly fashionable again, meaning colonial wrecks have been restored, and cafés and galleries abound. The main draw here is the wonderful Sunday antiques market.
Buenos Aires’ old docks have been redeveloped into a classy mix of shops, restaurants, offices and loft apartments. A great place for a stroll, it abuts a nature reserve that offers respite from the city fumes.
Porteños are effortlessly glamorous, so its no surprise that Buenos Aires has some of the best (and best priced) shopping on the continent. From the packed pedestrian streets of Florida and Lavalle, to the ornate Galeria Pacifico mall and the craft markets around and the boutiques of San Telmo, Buenos Aires has more than enough to occupy even the most ardent shopper.
The emblem of the city, a visit to Buenos Aires isn’t complete with seeing live tango – whether in a swish restaurant or on the cobbled streets of San Telmo, it’s always inspiring.
Buenos Aires has always had strong ties to Europe, and it shows in the range of grand building projects completed in the city over the centuries. Especially attractive are the French and Italian style boulevards, mansions and public buildings in the Palermo Viejo area.