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Welcome to Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, with its wide boulevards, ornate architecture and love of statues, squares and gardens is not surprisingly known as ‘The Paris of South America’.

Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina with a population of around 13 million. The city’s inhabitants, known as Porteños, will be proud to introduce you to their city of culture, entertainment, soccer, tango and endless hours of talk in cafés. Each district has a distinct character, from historic San Telmo, whose Sunday flea market is not to be missed, to La Boca, first settled by Italians and associated forever with football and tango. In Retiro visit Florida Street, a shopper’s paradise. Palermo is the location for fashionable restaurants and nightlife. Take the Tigre y Delta boat trip to discover a rather different Buenos Aires lifestyle. Outside the city, enjoy a ‘Fiesta Gaucha’, a typical barbecue and rodeo held at a genuine ‘estancia’ (ranch) in the Pampas. The ultimate highlight of your stay however, will be a delicious Argentinean dinner followed by a traditional tango show.

Buenos Aires was founded on the shores of the Rio de la Plata in 1570 and was named after the patron saint of sailors for the good wind or buen aire.The city remained a colonial backwater for 200 years while the Spanish concentrated their attentions on wealthier Peru. During this time Buenos Aires became a thriving centre for smuggling between South America and Europe. Dissatisfaction with Spanish economic and political dominance escalated to boiling point and culminated in the revolution of May 1810 and finally to independence in 1816. Its history since then has been dogged by military coups and political mismanagement; the consequences of which are growing disaffection with the government and widespread poverty, as is evident in the sprawling shantytowns on the city's outskirts.

This turbulent history has not managed to stifle the indomitable spirit of the Porteños whose passion, charm and vibrancy have forged this great city, a place in which the fire of Evita's soul and the allure of the tango endure. A holiday in Buenos Aires is a journey of discovering the fire that pervades Argentine culture, in everything from food and conversation to music, art and dance.

Information & Facts


Buenos Aires has a temperate climate with average temperatures ranging from 94°F (35°C) in January to 50°F (10°C) in July. The heaviest rain falls during autumn and spring, though rain can be expected at any time of the year. Many locals leave Buenos Aires during the hot summer months (December, January and February) and head for the coastal resorts.

Eating Out

Beef is king in the Buenos Aires food world; Argentina is famous for the best, juiciest, tastiest and most tender steaks served in its parrillas(steak houses). These are followed closely by various Spanish and Italian pleasures, as well as sushi, fusion, and vegetarian cuisine.

There are numerous al paso(walk through) places in the city, selling hot-dogs ( panchos), beef sausages ( chorizos), and milanesas(breaded, fried cutlets). You can buy a mate, the most traditional social non-alcoholic beverage, in any Coto or Carrefour supermarket. Be sure to try a gourmet helado(ice cream) and empanadas(small pastries stuffed with combinations of cheese and meats), or the alfajor, an Argentinean cookie.

Various small restaurants offer foreign meals, mostly Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Arabic, Spanish and Italian. Expensive and luxurious restaurants can be enjoyed at Puerto Madero and Palermo. The main areas to go out are Puerto Madero, Recoleta, Palermo SoHo and Palermo Hollywood, home to trendy stores, restaurants and bars. Most locals head out to dinner around 9pm.

Getting Around

The street structure, organised in a grid pattern, makes it easy getting around in Buenos Aires, and the best way to explore the city and take in its character is on foot. However, the city is serviced by an efficient, widespread and cheap public transport system that consists of buses and an excellent underground rail service (the Subte). Although it services most of the city centre, the Subteis not very extensive beyond the central core. The Subte costs ARS$1.10 per journey. Pre-paid Subte cards or passes can be purchased from the ticket booths ( boleterias) at each station in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10 or 30 journeys. It gets very hot and crowded in summer especially during peak hours, and closes between 10pm and 5am.

The bus ( colectivo) network is huge and covers the city, and although very useful for getting around, the overwhelming amount of routes makes it confusing for tourists. Bus fares are paid in coins into an automatic ticket vending machine when boarding the bus and cost a minimum of $0.80. Many services run all night but with less frequency. There are also urban train services that can be useful for reaching the outlying suburbs.

Taxis are everywhere and relatively inexpensive, but although generally safe, visitors should be aware that there are fake taxis that pick up tourists and rob them. It is safer to phone for a radio taxi or remise, a fixed-price radio cab booked in advance that acts like a chauffer-driven car and can be cheaper than taxis over longer distances. They are more useful than renting a car for excursions from the city and even for a day's tour of the suburbs.

Kids Attractions

For many children travelling in Buenos Aires, the chaos and hum and drum of the city can be quite intimidating, but look just a little further and you'll find an attraction tucked away in almost every corner and in just about every barrio(neighbourhood). Buenos Aires is a great city to explore by foot, but for the more active, it is also extremely bicycle-friendly. Rent a bike and pedal your way round the leafy suburbs and side streets stopping off for the occasional attraction. Take the kids to the Nueve de Julio Avenue, claimed to be the widest avenue in the world, and admire the 220-foot-tall (67metre) obelisk in the centre, marking the heart of Buenos Aires. Or for a slightly more cultural experience, take a stroll in Recoleta with the children past the Floralis Genérica, a working metal sculpture of a flower that opens and closes with the sun - the kids will be in awe! For those days when the sun isn't shining, head to one of the many indoor playgrounds or museums dotted around the city, such as the Museo de Los Ninos, or even the Galileo Galilei Planetarium where children will have a great time stargazing and learning about the solar system.


Spanish is the official language of Argentina but English is understood in the tourist areas.


The Argentinean Peso (ARS) is divided into 100 centavos. The recent devaluation of the Peso has made Argentina more affordable for travellers but there is still much economic uncertainty and travellers are advised to keep an eye on the exchange rate. Currency can be exchanged at banks and cambios(bureaux de change) but it is easier to use ATMs, available in most urban towns, which reflect the current exchange rate. Credit and debit cards are generally accepted, and US Dollars and Euros are normally taken everywhere, but some international cards place limits on transactions. Cirrus cards sometimes aren't accepted. There can be problems using travellers cheques in rural areas, although most banks in major cities should accept them. It's best to take travellers cheques in US Dollars to avoid additional exchange rate charges.


Famed for its huge selection of trendy clubs, fashionable music bars and attractive restaurants, it's no wonder the city of Buenos Aires never sleeps. From the dimly lit tango bars and mainstream hard house dance clubs to the Teatro Colón and smaller independent theatres, there is something for just about everyone in this buzzing city.

In typical Latin fashion, dinner is very late and usually taken between 10 and 11pm so clubs only really get going at around 2am. Recoleta, Palermo, Puerto Madero and Costanera are the trendiest neighbourhoods for dance clubs and all the hippest locals can be found sipping on long drinks in the surrounding bars. It is not uncommon to find residents walking home at sunrise after a big night out on the town.

Culture vultures will simply adore the arts and culture scene here and plenty of Broadway-style hits can be found in both English and Spanish shows at most of the 30-odd professional and underground theatres in the San Telmo and Abasto neighbourhoods.

Other than the usual run-of the-mill watering holes, there are also many bars in Buenos Aires offering shows such as flamenco dances, readings, tango and folkloric dance shows, and live acoustic music, providing a twist and bit of entertainment to accompany your usual evening drinks. The gay scene is Buenos Aires is thriving and rivals only that of Rio de Janeiro's in South America, with San Telmo being the main strip catering to this market with small gay bars and restaurants.


Buenos Aires offers a wealth of authentic local treasures, from fine leather goods found in Murillo Street to alfajores(traditional cake/cookies, often containing dulce de leche). Shops are generally open Monday through Friday from 9am to 8pm, and Saturdays from 9am to 1pm.

Florida Street and Lavalle Street are for pedestrians only, in the zona de calzadosthere are many shops that sell tango shoes and the Palermo Viejo, in Palermo, has various shops that will appeal to young, artsy people. There are also numerous fairs and markets to be explored, including Recoleta Fair (located in the Francia Park) and the San Telmo market.

Feria Recoleta, in Plaza Francia, boasts an assortment of artisan goods. Take in the Plaza Serrano in Palermo Viejo and the Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo. Defensa Street is enticing as it comes alive with performers and vendors. Funky candles, street address plates and markers are available from Último Taller.

Shopping malls are a regular attraction and convenient shopping locations for many Porteños(people from the port). The most famous stores in Buenos Aires can be found in these vast malls, along with restaurants, cafés, arcades and movie theaters. Shopping malls are open 7 days a week from 10am to 10pm.

Popular Buenos Aires souvenirs include tango music, mate cups, leathergoods and Argentine wine.


Buenos Aires (meaning fair winds in Spanish) has several enthralling attractions. Most siteseeing is best done by day, for aesthetic and precautionary purposes, and walking is the best (but by no means only) mode of transport in this intriguing city.

Visit the Cementerio de la Recoleta, home to the tomb of Eva Perón, the actress married to Argentina's President Juan Perón and subject of the musical Evita, or wander under the magnificent facades of the downtown area, favourable for its marvellous old European buildings. More enthusiastic sightseers can take a paddleboat from the promenade in Palermo and stroll through a prolific flower garden.

An absolute must for culture vultures is a trip to the Palermo Viejo district, with its charming cobblestone streets, bookstores, bars and boutiques, or an afternoon exploring the Caminito pedestrian street's arts and crafts in La Boca. Enjoy watching tango dancers in the cobblestone streets and take a tour of the La Bombonera Stadium, experience El Puerto de Buenos Aires during the day, or for a taste of history, visit the National Immigration Museum.

Visitors wanting to catch a show can do so at the Recoleta Cultural Center. Built in 1732, it was originally a convent connected to the Basílica del Pilar. Today it is a cultural center hosting concerts, live performances and screenings. The historical building also accommodates sculptures, paintings and photographs in different exhibitions, providing a fantastic sightseeing experience for any visitor to this exciting city.


Local time in Argentina is GMT -3.

The inner-city park of Bosques de Palermo is a great place for families to relax and unwind on a warm summers afternoon. The park offers plenty of space for kids to run around and play and other family-oriented activities to be enjoyed include rental paddleboats, bikes and carts. The park is also home to two manmade lakes, sculptures, rose gardens, the Eduardo Sívori Plastic Arts Museum and the Galilieo Galilei Planetarium.

Lined with trees, flowers and other indigenous plants, the Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens are a great place to take the kids for a day out. With plenty of open space to run around, the gardens make an ideal location to relax with a picnic or just take a leisurely walk with the family. The central greenhouse is also great to explore fo rthe more inquisitive-minded children.

Home to over 350 animal species and known for some of its exotic breeding, the Buenos Aires zoo is the perfect place for families, a romantic date or tourists. With nine species of mammals, 49 species of reptiles and 175 species of birds, the zoo's goals are to conserve species, produce research and educate the public. Disposable cameras are on sale and professional photographers are on standby to capture all the memories. Animal food can be bought at the entrance and other stations located around the zoo to encourage visitors' interaction with the animals. The best time to visit the zoo is on a sunny weekday afternoon, when time can be spent lounging in front of the white tiger enclosure, for which the zoo is well-known, or elephant house with only a few other people to contend with for the best view.

Opposite the Casa Rosada on the Plaza de Mayo is the resplendent former Spanish town hall, the Cabildo, a fascinating old colonial building fronted by arches that once encircled the plaza, back during the May Revolution in 1810. The guards outside the building are members of the revered Regimiento de Patricios, which was formed in 1806, and the changing of the guard every hour is a popular attraction. They still wear their traditional uniforms they have donned for nearly 200 years. The interior houses a small museum, which displays some interesting architectural relics, religious icons as well as watercolour paintings by Enrique Pellegrini.

One of the world's most famous balconies juts out of Argentina's Presidential Palace, known as the Casa Rosada. The pink building has been the scene of many a political rally, particularly during the regime of the notorious and tragic Juan and Eva Peron. The Italian style building, fronted with palm trees and fountains, was painted pink when it was converted from a Customs and Post Office building into the presidential palace. President Sarmiento decided to appease opposing political parties by merging red and white into a pink colour scheme for the palace. Today the building houses a small basement museum displaying some presidential artefacts. Each evening a small platoon of mounted grenadiers emerge from the guardhouse to lower the flag on the Plaza, adding a touch of pomp and ceremony to the pretty building.

Situated in the Plaza de Mayo, the Neoclassical Cathedral Metropolitana houses the tomb of General José de San Martin, the revered hero who liberated Argentina from the Spanish. The cathedral was periodically rebuilt and renovated since the foundation stone was laid in the 16th century. The current structure was finally completed in the mid-19th century. The interior has recently been renovated and the gilded columns, Venetian mosaic floors, and silver-plated altar are in pristine condition.

Floralis Generica is a working metal sculpture located on the United Nations square in Recoleta. It was offered to the city by Argentine architect Eduardo Fernando Catalano, who described it as an 'environmental structure'. Its metallic petals open and close based on the incidence of solar rays and visitors to the site will find the giant metal sculpture 'in full bloom' in the heat of the day and closed at night. The sheer genius and technical artistry of the giant flower makes it a Buenos Aires sight worth seeing.

The Galileo Galilei Plantarium is located inside the Bosques de Palermo and its massive dome rises out of the horizon, making it almost impossible to miss. On any given day, this planetarium is abuzz with the chatter of children and inquisitive young minds coming for a spot of stargazing. This is a must for children of all ages and anyone with a love of stars, space and planets.

La Boca ('the mouth') is the most colourful neighbourhood or barrioin Buenos Aires, original home of both football legend Diego Maradona and the tango. An assortment of brightly-painted low houses made of wood and metal line the streets, including the famed main street Caminito, in this poor but happy area full of artisans, painters, street performers, cantinas and open-air tango shows. The neighbourhood was originally settled by Italian immigrants, most of whom came to work in the docks. Today it is frequented by crowds of tourists who come to soak up the lively atmosphere.

A real-life version of Punch and Judy takes place at the Centreo Cultural del Sur and regular puppet shows and puppet making classes are guaranteed to keep children occupied for hours. Children will love the chance to interact with other kids as well as creating their own puppets and imaginary worlds.

An unlikely tourist attraction, La Recoleta Cemetery is well worth visiting to see its magnificent display of monuments and the ostentatious tombs of Argentina's rich and famous. One of the more modest, but by far the most celebrated, is the grave of Eva Peron. Every day thousands of visitors come to leave flowers at the door of the Duarte family mausoleum, where she is buried. Forty years on, Evita remains both the most revered and reviled figure in Argentina. Love her or loathe her, her spirit lives on in La Recoleta.

Located inside the Abasto Shopping Centre, the Museo de Los Ninos is a great way for children to explore a multitude of future careers by means of interactive exhibits. The exhibits include a miniature TV station with working cameras, a doctor's office, radio station and even a newspaper office. Children will love experiencing a 'day in the life' of one of these professions.

At 416 feet (127m) wide, Avenida 9 de Julio is claimed to be the widest avenue in the world, honouring Argentina's Independence Day which falls on 9th July. The avenue runs from the Retiro district in the north to Constitucion station in the south, roughly one kilometre to the west of the Rio de la Plata waterfront and consists of 18 lanes of traffic, nine on each side. In the middle of the street stands a 67-metre-tall obelisk marking the heart of Buenos Aires. The obelisk is a popular photo spot, and visitors can climb to the top where they can look out over the Avenida 9 de Julio through its four observation windows.

Plaza Dorrego lies in San Telmo, the bohemian artists' quarter and the birthplace of tango. The tiny square is surrounded by elegant houses, now mostly converted into antique shops and bars whose tables overflow onto the street. On Sundays the plaza is the setting for the ancient flea market, the Feria de San Pedro Telmo. Though you are unlikely to discover any bargains you may find an interesting souvenir or two. The stallholders pack up their wares at 5pm and the square becomes the setting for informal tango dances. This is as popular with the locals as it is with tourists and even the inexperienced may be tempted to try it out. There are numerous museums nearby the Plaza Dorrego worth visiting, including the Museo Histórico Nacional and the Museo de Arte Moderno.

The Teatro Colón opened in 1908 is one of the largest performing arts theatres in the southern hemisphere, second only to the Sydney Opera House in Australia. It was designed by Italian architect Francisco Tamburri and is an Italian Renaissance-style building with a seating capacity of 2,500 (although more people have been squeezed in at a time). It has hosted many international performers including Nijinsky, Pavlov, Pavarotti and Domingo. Guided tours take visitors to the theatre's workshops, rehearsal rooms, auditorium and stage.

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