On the flight from New York to Buenos Aires I did a really touristy thing—I watched Evita on my iPad. It was my way of getting into the spirit of the city where Eva Perón won the hearts of the Argentinian people. And then my husband couldn’t resist singing "Don’t Cry For Me Argentina" from the open window of our hotel room the morning after we arrived. I’m sure the locals were not impressed.
Following in the footsteps of Eva Perón is certainly one reason to spend a few days in Buenos Aires, but there are many more. Legendary steaks, Malbec wine, soccer and the tango are just a few of the intriguing things you’ll discover in the colorful city of Buenos Aires. Often referred to as the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires is a vibrant city where magnificent early 20th century European architecture stands shoulder to shoulder with modern skyscrapers. Residents or porteños are a true melting pot of races providing a fascinating blend of cultures. They’re a warm and friendly group…even if you do sing from your hotel window. Here are five of the many reasons why you should spend a few days in Buenos Aires.
Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada
Plaza de Mayo is the political hub of Buenos Aires. On October 17, 1945, thousands gathered in the square to demand the release of Juan Domingo Perón, who had been imprisoned by his own political party because of his growing popularity among the working class. After his release he became president and he and his wife, Eva—affectionately known as Evita—delivered their speeches to supporters from the balcony of Casa Rosada (Pink House) that stands on the edge of the plaza. Today the square is the site of gatherings on national holidays and peaceful political protests. Casa Rosada houses the Argentine President's offices and guided tours are available on weekends but must be booked in advance.
El Caminito in La Boca
In the La Boca neighborhood lies one of Buenos Aires’ most colorful streets lined with former tenement shacks covered in corrugated zinc and painted in brilliant shades of red, yellow, blue, orange and purple. Argentine artist Beniot Quinquela Martín is responsible for converting this former neighborhood eyesore into a thriving cultural open air museum which is named for the famous tango, Caminto.
Tango dancers showcase their seductive skills in cafés as tourists wander through souvenir shops amid street performers and historical markers. Be sure to look up at the balconies where colorful figures of Juan and Eva Perón and even Pope Francis are perched overseeing the action. Yes, it seems a bit like a tourist trap, but it is culturally significant and too colorful to miss.
Cementerio de la Recoleta
La Recoleta Cemetery is perhaps the top attraction in Buenos Aires and home to more than 6,400 ornate statues, coffins, marble mausoleums and crypts commemorating some of Argentina’s most celebrated citizens…including the beloved Eva Perón. From the moment you enter through the cemetery’s stately gates, it’s easy to get lost in time wandering the labyrinth of this hauntingly beautiful city of the dead.
Your best landmark for finding your way is the glistening white Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar that overlooks the cemetery. Completed in 1732, the colonial church features ornate altars and houses a small museum displaying religious art.
Floralis Generica a/k/a The Steel Flower
The work of Buenos Aires born artist, Eduardo Catalano, the Floralis Generica is a massive Steel Flower made from aluminum and steel. It measures over 75 feet high and weighs 18 tons. But what’s really fascinating about this flower located in the middle of Plaza de las Naciones Unidas (United Nations Plaza) is that it acts like a real flower. During the day its gigantic petals open up like any other flower and at night they close, emanating a red glow from within. The ideal time for viewing is just before dark or just before sunrise to watch the daily flower action.
Steaks, Malbec and More
Buenos Aires was designated Ibero-American capital of Gastronomic Culture 2017, and for good reason. The city has an outstanding culinary scene which is no doubt a tribute to its multi-cultural influences. You’ll find it all here: Italian, Andean, Latin American and more. But I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit I went in search of steaks and Malbec wine. It’s hard to beat Argentinian beef and a visit to La Cabana gave me exactly what I was looking for—a hearty perfectly cooked steak and plenty of locally produced wine to wash it all down.
Have you visited Buenos Aires? What were your favorite experiences?
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