Buenos Aires, where tango combos keep time in crowded dance halls and taxis swap lanes across some of the world’s widest avenues. With spectacular museums, lovely open spaces and rich architecture brimming with history, this Argentinian city is as warm and welcoming as it is energetic.
Avenida 9 de Julio
The grandest of Latin American avenues is flanked by dozens of cultural highlights, the biggest of which is Teatro Colon. Take care when crossing its 12-lane width, which takes a few traffic-light cycles to accomplish. El Obelisco, its central monument, commemorates the 400th anniversary of the capital’s founding and doubles as the site of concerts, performances and rallies.
Plaza de Mayo
This square has seen post-World Cup soccer victory dances as well as the deafening silence of the Mothers of the Placa de Mayo’s weekly marches. Like spokes on a bicycle, some of the most important avenues in Buenos Aires radiate outwards from the Plaza. Go back in time in the Casa Rosada museum, which contains artifacts from the city’s original fortification.
Cementerio de la Recoleta
A monument and metaphor for a country’s fortunes—both gained and lost—la Recoleta contrasts impeccable mausoleums with crumbling marble tombs. Located in the upscale northern barrio, Recoleta Cemetery has been the burial place of choice for Argentina’s elite since the mid 19th century. Tombs are visited via labyrinth of streets and narrow passage-ways. Evita lies embalmed within a modest family vault.
Having celebrated its centennial under scaffolding, the grandest of all Latin American opera houses opened in 2010 after an exhaustive restoration. El Colón is arguably the most beloved building in all of Argentina and with its size, near-perfect acoustics and stately elegance, it ranks among the world’s top opera houses.
Avenida de Mayo
Buenos Aires’ prized avenue is a boon to architecture buffs—it contains the continent’s best preserved Belle Époque, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco addresses. Old bookstores and cafés add to the charm. The avenue is just 13 blocks, making for a relaxed stroll.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
The modest scale of Argentina’s national fine art museum belies a wonderfully curated permanent collection, which ranges from imposing Rodin bronzes to oils depicting the mythical Argentinian Pampa. The museum holds great works by many international artists. Founded in 1896, it now preserves over 12,000 pieces of art.
Among the city’s oldest barrios, cobblestoned San Telmo guards the lyrical spirit of the bodegón—the quintessentially porteño bar/café where a vermouth or croissant can be arranged any time. Lanes lined with 19th-century homes brim with performers on Sundays.
Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA)
MALBA has quickly asserted itself since its 2001 opening. Its collection of Latin American artwork, which includes Diego Rivera and Xul Solar, has been supplemented with film, screenings, and a unique museum gift shop. Discover Xul Solar, Pablo Curatella Manes and more under its roof.
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Founded by Portuguese traders, Colonia is a picturesque town. Its colourful colonial streets, Portuguese architecture, and relaxed pace, make it a popular weekend visiting place. The UNESCO-recognized spot contrasts greatly with Buenos Aires, making it well worth the visit. Cross the world’s widest river delta on a modern ferry ride (don’t forget your passport!) and discover the Plaza Mayor, with its colonies of Austral parrots, or the Museo Portuguese, and 1720 bi-level house which explores the legacy of Portugal in Colonia.
Jaunty and humorous or dirge-like and mournful, tango—the capital’s dance, musical, and poetic art form—is still in full swing, 120 years after its creation. With classes and performances galore, it is integral to the city’s culture and continues to captivate the people of Buenos Aires and the rest of the world.