I have been in Argentina, I have been in Buenos Aires.
OK, let’s start by defining that Buenos Aires is not Argentina and Argentina is not just Buenos Aires.
This said I can assure you that once you have visited Buenos Aires you will have an unbridled desire to visit the rest of Argentina and I am not an exception: Argentina ended up right away into my travel wish list.
But talking back about Buenos Aires, capital city of an immense country, here are the 10 not-to-miss things that have to be in your list when you decide to visit it
1. Boca and Caminito
This is the most characteristic district of Buenos Aires. This is the neighborhood where the Italian immigrants lived, the tango district, with its famous Caminito and its even more famous Bombonera, the football stadium of one of the two symbolic teams of the city: Club Atlético Boca Junior.
You would feel discouraged by all [especially by locals] when telling that you would pay a visit to the neighborhood, which is in fact one of the less secure areas of the city. But since it is so characteristic, it is also one of the most touristic areas.
My advice is absolutely to go there, take a walk to see the colorful houses of Caminito and not to leave the most touristic area, quieter and safer. I would avoid going into the side streets which, although they are picturesque and characteristic, can be less secure.
If you are a football fan and Maradona is one of your myths, you should definitely visit the Boca stadium, which you will immediately recognize in its blue and yellow colors.
2. La Recoleta Graveyard
La Recoleta is one of the most posh neighborhoods in Buenos Aires.
In this area there are a lot of elegant houses and classical buildings. Here are also some of the embassies, including the one of the Vatican State.
Many buildings in the neighborhood remind me of the Paris buildings with slate roofs and friezes on the facades.
It is the neighborhood where I resided during my visits to the city and I must say that I have always moved on foot with great safety.
The particular attraction of La Recoleta is however the Cementerio, the graveyard.
That said, it might seem rather dismal, but going through it you will immediately realize how many hundreds of people visit it every day.
It is a monumental cemetery, which can be compared to that of the Père Lachaise in Paris.
Here are buried famous people of art, history and politics of Argentina, to name one among all: Evita Peron.
There are tombs of all kinds: glitzy and imposing or sober and decadent. In some cases the coffins are visible through the glass of the doors and in other cases there are damaged and left to neglect. The Cemetery is considered the most important historical monument of Argentina and houses about 4800 graves over an area of more than 54 thousand square meters.
Once in the cemetery and after having overcome the awe induced by some mausoleums with man-sized statues, I walked in the side wings to look for Evita’s grave.
That was my goal, also because I did not know the other important Argentinian people.
I expected to find something impressive and instead, following the map that can be purchased for a few pennies at the entrance, I found it in a side wing of the cemetery, in a narrow corridor, sober and almost cheesy.
It is only recognizable by the fact that there are always flowers brought by the people who come to visit and the plaques placed on the outside of the tomb.
The cemetery is open every day from 7 am to 6 pm and admission is free.
If you are interested in getting to know a little more about the history of the peoples resting here, there are licensed guides who will give you a tour with an explanation for an acceptable price.
Next to the cemetery there is also a delightful little church that I recommend you to visit.
3. Paseo de la Historieta and San Telmo
Moving to the most central and historical part of the city, we come across the oldest and rather well preserved district of the city of Buenos Aires: San Telmo.
It is characterized by palaces, some of them crumbling, and streets that are still largely paved with pebbles.
And despite being one of the smallest neighborhoods in the city, it is the hub of attractions, especially on weekends, for thousands and thousands of visitors wandering through its small streets.
They are mostly attracted by shops and antique stalls.
In the main square of the district, plaza Dorrego, overlooked by elegant two-storey mansions, the oldest antique market in the city takes place on Sundays from 10 to 17.
This is called the Feria de San Pedro Telmo.
In addition to this consolidated attraction, in San Telmo we find a more recent one: el Paseo de la Historieta.
The idea began with a sculpture by Malfalda and, after the success (thousands of visitors took a picture with the character in question), in June 2012 the municipality of Buenos Aires approved the project to add nine more sculptures of cartoon characters, many of which not particularly known outside of Argentina.
The initiative intends to pay tribute to the masters of humor and their captivating creations and invites us to unite different generations through those cartoon characters who have marked moments of Buenos Aires and Argentina.
However, the most famous is Mafalda, born in 1964 from Quino’s pencil. That girl, worried about world peace, who rebels against the adult world, can be found sitting on a bench at the intersection of the Defensa and Chile streets.
4. Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero is the most recent barrio of Buenos Aires and this is a feature that immediately jumps to the eyes, observing its skyline. Built at the end of the 1800s at the harbour area, there were numerous red brick warehouses. They are now brought back to their splendor thanks to the transformation of the same into restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Next to the warehouses, several skyscrapers have been built, housing offices, luxury hotels and apartments that are more than elegant.
The change in this area of the city has undoubtedly given life back to a once neglected urban area.
One of the bridges that cross the inner canal, the Puente de la Mujer, was designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava and represents a pair of tango dancers.
Not far from the bridge is the Fregata ARA Sarmiento, the last school ship of the Navy dating back to 1890, which can be visited.
5. Galerias Pacifico
This building, born as the headquarters of the Argentine Railways, is today one of the most famous shopping centers in the center of Buenos Aires.
It is located in Florida and Cordoba and is not far from Puerto Madero. It was declared a National Artistic Monument thanks to the wonderful paintings inside it.
In the central part, in fact, there is a beautiful dome entirely frescoed in 1946 by 5 painters: Berni, Colmeiro, Urruchua, Spilimbergo and Castagnino.
The subjects of the paintings vary from nature to familiar scenes and although created by different hands they harmonize very well with each other.
Inside the shopping center there are several shops, bars and restaurants and tourists can take advantage of guided tours (with audio guide) inside the galleries of a duration of 20 minutes.
Visits must obviously be booked in advance [details on Galerias Pacifico website]
6. Palermo and Parrilla
I have wandered around the Palermo district more than once and I think I chose it among those in Buenos Aires where I would live if I lived in this city.
I especially like the part of Palermo Viejo, the most historic nucleus, with numerous bourgeois houses interspersed with parks and gardens.
Another reason to wander around Palermo are undoubtedly the restaurants and bars in the area.
I like that family atmosphere that characterizes them. And if you want to eat a super Parrilla then you absolutely must come here.
I had a Food Tour in this neighborhood and I highly recommend it.
I liked it so much that, back in the city, I went to eat in the same places I had discovered during the tour.
7. Colon Theater
The Teatro Colon is the main theater in Buenos Aires, although there are many in the city.
Beyond, however, to be the main theater of the city it is also one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world with an impeccable acoustics compared to that of the Teatro La Scala in Milan.
When you visit Buenos Aires put it on the to-do list and you will not regret it.
If the austere and imposing facade in French style already reveals the architectural attention with which the building was built, the interior will literally leave you open mouth.
You can discover it thanks to guided tours in Spanish and English, which are held regularly from Monday to Friday every hour from 11 to 16.
The ticket for the visit has a popular price and it is very little compared to what you can discover in terms of the history of the city and of the architecture of the theater in particular.
During the visit, sometimes, you can also attend the rehearsals of shows or concerts.
I attended to the piano test of a teacher who practiced before his concert of the evening in one of the side rooms all with golden glasses and stuccos.
8. El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Defined as the second most beautiful bookshop in the world by the British newspaper The Guardian, the Ateneo Grand Splendid must rightfully belong among the places to visit in Buenos Aires.
Former theater, it is now a bookshop and pastry shop. What better combination to spend a few hours of tranquility and real pleasure?
It is located on Avenida Santa Fe, at 1860, and it is open Monday to Thursday from 9.00am to 10.00pm / Friday and Saturday from 9.00am to 10.00pm.
After walking around on three floors, choose a book and stop to read a few pages on one of the stages equipped with armchairs and sofas. Or enjoy a coffee on what was originally the stage of the theater, maybe a little hidden behind in the wings to avoid being disturbed.
9. Avenida Corrientes
Avenida Corrientes is the street of Buenos Aires that never sleeps. And it is really as described by tour guides, locals and even tourists: it is one of the most famous streets of the city.
Its current name was officially given in 1822, because the city of Corrientes was the first to adhere to the Argentine independence cause.
In Avenida Corrientes artistic Argentinean characters were born artistically, including the popular idol Carlos Gardel, who began his career right here.
This area offers fun at all times and for all tastes. The Porteños [so-called inhabitants of Buenos Aires] and numerous tourists meet here when the lights of the evening come on and enjoy several options including bookstores open all night, cinemas, theaters, bars and shops open until late.
One of the main theaters of Avenida Corrientes, is the Premier, opened in 1565. The current building was inaugurated in 1944 and still retains its original decoration, a feature that most of the theaters of the avenue have lost due to their restoration.
10. Plaza de Mayo
Last, but not least, is certainly the famous Plaza de Mayo which overlooks the Casa Rosada. And which is sadly known to most for the manifestations of the mothers who paraded here (and still parade) to get back their children desaparecidos during the dictatorship between the years 1976-1983.
The square is one of the most beautiful in the city, thanks also to the tall palm trees that give a rather exotic style.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires also overlooks Plaza de Mayo, where the current Pope Francis was the cardinal and where he officiated the mass.
Inside the Cathedral it is worth visiting the mausoleum of the South American hero, General San Martin, who freed South America from the Spanish invasion.
The mausoleum has the distinction of being constantly monitored by guards in full uniform.