Things to See in Buenos Aires - Lewis N. Clark
  Loading... Please wait...

Things to See in Buenos Aires

Posted by

If you’re going on a city bus tour of Buenos Aires, you’ll likely see San Telmo, La Casa Rosada (the Pink House, which is the equivalent of the White House), the Congress building, the Plaza de Mayo, the famous Florida Street, Recoleta Cemetery, and other historical areas. All are worth visiting to get a sense of this heavily European-influenced capital. Here are a few other suggestions as well.

The San Telmo neighborhood in particular is a big hot spot for tourists. It's like a giant market full of colorful brick buildings that takes up 7 blocks or so, and they sell everything from chandeliers to imported jewelry to paintings. You can find antique shops, museums, art galleries, cafes, historical churches and tango parlors there. Tip: Bring your reusable backpack to pick up souvenirs for yourself and your family.

A huge complex of tombs and mausoleums, The Recoleta Cemetery is consistently named one of the best and most beautiful cemeteries in the world. A lot of famous people are buried there, including many of Argentina’s presidents, founding members of the government, prominent writers, etc. It is the final resting place of Eva Peron, whose body was missing for many years. Her tomb actually contains two trapdoors to prevent future theft. There are nearly 5000 vaults spread throughout the cemetery, of which 94 are considered historical monuments. You’ll find many sculptural styles, such as Neo-Gothic, Baroque, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau.

It’s also worth checking out Parque Centarrio if you’d like a little nature respite away from the bustle of the city. Plants and trees are actually pretty rare in the downtown area, and it’s great for a picnic lunch or a jog through the park. Often there are street performers there, and I distinctly remember a magic show that the kids seemed to love.

Another way to get your nature fix is The Botanical Gardens of Buenos Aires, which are very relaxing. It’s one of the very few places in the city where you can look all directions and see trees instead of buildings. They're nowhere near as big as say, the Botanical Gardens of Chicago, but it’s very pretty in the springtime.

They have a variety of gardens, including Roman, Oriental, and French, in addition to native Latin American plants. You’ll also see a few greenhouses, “winter-houses”, and sculptures scattered throughout the park. As a side note, they have a huge population of cats there; animal control didn’t really seem to exist, but the cats didn’t bother anyone either. They seemed to like lying in the sun, and I didn’t mind sitting in the shade reading next to them.

Other gardens you can visit are The Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, which contain Japanese-inspired statuary, paintings, ponds (complete with koi fish), and trees and other plants. They have a “checker board” garden and a traditional zen rock and sand garden. You can also visit their greenhouse, cultural center, Buddhist temple, and restaurant. As someone who had visited Japan only a year before, I thought they did a great job of representing the native greenery and art of that country while incorporating South American plants as well.

The Buenos Aires Zoo is fun, but you might feel a little out of place if you’re not with kids. I did enjoy the fact that many of their animals just ran loose; in particular, the coypus would go sunbathe by the buffalo or the polar bear, but would shy away when people tried to pet them. You might also run into coatis, rabbits, and peacocks. I also saw a goose bite a capybara on the nose! I felt sorry for it. Additionally there’s an aquarium where you can see penguins and lots of different tropical fish and a reptile house if you like lizards and other reptiles. There are many other animals, including tigers, pandas, hippos, cheetahs, elephants, and flamingos.

El Tigre, which is part of the Delta, is a 21,000 square km waterway that flows into the Rio de la Plata, and then into the Atlantic Ocean. We had to travel by boat because part of the city doesn't have roads; they use boats to get everywhere. In fact, when I was there, there was only one boat that gave rides back and forth between El Tigre and Buenos Aires daily. Now there are trains that run several times a day as well.

Eventually we made it to the Puerto de Frutos, which is like a little city that sells various things such as cups for your mate tea, handmade bags and purses, and even pet dogs! Tip: Ditty bags will keep your purchases organized. You can find nearly anything there, and they also have restaurants, a casino, and an amusement park.

Later, on the way back, we stopped by a restaurant where we ate snacks and drank submarinos (a type of hot chocolate that consists of an actual bar of chocolate that melts in your milk as you stir). It was located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and you could see the beautiful city of Buenos Aires in the distance.

The Plaza de Mayo is situated just in front of the La Casa Rosada, and is always full of political life. Some groups seemed to have permanent presences there (such as those who were veterans of the Falkland/Malvinas Wars) and others have been coming once a week for decades. For example, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo started marching in 1977 when they demanded to know where their children had gone after the dictatorship took over (eventually 30,000 people were disappeared). It was one of the rare acts of dissent allowed at the time, and the dictatorship tried their best to discredit them. However, they have continued their marches to this day.

One of the mothers told me that, even after all these years, there’s still so much hurt and sadness in their hearts. Many of their children were university students who were innocent or simply held leftist ideals, and their families were never allowed a proper goodbye. More recently, a new faction, the Grandmothers, have tried to find children who were raised by military officials after their biological parents were disappeared. Most had no idea of their true origins.

The Mothers also fight for other political causes, such as agrarian reform (essentially re-distributing land among the poor). Unlike in many other Latin American countries, Argentina has brought many officials of the former dictatorship to justice, and this is in no small part due to the courage and persistence of the Madres.