After a couple of days in the Argentinian metropolis you start getting the feel of the place. You will know that the neighbourhoods change in architectural style as fast as you discover them, and you will get to appreciate the local, authentic Buenos Aires café or restaurant tucked away in a classical, noteworthy building or behind flourishing balustrades.
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 23 JAN 2020
Having beforehand checked the possibilities of getting from the Ministro Pistarini International Airport, also known as the Ezeiza International Airport, to the centre of Buenos Aires, we head for the Minibus Ezeiza. The airport is located far out of the capital, 27 kilometres (17 miles) away with no handy train connection to reach Buenos Aires. Online we have got the impression that the minibus may be the best option in our case.
In front of the arrival hall there is, though, no immediate sign of any bus! Enquiring at the information desk, the young lady soon persuades us to take the local, public bus with a bus stop just 200 metres from the airport entrance, instead. So – change of plan! The wait is not long before the bus arrives. We can hardly believe the ticket price when we see it on the display – and are absolutely amazed that we can get all the way into Buenos Aires paying that little! It is far below the normal shuttle fare!
Moreover, we now get a bus ride and a complimentary sightseeing tour with local Argentinians getting on and off at the quaintest small places until we finally drive onto the highway in direction of central Buenos Aires. All in all it probably doesn’t take much longer than the regular shuttle service.
The bus drops us at the intersection of the wide, green Avenida 9 de Julio and Avenida Belgrano, at a short distance from our hotel on Avenida de Mayo.
We cannot help being a bit impressed when crossing the widest avenue in the world. The Avenida 9 de Julio has 14 lanes – 7 in each direction!
Buenos Aires is a lovely mix of architecture with roots in European styles, brought to the country by the immigrants arriving from Europe during the last centuries. The styles reflect the architecture in their home countries and cities of origin. Many of the buildings date back to 1860s – 1920s, and around the heights of the European immigration in 1914 the European styles had come to influence the capital significantly.
The distinct styles blend in with houses from old colonial times in San Telmo, and altogether they make up a paradise for visitors and Argentinians with architectural interests. Neoclassicism, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Eclecticism, Colonial, Modern and Contemporary styles are all present in the streets of present-day Buenos Aires. The styles are all still hip and hot in the Argentine capital!
Stylish Buenos Aires café and restaurant with large Argentinian steaks
A Buenos Aires café or restaurant is no exception. Peeping inside a couple of establishments when we pass, reveals an authentic interior dating to the city’s architectural heyday.
Later, when getting hungry, we enter into another dazzling Buenos Aires restaurant. People apparently eat a bit earlier here than what we have expected. Several tables are just emptying as we are seated. That there are now only a few dining people left in the restaurant means that we get nearly all waiters’ attention and the very best service!
It is not for nothing that Argentina is reputed to have the best steaks in the world. We have come for tasty, Argentinian steaks, and that is – without exaggeration – what we get!
The avenidas are spectacular with their immense, stylish buildings. We have booked rooms in one of these old 19th-century hotels, Hotel Reina, which turns out precisely these years to be undergoing renovation to preserve the original style. The place has got character with its décor and high ceilings. All interior, furniture as well as wooden panels, notably follows the style from the early 1900s. As we understand it, it is a long process to renovate the hotel completely. Due to the work going on part of the building is therefore at the moment closed off to the hotel guests.
Art Nouveau hotel in Buenos Aires with café / restaurant
Not least, we are delighted to discover the antique, beautifully decorated lift with a stained glass roof in Art Nouveau style above. The lift seems to work since it is sometimes in the hall and sometimes on the top floor where we stay. Anyway, we opt for the stairs and take some exercise! You never know if such an old lift is reliable, and the sensation of being stuck behind the heavy iron door is not anything I fancy…
Through the wrought iron balcony railing outside the breakfast restaurant, we have a view to fashionable Buenos Aires avenues with their hectic morning traffic. Another of the impressive Art Nouveau buildings, Palacio Barolo, is situated just a few houses to the side.
Our location on Avenida de Mayo is really excellent, and the avenida itself features a number of neoclassical buildings as well. We are within easy reach of both the neoclassical National Congress and one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, the Teatro Colón. On the other side of the National Congress the renowned Gaudí inspired Palacio de los Lirios appears. A stroll in the neighbourhood is a true lecture on art history!
Buenos Aires is a modern metropolis with both American and European trademarks. If we hadn’t had a clue where we were, we could probably easily have mistaken it for a South European capital. McDonalds and Burger King are here as well, but they also have their own Argentine hamburgers which are much better deals!
Just round the corner on Avenida 9 de Julio the iconic Obelisco de Buenos Aires stands, and we are met by the impressive wall decoration of the actress Eva Perón every time we pass the broad avenue. It is a 9-storey portrait, inaugurated in 2011 on the 59th anniversary of Evita’s death.
She was the wife of the former president of Argentina, Juan Domingo Perón, politically very active fighting for women’s rights and passionately dedicated to charities. She was one of the most popular figures in the country at the time, and according to what we hear, the Argentinians went crazy when the portrait eventually was released! She is still hot here!
San Telmo and La Boca
Strolling through the neighbouring quarters leads to San Telmo with its antique markets, tango venues, colonial cobbled streets and bohemian setting. If you long for a tango performance, you may be lucky to catch a glimpse of it in San Telmo among vivid street arts and a general whirl of activity. It is unnecessary to say that hip Buenos Aires cafés here reflect the atmosphere!
A little bit further ahead La Boca appears with its colourful, trendy conventillos, communal housing from earlier times and today one of the landmarks of Buenos Aires. It was here the European immigrants traditionally settled between 1880 and 1930. No sightseeing tour without a visit to La Boca!
In stark contrast to all the traditional neighbourhoods we now find ourselves at Puerto Madero from where we will take the ferry to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay on a day trip. This part of Buenos Aires is dominated by the taller, modern building complexes – besides the Art Deco Kavanagh building, a little bit behind, which was the tallest skyscraper in South America when it was built!
At first sight the gleaming office buildings don’t appear that intriguing, but when we come back from Colonia at the fall of darkness, they have turned into the most fascinating, lightening towers.
On our way back towards Avenida 9 de Julio, which has by now become our point of reference in the city, we notice all of a sudden a remarkable activity in the street. Something is going on. It appears that the local juggling school is performing. They are cool and entertaining, so we just need to stay watching!
When we wake up next morning, part of our street is blocked by police cars and 15 police officers on motorbikes lining up just outside our hotel with guns and gas masks. It turns out that a demonstration has been announced and will gather shortly.
Some hours later, we coincidentally end up right next to the demonstration at the National Congress. It is the Argentine volunteer firefighters or Bomberos Voluntarios protesting against the insufficient funding for equipment and protection gear. The volunteers also demand appropriate healthcare. Due to cutbacks, funding has been neither adequate nor sufficient.
Authentic Buenos Aires café
They are all most impressive in full firefighting gear. It seems pretty peaceful, though, and we even spot a couple of the volunteers in a nearby local establishment, an authentic Buenos Aires café or confitería. Here we get awesome mocca, huge glasses of freshly squeezed juice, appetising sandwiches and complimentary cookies. The Argentinians do have a sweet tooth!
In the afternoon, on our way to the airport, we pass by another group of protesters on Avenida 9 de Julio. We are on the modern Metrobus in direction of the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery located in Palermo, serving mainly domestic flights and being a lot closer than the Ezeiza International Airport, we arrived at.
Looking at a map, we have expected a short bus ride through the wealthy, historical and architectural district la Rocoleta and the popular, green Palermo. However, this is not so!
Great is our surprise when the bus takes us through a veritable slum area. At least that is what we seem to experience. People are cooking over small bonfires in the streets. We cannot believe our eyes! Just another facet of vivid Buenos Aires!
Only a few minutes later the setting has completely changed again, and we arrive at the domestic airport by the breathtaking river, Río de la Plata. Ready to continue our trip.
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