A visit to Buenos Aires’ historic center is fundamental. “This is where the city was born.”—Viviana Rivelli, guided tour coordinator, City of Buenos Aires. Start at the Congress building (1) on Entre Ríos (Entre Ríos and Rivadavia). Stroll in the plaza along Rivadavia, taking in the cafés, “kioskos,” and other typical businesses catering to harried downtown workers. As Rivadavia curves into Avenida de Mayo, you’ll pass a small plaza with a small dog park, one of many in the city where dog walkers—known for being able to walk up to 15 dogs at a time—stop to let their clients romp.
On Avenida de Mayo, one of the first historical buildings you’ll pass is the (2) Inmobiliaria Building (Avenida De Mayo Between Luis Saénz Peña and San José), with two red domes and Italian neoclassic features. On the same block, stop at the (3) Palacio Barolo (1370 Avenida De Mayo; www.pbarolo.com.ar), a neo-Gothic masterpiece built by Italian architect Mario Palanti. Palanti designed the dramatic structure of domes, columns, vaults, marble, bronze, and iron in an intricate tribute to the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. The palace, which now houses offices of lawyers, notaries, and insurance vendors, is divided into three parts: hell, purgatory, and heaven. Private or group tours of the building are available, if scheduled ahead of time
Back on Avenida de Mayo, you will see the historic (4) Old Majestic Hotel (1317 Avenida De Mayo) and the (5) Chile Hotel (1297 Avenida De Mayo). At (6) Los 36 Billares Bar (1265 Avenida De Mayo) founded in 1894, retirees play pool and dominos in backrooms and the basement.
Jorge Luis Borges, Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, and other famous artists used to frequent the (7) Castelar Hotel on the next block at 1150 Avenida de Mayo, and the oldest café in Buenos Aires.
From there, carefully and briskly cross the immense (8) Avenida 9 de Julio, a boulevard with 16 lanes of traffic (and more in some places), making it one of the widest boulevards in the world. Check out (9) Café Tortoni at number 825. Have a strong Argentine coffee or a helping of churros con chocolate while you peruse the photos and art at Tortoni (www.cafetortoni.com.ar).
Approaching the Plaza de Mayo, you’ll see the (10) House of Culture (575 Avenida de Mayo), the former “La Prensa” Newspaper building, and now a Buenos Aires City Government center. At the intersection of Rivadavia and San Martín, sits the (11) Metropolitan Cathedral and nearby, the (12) Cabildo building at Bolívar and Avenida de Mayo. Inaugurated in 1740, this is where Buenos Aires leaders met during colonial times. It now houses the Revolucion de Mayo Museum, the National Commission of Monuments, and a small handicraft fair.
A quick detour from the plaza, down Defensa street, you can visit the (13) Church of San Francisco, the City Museum, and the (14) “Farmacia de la Estrella,” a still-operating pharmacy founded n 1834. All are located on the corner of Defensa and Alsina streets.
Return to the Plaza de Mayo to end your tour in front of the (15) Casa Rosada (The Pink House), the presidential palace that occupies an entire block at the eastern end of the plaza. Many an Argentine president has appealed to the masses from the balcony facing the plaza. Every Thursday afternoon, the families of Argentines who “disappeared” during Argentina’s dictatorship still march in their loved-ones’ honor.
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