ABOUT THE CITY
Buenos Aire, the gateway to Argentina for centuries. Built by Europeans, this vibrant city overflows with energy and brims with attractive residents called porteños. The food is fresh and innovative, the shopping ranges from designer labels to street hawkers, and nightlife will keep you swinging all night long.
Buenos Aires is composed of many small places, intimate details, and tiny events and interactions, each with a slightly different shade, shape, and character. The city’s neighborhoods are small and highly individualized each with its own characteristic colors and forms.
And don’t forget the Tango! The national dance, the tango, is perhaps the best expression of that spirit–practiced in dance halls, parks, open plazas, and ballrooms; it is a dance of intimate separation and common rhythm, combining both an elegant reserve and an exuberant passion.
Buenos Aires Overview
Buenos Aires is the most European of all Latin American cities. With its wide boulevards, leafy parks, grand buildings and varied culture and nightlife, the city is reminiscent of Paris or Barcelona. The Porteños (‘people of the port’), as the residents of Buenos Aires are called, seem more European too – but this is hardly surprising considering that most are descended from European, predominately Italian, immigrants who settled here in the 19th century.
Founding of Buenos Aires
On February 2, 1536, the conqueror Don Pedro de Mendoza arrived by land at the coast of Buenos Aires. His mission was to populate the lands of the Rio de la Plata, which were of great interest to the Spanish crown. Mendoza christened the city Espíritu Santo and named its port Nuestra Señora del Buen Ayre.
Buenos Aires is the financial, industrial, commercial, and cultural hub of Argentina. Its port is one of the busiest in the world. Navigable rivers by way of the Rio de la Plata connect the port to northeast Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. As a result, it serves as the distribution hub for a vast area of the south-eastern region of the continent.
To the west of Buenos Aires is the Pampa Húmeda, the most productive agricultural region of Argentina (as opposed to the dry southern Pampa, mostly used for cattle farms). Meat, dairy, grain, tobacco, wool and hide products are processed or manufactured in the Buenos Aires area. Other leading industries are automobile manufacturing, oil refining, metalworking, machine building, and the production of textiles, chemicals, clothing, and beverages.
Area: 203 km² (78.5 sq mi) (city); 4,758 km² (1,837.1 sq mi) (metro)
Elevation: 11 meters (36 feet)
Internet country code: .ar
Currency (code):Peso (ARS)
Official language: Spanish
Time zone: GMT/UTC-3
Calling code: 11
Driving in Argentina is generally more dangerous than driving in the United States. By comparison, drivers in Argentina tend to be very aggressive, especially in Buenos Aires, and frequently ignore traffic regulations. The one rule that seems to be adhered to, however, is no right turn on a red light. U.S. driver’s licenses are valid in the capital and the province of Buenos Aires, but you need an Argentine license or an International Driver’s Permit to drive in the rest of the country.
The first in Latin America, Buenos Aires’ underground railway, or subte (short for subterráneo, or underground), was also one of the first in the world to be privatized: the network was taken over by Metrovías in 1994. It’s a reasonably efficient system – you shouldn’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes during peak periods – and certainly the quickest way to get from the center to points such as Caballito, Plaza Italia or Chacarita.
Ezeiza International Airport
Ricchieri Highway, Km. 22.
Gran Buenos Aires
The airport is about a 30 minute drive from downtown Buenos Aires. It is well serviced by flights around South America and to the United States and Europe.
There are about 42 TV broadcast stations. After Brazil and Mexico, Argentina has the largest number of TV receivers in the region. Cable TV is prevalent. There are five ‘superstations’ in Buenos Aires, four of which are privately owned (Channels 2, 9, 11 and 13) and one which remains public (Channel 7/Argentina Televisora Color).
There are about 1000, mostly unlicensed FM radio stations, including the popular Cristal FM and Radio Antena UNO CNN in Santa Fe. There are about 260 AM stations and six shortwave.
Buenos Aires Herald
The Buenos Aires Herald is the leading English-language newspaper in Latin America. Argentina’s principal dailies include Clarín, Crónica, El Cronista, La Nación, Página 12, Diario Popular and La Prensa.
This was the first subway line opened in Buenos Aires, and it still retains its original cars. The line was opened in 1913 and is the 13th-oldest subway system in the world, the oldest in South America, and the 4th-oldest in the Americas as a whole (after New York, Boston, and Philadelphia). This line runs under Avenida de Mayo, beginning at Plaza de Mayo, running through Congreso, which was its original terminus, though it now continues on to Primera Junta thanks to a later extension. Trains are wooden, old, and rickety, and as they proceed along the bends underground, you can watch the whole car shimmy and shake. The car’s wooden side panels are made to bend and slip into each other, which is fun or scary depending on how you look at it. Windows are still wooden, with leather pulls to open and close them. Rings, now plastic, are also held by leather straps. Unlike those on the cars of the other four subway lines, the doors on this line do not always open and close automatically, something to be aware of when you reach your station.
The stations between Plaza de Mayo and Congreso still retain most of their ornamentation from the very beginning, but the best station of all is Perú. Here, mock turn-of-the-20th-century ads and ornamental kiosks painted cream and red recall the very beginning of underground transport on this continent. In the summer this line can be even more unbearably hot than the rest of the system, none of which is currently air-conditioned. The Congreso station has a mini-museum inside of glass display cases with revolving exhibitions related to the history of the Congreso building. Well-worn old wooden turnstiles throughout this line remain in use for exiting and still have the old token slots, which are no longer operational. Experience firsthand the magic a subway must have been like when it was the highest form of transportation technology at the turn of the 20th century.
This historic cafe has served as the artistic and intellectual capital of Buenos Aires since 1858, with guests such as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio de Caro, Cátulo Castillo, and José Gobello. Wonderfully appointed in woods, stained glass, yellowing marble, and bronzes, the place tells more about its history by simply existing than any of the photos on its walls. This is the perfect place for a coffee or a small snack when wandering along Avenida de Mayo. Twice-nightly tango shows in a cramped side gallery, where the performers often walk through the crowd, are worth making time for. What makes the Tortoni all the more special is that locals and tourists seem to exist side-by-side here, one never overwhelming the other. Do not, however, expect great service: Sometimes only jumping up and down will get the staff’s attention, even when they are just a few feet from you.
Plaza de Mayo
If Buenos Aires has a center, this is it. Located at the historic heart of the city and bounded by the key commercial and shopping areas, the Plaza de Mayo is a large public square containing gardens, fountains and statues. At one side of the square is the only surviving Government building from colonial times – the Cabildo, which was constructed in 1748. In 1810, it was the focus for the May Revolution, and the museum reflects the history of this period. At the opposite end of the square is the Casa Rosada – a shocking pink Presidential Palace with a world-famous balcony, where the likes of General Galtieri, Diego Maradona, Evita and Perón have addressed the crowds at various stages in Argentina’s history. Originally a fortress, the Casa Rosada was remodeled when Buenos Aires became the Capital of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata in 1776. It gained its bright pink color during the presidency of Sarmiento when, in 1873, he chose the color to represent a mix of the red and white of the two main political parties. The south side of the building houses the Museo de la Casa Rosada in its basement.
This barrio is best known for its football team, Boca Juniors, for whom the legendary Diego Maradona played, but also for its multi-colored wooden and corrugated iron houses. The houses were built and painted by the resident dock-workers, of mainly Italian descent, who used leftover materials and paint from the ships. The most famous street, Calle Caminito, possesses the best of the painted houses and is where artists, street performers and tango dancers congregate daily. The colorful district heavily influenced Benito Quinquela Martín (one of Argentina’s most famous painters), whose work can be seen at the recently renovated Museo de Bellas Artes Quinquela Martín. It is also worth exploring the temporary exhibits of Argentine artists at the modern Fundación Proa museum. The working class area of La Boca is now a popular destination for artists and tourists, but visitors should avoid straying into the less touristy areas for fear of pickpockets and muggers.
San Telmo is one of the city’s oldest districts, where narrow streets with crumbling buildings add to the cultural intensity of the area. The labyrinth of streets, containing cafés, book stores, antique shops and artist studios all lead to Plaza Dorrego, which becomes an outdoor antiques and bric-a-brac market on Sundays. Tango music and dance demonstrations can be enjoyed in this square or at one of the many venues, such as El Viejo Almacén, devoted to this melancholy art form. There have been some efforts to regenerate this historic district, and the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires houses experimental artwork in an old tobacco warehouse.
La Recoleta Cemetery
A cemetery may not be everyone’s idea of a tourist attraction, but La Recoleta, founded in 1822, is famous as the final resting place of Maria Eva Duarte Perón, or Evita. The burial site can easily be located by following the guided tour groups or by seeking out the mass of bouquets. The populist sentiment of the inscription on Eva’s tomb, Volverá y seré millones (‘I will return and be millions’), did not enamor this woman to the descendants of the members of Porteño high society buried around her. The cemetery also contains the tombs of writers, scientists, national heroes and former presidents, exhibiting a variety of architectural styles.
Museums & Theaters
Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA)
This ultra-modern building was built to house the Costantini collection of Latin American art and is a welcome addition to the city’s cultural landscape. It is the mission of the museum, opened in 2001, to promote appreciation of Latin American art from the early 20th century to the present day. Many Argentine artists are represented, including Xul Solar, Benito Quinquela Martín and Antonio Berni. Many Brazilian and Uruguayan works are also shown, as is a famous self-portrait by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. This light, airy gallery also has spaces for temporary exhibits, an outdoor sculpture balcony, art book and gift shop, library and a café.
Inaugurated on 26 July 2002, on the 50th anniversary of Evita’s death, the Museo Evita tells the life story of Eva Perón using a mixture of personal artifacts, dresses, photographs and audiovisual displays. Already a famous radio and theatre actress in her own right, Eva Duarte became one of the most revered and reviled figures in Argentine history when she married Colonel Juan Domingo Perón who was elected President in 1946. Evita used her position to further the rights and conditions of the working class. Her life came to a tragic end when she died of cancer, aged 33, in 1952. Evita has become the subject of various books, films and a stage musical, and newsreel footage of the state funeral shows how popular she had become during her brief life.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Housed in a redbrick neo-classical building in the Recoleta district, the airy National Fine Arts Museum contains collections of European paintings and sculpture along with a complete collection of Argentine art. Downstairs, there are galleries devoted to Impressionists, such as Renoir, Monet, Degas, Pissarro and Sisley. Rubens, Rothko, Pollock and an assortment of other renowned artists also feature, along with internationally famous Argentine artist Lucio Fontana. A new exhibit features the personal collection of filmmaker Maria Luisa Bemberg. Visitors can also see the works of other Argentine artists and temporary exhibits on loan from international museums.
Located near Plaza Lavalle, the Teatro Colón is regarded as one of the greatest opera houses in the world and is an essential visit, even for those not usually interested in classical music. The Renaissance-style building, designed by Italian architect Francisco Tamburri, has seen the likes of dancers Vaslov Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova grace the stage. Bernstein, Strauss and Stravinsky have conducted here and Caruso, Melba, Callas, Pavarotti and Domingo have all sung in the 2,500-seat auditorium and tested the highly regarded acoustics. Visitors can take guided tours through the Central Hall, the ornately gilded and mirrored Salon Dorado and the auditorium, whose dome is decorated with frescoes by Raul Soldi.
Museo de Los Niños
This museum, located in the Abasto Shopping Center, is a fun way for your kids to learn about different careers and learn a little about Buenos Aires too, since many of the displays relate to the city. First, for the city, they have miniature versions of the Casa Rosada, Congreso, and a street layout to demonstrate how traffic flows, so it’s a great way to orient your kids to Buenos Aires. Various careers can be explored here with a miniature dentist’s office, doctor’s office, TV station with working cameras, gas station and refinery, working radio station, and a newspaper office to learn about journalism. The bank has interactive computers, too. Some of the things have a corporate feel to them, like a McDonald’s where kids can play in the kitchen and serve you for a change. Another is the post office imitating a branch of the private OCA mail service company. Here, kids can write out postcards, which they say get sent to the mayor of Buenos Aires. Even more fun is a giant toilet where kids learn what happens in the sewer system after they use the bathroom. Intellectual kids can also seek some solitude in the library, and budding dramatists can play dress-up onstage in a little theater, complete with costumes. A patio has small rides for little children too, when the big kids are too rambunctious.
Buenos Aires has a variety of schools offering education in English and Spanish:
Asociación Escuelas Lincoln
Andres Ferreyra 4073
B1637AOS La Lucila
Florida Day School, Belgrano
Gral. J.J. de Urquiza 2151
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires International Christian Academy
San Isidro 1642
Buenos Aires, Argentina
St. Hilda’s College
Isabel la Católica 1710
Provincia de Buenos Aires
54-11-4662 0395 (Fax)
Av. De Los Colegios 680
B1670NNN – Nordelta
54-11-4871-2668 / 69
St. Andrew’s Scots School
Av. Federico Lacroze 1973/2012
1426 Buenos Aires
Banks and Exchange Houses
Monday – Friday 10 am to 4 pm.
Generally 9 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 7 pm.
Currency & Banking
The currency in Argentina is the peso, denoted as AR$. The peso is divided into 100 centavos. Peso notes in circulation are AR$ 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Coins in circulation are of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos and 1 peso. Be very careful when accepting change in Argentina, particularly in Buenos Aires.
Argentina does not have an obvious traditional cuisine. This is primarily due to the high influx of immigrants throughout the history of Argentina, all of whom have left their mark on the food eaten in Argentina. Spanish food is the predominant cuisine in Argentina, with other food influences including French, German, Italian and English. Chinese and Japanese food have also become popular in recent years.
In order to buy real estate in Argentina, you will need a CDI Number, which is very similar to Social Security Number in the U.S. You can go to the local police station with your passport and proof of your local address to apply. They will verify your address and give you the forms that you area required to file. A fee of less than $10 USD is paid. The application should then be submitted to the AFIP Office, the tax authority in Argentina known as Dirección General de Rentas. The CDI number is effectively your tax ID.
Depending on the landlord, utility expenses and community fees may or may not be included in the rent. Community fees usually cover the costs of general maintenance and sometimes one or more of the utilities. Be sure to ask which items you will have to pay for yourself and which are included. Not all areas in Argentina have water or even electricity meters. In those cases a fixed monthly amount is charged.
The electric system is 220 Volts and frequency 50 Hertz. If you have electric appliances for 110 volts, you can purchase adaptors in specialized stores.
U.S. Embassy & Visa
U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires
American Citizen Services
Av. Colombia 4300
C1425GMN Buenos Aires
After Hours Emergency Number: 54-11-5777-4873
Buenos Aires Etiquette
Argentines are very proud of their country and culture. They are well-educated and sophisticated and like to be viewed as cosmopolitan and progressive.
In Argentina the National Ministry of Health finances the healthcare service operations, establishments, and institutions of the country and participates in the planning and establishment of the country’s healthcare sector in coordination with the provinces and the Government of the City of Buenos Aires.
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