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Buenos Aires beckons


Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is one of the most interesting cities to visit in all of South America. A fusion of cultures and colours, there’s far more to it than steaks and tango although the former are the best you’ll get anywhere and the latter is exhilarating. The city pulses with life and a Latin vibe, and like all of the world’s great cities it never seems to sleep. It also has a vibrant arts community.


3_Don Julio inside

So let’s get the steak thing out of the way. Buenos Aires is a meat lover’s paradise and according to just about every review, the go-to place for the best steak is Don Julio (above), and it is special. We also went to another restaurant, the name of which escapes me now but below is what it looks like.

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There are several establishments worthy of the title “best Argentinian steaks” which a quick Google search will reveal, so choose the one you like the sound of best.

For those who only have time to see the main attractions these should include the city square, Plaza de Mayo, lined with stately 19th-century buildings including Casa Rosada, the presidential palace; Teatro Colón, a grand 1908 opera house with nearly 2,500 seats and considered one of the 10 best opera houses in the world; and the modern MALBA museum, displaying Latin American art.


6_Casa Rosada



The Floralis Genérica (title picture) is a 23-metre-high stainless-steel flower that opens at dawn and closes at dusk, just like a real flower. Or at least it should; it has been plagued with electrical problems and in the early part of the last decade the petals remained permanently open for some years awaiting repair. The sculpture is located in the Plaza de las Naciones Unidos, surrounded by lush gardens and overshadowing a reflection pool.


Opened in 1876, the Hipódromo de Palermo was the city's first venue for horse racing. The Palermo Racecourse is noted for its eye-catching architecture and important race meets such as El Gran Premio Nacional, which takes place every November. The racecourse’s 2.2-kilometre sandy track is one of the longest in the world.

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The Recoleta cemetery is worth a visit too. If you regard cemeteries as depressing places to visit – which you won’t if you’ve ever been to Père Lachaise or Montparnasse cemeteries in Paris – then think again. Considered one of the most unusual but most beautiful cemeteries in the world, Recoleta was declared the city’s first official public burial place in 1822.

Apart from its basic function, it is completely unlike a normal cemetery. The site extends over 5.7 hectares of elaborate pathways and contains around 6,400 tombs – all above ground – so make sure you pick up a map at the entrance. Opulent and grand, La Recoleta cemetery is characterized by a range of ornately decorated mausoleums, many of which are made of marble and adorned with statues. They vary in architectural style from Baroque and Neo-Gothic to Art Deco and Art Nouveau, depending on when they were built.

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Located in the upmarket neighbourhood of the same name, Recoleta is the final resting place of actress-turned-First Lady Eva Perón, but there are also many other famous Argentinians interred here, from writers and artists to presidents and soldiers.

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Take care crossing the terrifyingly wide and traffic-dense boulevards, particularly Avenida 9 De Julio, claimed to be the widest avenue in the world. Its name honours Argentina's Independence Day, 9 July 1816. At its widest, the avenue has seven lanes in each direction plus two lanes for turning into the side streets, a total of 18 lanes. Crossing it on foot is a major undertaking requiring two or three traffic-light cycles and a wait at the median strip.

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We stayed at the Esplendor, a delightful hotel conveniently located in downtown Buenos Aires close to Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall and Florida Street. It boasts a number of stunning artworks and can be recognised from its neo-Renaissance façade. Now a Wyndham hotel, it offers modern décor, an on-site business centre and an inclusive buffet breakfast.

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The Argentine capital was named by Frommer’s as one of the 20 best places to visit in 2020, but of course many travel plans were dashed that year and since. The travel guide highlighted the city’s neighbourhoods such as Villa Crespo with its underground art scene and Jewish community, and San Telmo with its artists centred on Plaza Dorrego. One of the most colourful neighbourhoods in the city is La Boca, a working-class district and a tourist magnet but very likeable. The following images illustrate how vibrant it is.

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22_La Boca



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26_La Boca2


With international visitor numbers approaching three million, Buenos Aires was experiencing a boom accompanied by an expansion of tourism into less traditional neighbourhoods.

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According to data from the city, the neighbourhood of Belgrano, for example, was receiving 30 per cent of the tourists that visit Palermo, a more traditional favourite, while movement in the neighbourhoods of Villa Crespo, Caballito and Chacarita could also be seen. This is consistent with the observation that international tourists are increasingly seeking to experience cities as if they were residents, rather than visitors, and this trend is opening up new neighbourhoods to tourism.


A couple of years ago the Buenos Aires city government opened a new Interpretation Centre in the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, a move designed to offer an improved experience for the reserve’s more than one million annual visitors.


The new space, which showcases the main species of flora and fauna that inhabit the reserve welcomes visitors, provides orientation and raises awareness of the importance and uniqueness of the reserve, just metres from the busy financial centre of Buenos Aires.

There are three eco-regions present in the reserve: the Paraná delta and islands, the Argentine espinal and the grasslands. The centre has illustrations and infographics showing how different species arrive in the reserve, the importance of the reserve as wetlands and other characteristics.


Covering 350 hectares, the reserve is the largest green space in Buenos Aires. It is home to more than 2,000 species of flora and fauna including birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and native vegetation such as pampas grass and alder forests.

The reserve is an excellent location for bird watching, with more than 343 species having been spotted – equivalent to 30 per cent of all the avifauna in Argentina, and three per cent of all birds in the world. Bird watching is said to be growing in popularity around the world, apparently with large numbers of people travelling vast distances to see different species of interest.


Buenos Aires is generally safe to walk around if you keep your wits about you, and the level of crime is no worse than in other comparable cities. However, some of its citizens practise a unique line in what is known as distraction theft. The victim is splashed with a dollop of mustard or similar substance, a ‘helpful local’ moves in and offers to wipe it off and while all of this is going on, his or her accomplice relieves you of your wallet or purse. So if you feel a slimy substance land on you, just keep walking and ignore all offers of help.

Photos © Judy Barford except where otherwise credited


Images (32)
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  • 3_Don Julio inside
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  • 6_Casa Rosada
  • 7_TeatroDSC_1101
  • 8_MALBA
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  • 13_Ave 9 de Julio City1
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  • 22_La Boca
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  • 25_la boca
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  • 27_Tango
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  • 31_reserva_ecologica_chica_1200
  • 32_City2

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