Buenos Aires - Tolerant European Style South American City
The city of Buenos Aires is located in the republic of Argentina in South America. Plata. Buenos Aires is located on the west bank of the Río de la Plata, the Rio de la plata is an estuary of the Parana and Uruguay rivers which forms a muddy fertile basin between Argentina and Uruguay. Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina as well as its largest port. In fact the inhabitants of Buenos Aires are called ‘porteňos’ which when translated means ‘people from the port.’ It is the largest port in South America and a location of much economic prominence as it handles much f the container traffic for South America.
Being one of the largest cities of the South American continent Buenos Aries is a vibrant and pulsating city which has been influenced greatly by European style. Buenos Aires or ‘Bue’ as it is colloquially called is often referred to as the ‘Paris of the South.’
The city was founded twice first by a Spanish colonizer Don Pedro de Mendoza, he called the settlement he established Cuidad del Espiritu Santo y Puerto Santa Maria del Buen Ayre. In 1580, it was renamed Cuidad de Trinidad by Juan de Garay.
In the 19th Century the government of Argentina opened its doors to immigrants from several European nations such as Spain, Italy, Poland and Russia. This open door policy was followed to populate the under populated nation. The twentieth century saw more immigrants come from other South American countries as well as from Asia; this immigration is responsible for the multicultural and diverse ethnic fabric of the city today which contributes greatly to the vibrancy of Buenos Aires. The city is home to approximately three million people who live in 50 districts called Barrios which along with the metropolitan area of Greater Buenos Aries form a teeming metropolis.
Though Spanish is the main language in Buenos Aires, the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires sounds different from Latin American or Iberian Spanish. The language spoken here tends to have Portuguese and Italian inflections. This is due to Portuguese traders who came to trade their wares here as well as the Italian immigrants who made Buenos Aires their home during the waves of immigration in the 19th Century. Not too many people speak English in Buenos Aires.
‘Bue’ which is also called ‘Federal Capital’ has an extremely tolerant regard for homosexuals. Their unions receive recognition in Bue and businesses and establishments operated by homosexuals are not discriminated against. This liberal stance has encouraged the gay tourism industry and this has played a part in the recent economic recovery of Buenos Aries.
Buenos Aries generally enjoys mild temperatures all year round. The mean annual temperature is 18C (64.4F).Though summer temperatures have been known to sometimes climb to 28C( 83F) in the months of December to February ; while in winter which is from June to August temperatures could go down to 11C ( 52°F). Located as it is in the Southern Hemisphere, the rains come to Buenos Aires in autumn which is between the months of March to June and in spring which is from September to December.
Getting to Buenos Aires
Bue is served by two airports one largely an international terminal and the other primarily a domestic terminal. The Ezeiza International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini ) is located in Retiro in Grans Buenos Aries and is a half an hour drive from downtown Bue on the Ricchieri Highway . Many international airlines from other South American Countries, the USA, Europe and Asia call on this airport. Aerolineas Argentinas, however is largest carrier at this airport serving 150 international destinations and 350 domestic destinations per week. Domestic airlines utilize the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery airport located 10 minutes away from downtown Buenos Aires.
Transport from the Airport
An airport coach service called the Manuel Tienda Leon operates from the Airport to the city every hour. A ride on this coach costs 25 pesos. This coach also provides a link between the two airports. Other smaller private vans operate on this route and rides on these vans cost a few pesos more. Apart from these coaches and vans there are prepaid taxis which can be hired for the trip to downtown Bue. The prepaid taxis charge 75 pesos.
However, when you use a prepaid taxi, you usually get a 20% discount coupon which can be utilized for your return journey in the same taxi. One can call the same cab by calling the number provided and furnishing the receipt which was issued for the journey into the city.
A Spanish speaking tourist may find that it is easier to go outside the arrival hall and grab a taxi which is doing an airport drop. This is a cheaper option, as the fare to downtown Bue is usually 50-55 pesos inclusive of the tolls that one has to pay.
Local buses to the city depart from the Retiro bus station and the subway called subte also has a station here. These provide a tourist with additional means to get to the city.
Buenos Aires being a port city has international waterway links to Colonia and Montevideo in Uruguay. These links are provided by ferries which are operated by three companies Buquebus, Alisfacos and Ferrytour. Buenos Aires also receives many cruise liners and other Maritime vessels. On Ramon Castillo in downtown Buenos Aires there is a large passenger terminal called The Benito Quinquela Martin Passenger Terminal. All the customs, migration, Interpol and Coast Guard offices are located here along with snack bars and cafes.
The city of Buenos Aries is well linked by a train network to other parts of the country and the city’s most important station is at Retiro. Train links exist to neighboring countries such as Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil. The Train network needs to be upgraded though and the erratic service needs to be improved as well.
Buses form the chief mode of transport for travel within and out to neighboring countries. The city has three main bus stations where dozens for private bus companies compete for passengers again the most prominent bus station is at Retiro.
By car by Highway
A network of highways serves the city and these continue to the rest of country and the neighboring countries as well. Some of the various national highways are highways 1, 2, 3(which goes down to Tierra del Fuego) serve the south. Highways 8 and 9 serve the north and Highways 5 and 7 serve the west.
The city is well planned with a grid like organization which is easy to figure out with the help of a city map. The city maps are issued by the Tourist authority as well as other publishers.
Taxis are a convenient mode of transportation but the horrendous traffic gridlocks in the city can cause headaches for the tourist. When staying at a hotel its best to ask the desk to call a cab as there are unscrupulous individuals who operate cabs just to rob and harass tourists.
The buses in Buenos Aires are called collectivos.
By Subway (Subte)
Buenos Aires has one of the longest underground networks in South America. The Subway is called Subte for subterranean. It is a cheap and quick mode of travel around the city albeit it can get very crowded at peak hours. Fares can be bought for individual rides. Stored value cards are also available and are a convenient option to avoid queues at the ticket booth.
Commuter rail services also connect parts of the city and the main stations are Retriro,Once,Constitucion and Federico Lacroze.
Though rental cars are available, it is not advisable to rent and drive oneself around the city. The traffic is often gridlocked; moreover the citizens of Buenos Aires do not have much respect for the Highway Code. To traverse the roads of Buenos Aires in a car one has to have much gumption as well as nerves of steel.
Calle Museo Caminito
Caminito is a street market situated in La Boca which is the old port area of Buenos Aires. This street has vendors selling a variety of local handicrafts and other knick knacks in tiny shacks painted in rainbow hues and topped by corrugated sheets. La Boca is also the location of the Boca Juniors ‘Bombonera’ stadium. It was built in 1940. The Stadium has soccer related murals painted by Benito Quinquela Martin and Perez Cellis. Football (soccer) is almost a religion in Argentina with the country being the home of the world famous football wizard Diego Maradona who played with the Boca Juniors. The Boca Juniors ‘Passion Museum ‘ is located at Brandsen Street close by here one can browse through soccer memorabilia as well as participate in an interactive display related to soccer. La Boca also stakes its claim as the birth place of ‘tango’ the famous dance invented in Argentina. Tango dancers meant for tourist consumption are visible in the cobble stone streets of Caminito.
House of Culture
This is a historic monument which housed the La Prensa newspaper. It is located on Avenida de Mayo 575 and it was designed by Jose C Paz the founder of La Prensa newspaper. It was built between 1895 and 1898 and inaugurated in 1898.
The Cementerio de La Recoleta
The cemetery, which contains the remains of the rich and famous of Buenos Aires including the famous Eva Peron the actress and politician wife of President Juan Peron. Her grave is the most visited of all the graves in this cemetery.
Museo Nacional De Belles Artes
The Fine arts museum located in Recolta opened in 1933 and it has 32 galleries with works by Argentinian artists as well as the masters such as Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin.
Malba, Palermo Chico
The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires/Colleccion Constantini is known as MALBA. The edifice is a slick and modern building which was designed by three Argentinean architects and opened in the Palermo Chico district in 2001. It is a showcase of contemporary art by Latin American greats such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Fernando Botero amongst others. The area of Palmero Chico is a popular district which is home to the movers and shakers of Buenos Aires.
Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, Recoleta
This museum was formerly the private home of a wealthy couple Josefina de Alevear and Matias Errazuriz Ortuzar called ‘Palaccio Errazuriz .’ It was designed by French architect Rene Sergent in 1911 in a neoclassical style. It was declared a historic building in 1998 and now has exhibits of 4000 pieces of decorative objets d’art including an El Grecco. A café is located in the museum in what was the formerly the greenhouse of the home.
Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays
The Buenos Aires Botanic gardens were designed by French landscaper Carlos Thays and they were open to the public in 1898. They spread over 69,772 sq meters and feature 5500 species of plants. These are grouped according to several categories such as country of origin, style and family and use. There are also five green houses in the Gardens.
A verdant belt located on the southern coast of the River Plate, a few blocks away from the administrative and financial center of the city has been declared ‘Natural Park and Reservoir Zone’. It covers 360 hectares and is situated on reclaimed land. There are walking and bicycle paths here as well as viewing galleries which afford stunning views of the river
Each side if the obelisk commemorates events in the history of Buenos Aires ,the first time the foundation was laid in 1536, the second and final establishment in 1580,the first time the Argentinean Flag was raised in 1812 at the church of San Nicolas (the present day location of the obelisk) and the declaration of Buenos Aires as the capital of Argentina in 1880.
Plaza Drego Market
The market is located in the San Telmo neighborhood. It was established as an antiques market in 1970 but today tourists throng the market every Sunday to buy a variety of products from the 270 stalls located here.
Puente de La Mujer
This pivoting bridge located in Dock 3 in Puerto Madero neighborhood is built to rise up to allow a ship with a tall mast to pass. It has one of the largest pivoting mechanisms in the world which is computerized. The bridge was a gift costing $6 billion to the city of Buenos Aires by a businessman Alberto L Gonzalez. It was built in Spain and shipped piece by piece to Buenos Aires.
The Alvaer Palace Hotel located in the district of Recoleta is reputed to be the most luxurious hotel in South America. It is reeks of opulence with carved marble balustrades and French furniture. Other luxurious hotels include the Four Seasons Hotel, the Marriott Plaza Hotel, the Faena Hotel in Puerto Madero district and the Hotel de Disneo which was designed by the famous architect Ernesto Goransky.
Several more reasonable options area available to tourist such as hostels and Beds and Breakfast which cater to younger folks and backpackers. The Clan is a YMCA youth hostel is located in the heart of the downtown action which so appeals to the younger set. The Millhouse Hostel at Hipolito Yrigoyen Street appeals to backpackers with its community kitchen and planned activities which include tango dance lessons.
Buenos Aires like other South American cities does have an active dining and club culture. Puerto Madero is the party central district of Buenos Aires. Many bars restaurants and clubs are located here and in districts such as Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood and Recoleta.
Oveido in Barrio Norte is a famous restaurant for hearty Spanish fare with an excellent wine list featuring many local Argentinean wines. Filo in Retiro is known for its thin crust pizzas while El Orbero in La Boca serves traditional grilled meats which are known as parrilla . El Pobre Luis in Belgrano is another restaurant famous for its excellent parrilla and is favoured by soccer stars like Maradona, Pele and others. The jerseys of these soccer stars adorn the walls of the restaurant.