Latin America offers a wonderful world to discover – from amazing pre-Colombian ruins and beaches of unimaginable beauty – to the simply breathtaking Cyclopean landscapes of the Andes, the Amazon and Patagonia. With a history and culture that is still very much alive, Latin America opens up to the traveller like a huge blooming rose with petals bathed in the dew drops of mythological magic.
This is a land so vast that even entire decades would not be enough to cover its immense breadth and depth, not even long enough to scratch the surface of any of the Latin American megacities, those large conurbations born in the last century that are today glittering symbols of the modern world. Given, therefore, the unmesurability of these urban giants, I am taking you on a brief trip to a Latin American city, which on this occasion will be the mythical and literary Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.
“The city is in me as a poem that I have not managed to stop in words.” Jorge Luis Borges
Founded in the 16th century, Borges described it as “more eternal than water and air”, Buenos Aires has always been a unique enclave on the American continent. Since its inception, it has been interchangeably populated by Spanish, Italians, French and Germans, which, combined with the subsequent mass migrations, have converted it into a city of mobile and plural identity.
In fact, Buenos Aires is one of the few places in the world to enjoy an incredible cultural variety, reflected in the tireless life the city exudes. Its faces, its streets and its old ochre-coloured bookshops, everything reflects a shimmering reality prior to man and his monochrome nations.
“When the hardness and fury of Buenos Aires, make loneliness feel more, I go for a walk in those neighborhoods” Ernesto Sábato
Even if visitors only have a few days to spend there, Buenos Aires will not disappoint. Despite the fact that the ideal time would be counted in weeks, five days will suffice for the traveller to encounter the city of fury, and leave them wanting more, because you can never get enough of Buenos Aires.
Once the typical formalities are out of the way – arriving at the airport, travelling to the city centre and checking in to the hotel –it’s time to hit the streets of Buenos Aires. But before I propose my itinerary, I would like to clarify that the elements are perfectly interchangeable; this guide is limited to distributing in a logical manner a series of areas for the period of five days, leaving the traveller free to choose the order that best suits them.
On the first day you could explore the north area of old Buenos Aires, the Retiro district, with its imposing buildings built in an array of architectural styles.
You could take a trip down Calle Florida, venture inside the large arches and glass domes of the Galerías Pacífico shopping centre, stop under the characteristic Obelisk (a national historic monument) that rises majestically out of the hustle and bustle on Avenida 9 de Julio. Once there, a must-visit is the Colón Theatre, where Lorca reopened his play Blood Wedding in 1933. Later, when you are in need a well-earned rest, you could sit and enjoy the beautiful, peaceful Plaza Lavalle, immediately behind the theatre and replenish your strength for your last daylight activity – the Plaza General San Martin – the nerve centre of the Retiro district. There you will find the train station, the Torre de los Ingleses and large ascending parks from where you can admire your first southern sunset, tinted hues of red, gold and lilac that return the area to its legendary glory.
On the second day you can venture a little further downtown, to the micro-centre. You can enjoy the imposing image of the Palace of the Argentine National Congress, the fascinating, surreal domes of the Barolo Palace, standing tall and dazzling on Avenida de Mayo, continue on down 9 de Julio street to finish in the Plaza de Mayo, where the Casa Rosada (the presidential palace), beckons. Following the direction of the route, the day will culminate in Puerto Madero, crossed by elegant bridges and refined skyscrapers that will serve as a refuge for another spectacular twilight.
On the third day you can take a break from the busy city by taking the train to Tigre from the Retiro Station. Tigre is an Argentine town within the metropolis of Buenos Aires and is the ideal place to sit and rest by the long canals and green leafy backdrop that touches the sky. You can enjoy an Amazonian-style landscape on venturing inside the heart of Tigre by barge, surrounded by tropical nature.
On the fourth day, so that your return to civilization is not too abrupt, take a walk north on Avenida del Libertador, stopping at the marbled Recoleta cemetery, the Floralis Generica sculpture of a giant flower, the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires, and then take a visit to the tranquil yet modern neighbourhood of Palermo, an urban centre of gastronomy and leisure and catch the sky turning russet between the tall trees of the Forests of Palermo.
Once you have overcome the sadness of your imminent return, you should set out onto the street once more to savour your last lingering moments in the Argentine capital by taking a stroll through the cobbled streets of San Telmo, which on weekends is home to a bustling flea market, in a southerly direction towards the humble neighbourhood of La Boca, a colourful culmination to the city of Buenos Aires.
This is the end of my essential tourist guide to the city of Buenos Aires. However, I suggest you take one final wander through the streets of Buenos Aires and marvel at its main attractions: its unpredictability, its people and its everyday life. Buenos Aires becomes a giant theatre governed by the blind forces of chance that propel the traveller to new and more beautiful discoveries. An unparalleled experience.
TEXTOS: Alvaro R. Dicenta
FOTOS: INGIMAGE, SHUTTERSTOCK