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Buenos Aires Culture

Architectural Masterpieces
Buenos Aires Culture
On a walk through the city, Buenos Aires’s unique cultural identity is on vibrant display—from its proud Spanish and Italian heritage to its modern style and provocative urban arts scene.
Photo by Felix Busso
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    Architectural Masterpieces
    Architectural Masterpieces
    Buenos Aires’s eclectic architectural landscape is a product of the city’s immigrant history. Argentina gained independence from Spain in 1816, and while a few Spanish colonial buildings exist—notably the Cabildo on Plaza de Mayo—the city became an experimental playground for European architects. As you walk around the neighborhoods of Congreso, Montserrat, and San Telmo, note the mix of baroque, art nouveau, Italian Renaissance, and beaux arts architecture. Make sure to pause at unique landmarks like Mario Palanti’s magnificent Palacio Barolo, modeled on the structure of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    Grand Avenues and Leisurely Strolls
    Grand Avenues and Leisurely Strolls
    Thanks to some smart city planning, Buenos Aires features a few Parisian-style boulevards—wide and beautiful, lined with trees and elegant architecture—that beckon travelers to take a leisurely stroll. The loveliest are Avenida de Mayo and Avenida Alvear. The former connects Plaza del Congreso and Plaza de Mayo, and features many of the city’s most famous architectural landmarks. The massive Palacio del Congreso is at one end, and the famous Casa Rosada at the other; in between are Palacio Barolo and the historic Café Tortoni. The latter avenue traverses the heart of the ritzy, old-money Recoleta neighborhood, and offers access to the glamorous Alvear Palace Hotel and the leafy Plaza Francia.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    High Society and the Recoleta Cemetery
    High Society and the Recoleta Cemetery
    When a devastating yellow fever epidemic struck Buenos Aires in 1871, the city’s wealthiest citizens fled from San Telmo and resettled in the higher ground of Recoleta. The elegant neighborhood—with its tree-lined avenues, Parisian-inspired architecture, beautifully landscaped parks, and designer boutiques—today remains a center of old money and European-style glamour. Major attractions for visitors include the Cementerio de la Recoleta—the final resting place of many of the city’s most illustrious citizens, including Eva Perón (often affectionately referred to as Evita)—as well as Plaza Francia, the Alvear Palace Hotel, and the Ateneo Grand Splendid, a former theater that is now one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    Contemporary Culture in Palermo
    Contemporary Culture in Palermo
    If the city’s history and architecture are downtown, and the old money is in Recoleta, then sprawling Palermo—divided into several subneighborhoods, including Soho, Hollywood, and Palermo Chico—is the center of the city’s contemporary culture. From modern art and politically charged graffiti to craft cocktails and an evolving gourmet dining scene, this is the place to see contemporary tastemakers in action. Come for dinner and drinks in a closed-door restaurant, pop into an edgy art gallery, or rent a bicycle and cruise past some of Buenos Aires’s most striking urban murals.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    The Melancholy Romance of Tango
    The Melancholy Romance of Tango
    Just as it’s important for any visitor to Buenos Aires to witness both the old and the new, it’s key to the traveler’s experience to see both sides of tango: the tourist spectacle, where gorgeously outfitted dancers wow the crowds with grace and athleticism, and the milonga, or tango club, where local dancers of all ages and skill levels gather to practice and dance. The former isn’t hard to find: Tango shows are advertised everywhere. Some of the best include the seductive Rojo Tango at the Faena Hotel, a simpler show at the old-fashioned Café Tortoni, or the classic evening performance at the legendary Bar Sur. To experience a real milonga, try El Beso or La Catedral—you can just sit and watch if you like.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    Fine Art and the Gallery Circuit
    Fine Art and the Gallery Circuit
    Buenos Aires is visibly teeming with artists of all kinds. If it’s fine art you’re after, stop by some of the city’s major museums, such as the Buenos Aires Latin American Art Museum (often referred to as MALBA) and the National Museum of Fine Arts. Organizations like the Recoleta Cultural Center host impressive and free exhibits. The gallery circuit is just as important. Look for exhibition openings and organized gallery nights in Palermo and Recoleta, where you can appreciate locally produced artwork and see the art crowd in action with champagne flutes in hand.
    Photo courtesy of MALBA / By Agustín Rojas
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    A Night at the Opera
    A Night at the Opera
    The Teatro Colón is considered one of the most beautiful theaters in the world. Though the theater was, to the great disappointment of many travelers, closed for years while undergoing major renovations, it has now reopened and is playing host to a busy schedule of opera, ballet, and symphonic performances. If you can’t get tickets for this legendary theater, try another elegant venue like the Teatro Nacional Cervantes or the Teatro San Martín. Check out Ciudad Cultural Konex if you’d rather see an edgier contemporary performance of modern dance or theater, or head to Café Vinilo to hear live music by some of Argentina’s best young artists.
    Photo by Felix Busso
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    Artisan Souvenirs
    Artisan Souvenirs
    On weekends, Buenos Aires is a paradise for shoppers in pursuit of one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Head to Feria San Telmo on Sundays to peruse artisan designs and antiques along Defensa, the neighborhood’s main drag, and then stop by the wrought-iron Mercado San Telmo to photograph vendors selling leather suitcases, and stands spilling over with vibrant fruits. Even better for handmade jewelry and ceramics is the open-air fair in Recoleta’s Plaza Francia. For leather goods made by artisans, the Villa Crespo neighborhood presents some bargains. For hipster-friendly home decor and accessories, visit the boutiques of Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood.
    Photo by Felix Busso