Buenos Aires, Argentina’s vibrant capital, is one of the most exciting and exotic cities in the Americas, and one of South America’s great cultural centers. In the centuries since the first Spanish settled here in the early 1700s, Argentina’s population has swelled with tides of immigration from Europe, especially from Italy and Germany. In the Victorian era, it was an “unofficial” outpost of the British Empire, whose economic and social impact there was tremendous. These various European influences have given Buenos Aires a cosmopolitan culture and appearance reminiscent of European capitals (yes, it’s often called the Paris of South America), but one colored by the wildness of the broad pampas that surround it and by distinctly New World attitudes.
Buenos Aires is a city of neighborhoods with widely different character. In the heart of Retiro, close to the waterfront and the Retiro train station, is the long monumental plaza of Avenida San Martin, where locals and tourists love to stroll in the parks. Before the Falklands War of 1982 pitted Argentina against its former British patrons, this promenade with its Big Ben-like bell tower was called Plaza Britannica; now it’s Plaza Fuerza Area Argentina. Across from the train station travelers will find the equally monumental Retiro train and bus station, the city’s busiest commuter hub. For business travelers, and anyone wanting to stay in the city’s commercial center, suggest the 24-story Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel and Convention Center
Centered on Avenida Alvear and also in the heart of Buenos Aires is Recoleta, which became the favored residential section in the 1870s. Recoleta is filled with magnificent examples of Art Nouveau and Beaux Arts architecture and home to Recoleta Cemetery, a highlight for tourists. It’s a city in itself, its “streets” lined by lavishly ornate tombs and mausoleums embellished with outstanding architectural detail and sculpture. Locals still bring flowers to the tomb of Evita Peron.
But there is much more to the beautiful Recoleta neighborhood. Suggest visiting exhibits at the Palais de Glace on Rua Posadas and the Museum of Modern Art on Avenida San Juan. The Museo de Arte Decorativo, in a stunning Belle Epoch building on Avenida Liberador, houses collections of Argentine furnishings and home décor, and the neighboring Museo de Arte Oriental shows collections from the Far East. Also on Liberador is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes with extensive collections of paintings, sculpture and drawings by international and Argentinian artists. In Recoleta, steer clients to Aldogon Mansion, a luxury boutique hotel in a Beaux Arts mansion with spa and rooftop pool (www.algodonman
sion.com) or to the 5-star Alvear Palace Hotel, built in 1932 and remodeled in 2010 (www.alvearpalace.com).
Perhaps one of the most fascinating places to be is the Plaza de Mayo, surrounded by architecture from the late nineteenth century. This is the political hub, with Casa Rosada, the Argentine Presidential Palace at one end and the plaza in front of it a gathering place for celebrations and political protest. There are museums in the Casa Rosada and at the other end of the square are the Museo Historico Nacional de Cabildo and the classical Metropolitan Cathedral.
For the full flavor of Buenos Aires, urge your clients to at least once experience the tango - that distinctly Argentinian music and dance that arose from the mixed cultures of the city’s barrios. They can find tango many places here, especially in the brightly colored streets of the La Boca district, on the Camito Caminito. (Soccer fans will want to come here, too, as it’s also home to Boca, the Juniors Soccer Stadium of Diego Maradona fame.) Look for street tango in San Telmo district as well, an area of nineteenth-century mansions now housing antique shops, art galleries and restaurants. For those who dream of following in the footsteps of the famous tango artist Oscar Piazzola, book private dance lessons with Buenos Aires Tango Steps (www.buenosairestangosteps.com); clients staying at the Four Seasons Hotel can reserve a Porteño Tango, a unique only-in-Buenos-Aires tango massage (www.fourseasons.com).
BEYOND BUENOS AIRES
No visit would be complete without a boat trip through the delta of the River Parana to the town of Tigre, with a stop for lunch on the terrace of one of the waterside restaurants. Clients can take this trip on frequent ferries or on tour boats that include visits to other attractions in or outside the city (www.batourguide.com.ar).
Clients with a bit more time will want to go beyond Buenos Aires to see more of Argentina, especially the broad plains of the Pampas cowboy country where the famous Argentinian beef is raised. This region is close enough for a day-trip that includes a fiesta gaucha party at a working Estancia, a traditional ranch, with a barbecue lunch and demonstrations of guacho horsemanship. Many tours add the chance to go horseback riding (www.buenostours.com).
Farther away, but easy to reach on a short flight, are the spectacular landscapes of the Cardones National Park and high-altitude Calchaquies valley in the mountains outside of Salta. Clients will get an entirely different view of Argentina’s infinite variety at breathtaking Iguazu Falls, a World Heritage Site and one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature, in the tropical forests between Argentina and Brazil. Trips can include accommodations in luxury hotels or a romantic jungle lodge. Say Hueque operates tours to Salta, Iguazu Falls and other parts of Argentina (http://sayhueque.com). Chanteclair Travel specializes in tours to Argentina and elsewhere in South America (www.chanteclairtravel.com).
Visit Argentina Tourism at www.turismo.gov.ar