4 Hours in… Buenos Aires

Sensual tango, delectable meat, tasty Malbec wine: Buenos Aires gets under your skin. Kamilia Lahrichi checks out the cultural highlights of this vibrant city.

La Boca

Embark on a tour of Buenos Aires’ traditional barrio (“neighborhood” in Spanish), La Boca. It gathers some of the most important aspects of Argentina’s culture, namely tango, soccer, great meat and colorful architecture.

La Boca refers to the “mouth” of the Riachuelo, the “little river” that was a port for thousands of immigrants from Italy and Spain mainly.

Start your stroll in Caminito, a haven for artists with cobblestones and brightly colored houses. You can snatch a quick tango lesson with professionals. Although tango was a furtive dance in red-light brothels in the early 1900, it has become today a sensual dance.

Head then to the Casa Amarilla, “the yellow house”, at 401 Almirante Brown and Martin Garcia avenue. Two blocks away, wander to the Nuestra Señora de los Inmigrantes Church at 312 Necochea. It pays tribute to Argentina’s immigrants.

Your tour of the barrio ends in front of the soccer stadium La Bombonera at 805 Brandsen street (www.bocajuniors.com.ar) – one of the neighborhood’s centerpieces. This is the soccer field of the Boca Juniors, one of the two popular soccer teams in the country.

Visitors ought to know that soccer is not only a national sport in Argentina but also a faith. Pope Francis – an Argentinian – showed off Argentina’s soccer jersey in the Vatican during the 2014 World Cup.

Don Carlos restaurant

Directly opposite to the stadium, this charming restaurant offers your taste buds all they need to experience in Argentina – the six “P”s or picadas (tapas), pizza, pasta, pescado (fish), parrilla (grill) and postres (desserts).

It also has a large selection of Argentinian wines. Aficionados should try the flagship Malbec wine: the South American nation is the main producer of Malbec in the world and has the largest Malbec acreage.

For a starter, main and dessert with a glass of wine, expect to pay about 220 pesos ($26). Note that you can only pay in cash. Open from Monday to Saturday from 12pm to 4pm and from 8pm until it closes. +54 11 4362-2433

San Telmo

Hop in a taxi for a 10-minute ride to Buenos Aires’ oldest barrio, which dates back to the 17th century.

San Telmo is a captivating mixture of new and old, contemporary and vintage. Ask the taxi to drop you at Plaza Dorrego – the central square – bordered by landmark restaurants and quaint eateries. You can sit and sip a coffee or fernet (traditional liquor) whilst watching a live tango show.

Roam around the antique booths and quirky shops selling gramophones, old telephones, antique knives or old jewelry.

If you happen to be in San Telmo on Sunday, you should go to the feria (fair), which starts at the corner of Plaza Dorrego and Defensa street. It is bustling with unique artisans and street performers from about 10am to 4pm.

Plaza de Mayo

Six blocks up, this is the capital’s political heart. It faces the Casa Rosada or pink house – the President’s executive mansion and office. Tourists can visit it every weekend and public holiday.

From the well-known balcony, Maradona sang along with soccer fans after winning the 1986 World Cup.

The center of the plaza features an obelisk – the Pirámide de Mayo – erected to commemorate Argentina’s independence from Spain.

Around the square, you can see prominent buildings such as the Cabildo or Old City Hall and the Metropolitan Cathedral, which are vestiges of the colonial period (18th and early 19th centuries).

Southwest corner of the square, you can also visit the Museo Histórico Nacional del Cabildo y de la Revolución de Mayo (www.cabildonacional.gob.ar). It costs four pesos (less than 50 cents). Open from Wednesday to Friday from 10:30am to 5pm and from 11:30am to 6pm during the weekend.

Puerto Madero

Hop in a taxi for a 15-minute drive to Puerto Madero, an upscale barrio by the river.

Formerly a port accommodating cargo ships, it is today a rapidly expanding area, with high-rise luxury residences, fine Argentine steaks and fresh seafood restaurants, and four and five star hotels.

All the streets in Puerto Madero are named after important Argentine women. A sign between docks two and three explains who these spectacular women are.

At sunset, you can grab a bite at the fine Italian restaurant BICE (bicebuenosaires.com.ar) whilst watching the water shimmer with Buenos Aires as a backdrop. It is located at 192 Alicia Moreau de Justo street (+54 11 4315-6216).

Open daily from 12pm to 4pm and from 7:30pm to 1am.

As you walk out from the port, you will come across the Ecological Reserve – one of the city’s lungs (1550 Costanera Tristan Achaval Rodríguez avenue). This 360-hectare lush green space, with three lagoons is a haven for peace for tourists and residents alike. Open daily but Monday in April to October from 8am to 6pm and November to March from 8am to 7pm.

For sport lovers, another alternative would be to contact info@citytouronbikefree.com.ar for free bike tours around these neighborhoods.


 This Chinese version of this article was published in Business Traveler magazine on September 4, 2014.

The PDF version of the Chinese translation is available here

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