Plaza De Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Language and Currency
What is Buenos Aires Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
A form of Spanish known as Castellano is spoken in Argentina and the currency is the Argentine peso. Some knowledge of Spanish is helpful but many folks also speak some English.
Buenos Aires is the ninth largest city in the world, located on the western bank of Rio de la Plata. It is the cultural, political, and economic capital of Argentina. Buenos Aires, a city of contrasts, is a blend of old world charm and modern conveniences. This large, vibrant, cosmopolitan city is divided into 47 distinct neighborhoods, or barrios, with their own unique characteristics. The fashionable shops, wide avenues, sidewalk cafes and flower vendors in the elegant La Recoleta district are reminiscent of Paris. Venture to the working class areas of San Telmo and La Boca and it feels like “Little Italy”.
San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Traverse Avenida Corrientes, known as the “street that never sleeps”, in El Centro and you will swear you are in New York City. Explore Buenos Aires on foot and you will be treated to an unforgettable urban experience. I fell in love with this city on my first visit, and as this is often the port of embarkation/debarkation, I strongly urge you to allow a few days before, or after, your cruise to explore the many facets of this gem.
Buenos Aires is hot and humid in the summer. The average daytime temperature is 83 and lows seldom dip below 60.
Puerto Buenos Aires
The cruise ship terminal Puerto Buenos Aires, opened in 2001, is located about ½ miles from the city center. If your ship is moored at one of the outlying docks at the port, a complimentary shuttle bus is provided to deliver you to your ship. Taxis are readily available and very reasonable. Taxis throughout the city are metered, in pesos, but US currency is accepted. However, at the port, remises and radio taxis are available with pre-set prices to the various neighborhoods in the city. You will also find complimentary shopping shuttle buses for your convenience at the port. A word of caution here: While Buenos Aires is definitely a walking city; begin by utilizing the transportation at the port to get you to a specific destination. The streets around the port area are not safe to traverse on your own.
Calle Florida is a pedestrians-only shopping street that traverses the center of town. This very lengthy shopping area is lined with vendors, shops, and eateries, as well as one of the best shopping centers in the city, the multi-leveled Galerias Pacifico. Although it is possible to walk from the port, as per the above suggestion, grab a cab and have them drop you at Plaza San Martin, where Calle Florida begins. Also, Barrio Norte is a residential and shopping area north of Plaza San Martin that offers some excellent shopping for leather goods and other fine Brazilian wares. If you happen to be in town on a week-end, venture to the street fair in La Boca or on Sunday, head for the San Telmo flea market at Plaza Dorrego. Both are great opportunities to find unique handcrafted items at bargain prices.
Buenos Aires offers excellent leather goods, gems, and designer clothes. Argentine wine, sheepskin products, and gaucho souvenirs are also a good buy. Handcrafted items like the mate (hollowed out gourd used for drinking yerba, a popular Argentine drink much like tea or coffee) and native artworks are great bargains at the street markets.
Although there are no world famous “must see” sights, there is much to see and do. Buenos Aires is a city to be experienced rather than toured. It is best to explore one neighborhood at a time on foot. I strongly suggest you pick up the complimentary “Golden Map” which can be found at a tourist kiosk or any of the hotels in Buenos Aires. It provides an excellent resource for self-guided walks. In El Centro, begin at the British Clock Tower or Torre Monumental known as the Argentine Big Ben. Continue north to explore Plaza San Martin (one of the many parks scattered through out the city), stroll down the pedestrian shopping street of Calle Florida; visit Teatro Colon, the 7 tiered Opera House with a 21 ft. chandelier. If time, take the guided tour. Spend some time at Plaza de Mayo, the square where grieving mothers of the desaparecidos (the disappeared) kept vigil during the country’s “Dirty Wars”. Casa Rosada, the Presidential Pink Palace and Museum at the eastern end is where Eva Peron would greet the masses. From there, follow Diagonal Norte the pedestrian walkway to the Obelisco which marks the intersection of Avenida 9 de Julio (the world’s widest boulevard) and Corrientes. Or, if you prefer, stroll the Avenida de Mayo to Café Tortoni and take a break in the oldest café in Buenos Aires. To garner a totally different flavor of this diverse city, venture to La Recoleta.
Begin your tour at Recoleta Cemetery. Not only is Eva Peron buried there, but the ornate mausoleums of the rich and famous that line the labyrinth of walkways provide a unique historical glimpse into the wealth and opulence that was once Argentina. Enjoy one of the fashionable outdoor cafes or walk along Avenida Alvear for some upscale shopping such as Ralph Lauren as you make your way to the Alvear Palace. This opulent hotel is perhaps the most exclusive in all of Buenos Aires.
Colorful La Boca is famous for its nightlife, but is also great for spending a casual afternoon shopping at the street fair or enjoying the ambiance of one on the numerous outdoor cafes. There are numerous bars and clubs where the tango can be enjoyed. Here local tango dancers perform for tips. While it is a bit touristy, El Caminito, the historical pedestrian zone in La Boca, definitely provides a festive and pleasant “Buenos Aires experience”. If you are lucky enough to be in port on Sunday, head to Plaza Dorrego for the San Telmo Market. The National Historical Museum is also in San Telmo. Puerto Madero, the old cruise ship terminal, has been converted into a warehouse of restaurants, bars, and shops. So, take in a tango, people watch, shop, explore, sip a glass of Argentine wine, enjoy a juicy steak, and interact with the city and its people.
Yes, I don’t think anyone should leave Buenos Aires without enjoying a tango show. The tango was born in the brothels of Buenos Aires and the Portenos (locals) have perfected this dance to an art form. To truly appreciate this seductive, romantic dance it is best viewed in one of the small local tango bars in the San Telmo or La Boca districts. Although there are a number of excellent tango dinner shows that cater to tourists, I prefer the intimacy of the smaller venue. My personal preference is Bar Sur, a small tango bar in San Telmo.
Tango Dancers in a Small Tango Bar
Argentina is the world’s beef capital and Buenos Aires has a number of excellent parillas (restaurants serving grilled meat). But, I would be hesitant to recommend one over another. However, cafes are an integral part of the Buenos Aires culture, and I would remiss not to mention Café Tortoni, near the Plaza de Mayo at 825 Ave. de Mayo. Although the food is not outstanding, it is truly an experience. Since 1858, the oldest Café in Buenos Aires has been a favorite with artists, writers, dignitaries and intellectuals. The original artwork, decorated ceiling and photos of great poets that line the walls are glimpses into Argentina’s glorious past. On weekends there’s a tango show in the backroom. Enjoy a cup of coffee while you people watch and immerse yourself in the history – most definitely worth a stop!