Buenos Aires: A Weekend Guide for the Curious Traveler - Atlas Obscura

Weekend Guides for the Curious Traveler
Buenos Aires

Find faded grandeur and vibrant street life in Argentina's largest city.

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Day 1
Hidden Histories

Follow the river to where past connects with present.

Looking up at Galería Güemes. Alejandro/ CC BY 2.0
Shopping Arcade

1. Galería Güemes

Make your way among the morning commuters and street vendors to Galería Güemes. Don’t be deterred by the ugly 1980s façade—inside is a beautifully restored Art Noveau arcade, part of this area’s history as a high-end shopping district a century ago. Galería Güemes opened in 1915 and was designed by the legendary local architect Francisco Gianotti, but by the 1990s it had fallen into disrepair and became the victim of a poor remodeling effort. It wasn't until a painstaking restoration in the 2000s that it was returned it to its former glory. The stores inside are curiously random, though there is a good wine store on the Florida Street end. Don't skip the viewpoint on the 14th floor, which offers a panoramic view of the city

Florida 165, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Architecture

2. Old Cervecería Munich

Head down to the riverfront, crossing through the shiny new towers of the renovated old wharfs of Puerto Madero. Behind all the gloss, crossing an avenue where trucks carrying containers transit on their way to cargo ships, lies the old Buenos Aires riverfront. In the first half of the 20th century, porteños regularly flocked here to bathe in the somewhat muddy waters of the Río de la Plata.

Stop to take in the old Munich Beer Hall (Cervecería Munich) a eclectically designed Art Deco building that was once the see-and-be-seen spot of the balneario. Today it houses the kitschy Museum of Humor, but the promenade remains, and has been recently cleaned up. 

Av. de los Italianos 851, 1107, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Grab a bite near the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur. Federico Suarez
Park

3. Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur

There used to be graceful steps here descending into the river, but today it's a plant-filled channel facing what looks like a tropical island that blocks the view. This is in fact a natural reserve, the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, which was built on top of a pile of rubble left over from the country’s last military regime. Back then there were loose plans to extend the city into the water, but the concept faltered upon the return of democracy, and nature took over. The reserve can be accessed either at the intersection of Av. Rosario Vera Peñalosa and Av. Dr. Tristan Achával Rodríguez (in front of the Lola Mora fountain), or near the intersection of Cecilia Grierson and Av. Intendente Hernán M. Giralt. This is also a good spot to go cycling. Get lunch at one of the stands selling classic Argentine street meat. In a sign of the changing times, many now offer delicious, artery-clogging vegetarian options.

Av. Tristán Achaval Rodríguez 1550, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Inside El Zanjón de Granados. Valerie Hinojosa/ Cropped/ CC BY-SA 2.0
Museum

4. El Zanjón de Granados

A nearly 200-year-old mansion situated above a series of underground tunnels that date back to the Buenos Aires’s earliest settlements, El Zanjón de Granados is now a museum that offers one-hour tours to visitors. Some parts of the structure, including a wall comprised of seashell mortaring, date back even further.

Rescued by the amateur historian and Argentine chemical engineer Jorge Eckstein in 1985, the structure took 17 years to restore to its current condition. More than 130 truckloads of debris were unearthed from the tunnels. During the restoration, Eckstein uncovered tiles, fine china, and many other precious objects. Displays in the museum are varied and include photographs of the area that date back to the 19th century.

Defensa 755, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Centro Cultural Kirchner. Barcex / CC BY-SA 3.0
Cultural Center

5. Centro Cultural Kirchner (CCK)

This old post office building was impressively refurbished recently into a cultural center, combining daring architecture with historic preservation in a space that once housed Eva Perón’s charitable foundation. There are constant exhibits to wander through, and free tickets to concerts can be obtained a few hours before scheduled performances. If you need a break, head up to the fourth floor, where you can plop down in recliners beneath ever-changing LED hues emitted by overhead panels that enclose one of the exhibit halls. 

Sarmiento 151, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Bar

6. Taller Regazzoni

If you're up for one more adventure after you grab some dinner (we'd recommend the conveniently located Dada Bistro, a classic after-work dinner haunt), head to Taller Regazzoni, an unusual bar attached to El Gato Viejo and run by the artist Carlos Regazzoni, who uses junkyard metals salvaged from the area in his twisted sculptures. Getting there is a little tricky. There is a parking lot where Suipacha Street ends after crossing Libertador. This is behind the highway entrance, and there are often trucks entering and exiting. There’s a twisted metal archway that’s not labeled, and you walk down the alley until it ends at a door inviting you to the bar. It's dimly lit, and advisable to be discreet and not flash technology or jewelry in this area. Get a drink and possibly light your way with a cellphone flashlight to see the art piled throughout the warehouse.

Av. del Libertador 405, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Day 2
Day With the Dead

This is a city with more than its share of ghosts.

The bookstore and cafe at El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Federico Suarez
Bookstore

1. El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Enjoy a classic porteño breakfast on the stage of the aptly named former Teatro Grand Splendid. This ornate venue once hosted tango’s legendary figures, including Carlos Gardel. In 1929, it was converted to a cinema, and has become a large (and beautiful) bookstore and café in its latest iteration. Check out the former theater boxes for a cozy reading nook, or come back later in the day for occasional live piano accompaniment. Climb up to the balconies for a beautiful view of the books that now fill spaces once intended for audiences.

Av. Santa Fe 1860, 1123, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Cementerio de la Recoleta. Federico Suarez
Cemetery

2. Cementerio de la Recoleta

Best known internationally for housing the remains of Eva Perón, aka Evita, this traditional cemetery is a who’s who of Argentina history. Many of the country's former political leaders have in fact been laid to rest here, and a sign at the door can help point you in the right direction if that's your main interest. But we recommend wandering around the fringe, where decadent mausoleums have fallen into disrepair. Check out the small final resting place of David Alleno near the back. A former caretaker at the cemetery, he scrimped and saved at the turn of the 20th century in order to afford a plot of his own. In a hurry to inhabit it, or so the legend goes, it's said he committed suicide as soon as his headstone was complete.

Junín 1760, 1113, Buenos Aires, Argentina

At the Espacio de Memoria y Derechos Humanos. Federico Suarez
Museum

3. Espacio de Memoria y Derechos Humanos

Argentina’s recent history is marred by many more tangible deaths—the estimated 30,000 victims of the country’s last dictatorship, which ruled between 1976 and 1983. The regime “disappeared” its foes, nominally young revolutionaries, but also thousands of others considered suspect because of their political leanings, associations, or inclination to speak out. The former Naval Mechanics School is one of hundreds of clandestine detention centers that housed the disappeared. It was particularly notorious for serving as a birthing center for pregnant detainees, whose children were later placed in clandestine adoptions. Many of the detainees held here were eventually killed. The site only recently became a museum, after the Navy decamped in 2007, and the center remains bare, illustrated only by testimonies from survivors. Check in to join one of several guided tours that happen each day. There is also a cultural center operating on the campus.

Av. del Libertador 8151, Buenos Aires, Argentina

A sculpture at the Parque de la Memoria. Federico Suarez
Monument

4. Parque de la Memoria

After the museum, walk over to the nearby Parque de la Memoria, a memorial to the victims of the dictatorship featuring contemporary sculptures and panoramic views of the Rio de la Plata. A large wall lists the names of known victims and leads to a small museum that has rotating exhibits focused on political memory. Don’t be startled by what appears to be a man walking on the water just off-shore—it’s a sculpture of a young victim of the dictatorship.

Afterward, grab a bite alongside the cab drivers who frequent Los Platitos, a classic dive parrilla nearby, where you can choose your food right off the grill.

Avenida Rafael Obligado 6745, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The grave of Tango legend Carlos Gardel. Federico Suarez
Cemetery

5. Cementerio de la Chacarita

Compared to Recoleta, this is more of a functioning cemetery, though it has its share of well-known dead, both historical and contemporary. Pick up some gloriously psychedelic artificial flowers at the entrance if you plan to pay homage to any of them. Tango legend Carlos Gardel is here, and the tradition is to leave a lit cigarette in his statue's hand as a token of affection. You can also visit the Pantheon, where the contemporary rock legend Gustavo Cerati’s remains are tucked away among the cremated. You might also run into mausoleums that appear entirely empty, which is  part of the reason why cars, which are allowed to drive among the cemetery’s relatively broad avenues, are inspected on the way out.

After, rejoin the living with a hearty meal at Albamonte, a classic Argentine Italian club de barrio that specializes in pizza, pasta, and grilled chicken. You'll find zero pretensions and a friendly welcome here, along with generous portions. 

Av Guzmán 680, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Where to Stay
Hotel Madero

The Puerto Madero neighborhood makes an excellent launching pad, and the well-appointed Hotel Madero has everything you could need or want, including terrific views from its rooftop terrace.

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