Buenos Aires Introduction Walking Tour, Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina. The city was first founded as Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre in 1536 by the Spanish. But this settlement was quickly abandoned in 1542, and the city was refounded in 1580. Buenos Aires boomed as a port city focused on trade.

Argentina gained independence from Spanish rule during the May Revolution of 1810. Today, the May Revolution is celebrated as a national holiday, and the Plaza de Mayo and Avenida de Mayo are named after this pivotal day.

As you walk among the historic buildings of Buenos Aires, you'll find a mix of architectural styles from the magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral to the Beaux-Arts style Galerías Pacífico to the Art Deco Kavanagh building. You'll mingle with locals while dining on Calle Florida or browsing handmade crafts in Plazoleta Cortazar.

Don't miss the Casa Rosada facing Plaza de Mayo. The "Pink House" is home to the Argentine national government. Evita Peron gave her famous speech from the balcony. For more about Evita Peron, visit the Evita Museum.

Buenos Aires has a strong Catholic identity. The stunning Metropolitan Cathedral faces the Plaza de Mayo. Before he was elected Pope, Pope Francis held mass here. There is a small Pope Francis Museum inside the Cathedral.

Avenida de Mayo has an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants housed in architecturally interesting buildings. Don't miss Buenos Aires' oldest cafe, dating to 1858.

Finally, El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore is a contender for the world's most beautiful bookseller. Housed in a Beaux-Arts-style old theatre, you can sip a coffee on the old stage and browse through books in the theatre balconies.

Take this self-guided tour to explore the most notable sights of Buenos Aires.
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Buenos Aires Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Buenos Aires Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Argentina » Buenos Aires (See other walking tours in Buenos Aires)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
Author: irenes
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Plaza de Mayo (May Square)
  • Casa Rosada Museum (Pink House Museum)
  • Metropolitan Cathedral
  • Avenida de Mayo (May Avenue)
  • Palacio Barolo (Barolo Palace)
  • Plaza del Congreso (Congress Square)
  • Plaza de la Republica (Republic Square)
  • Teatro Colón (Colón Theatre)
  • Plazoleta Cortazar (Cortazar Square)
  • Galerías Pacífico Shopping Center
  • Calle Florida (Florida Street)
  • Avenida Corrientes
Plaza de Mayo (May Square)

1) Plaza de Mayo (May Square) (must see)

Plaza de Mayo is the oldest plaza in Buenos Aires. Its history began in 1580 when Juan de Garay founded Buenos Aires. The current plaza was laid out in 1884 and named to commemorate the May Revolution of 1810 that overthrew Spanish rule.

The Casa Rosada (pink house) dominates the Plaza de Mayo. This iconic building houses the Argentine national government and the president's office. Eva Perón famously addressed supporters from The Casa Rosada's balcony in 1951.

In 1811, the Pirámide de Mayo (May Pyramid) was erected nearby to commemorate the May Revolution of 1810. In 1912, the 18.76 meters (61.5 feet) tall Pirámide de Mayo was moved to its current location in the center of Plaza de Mayo.

The Equestrian Monument to General Manuel Belgrano is impressive. This monument represents Manuel Belgrano on horseback and was dedicated in 1873. Manuel Belgrano fought for independence from Spanish rule, created the Flag of Argentina, and is revered as one of the main liberators of Argentina.

Several historically and architecturally interesting buildings line the plaza. The original Cabildo, or town council building, was built in 1608. The current white colonial-style building was completed in 1751 and has undergone several renovations. The Cabildo is the only colonial-era government building still standing n the Plaza de Mayo.

Today, the Cabildo operates as the National Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution. Here, you will find colonial paintings and furniture. The views from the upper levels are wonderful. Don't miss the changing of the guard, every hour, in front of the Cabildo.

The 1914 City Hall was built in Second-Empire style and faces the plaza. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires is also located in the plaza.

Why You Should Visit:
As the oldest plaza in Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo has witnessed all the important events in Argentine history. Today, locals and tourists alike meet friends and eat lunch in the plaza.

Don't miss the changing of the guard, every hour, in front of the Cabildo.
Casa Rosada Museum (Pink House Museum)

2) Casa Rosada Museum (Pink House Museum) (must see)

The Casa Rosada Museum is located inside the main office buildings of the President of Argentina, The Casa Rosada or Pink House. The museum has exhibits showcasing the 100 years of the Casa Rosada as the seat of power in Argentina.

The Casa Rosada Museum hosts an array of exhibits and collections of objects belonging to the rulers of Argentina through the ages. It was created in 1957 for the purpose of exhibiting presidential memorabilia. It has objects from the remains of an old fort that once stood on the site of the Casa Rosada and the Customs House designed by British architect, Edward Taylor. The Customs House was once the largest building in Argentina.

Exhibits at the museum include books, furniture, swords, uniforms, and carriages used by former Presidents of Argentina. Objects like the flatware and dolls used by presidential families are also on display. Some of the underground rooms lay beneath well-known government buildings that once stood there. An extension was built in 2011 to house a mural by the Mexican artist, Jose David Alfaro Siqueiros. There is also a section devoted to the popular Eva Peron. Visitors need to make advanced reservations for the free tours that are conducted around the museum.

Why You Should Visit:
Nice well-kept museum that complements your visit to the actual Casa Rosada. It's free and you can learn more about all the phases of the city's development. As a plus, the mural by Siqueiros is one of the artist's top works and will flood your senses.

The free tours are totally worth it and easy to arrange, online, in advance; they are conducted in Spanish, unless specially arranged/paid for, also in advance. On a weekend, you can also visit Casa Rosada (for free as well) on a guided tour.
Metropolitan Cathedral

3) Metropolitan Cathedral (must see)

The Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral is the most significant Catholic Church in Buenos Aires. The location for the church was initially reserved in 1580, and several church structures were constructed in the 1600s. The current building was built in the early 1700s and had a new Greek revival facade added in the early 1800s. In 1836, the church was designated as a cathedral.

The Cathedral is adorned by 12 Neo-Classical columns, which represent the 12 apostles. The frontispiece depicts a bas-relief of Jacob and Joseph in Egypt. This scene was meant to be a metaphor for Argentine unity after civil turmoil.

The interior of the Cathedral is impressive, with a 41 meter (134 feet) tall vault and five naves. The flooring is a Venetian mosaic and portrays different religious symbols.

The oldest sculpture in the Cathedral is the 1671 Christ of Buenos Aires image. The main gilded wood altarpiece dates to 1785. The 1871 organ has over 3,500 pipes.

Several memorials are located inside the Cathedral. An ornate mausoleum houses the remains of General José de San Martín, a revered Latin American liberator. Visitors will find the tomb of the unknown soldier of Argentine independence. There is also a memorial to Jews killed in the Holocaust and the 1990s Buenos Aires Israeli Embassy and AMIA bombings.

Pope Francis held mass here as Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio before becoming Pope Francis. Today. The Cathedral houses the Pope Francis Museum and features some of his personal items.
Avenida de Mayo (May Avenue)

4) Avenida de Mayo (May Avenue)

Avenida de Mayo is under a mile long and filled with Argentine history and sophisticated buildings. The avenue is named to honor the May Revolution of 1810 and was inaugurated in 1894. This famous avenue runs from Plaza de Mayo to Argentina's National Congress.
There are several impressive buildings of various architectural styles along the avenue.

The beautiful Parisian Beaux-Arts La Prensa building was built in 1898 as the headquarters of the La Prensa newspaper. Today, it serves as the Ministry of Culture.

Take the 1918 Pasaje Roverano passageway to connect to the parallel street Hipólito Yrigoyen. You'll find Pope Francis's former hairdresser in this passage.

London City Cafe has been a local and tourist favorite since 1954. The cafe has a table dedicated to author Julio Cortázar, who used to write here while enjoying coffee. The former Palacio Vera is now El Túnel; a fabulous bookseller focused on rare finds. Cafe Tortoni was founded in 1858 and is the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires. You'll step back in time while drinking a coffee or a glass of cider. The second oldest cafe, Bar Iberia, opened in 1897.

Teatro Avenida opened in 1908 and hosts opera, theatre, and traditional Spanish performances. 36 Billares was built in 1894 and is a local favorite for billiards. Palacio Barolo was built in 1923 and is one of the most impressive buildings on Avenida de Mayo. It features stunning Divine Comedy-inspired architecture.

Finally, the 1910 Inmobiliaria building features a wide range of styles from Nouveau to neoclassical.
Palacio Barolo (Barolo Palace)

5) Palacio Barolo (Barolo Palace) (must see)

The Palacio Barolo was a building used to house offices by Argentine textile magnate, Luis Barolo. It was the tallest building in South America until 1935.

Luis Barolo commissioned architect Mario Palanti to design the building in 1910 because he believed like many Europeans in his day, that Europe would soon cease to exist because of the many wars being fought at the time. Palanti was a great admirer of Dante Alighieri and designed the Palacio Barolo based on his work, The Divine Comedy. It has 24 floors including 2 underground floors and 22 above. The basements and ground floor represent Hell, the first to 15th floors Purgatory and the 16th to 22nd floor represent Heaven. The height of the building was 100 meters which was four times the allowable height for buildings in the avenue. Luis Cantilo, the then mayor gave the structure a special concession and allowed the increased height. It was completed in 1923 and was inaugurated by the blessings of the papal representative, Monseñor Giovanni Beda Cardinali.

Bilingual English and Spanish tours take visitors on a tour of the building telling them of its owner and describing how Dante’s Divine Comedy was factored into the design. The balconies of the top floor offer panoramic views of the city and it has a revolving lighthouse fitted with 30,000 spark plugs that flash messages of important events. The building was declared a National Historic Monument in 1997.

Why You Should Visit:
Stunning building, knowledgeable tour guide, and a remarkable level of access.

All tours are available by reservation only; check out the official website for the exact dates & times.
Night tours are worth the additional cost – amazing night views from the lighthouse, plus tango performance with a bit of wine tasting.
Plaza del Congreso (Congress Square)

6) Plaza del Congreso (Congress Square)

Plaza del Congreso was inaugurated in 1910. It is named after The Argentine Congress, which was built in 1906. The plaza is part of an open space with three connecting plazas; Plaza del Congreso, Mariano Moreno Plaza, and Plaza Lorea

The Monument to the Two Congresses was completed in 1914 and installed in the Plaza del Congreso. The centerpiece bronze sculpture, the Allegory of the Republic, is set in stone on a Neoclassical esplanade. Bronze Neptunes surround the fountain.

Mariano Moreno Plaza abuts Plaza del Congreso. This plaza is famous for its bronze The Thinker statue. This statue was created by Auguste Rodin and is one of 8 made from the original mold.

Mariano Moreno Plaza is also home to a monolith that indicates Kilometer Zero. All kilometer markers on Argentine National Highways are measured from this location.

Plaza Lorea completes the three-plaza layout. Here, you will find a monument to José Manuel Estrada, a 19th-century Catholic intellectual who opposed secular education.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the prettiest squares in the city! The monuments commemorate Argentine's independence and are rich in symbolism.
Plaza de la Republica (Republic Square)

7) Plaza de la Republica (Republic Square)

Republic Square (Plaza de la República) stands as a prominent urban plaza within Buenos Aires. Nestled within the San Nicolás district, it gracefully intersects the city's three primary thoroughfares: Ninth of July Avenue, Corrientes Avenue, and Diagonal Norte. The square's nomenclature and historical connotations trace back to the former presence of San Nicolás de Bari church, which was dismantled in the 1930s to pave the way for the birth of 9 July Avenue, the site where the nation's flag was inaugurated.

Central to this plaza's allure is the Buenos Aires Obelisk, an architectural masterpiece conceptualized by Alberto Prebisch and unveiled in 1937. Initially, a circular esplanade adorned with stone paving, the plaza underwent expansion in 1962, yielding its present proportions. A definitive layout took form in 1971, when Corrientes Avenue underwent redirection around the obelisk, serving as a remedy to urban vehicular congestion en route to the financial core.

An animated hub of activity, the bustling square is a haven for an array of eateries, cafés, bars, nightclubs, and boutiques.
Teatro Colón (Colón Theatre)

8) Teatro Colón (Colón Theatre) (must see)

The Teatro Colón or Columbus Theatre in Buenos Aires is regarded as one of the finest opera houses in the world. It took several years and many architects to complete the structure but the result was an architectural masterpiece.

The flourishing operas performed by touring companies in Buenos Aires resulted in the construction of the first Teatro Colón in 1857. It flourished for 30 years. It soon became clear that a new and larger venue was needed because of the increasing popularity of opera in the city. After a 20 year construction period, the present Teatro Colón opened in 1908 with the performance of the opera, Aida.

The present structure was made with carefully selected material from Europe. It was decorated with several different Italian marbles, French stained glass, mosaics from Venice and Slavonic woodwork. The main hall is horse-shoe shaped and can seat over 2,500 spectators. There are four levels of galleries and an additional standing space for a thousand spectators. The orchestra pit can host 120 musicians. The acoustics are near perfect causing the great tenor, Luciano Pavarotti to describe it as one of the most challenging halls in the world where even the slightest mistake can be easily detected. The dome has a hidden gallery for a choir to give a dramatic effect as if angels are singing from the skies.

Why You Should Visit:
The acoustics are magnificent and attending an opera here is a great idea. With sculptures, marble, gold leaf, stained glass windows, artwork, and ornate chandeliers the building itself is just beautiful and well worth a visit.

Several tours are conducted daily in different languages, so inquire at the box office.
Plazoleta Cortazar (Cortazar Square)

9) Plazoleta Cortazar (Cortazar Square)

Plazoleta Cortazar is also known as Plaza Serrano due to its location at the intersection of Calle Serrano and Calle Honduras. It is named after Julio Cortazar, one of Argentina's most famous authors.

While you might find locals selling their handcrafted wares during weekdays, there's an official art, crafts, and jewelry fair held every weekend. It's a fabulous place to find a one-of-a-kind handcrafted souvenir.

Plazolete Cortazar is popular with young locals who gather here in the evening to sing, dance and play live music.

A good selection of bars and restaurants surrounds the plaza. You can enjoy your coffee or beer outside under a vibrant patio umbrella. After dark, the fun continues as the plaza has a lively nightlife scene.
Galerías Pacífico Shopping Center

10) Galerías Pacífico Shopping Center (must see)

Galerías Pacífico is an elegant shopping center with stunning architecture. The downtown building is a national historical monument and worth visiting to admire the design, even if you don't plan on shopping.

This beaux-arts style building was built in 1889. The design emulates the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, and the building was originally built to be a Le Bon Marché department store. Galerías Pacífico was converted into a shopping center in 1990.

The shopping center is one of the most beautiful in the world. The impressive dome is painted with murals by Argetine artists Antonio Berni, Juan Carlos Castagnino, Lino Enea Spilimbergo, and Demetrio Urruchúa.

Here, you'll find a variety of brands, clothing stores, and leather crafts stores. The food court is bustling and has a few gelato stores.

In addition to the shops and the food court, visitors will find Centro Cultural Borges. This venue hosts a tango school and an incredible tango show. Centro Cultural Borges also hosts art exhibitions and workshops.

If you're going to shop, keep in mind to look for the signs that say "tax-free" so you can request your tax refund before leaving Argentina.
Calle Florida (Florida Street)

11) Calle Florida (Florida Street)

First appearing on a map in 1582, Calle Florida is one of the most famous streets in Buenos Aries. The street was cobbled in 1785 and became a pedestrian-only street in 1971. Today, you'll find a variety of branded stores, flower stalls, souvenir stores, cafes, and restaurants.

On weekdays, workers from the adjacent financial district pack the streets for lunch. In the evening, buskers entertain, and tango dancers dance in the streets.

There are several noteworthy buildings on Calle Florida. Galería Güemes has a gorgeous stained-glass dome and impressive marble columns. The neo-Gothic Palacio Elortondo-Alvear has stained glass and plaster molding. This historic building is now home to Burger King.

At the north end of Calle Florida, you'll find Plaza San Martín. The plaza features a monument to José de San Martín, hero of the Wars for Independence. The Monumento a los caídos en Malvinas (Monument for the fallen in the Falklands War) is also located in Plaza San Martín.

Several significant mansions surround the plaza. The Beaux-Arts San Martín Palace, the Second Empire Paz Palace, and the Neogothic Haedo Palace are all worth checking out. Don't miss the 33-story Art Deco Kavanagh building, once the tallest building in Latin America.
Avenida Corrientes

12) Avenida Corrientes

Corrientes Avenue (Avenida Corrientes) holds significant importance as one of the major thoroughfares in Buenos Aires. Stretching across 69 blocks, the avenue derives its name from one of the provinces of Argentina. Over the centuries, it has undergone various name changes, initially known as Del Sol during the 17th century, then San Nicolás from 1738 to 1808, and De Incháurregui from 1808 until 1822, before finally adopting its present name.

The term "Narrow Corrientes" (Corrientes Angosta) refers to the avenue before its 1930s widening. In 1936, it coincided with the construction of the Buenos Aires Obelisk. Despite being called "Corrientes Avenue," many still prefer "Corrientes Street," especially in its famous central section, immortalized in tango lyrics.

The street's history is deeply intertwined with the tango and the identity of porteños, the people of the port city. This connection is evident in the numerous commemorative plaques, around 40 in total, honoring significant figures from the history of tango placed on street corners.

In the 20th century, Corrientes Street became Buenos Aires' lively nightlife hub, known as "the street that never sleeps." It's filled with theaters, cinemas, and stunning Art Deco architecture from the '30s and '40s. Since the 1950s, it's been a favorite spot for intellectuals due to its numerous bookshops. The famous pizza parlors and restaurants make it the go-to urban weekend entertainment for generations of porteños.

At the far end of Corrientes, the Luna Park remains a symbol of mass sports and entertainment events, hosting boxing matches and concerts, among other attractions.

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