Historical Buildings Walking Tour (Self Guided), Buenos Aires

Old buildings are like mirrors of the past that reveal a little part of the history of a given place. There's much to admire in a historical building, whether its the architectural elements, the style or the décor that grabs you. Here in Buenos Aires, if you walk within its historical buildings, you can enter the history of the city and the spirit of the Argentine people.
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Historical Buildings Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Buildings Walking Tour
Guide Location: Argentina » Buenos Aires (See other walking tours in Buenos Aires)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: irenes
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • National Congress
  • Palacio Barolo
  • Manzana de las Luces (Illuminated Block)
  • Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution
  • Casa Rosada Museum
  • Metropolitan Cathedral
  • Banco de la Provincia in Buenos Aires
National Congress

1) National Congress (must see)

The National Congress building in Buenos Aires is the seat of the Argentine parliament. It is located at the western end of Avenida de Mayo. On the other end is the Casa Rosada that houses the offices of the President.

Plans for the National Congress building were drawn by Italian Architect Vittorio Meano and completed by Argentine architect Julio Dormal. Construction of the building began in 1898 and was partially complete in 1906 when it was inaugurated by President Jose Figueroa Alcorta. The first joint session of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate was held in 1906 in the building. The decorative details were not completed until 1946. Sculptor, Victor de Pol executed the quadriga on top of the main entrance and the interiors were decorated with bronzes by a local sculptor, Lola Mora. The Congressional square facing the structure was designed by the French-Argentine urban landscape artist Carlos Thays and opened in 1910. The kilometer 0 for all Argentine National Highways is marked on a stone at the Plaza.

Tourists and members of the public can take one of the guided tours around the National Congress Building on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The guides show visitors the Chamber of Deputies, the room where guests are received that has large paintings depicting historical events in the parliament on each wall and the beautiful library with hand carved walnut wood panels.

Ask for guided tours in Spanish/English as they are available on most weekdays. You'll need a photo ID to be let into the building (a passport photocopy should suffice).
Palacio Barolo

2) Palacio Barolo (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. Today, it houses lawyers’ offices and 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.
Manzana de las Luces (Illuminated Block)

3) Manzana de las Luces (Illuminated Block) (must see)

The 'Manzana de las Luces' or la Manzana de las Luces is the location where an old Jesuit Church and a prestigious educational institution of Buenos Aires stand. It was the intellectual center of the city during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Jesuits built the San Ignacio church in honor of the founder of the order on land granted to them in 1616. It is the oldest church in Buenos Aires. The Spanish Crown saw the Jesuits as a threat and expelled them in 1767. Later the first medical school in the city was located here and was also once the seat of the University of Buenos Aires. The neoclassical-style building housing the Collegio Nacional, one of the best public schools in the city replaced a Jesuit structure at the Manzana de las Luces. It was a center of political activism and many students worked for the independence of Argentina and the President of Argentina attends its graduation ceremonies.

The famous tunnels are closed – and had been closed for several years for maintenance, so there's not much of a point in joining guided tours; however, there are other things to check-out such as a market of local artisan's products, a guitar manufacturing school, and a restaurant hosted in a dark, intriguing barrel-vaulted gallery. The latter is recommended for lunch or during the hottest hours of the day, to find a refreshment surrounded by a bit of history.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am-8pm; Sat-Sun: 2-8pm
Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution

4) Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution (must see)

The National Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution tells the story of the Spanish colonial rule in Argentina and the May revolution that ended Spanish supremacy in the country. It is a repository of government and revolutionary exhibits from the 18th century.

The Cabildo that houses the National Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution was a former residence of the Spanish Viceroy built in 1764. It became the city hall after Argentina declared independence from the Spanish Crown after the May revolution in 1810. The revolution took place in the Plaza in front of the Cabildo. It is one of the few colonial buildings still standing in Buenos Aires. Its original columns and facades were destroyed to make way for two major avenues and the present structure is the result of a reconstruction in 1940 based on the design of architect Mario Buschiazzo.

Exhibits at the museum include paintings, artifacts, weapons, maps, documents, costumes, jewelry and photographs from the 18th century when the May revolution took place. An ornamental well constructed in 1835 is the only surviving part of the original Cabildo after the 1940 reconstruction. A crafts fair is held on Thursdays and Fridays in the courtyard.

Why You Should Visit:
Entry is free, and inside are a number of rooms detailing the colonial history of the city, with a large number of artifacts.
They have cards in English that give the translation of all the signs and information.

Don't forget to go upstairs for good views of Plaza de Mayo and all the surrounding buildings.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri: 10:30am-4:30pm; Thu: 10:30am-7:30pm; Sat, Sun: 10:30am-5:30pm
Casa Rosada Museum

5) Casa Rosada 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, so plan accordingly as both visits do take their considerable time.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Sun: 10am-6pm
Metropolitan Cathedral

6) Metropolitan Cathedral (must see)

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires is the main Catholic Church in the city. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

The Metropolitan Cathedral was erected on land donated by the founder of Buenos Aires, Juan de Garay in 1580. Many church buildings were erected and demolished at the site and the construction of the present cathedral began in 1753 based on the design of Italian architect, Antonio Masella. The dome was built in 1770 and the cathedral was consecrated without a façade in 1791. An elaborate façade was designed by French architects, Prosper Catelin and Pierre Benoit in neoclassical style based on the design of the Bourbon Palace in Paris. The ornamentation of the façade by French sculptor, Joseph Dubordieu was completed in 1863.

Notable features in the Metropolitan Museum include an elaborate mausoleum with the body of General Jose de San Martin who is regarded as the Father of the Nation and a memorial to the Unknown Soldier. The eternal flame in honor of the Unknown Soldier burns on the façade of the cathedral. The Saint Jean Nepomucen’s Chapel has a statue of Holy Christ of Great love carved from Lebanese cedar by sculptor Luis Alvarez Duarte and donated by two well known international soccer players, Daniel Bertoni and Hector Scotta.

Why You Should Visit:
Not that big or impressive on the outside but quite beautiful on the inside, with a nice mosaic floor.
Probably the biggest claim to fame is that the current pope was Archbishop of this cathedral.

Entrance is completely free, but you can buy souvenirs in the shop.
Banco de la Provincia in Buenos Aires

7) Banco de la Provincia in Buenos Aires

The Banco de la Provincia opened in the city in 1822, and was the first bank in Buenos Aires. Initially it was located in La Manzana de Las Luces before being moved to the San Martin neighborhood. The bank building has an amazing exterior with fabulous bronze doors. It now hosts the "Doctor Arturo Jaúretche” museum that displays the history of banking in Buenos Aires and in Argentina as a whole.

Walking Tours in Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Palermo Area Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 Km or 3.7 Miles
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Historical Churches Walking Tour

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Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Recoleta Neighborhood Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.3 Km or 3.9 Miles

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