May Avenue Walking Tour, Buenos Aires

May Avenue Walking Tour (Self Guided), Buenos Aires

May Avenue (Avenida de Mayo) is one of the grandest and most important avenues in Buenos Aires, leading from Plaza de Mayo with the Pink House at one end, to Argentina’s National Congress building at the other. Named in honor of the May Revolution of 1810 which lead to the country’s independence from Spain, it is difficult not to compare this grand thoroughfare to other major boulevards around the world – such as those in Paris, Madrid, and Barcelona – due to its many sophisticated buildings of Art-Nouveau, Neoclassical and eclectic styles.

Your best plan would be to start at Casa Rosada or Pink House – the Argentinian equivalent of the U.S. White House – and enjoy the expanse of Plaza de Mayo where you can take in the sights and sounds of the city. This includes the May Pyramid – Buenos Aires’ oldest national monument inaugurated in 1811, one year after May Revolution – and the Metropolitan Cathedral, worth a stop to gawk at its ornate decor and grandeur. Don’t hesitate to go to the upper floor of the nearby Cabildo and take panoramic pictures of the Cathedral and surrounding plaza from the balcony.

Further along the way, Cafe Tortoni is the quintessential bohemian place for a pit stop, while the Barolo Palace, designed to retell Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, allows traveling from Hell, through Purgatory, and up to Heaven. Your final destination, the National Congress, is a beautiful monument to Argentina’s Golden Age cum Belle Époque of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

It’s definitely worth walking the entire length of May Avenue to take in the city’s history and architecture, so follow this self-guided walking tour and enjoy each and every sight along the journey.
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May Avenue Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: May Avenue Walking Tour
Guide Location: Argentina » Buenos Aires (See other walking tours in Buenos Aires)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: irenes
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Casa Rosada Museum (Pink House Museum)
  • Monument of General Manuel Belgrano
  • May Pyramid
  • Metropolitan Cathedral
  • Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution
  • Buenos Aires House of Culture
  • Café Tortoni
  • Don Quijote Monument
  • Avenida Theatre
  • Palacio Barolo (Barolo Palace)
  • Monument to Mariano Moreno
  • Monument of the Two Congresses
  • National Congress
Casa Rosada Museum (Pink House Museum)

1) 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.
Monument of General Manuel Belgrano

2) Monument of General Manuel Belgrano

The Monument of General Manuel Belgrano is located in front of the Casas Rosada at the Plaza de Mayo. It was designed by sculptors Louis-Robert Carrier-Belleuse and Maneul de Santa Coloma.

Manuel Belgrano was a revolutionary and an important figure in the Argentine Wars of Independence. He is thought of as one of the primary liberators of Argentina. He is also credited with designing the country's flag.

The bronze statue stands atop a granite pedestal. It shows the general on horseback holding the flag of Argentina.
de of bronze over a pedestal of granite.

The monument was commissioned by general Bartolome Mitre, Enrique Martinez and Mauel Jose Guerrico in 1870. It was completed in 1872 and dedicated on September 24, 1873.
May Pyramid

3) May Pyramid

The May Pyramid commemorating the May revolution in Argentina is the oldest national monument in Buenos Aires. It was declared a National Historic Monument in May 1942.

The May Pyramid was designed by architect Pedro Vincente Canete and professor of sculpture, Juan Gaspar Hernandez and completed in 1811. It was inaugurated in May 25th, 1855 although the pyramid was not yet complete. A 13-meter tall pyramid stood on a two-meter tall pedestal.

The present pyramid was built over the old pyramid designed by Canete. Architect Prilidiano Pueyreddon was given the task of redesigning the pyramid and he turned the old structure into an artistic and ornate one. The top of the May Pyramid was adorned with a statue of liberty sculpted by French sculptor Joseph Dubordieu. The base has carvings related to art, commerce, science and agriculture. In 1906, the pyramid was relocated to a site 63 meters east of the original location to make way for a larger monument that was never built. The ashes of the founder of the protest movement Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Azucena Villaflor are buried at the base of the pyramid. The organization she founded consisted of mothers who agitated against the disappearance of their children during the last military dictatorship in Argentina.

Why You Should Visit:
A popular place frequented by the populación of Buenos Aires and also a great place for a photo stop while strolling through the unforgettable Plaza de Mayo.
Metropolitan Cathedral

4) 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.
Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution

5) Museum of the Cabildo and the May Revolution

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.
Buenos Aires House of Culture

6) Buenos Aires House of Culture

The Buenos Aires House of Culture stands as a significant architectural marvel situated in the Montserrat district of Argentina's capital city.

Back in 1894, José Clemente Paz, owner of La Prensa newspaper, replaced its old headquarters with a new one on May Avenue. Architects Carlos Agote and Alberto Gainza designed it in Beaux-Arts style, drawing from their Paris education and taking cues from the work of the French architect Charles Garnier.

In 1898, the new La Prensa office was unveiled in a ceremony attended by approximately 20,000 individuals. The Beaux-Arts façade is especially notable for its spire, crowned with a gilded bronze monument symbolizing the freedom of the press.

In the spire is a siren installed in 1900 by La Prensa to announce important events. It sounded five times in the past century: after King Umberto I's assassination, Apollo 11's moon landing, Argentina's 1978 FIFA World Cup win, during the Falkland Islands invasion in 1982, and at President Raúl Alfonsín's 1983 inauguration, marking democracy's return.

The interior of the building was meticulously crafted with predominantly imported materials, including Spargne elevators from the United States, along with French elements like Boulanger mosaic tiles, clocks designed by Paul Garnier, and wrought-iron creations from Val d'Osne. The focal point of the first floor is the Golden Salon, adorned with frescoes crafted by the Italian-born painters Reynaldo Giudici and Nazareno Orlandi.

Recognized as the House of Culture, this edifice gained the designation of a National Historic Monument in 1995. The passageway that once connected it to the neighboring Buenos Aires City Hall was transformed into the Ana Díaz Salon, where art exhibitions are now hosted.
Café Tortoni

7) Café Tortoni

Café Tortoni, established in 1858 by a French immigrant named Touan, derives its moniker from the Parisian café situated on Boulevard des Italiens, known as Tortoni, frequented by the Parisian cultural elite during the 19th century. This coffeehouse draws inspiration from the coffee houses of the Fin de siècle (end of century) era.

The café's current location once housed the Templo Escocés ("Scottish Temple"), while Café Tortoni itself initially occupied the intersection of Rivadavia and Esmeralda. In 1880, it shifted to its current premises, though the entrance faced Rivadavia Street. In 1898, a new entrance was opened on May Avenue, accompanied by a redesign of the facade by architect Alejandro Christophersen.

Throughout its history, Café Tortoni has welcomed a multitude of notable individuals, including politicians like Lisandro de la Torre and Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear, beloved figures such as Carlos Gardel and Juan Manuel Fangio, as well as international luminaries like Albert Einstein, Federico García Lorca, Hillary Clinton, Robert Duvall, and Juan Carlos de Borbón.

At present, the basement of the café serves as a stage for jazz and tango performers, as well as hosting book presentations and poetry contests. The café has meticulously preserved its original decor from its early years, featuring a library and offering amenities like billiards, dominoes, and dice in its rear facilities.
Don Quijote Monument

8) Don Quijote Monument

Located at the busy intersection of Avenidas de Mayo and 9 de Julio, this bronze sculpture of anti-hero Don Quijote – received in 1980 as a gift from the Spanish Government on the occasion of the Buenos Aires’ 400th anniversary – is a little unique in that the bodies of the subjects are partially encased in the stonework, and appear to emerge from the same. This forms a black-and-white contrast between the subject and the stone, best viewed from the front.

Sculpted by Aurelio Teno, a renowned Spanish artist celebrated for his multiple renditions of Don Quixote, the sculpture stands at a towering height of 15 meters and boasts a remarkable weight of 200 tonnes. Erected in Uruguay, in collaboration with a team of seven skilled engineers and over 100 laborers, its construction spanned over half a year to reach its completion.

If you’re nearby and looking for photo ops, you could take you photos by this monument, and nearby photo ops such as the iconic concrete obelisk on Avenida 9 de Julio, some of the historic buildings on Avenida de Mayo, and the many comic-type statues on Avenida Corrientes.
Avenida Theatre

9) Avenida Theatre

The Avenida Theatre located on Buenos Aires' central Avenida de Mayo, had its grand opening in 1908 with a captivating production of "Justice Without Revenge," written by the renowned Spanish dramatist Lope de Vega. This momentous occasion was masterfully directed by María Guerrero, a prominent figure in Argentine theater, who had a significant influence on popularizing classical drama in the country during the late 19th century. In 1921, Guerrero went on to establish the esteemed Cervantes Theatre, further enriching the theatrical landscape in Argentina.

For years, the Avenida Theatre was the main Spanish theater in Buenos Aires. In 1933, it changed focus due to the Cervantes Theatre's transformation. Federico García Lorca's play "Bodas de Sangre" was staged there that year. The theater gained fame for varied shows like operettas, zarzuelas, and events like the 1939 charity production of "Aida" to help post-Civil War Spanish charities.

Over time, Spanish theater waned at the Avenida, leading to a switch to hosting Broadway shows. In 1967, "La Traviata" amazed audiences. Faustino García acquired the Avenida in the '60s, reviving Moreno Torroba's presence in 1970 and bringing back the beloved zarzuela.

The onset of Argentina's last military dictatorship in 1976 dealt a severe blow to the local theater scene, resulting in the Avenida Theatre's closure in 1977. Tragically, in 1979, a destructive fire nearly reduced the theater to ashes. Despite these challenges, the Avenida Theatre triumphantly reopened on 19 June 1994. However, the top section of the original building, which once housed the esteemed Hotel Castilla, remained unrestored.
Palacio Barolo (Barolo Palace)

10) 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.
Monument to Mariano Moreno

11) Monument to Mariano Moreno

The Monument to Mariano Moreno is located within Plaza Mariano Moreno near Congressional Plaza and Plaza Lorea. The monument stands in honor of revolutionary Mariano Moreno.

It was built in 1910 by Miguel Blay y Fábregas, or Miguel Blay as he was professional known. Blay was a Spanish sculptor who studied at Ecole des beaux-arts and at the Academie Julian

Mariano Moreno (1778–1811) was a lawyer, journalist and politician who played a decisive role in the May Revolution that led to the declaration of independence of Argentina from Spain. Moreno was a secretary in the First Junta that replaced the viceroy of Spain. Moreno also created the first Argentine newspaper, La Gazeta de Buenos Aires.

Those who visit the Plaza Mariano Moreno will see two other notable works. The Kilometre Zero Monument, built by Máximo and José Fioravanti. The monolith was ordered by the Buenos Aires Public Works department as the spot from which distances in the city could be measured.

The other notable sculpture in Plaza Mariano Moreno is the third original cast of Rodin's "The Thinker." It was commissioned by Buenos Aires' Museums Director Eduardo Schiaffino in 1907.
Monument of the Two Congresses

12) Monument of the Two Congresses

The Monument of the Two Congresses is located within Congressional Plaza alongside Plaza Mariano Moreno and Plza Loreo.

The monument is a celebration of the one-hundred year anniversary of the 1816 Argentine Declaration of Independence. The monument features a marching republic holding a laurel in one hand while the other hand rests on a plough. It has snakes at its feet and three figures representing the 1813 Assembly, the Congress of Tucuman and the Argentine workforce.

The monument was designed by Belgian architect Eugene D'Huicque with statues created by arties Jules Lagae. The monument was completed in 1909 and inaugurated on July 9, 1914.

Along with being one of the largest sculptures in Buenos Aires, the Monument of the Two Congresses is the largest fountain in the city. The fountain represents the Rio de la Plata. It is surrounded by figures of animals and cherubs, representing nature and peace.

The three plazas and the monument were declared National Historic Monuments in 1997.
National Congress

13) National Congress

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).

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