The Pampas & the Atlantic Coast
There's Buenos Aires, and then there's the province of Buenos Aires. Home to more than a third of the country's population, this is the nation's economic powerhouse: these fertile grasslands financed Argentina’s turn-of-the-century golden age and still produce most of the country's famous beef.
While the region isn't packed with tourist attractions, simple pleasures and traditional gaucho culture are waiting to be discovered. Charming San Antonio de Areco offers a glimpse of Argentina's real-life cowboys in action, while the picturesque hills around Tandil are lovely for hiking and feasting on locally produced picadas (shared appetizer plates). Beach towns on the Atlantic coast provide a breezy escape from the summer heat.
If you have a few days to spare, check into one of the region’s historic estancias (ranches), where you can ride a criollo horse under an expansive sky.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout The Pampas & the Atlantic Coast.
One of Buenos Aires' most beautiful monuments, this 22-story building has a unique design inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. Its structure is divided into hell, purgatory and heaven; its height (100m) is a reference to each canto (song); and the number of floors (22) mirrors the number of verses per song. Dreamt up by the Italian architect Mario Palanti, Palacio Barolo was the tallest skyscraper in South America when it was completed in 1923.
Occupying an entire city block, this impressive seven-story theater is one of BA’s most prominent landmarks. It’s the city’s main performing arts venue, and with astounding acoustics, it's a world-class forum for opera, ballet and classical music. The Colón can seat 2500 spectators and provides standing room for another 500. Get hold of tickets to a performance, if you can, or take one of the frequent 50-minute backstage tours to view the stunning interior, the costume department, and ballerinas' dressing rooms.
It was former president Néstor Kirchner who, in 2005, first proposed turning the abandoned former central post office into a cultural center. He died in 2010 before the project was completed, but this breathtaking cultural center was named in his honor. Within the vast beaux-arts structure – which stands eight stories tall and takes up an entire city block – are multiple art galleries and events spaces. The highlight is the Ballena Azul, a concert hall with world-class acoustics.
In colonial times, the Manzana de las Luces was Buenos Aires’ most important center of culture and learning, and today the block still symbolizes education and enlightenment. Two of the five original buildings remain; Jesuit defensive tunnels were discovered in 1912. Free tours in Spanish are given at 2pm from Monday to Friday, but you can go inside and see the main patio area without taking a tour.
The Casa Rosada was named for its distinctive color. It was from the balcony here, at the presidential palace, that Eva Perón famously addressed the throngs of impassioned supporters packed into Plaza de Mayo. (Note that the building houses offices; the presidential residence is in the northern suburb of Olivos.) Free hour-long guided tours are given on weekends and must be booked online in advance; bring ID.
This sweeping park abounds with small lakes and pretty gazebos. Stands rent bikes and in-line skates, and joggers and power walkers circle the ponds – if you don't have the energy to join them, lie back under a tree and people-watch or bing a picnic. There's a monument to literary greats called El Jardín de los Poetas (the Garden of Poets), and the exquisite Rosedal.
Surrounded by the Casa Rosada, the Cabildo and the city’s main cathedral, Plaza de Mayo is the place where Argentines gather in vehement protest or jubilant celebration. At the center is the Pirámide de Mayo, a white obelisk built to mark the first anniversary of independence from Spain.
This cemetery is perhaps BA's top attraction. You can wander for hours in this incredible city of the dead, where the ‘streets’ are lined with impressive statues and marble mausoleums. Peek into the crypts and check out the dusty coffins and try to decipher the history of its inhabitants. Past presidents, military heroes, influential politicians and the just plain rich and famous have made it past the gates here.
Once the home and studio of painter Benito Quinquela Martín (1890–1977), this fine-arts museum exhibits his works and those of other Argentine artists. Quinquela Martín used silhouettes of laboring men, smokestacks and water reflections as recurring themes, and painted with broad, rough brushstrokes and dark colors. Don't miss the colorful tiles of his former kitchen and bathroom, his hand-painted piano and the sculptures on the rooftop terraces; the top tier has awesome views of the port.