City Guide

Four hours in Buenos Aires

1 Nov 2004 by business traveller

Visit Eva Péron's final resting place, dine in a smoky parilla and stroll the cobblestone streets of La Boca. Darren Foster visits the cosmopolitan South American city where tango was born.

Cementerio de la Recoleta

Here lies Eva Péron, revered by many, reviled by some; wife of former Argentine president Juan Péron; and inspiration for a Broadway musical and later a movie starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas. Located in the ritzy Recoleta neighbourhood, the necropolis is a maze of elaborate mausoleums built for Argentina's heroic and wealthy, and is also home to an army of wild cats. Evita is the main attraction, though, and maps and signs will direct you to her final resting place.


Teatro Colon

Few buildings fulfil Buenos Aires' reputation as the "Paris of South America" as well as its impressive opera house. Completed in 1907, Teatro Colón is an extravagant blend of Italian Renaissance, French and classical Greek architecture. But with near-perfect acoustics, it is much more than just a pretty facade. The structure commands a square block in the centre of the city, on Libertad. You can also take a tour (Mon?Sun) to view the interior of the opera house.


La Boca

Corrugated metal houses painted in bright splashes line the streets of what is, quite literally, one of the most colourful neighbourhoods you will probably ever see. This old immigrant quarter on the milk-chocolate waters of the Río de la Plata ? the world's widest river ? is where they say the passionate dance of tango was born. Begin with a walking tour along the Caminito street, and the adventurous can take a detour to La Bombonera ("The Bonbon Box"), a stadium where 60,000 of the world's most raucous soccer fans cheer on Boca Juniors.


Plaza Dorrego

San Telmo is heaven for antique lovers. It is also the neighbourhood where the traditional blends with the modern, and Plaza Dorrego is right at the centre of it. Tango masters strut their stuff for gathering crowds in the small square, and the outlying streets are cluttered with artists' studios, tango bars, clubs and restaurants. At the weekends, the cobblestone streets turn into an open-air flea market which is definitely worth a poke around.


Cafe Tortoni

Writer Jorges Luis Borges and tango legend Carlos Gardel are among the myriad artists and intellectuals who passed many contemplative hours at Buenos Aires' oldest cafe on Avenida de Mayo. Established in 1858, the garishly decorated hall is the foundation of theporteñocafe culture, in which the cafe is seen as the focal point of the city's social life. Jazz players, lectures and, of course, tango performances, are on the bill, but a simple coffee amid the chatter is also very satisfying.


El Trapiche

If you want to know where the beef is, it's here. You can do no better than this traditionalparilla (restaurant specialising in grilled meat) on Paraguay in trendy Palermo Viejo. The menu is a great education in cuts and preparations, while the less daring can stick to the asado ? that's anything cooked on the huge grill. Try the bife de chorizo, a thick, juicy, plate-sized steak that's best washed down with a dry Malbec from the Andean plains of Mendoza.

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