The first stop on our South America trip was Buenos Aires, the big bustling capital city of Argentina. We spent 5 nights here, mostly because we had to be there to wait to collect our Brazil visa, which is a whole story in itself. But we’ll also be returning here at the end of our journey for a couple of days before we catch our flight home.
While we were in Buenos Aires we noticed a huge European influence on the architecture in certain parts of the city, at times I even felt like I was back in Paris or London. We were quite surprised that upon arriving in Buenos Aires we didn’t feel any sort of culture shock, instead we found a large developed city that made us feel right at home. There was no shortage of things to do in this busy city and we found our days filled with long walks to explore the different neighbourhoods and see the sights.
A walk around Buenos Aires
The best way to see a city is on foot, and we certainly saw a huge amount of Buenos Aires this way. It was a great way to experience the different neighbourhoods and see a whole lot of plazas and monuments while taking in the architecture and city vibes. By walking around we stumbled upon a lot of things by chance on our way to whichever destination we were heading for. I find this to be a great way to come across things that I’ve never heard of or wouldn’t think to see. By doing this we also learnt that Buenos Aires has a lot of monuments, maybe it was just the parts of town we saw but they seemed to be everywhere.
One downfall to walking everywhere was not knowing which ones are the safe neighbourhoods and which are the dodgy ones. We learnt very quickly that not all parts of the city should be explored on foot by travellers. It was crazy how fast it could turn from a nice neighbourhood into a scary one. We learnt our lesson when we decided to walk from Plaza del Mayo to the Caminito in La Boca. I had heard that you should avoid La Boca at night but we thought that we would be fine walking through it during the day. After all, we were heading towards the tourist spot so we thought there would be plenty of people around. But as we walked further into La Boca we realised we were very wrong. Our surroundings changed from the beautiful European inspired architecture of Monserrat to a rundown neighbourhood where we certainly didn’t fit in. Almost instantly we knew we were not welcome here and were getting looked up and down by dodgy looking locals. After a few blocks of feeling uneasy we decide the best thing to do would be to catch a bus out of the area, which thankfully we did safely and were able to avoid getting ourselves into any negative situations.
Despite that experience, I felt completely safe walking around the other areas of Buenos Aires and in a way I’m glad that we got to see this other, dodgier side the city.
Highlights of Buenos Aires
While we saw so many things over our time in Buenos Aires, and I’m sure we’ll see even more when we return, a few of the things that stood out to me were:
Cementerio de la Recoleta
It seems strange that visiting a cemetery is one of the top things to do in Buenos Aires, but this famous city of the dead is certainly worth the visit. They say that it costs less to live a life of luxury than to be buried for eternity in the Recoleta cemetery and its easy to see why. The tombs here are very extravagant, many of them have their own statues, monuments and large mausoleums.
One of the things I found interesting was that for such a prestigious cemetery it wasn’t very well kept, which made it even creepier. Many of the windows were smashed, some tomb doors were open, there was shattered ornaments inside some gravesites and plenty of cobwebs to be seen. It certainly added to the eerie feel of the place, that’s for sure.
While we were wandering the aisles of this labyrinth we overheard some other English speakers reading about a man called David Alleno who according to legend had spent 30 years working in La Recoleta, saving all his money to afford his own plot there. After commissioning an artist to create a sculpture of him he went home and committed suicide. It is said that he still haunts the cemetery at night and the sound of his keys can be heard as he walks the aisles.
After hearing this I was intrigued about what other ghost stories surrounded this place and found that there were numerous others. Two other interesting tales included a girl who was said to have been buried alive and another young girl who’s ghost meets suiters on the cemetery corner only to disappear down the aisles of the cemetery after their date concludes. But ghost stories aside, Cementerio de la Recoleta was definitely worth the visit and a fun place to explore.
Libreria El Ateneo Gran Splendid
We were fortunate enough to be told about this incredible bookshop by a fellow traveller and made sure to add it to our itinerary. What used to be a beautiful theatre has now been transformed into a grand bookshop that is certainly worth a visit when in Buenos Aires. With 3 levels of books it would be easy to get lost amongst the aisles taking it all in. Majority of the books are written in Spanish, which is a bit unfortunate for us non-Spanish speakers, but there is a small English section there too.
Plaza De Mayo & Casa Rosada
One of the top things to do in Buenos Aires according to many online sources, this giant square feels like it has been pulled right out of Europe and placed in the middle of the city. The grand buildings that line the plaza are all quite impressive but a particular one of interest is La Casa Rosada which translates to the pink house. As the name suggests this mansion is in fact pink and is the office to the president of Argentina. The Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada are situated in the gorgeous neighbourhood of Monserrat, which is worth a visit in itself, with all of its impressive buildings and European inspired architecture.
Overall I really enjoyed our time in Buenos Aires and am looking forward to seeing more of the city when we return. Next up on the itinerary we made our way over into Uruguay to the cute town Colonia del Sacramento.
Below I’ll share a few more pictures I took during our time in Buenos Aires.
From the neighbourhood La Boca:
From Cementerio de la Recoleta:
From Plaza de Mayo: