Retiro Station, an architectural gem

I have said before that you don’t really get to appreciate some aspects of your hometown until you move somewhere else. Or, at any rate, this is what happened to me with Buenos Aires. I see buildings with different eyes, like Retiro Railway Terminus, when I go to visit. I rediscovered its lovely architecture and design now that I’m not rushing about.

The Retiro terminus is located in one of the busiest districts in the city, the Retiro neighbourhood. It includes, among others, Peatonal Florida, a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops, hotels and office buildings. Many companies have their headquarters in the Retiro and Catalinas area as well. Estación Retiro is also a public transport hub where hundreds of buses converge. The volume of people coming and going on any given week day is astounding. And traffic can be a nightmare, what with so many buses, taxis and cars vying for space in the streets around the station. Not to mention the long-distance bus terminal, also called Retiro, which is right across the street from the railway station.

Retiro Railway Station, Buenos Aires
The Great Hall. It connects with the Subte (Underground)

When I lived in Buenos Aires and worked in Microcentro, I got caught in the everyday hustle and bustle of the megalopolis and didn’t have time to appreciate the beauty of the city. A while ago, my husband and I were in the area and I decided we had to see Retiro Station instead of rushing through it.

First, we crossed the Plaza Fuerza Aérea Argentina, on the intersection of San Martin Street and Libertador Avenue. The monument in the middle of the plaza is the Torre Monumental, also known as Torre de los Ingleses (The Tower of the English people). It was given to the city by British residents to commemorate Argentina’s first centennial in 1910. It was officially unveiled in 1916.

We made it into the station. We only visited one of the buildings, from 1915, which serves as the terminus of the Mitre commuter rail services.

The façade with its tall windows, the ticket boxes and the Great Hall were designed in the Beaux-Arts style by British architects. I personally consider Estación Retiro a beautiful and stately building. The Great Hall is so elegant; it feels like stepping back into another era when ladies wore long skirts and gentlemen carried canes, gloves and hats. The past has that patina of grace and politesse that makes us forget these people had the same problems and worries we do now. The Industrial Revolution still echoes in here.

Retiro Railway Station, Buenos Aires
View of the Great Hall

The rear body of Retiro Station was designed with a practical and functionalist view in iron and glass, the materials par excellence of the Industrial Revolution. This is where we find the platforms to the trains divided into two 250 meter long naves. A cathedral of public transport that smells like iron and dust, diesel and grease. The structure follows that of the grand stations of the 19th century. The metal structure was made in Liverpool, England, disassembled and then shipped and reassembled here.

Retiro Railway Station, Buenos Aires
To the andenes (platforms)

Read more about the history of the railway in Argentina here.

Retiro Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

16 thoughts on “Retiro Station, an architectural gem

  1. Really very beautiful, Ana. I live in Northern Argentina and whenever I have the chance of “revisiting” Buenos Aires with outsider eyes I get into this good hobby… Estacion Retiro is actually one of the good examples.
    Good that you also place your eyes with that special sensible gaze.


  2. Like so many visitors, I remember rushing through the station with hardly time to make a connection much less take in the grandeur. Thanks for sharing and reminding me to slow down next time.


    1. It is difficult to stop and “smell the roses” when one is immersed in the daily rat race but it is so worth it!


  3. The station roof reminds me so much of the one in my home town of Brighton in the UK. Hopefully I’ll pass through Buenos Aires one day to check it out in person 🙂


    1. They probably came from the same iron works in Liverpool! They hured British architects and engineers so I’m not suprise the stations in both countries look similar.


  4. Hi Ana,

    Looks awesome! I hear you on rushing; I make it a point these days to live in, and experience, spots, not travel through. No more documenting and moving on. I take a photo or 2, then sit, noting details, of wherever I am. Totally different experience.



  5. It’s a beautiful station & area, just be careful. I had a woman try to steal out of my backpack as I walked through the market outside. I caught her unzipping a pocket & trying to reach inside. She claimed she’d gotten caught on the zipper. Of course, all she got was a handful of dirty tissues, since I wasn’t dumb enough to put anything of value in that outside pocket. Despite this, I loved Buenos Aires, and I’d love to go back. Especially for more choripán 🙂


    1. Yes, these areas can be tricky. One needs to be aware of what’s happening around at all times.


  6. So true. You see things with fresh eyes after travelling. Buildings I once just walked past without even noticing, I now stop and look at. Retiro railway station is gorgeous.


  7. I am From Albuquerque in the US and loved my visit to Buenos Aires. I went through Retiro every day in my travels the central part of town. Retiro is a busy place and as you say historic. I loved the European influence, the long dinners, the wine and the people. If I lived there I too might have been in too much a rush to see the beauty of this wonderful place.


    1. I agree, when you live in a place, you’re too busy to appreciate it. I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to BA. I would love to visit your city and state.
      Thanks for stopping by!


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