De Bizancio a la Catedral de Buenos Aires, y de ahí, a mi clase de dibujo en el colegio. #mosaicobizantino #teselas #arte #historia #BuenosAires
No recuerdo si en los últimos años de primaria o los primeros de secundaria, la profesora de dibujo nos enseñó la técnica del mosaico bizantino en papel. Primero, debíamos hacer un dibujo con lápiz negro en una hoja Canson número 5. Luego, cubríamos toda la superficie con cuadraditos de papel de más o menos un centímetro de lado del color que correspondía a cada parte del dibujo.
¿Por qué usamos cuadrados y no triángulos o rectángulos? Porque la técnica, desarrollada en la Antigua Grecia y luego difundida por los romanos, utilizaba fragmentos de piedra llamados teselas. Esta palabra viene del latín tessellae, que significa “de cuatro lados.” Obviamente, si queda un espacio irregular, la tesela se corta a medida para cubrirlo.
Durante el Imperio Bizantino (394-1453), se comenzaron a usar las teselas de pasta vítrea y el fondo de oro que podemos disfrutar en los maravillosos iconos de Santa Sofía en Estambul, antes de que fuera reconvertida en mezquita y los taparan.
Este estilo de mosaico fue muy usado para decorar paredes tanto interiores como exteriores, y como pavimento. Todavía quedan muchos ejemplos en las ruinas de edificaciones romanas. Estos mosaicos, además de decorativos, tenían la ventaja de que eran duraderos e impermeabilizaban las paredes. Una de sus características es que no quedan espacios entre las teselas.
Para pegar los cuadritos cortados de revistas y papel glasé, usábamos plasticola. El papel glasé autoadhesivo era un lujo fuera de nuestro alcance, lo mirábamos con “la ñata contra el vidrio.” Al adhesivo en barra importado, también. La plasticola se me pegoteaba en los dedos y la arrancaba como piel vieja y sucia. Muchas veces, esa película pegajosa y negra de suciedad se traspasaba al collage, donde mis huellas dactilares le daban un je ne sais quoi al trabajo.
La prolijidad no fue mi fuerte hasta promediada la secundaria. Tampoco lo fueron la paciencia ni la responsabilidad. Recuerdo estar haciendo ese trabajo un domingo a la noche para entregar el lunes. Me dolía la espada por estar encorvada sobre la hoja Canson, cortando y pegando papelitos, despegándome plasticola seca de los dedos, mientras oleadas de impaciencia me recorrían el cuerpo desde la base del cráneo hasta los pies.
Recuerdo que la clase de dibujo donde aprendimos sobre el mosaico bizantino estaba relacionada con una visita guiada que hicimos con el colegio a la Catedral de Buenos Aires. Uno de los aspectos que nos señalaron fue el piso del templo: 2.600 metros cuadrados totalmente revestidos en, you know it, pequeñas teselas formando diferentes motivos florales. Entre estos se encuentra el lirio, que simboliza la segunda venida de Jesús, y la pasionaria -o mburucuyá-, que representa la Pasión de Jesucristo.
El piso es de estilo Art Nouveau y no condice con el de la catedral, que es entre barroco y románico. Fue colocado entre 1907 y 1911 como parte de los trabajos de restauración de la catedral para el primer Centenario de la Revolución de Mayo. Las teselas fueron encargadas a una fábrica inglesa sobre un diseño del arquitecto Carlos Morra para reemplazar las losas blancas y negras de la década de 1830, que estaban muy deterioradas.
No quiero imaginarme las horas de trabajo intenso y dolor de espalda que debe haber exigido este piso. Por lo que pude averiguar, primero se armaban los fragmentos en planchas llamadas matrices, que luego se colocaban sobre una base de cal y arena. Mi yo escolar y mi yo actual saludamos con respeto a esos artesanos. Y les envidiamos la paciencia.
7 free things to do in Buenos Aires: you’ll see different aspects of this wonderful, if chaotic, city. Art, music, dance, nature, culture at your feet.
Whether you’re a budget traveller or have deep pockets, you’ll really enjoy these free things to do in Buenos Aires. You’ll see different aspects of this wonderful, if at times chaotic, capital city. Art, music and dance, nature, culture and history at your fingertips.
7 free things to do in Buenos Aires
This famous cemetery opened in 1822 and was the first proper cemetery of Buenos Aires. It looks like a city with its grid layout and mausoleums that look like buildings. Go past the ick factor and appreciate the beautiful angel sculptures and the design of the mausoleums. They reflect the architectural trends of their time, like the Art Nouveau mausoleum of Rufina Cambacérès.
Recoleta is the final resting place of many Argentinean personalities. Former presidents, Independence heroes, tragic romantic heroines, war veterans, all share real estate space here. However, the most visited mausoleum is that of Eva Perón. Find out more about Recoleta cemetery here.
The historic zoo of Buenos Aires suffered a wonderful transformation. After many problems with the welfare of animals and run-down buildings, the local government stepped in. Most animals were either released into the wild or taken to animal sanctuaries elsewhere. A few were too old to be moved safely, so they stayed.
The Victorian-era buildings, the zoo opened in 1888, are in different stages of conservation. Many reflect the culture where the animals they housed came from, like India or China. The buildings are certainly beautiful.
The idea is to recreate ecoregions that are native to Argentina. At the moment, you can see native flora and some native fauna, like maras (Andean hares) or lagartos overos (Argentine giant tegu, a giant lizard) roaming free. Also peacocks, not native to Argentina but who cares, they’re beautiful!
Entrance is free but there is a limited number of visitors allowed at a time. Opens Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Access via Plaza Italia (Avenida Sarmiento 2601)
Librería El Ateneo, one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world
This spectacular bookshop occupies the space of the former Grand Splendid theatre from 1919. Come in, admire the beautiful frescoes, have a coffee on the former stage, pick up a book or two. And Instagram it to death, it’s well worth it!
Av. Santa Fe 1860. Opens Monday through Friday from 9 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 12 am, Sunday from 12 pm to 10 pm.
Feria de Mataderos
Every Sunday from April to December, the countryside comes to the city. The “Feria de las Artesanías y Tradiciones Populares Argentinas” -Traditional Crafts and Argentinean Traditions Fair- takes place outside the old stockyards. You’ll find all kinds of arts and crafts like hand-made knives or ponchos. As well as traditional food like empanadas or pastelitos. Real gauchos demonstrate their skills and traditions, and music and dance ensembles play tango and Argentinian folk music.
Avenida Lisandro de la Torre and Avenida de los Corrales.
Jardín Botánico – Botanical Gardens
The Botánico, as is popularly called, is the proverbial oasis in the middle of the city. Its 17 acres are divided into several gardens with different characteristics” roman, French, Oriental, etc. Art is also present. Sculptures are dotted about the place. Use this map to discover them. Renowned French architect and landscape artist Carlos Thays designed the Jardín Botánico, which opened in 1898 and bears his name. If you like cats, you’ll be happy to know that they roam free here and is one of the things the place is famous for.
The garden has a triangular shape formed by Avenida Santa Fe, Avenida Las Heras and calle República Arabe Siria.
Milonga in Barrancas de Belgrano
Barrancas de Belgrano is a lovely park that slopes down to the river, or to where the river was in the 19th century. The city has claimed a lot of land from the river since then. Ancient trees provide welcome shade and oxygen. Like the Botanical Gardens and many other parks, Barrancas was also designed by Carlos Thays.
Back in the day, music ensembles payed in the bandstand, or glorieta, also used for political rallies. Nowadays, there is a milonga every day. A tango lesson kick starts the evening (it’s optional and it carries a fee), and then people dance afterwards. There is no set fee for the milonga, but the musicians pass the hat round for voluntary contributions.
Caballito historic tram
This is a fun ride for the family. The historic tram runs every 30 minutes and does a 25-minute loop in the neighbourhood of Caballito. You’ll find the stop at Emilio Mitre 500. No need to make a reservation, just show up.
April-November: Saturdays and national holidays from 4 pm to 7:30 pm, Sundays 10 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 7:30 pm. December-March: Saturday and national holidays 5 pm to 8:30 pm, Sundays 10 am to 1 pm and 5 pm to 8:30 pm.
I hope you add these 7 free things to in Buenos Aires to your itinerary. Pin and share this post for future reference.
The theme of this post is the underground. It’s a round-up
of underground places I’ve visited in different cities. It’s not meant to be a
comprehensive guide for obvious reasons, just a fun list of places that may
spur you on to visit as well. I don’t know about you but being in enclosed
underground spaces makes me a bit anxious. Everywhere except the underground (metro,
subway) as a means of transport. Go figure!
Ho8 German Underground Hospital, The Jersey War Tunnels – Jersey,
Jersey, one of the Channel Islands -together with Guernsey, Herm, Alderney and Sark– is a British Crown dependency. As such, it isn’t part of the United Kingdom but a self-governing possession. Such “trifle” didn’t stop Hitler from invading the Channel Islands as early as July 1940. It was his foothold in the British Isles.
Life during the Occupation can’t have been easy by any
stretch of the imagination. Some islanders decided to leave for mainland Britain,
many families sent their children there on their own, and many stayed. About 1,200
islanders were deported to camps in Germany for different reasons. Some came
back, some did not.
On October 1941, a massive fortification project began. The
Channel Islands was part of the Atlantic Wall, the 1,700-mile line of coastal
defence devised by Hitler. The manpower for the Jersey fortifications was
provided by the Organisation Todt. This organization brought 5,000 foreign workers,
all prisoners of war. They lived in shocking conditions. The Russians, however,
received the worst treatment because the Nazi considered them subhuman.
They excavated many tunnels throughout the island. The Underground Hospital, or Ho8 -Hohlgangsanlage 8- is part of that network and a Jersey landmark. You can see the original operating theatre, boiler room, telephone exchange and the office of the Head Storeman. Each room has a different theme. You can see gas masks, or old uniforms, makeshift radios people manufactured at home to listen to the news, photos, and original objects, among other things. They also have an Enigma machine, which I thought was brilliant.
There are some urban legends and myths about the tunnels,
like the one about slave workers buried in the walls. I was told that’s not the
case. However, the atmosphere is eerie. The thought of the way the slave
workers were treated and the living conditions under the German occupation filled
me with anguish.
de Granados – Buenos Aires
The Zanjón de Granados museum took me back to the times of Santa Maria de los Buenos Ayres, the name with which the city was founded in 1536. The historical record of this site goes back to 1580, when founder Juan de Garay gave it to Juan Fernández. Zanjón de Granados is located in the intersection of Defensa and Chile streets, in San Telmo.
During our guided visit, we were told that, in 1985, a family bought the property to start a catering business. The old house, from the 1830s, was abandoned and walled up, and a mountain of rubble inside that was 12 feet high. When the restoration work began, they started to find remains of previous, older, constructions. Then, the owners decided to call a renowned local archaeologist, Daniel Schávelzon, so he could work his magic.
In the 1860s, a well-to-do family and their six servants
lived in this house. During the guided tour, you can see remains of the sewers and
the tank used to collect drinking water. These improvements came about after
the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged the city in 1870.
Towards 1900s, the house was converted into a tenement house,
as demand for rooms was high due to the influx of immigrants. You can see the
way the house was altered to make more room. They even fitted shops on the
ground floor. Also, you can detect the materials used, as for example, the
bricks are a different size and hue.
The visit includes a walk along the tunnels, which have been
restored beautifully. The guide will point out where the stream called Zanjón
de Granados, used to run. It used to flow into the River Plate. There are remains
of the cistern tank and the drainpipes built towards 1780 to change the course
of that stream and thus avoid flooding.
The guided visit is very interesting and dynamic. Even my
seven-year-old nieces listened to the guide and even asked questions.
The PATH is a sort of underground city under Toronto’s
downtown area. According to their website
and the Guinness World Records, it’s the largest underground shopping complex in
the world. It is 19 miles worth of shopping arcades, with approximately 1,200
The PATH connects more than 50 office buildings, six subway
stations, two malls, eight big hotels, and Union Station. It also connects tourist
attractions such as the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Air Canada Centre and the CN
Tower, which I haven’t visited because I’m scared of heights.
PATH construction started in 1929, when the Royal York Hotel
built an underground passage that connected the hotel with Union Station. In my
opinion, this is the prettiest section of the PATH, to go from the beautiful station
to the magnificent hotel lobby. The rest of the PATH is a bit sterile.
The PATH is great in the summer heat. Although many won’t believe this, Toronto can get hot and humid in the summer. But it is during the harsh winters when you appreciate the advantages of the PATH.
Longhorn Cavern – Texas
Longhorn Cavern State Park is located in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas. This is a day-use only park. The main attraction is the Longhorn Cavern. I did the cavern walking tour. There’s no way in hell I’ll ever do the wild cave tour, where you wriggle, climb and crawl along narrow underground spaces.
The 90-minute tour takes you along 1.1 miles of developed
passages. You can walk straight! The history of this cave is very interesting. This
limestone cave used by Native Americans, Confederate soldiers as a store, and
During the Prohibition era, in the 1920s, the Longhorn Cave
was transformed into a speakeasy. By the late 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation
Corps built a road, residences, pavilions and an observation tower.
I think I was able to cope with being underground because the passages were very spacious. And it didn’t hurt that it felt so much cooler than the hellish heat of the Texas summer. We were able to spot a few bats, which was interesting. At one point, the guide turned his light off to show us what pure darkness looks like. It was a few seconds of the darkest darkness I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Let’s take a walk along Avenida de Mayo and learn about the striking architecture of Buenos Aires.
When Buenos Aires became the capital of Argentina in 1880, the mayor, Torcuato de Alvear, decided to modernize the city in order to leave its Spanish colonial past behind. People of his generation and social class – the upper crust— venerated European powerhouses like England and France and looked down on the local criollo culture, the mix of Spanish and indigenous cultures. Avenida de Mayo is the result of this eagerness for modernity and European style, but the boulevard retains its connection to its Spanish heritage.
Located in the neighborhood of Montserrat, Avenida de Mayo was designed to mimic the open boulevards of Paris. It runs from east to west and connects the two most important places in the country’s political life: the stately neoclassical Parliament building, Congreso Nacional and the pink presidential palace, the Casa Rosada. The president’s post-inaugural procession, accompanied by the historic Mounted Grenadiers Regiment, takes place along Avenida de Mayo between these two key buildings.
The Birth of the Avenida de Mayo
At first, the plans for the new boulevard met with resistance. Homeowners opposed it because it meant the expropriation and demolition of existing properties. And some council members believed the project was not worth the expense. However, eventually all the parties came to an agreement and Avenida de Mayo became a reality when the work was completed in 1894. It was named for the May Revolution of 1810, which led to Argentina’s Independence.
The Parisian flair that city planners envisioned soon transformed into Spanish charm. Spanish immigrants opened cafés like those in Madrid as well as theaters where Spanish companies performed zarzuelas. They also started social clubs and literary societies on the Avenida. And Spanish architects designed and built apartment buildings, hotels, and office blocks.
The Southern Hemisphere’s first metro system, which opened in 1913, runs under Avenida de Mayo. Perú Station, on the corner of Avenida de Mayo and Perú Street, is part working metro station, part museum and provides an opportunity to experience life like it was in the early heyday of the Avenida. The station was restored in the early 2000s to look like it did when it opened. It has kept most of its original features like tiles, ticket booths, and lamps as well as antique ads on the walls that are modern reproductions.
The City’s Heritage Through Café Culture
Part of the charm of Avenida de Mayo lies in the five old-school cafés that are dotted along the avenue. They were designated Bares Notables (Historic Cafes) by the local council for their historic, cultural and/or architectural significance. They are an important part of the city’s cultural heritage, as well as the daily lives of thousands of porteños, as locals are called.
Café Tortoni (Av. de Mayo 825), the oldest café, opened in 1858, but it’s been at this location since 1880. Most of the furnishings, like the beveled mirrors and the stained-glass ceiling are original. Generations of poets, artists, writers, musicians, and politicians have gathered here to socialize and to create their art. Nowadays, patrons can enjoy live jazz and tango concerts or poetry readings, among other events.
Bar Iberia (Av. de Mayo 1196) first opened in 1897, although it closed and re-opened on three different occasions, since its current incarnation. This is where members of the Spanish Republican faction met in the 1930s to discuss politics or flee the Civil War that raged in Spain from 1936 to 1939. They often got into brawls with the opposing Franco supporters who gathered at a now defunct historic bar, Bar Español.
Los 36 Billares (Av. de Mayo 1271) opened in 1894 in nearby Salta Street, although it moved to its current location in 1914. It’s famous for the hundred-year-old billiards, pool, and snooker tables in the basement.
London City (Av. de Mayo 599) opened in 1954 on the corner of Avenida de Mayo and Florida Street. The renowned Argentinean author Julio Cortázar wrote his first novel, Los Premios (The Winners), here. Its wraparound windows allow patrons to watch the hustle and bustle of central Buenos Aires.
The cafetería inside Hotel Castelar (Av. de Mayo 1152) attracted the biggest cultural icons of the 20th century. It is famous for the Spanish afternoon treat, hot chocolate with churros. Federico Garcia Lorca, the celebrated Spanish poet, lived in this 1929 hotel for six months. His room is a museum and can be visited by appointment.
Avenida de Maya showcases some of Buenos Ares architectural highlights that include art nouveau, neoclassic and eclectic styles. They include:
The Cabildo, the seat of the Spanish colonial government, built in the 1740s. The revolution of May 1810, which sparked the flame of independence, took place here. The unadorned white façade, the wrought iron windows, and the red tiles are typical of Spanish colonial constructions.
The Quixote statue (Monumento al Quijote) was gifted to Buenos Aires by the Spanish government to mark the city’s 400th anniversary in 1980. The statue sits at the intersection of Avenida de Mayo and Avenida 9 de Julio.
The Teatro Avenida (Av. de Mayo 1220) opened in 1908. Today as then, local companies put on operas, zarzuelas, and concerts. Wrought-iron awnings and marble steps evoke the Old Country.
The Teatro Liceo (Av. de Mayo 1449) built in 1872, is the city’s oldest theater. It underwent a process of structural restoration and conservation of its original materials.
The Palacio Barolo (Av. de Mayo 1370) is known for its eclectic design. It was the tallest building in South America between 1923, when it was built, and 1935. Its design references Dante’s Divine Comedy, as well as Indian architecture. It commands spectacular panoramic views from the top. Guided tours are available.
Eating on the Avenida
Avenida de Mayo is the scene of several annual events like: the Gay Pride Parade (Marcha del Orgullo Gay) in November; Buenos Aires Celebra, a festival that celebrates one country and its heritage at a time; and the Carrera de Mozos, a race in which waiters and waitresses from around the country show off their skills and in which speed and balance are key.
The Spanish legacy is alive in the kitchen too. There are many Spanish restaurants on Avenida de Mayo and surrounding areas, including the oldest one in Buenos Aires, El Imparcial (Av. Hipólito Yrigoyen 1201, one block from Av. de Mayo). It serves traditional dishes like paella, gambas, or cazuela de mariscos (seafood casserole).
Avenida de Mayo’s many attractions provide an opportunity to soak up the history’s Spanish heritage and influence.
From street art to shopping, to craft cocktails, and from empanadas to spicy curry, Palermo Soho is a must-visit area of Buenos Aires
Cobbled streets, mature trees, shotgun-style houses with tall windows and wrought iron railings, old walls covered in vines: this is the Palermo Soho of the past. The neighborhood, however, has managed to retain its spirit after it became immensely popular for its boutiques, bars, cafes, and restaurants. Palermo Soho represents the quirky, bohemian side of Buenos Aires.
Some of these lovely Spanish-style houses have been recycled into art galleries, independent and high-end boutiques, trendy restaurants, cool bars. Some are still family homes and some have given way to apartment buildings. Palermo is a highly desirable area to live and is well connected to the rest of the city by public transport.
Palermo Soho has an artsy feel. And it is highly Instagrammable. Every street is a riot of colours, whether it’s because each house is painted a different colour or because it displays a mural. The graffitied walls of Pasaje Santa Rosa, a two-block street between Gurruchaga and Thames, are a great example of local street art. And a fun place to pose in front of the camera as well.
Plaza Serrano (Serrano and Jorge Luis Borges Streets) is the epicenter of Palermo Soho. The vendors of the arts and crafts fair display a wide array of unique hand-made articles, from jewelry and clothes to ornaments. The thirsty and tired can choose one of the bars overlooking the plaza to sit, nibble, and sip. The place comes alive in the evenings, especially at the weekend. Bars stay open until late. Partying in Buenos Aires means staying up way past midnight into the small hours, even until sunrise. And it’s unusual for a restaurant to open before 8 pm, so plan to eat late.
Where to eat and drink in Palermo Soho
The list of cafes, restaurants, and bars is practically endless. They range from holes in the wall and affordable to high end and pricy. Choosing a place to go depends on one’s budget and preferences. Visitors can find anything from international cuisines to burgers to beef and pizza. And don’t forget the helado, Argentinean gelato made exactly the way Italian tradition dictates.
Freddo is an established chain of heladerías with a couple of outlets in this neighbourhood (Armenia 1618, Carranza 1869). Persicco, another established chain, makes, perhaps, the best gelato (Honduras 4900, Jerónimo Salguero 2591). Two up-and-coming gelaterias are Lucciano’s (Honduras 4881) and Guapaletas (Costa Rica 4675).
Some of the most popular parrillas, as local steakhouses are called, made the 50 best Latin America’s restaurants. Don Julio (Guatemala 4691) received this honour in 2017. La Cabrera (José A. Cabrera 5099) came in 33rd place in 2016 and was 19th in 2015. Expect slabs of beef cooked to perfection, tender and flavorful. La Cabrera is also known for the myriad little side dishes that come with the beef. La Carnicería (Thames 2317) is also a trendy parrilla in the area.
Cafe culture is an essential part of life in Buenos Aires. Palermo Soho has its fair share of cafes and tea houses to while away a few hours. Some of the most popular are Nucha (Armenia 1610), Cocu Boulangerie (Malabia 1510), Mark’s Deli & Coffee House (El Salvador 4701), Le Pain Quotidien (Armenia 1641), and Ninina (Gorriti 4738).
Craft beer is very popular in Argentina. Palermo Soho, as a trendy area, attracts new businesses and therefore offers a wide selection of cervecerías. Some of the older, more established brew pubs are Jerome (Malabia 1401), Antares (Armenia 1447), Temple Palermo (Costa Rica 4677), and Cervelar (Cabrera 4399).
Many hip bars help make Palermo Soho nightlife vibrant and fun. Some of the places to see and be seen include Victoria Brown Bar (Costa Rica 4827), hidden behind a coffee shop and which has a steampunk vibe. TAZZ (Armenia 17440 is a local classic, with four bars, sofas, foosball and pool tables, and terraces for smokers distributed in its three stories. Bar Sheldon (Honduras 4969) serves up craft cocktails and live music every night.
International cuisines in Palermo Soho are well represented. Taj Mahal (Nicaragua 4345) serves spicy Indian food in a country where food is normally very mild. Las Pizarras (Thames 2296) offers French food with Argentinean flair. Chori (Thames 1653) makes gourmet choripán (Argentinean sausage sandwich). Gran Dabbang (Av. Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz 1543) dishes up Indian and Southeast Asian fare. NOLA Gastropub (Gorriti 4389) serves homemade Cajun food, an unusual cuisine in these parts. Chinese cuisine is represented by The Shanghai Dragon (Aráoz 1197).
Where to stay
Accommodation ranges from budget-friendly, 1-star Palermo Soho Hostel (Nicaragua 4728) to chic boutique hotels like Legado Mítico Buenos Aires (Gurruchaga 1484), Home (Honduras 5860) or Duque (Guatemala 4364).
From street art to shopping, from coffee to craft cocktails, from empanadas to spicy curry, Palermo Soho is a destination in itself with something for everyone.
Colonial houses, historic cafes, tango dancers, a flea market, the city’s oldest churches, narrow cobbled streets: this is San Telmo. Buenos Aires’ oldest neighbourhood provides a glimpse into the city’s past and its culture.
Come with me on this one-day itinerary of historic San Telmo (this walk technically begins in the neighbourhood of Montserrat, but nobody is splitting hairs here). I’ll show you my favourite places, where I like to eat or sit down for a cup of coffee, the historic and notable buildings, and many points of interest. You can take as long or as little as you want to do this walk. You decide where and when to stop for refreshment or if you want to skip an attraction.
Caveat: there are plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafes to make a pit stop at any given time. If you see a place you like, dive in! I’d love to hear where you stopped and how you liked the place.
Let’s get walking!
Perú 272 **** La Manzana de las Luces****
Our starting point is La Manzana de las Luces. Manzana means city block and the word luces doesn’t refer to any light but to the illuminated scholarly minds that left a mark at different moments of our history. The Jesuit order started building this complex in the 17th century. This is where they had their Procuraduría or administrative offices (the only extant section from the 1660s), a school, a pharmacy, warehouses and their living quarters.
When the Spanish crown expelled the Jesuits from all the Spanish territories in 1767, the Viceroyalty of the River Plate – the local government – took possession of these buildings. They founded the Protomedicato, the first school of medicine.
After Argentina gained her independence, the former Jesuit building complex housed several government offices and important institutions, like the first House of Representatives or the Universidad de Buenos Aires, the successor of the Protomedicato (founded in 1822).
The Manzana de las Luces is famous for its colonial tunnels. There are many theories about their function, such as a means of escape in case of invasion, or a handy way to smuggle goods. The truth is that their function is not clear. As they are a safety hazard, visitors cannot enter them.
You can visit much of the complex only if you take a tour. Tours are in Spanish only. Or you can go as far as the patio and snoop around a bit. There is an arts-and-crafts market inside, but I don’t think there is much of interest there.
Monday to Friday: 10 am – 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday: 2 pm – 7 pm
Bolívar 225 **** Iglesia San Ignacio de Loyola****
San Ignacio de Loyola is the oldest existing Church in Buenos Aires. It’s part of the Jesuit complex of La Manzana de las Luces. Construction started in 1675 next to their school, now called Colegio Nacional Buenos Aires. The current building was started in 1710 and opened in 1722. The south tower is original, the north tower was added in the 1860s. Take some time to look at the Baroque art of each reredos along the walls and the main altar. Most figures date from the 18th century and were brought from Spain or made locally.
The church is open every day, so feel free to walk in, just mind the people who might be at prayer.
Adolfo Alsina 500 **** La Librería de Avila ****
There has been a bookshop in this spot since 1785, which makes Librería de Avila technically the oldest bookshop in the city. The current building is of course much more recent. You’re welcome to wander in and browse their rare books and historical documents.
Hours: 8:30 am – 8 pm
Adolfo Alsina 416 **** La Puerto Rico Café ****
This is one of the many historic cafes that are dear to the heart of porteños. La Puerto Rico was founded in 1887 and moved to the current location in 1925. The founder paid homage to Puerto Rico, where he lived for a while and of which had fond memories. The decor throughout the café has references to Puerto Rico.
Monday to Friday: 7 am – 8 pm, Saturday: 8 am – 8 pm, Sunday: 12 pm – 7 pm
Defensa 201 **** Farmacia La Estrella ****
La Estrella, founded in 1834, was the city’s first pharmacy. The current building dates from 1885. Don’t miss the ornamented tiled floor, the walnut counter and cabinets, and the frescoed ceiling. La Estrella is a living museum as well as a working pharmacy and it’s part of the Buenos Aires City Museum.
Monday to Friday: 8 am – 8 pm, Saturday: 8 am -1pm
Alsina 380 **** Basílica de San Francisco****
The Franciscan order built a church on this spot in 1731-54. The facade and towers collapsed in 1807 and the remodelling was finished a few years later. In 1911, the façade received an overhaul in the Baroque style. Look up and you’ll see the statue of St. Francis with Dante Alighieri, Giotto and Christopher Columbus, an unlikely mix!
The Franciscan Museum attached to the church opens Monday to Thursday: 11 am – 5 pm, Friday: 12 pm – 5 pm.
Defensa 422 **** Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario y Convento de Santo Domingo****
That’s a mouthful! Everyone calls it Convento de Santo Domingo, though. This church has a very interesting story. Founded by the Dominican order and consecrated in the early 1780s, the church was the scene of a battle between the local militia and the invading British army in their second attempt to invade the colony in 1807. If you look up at the walls and towers, you’ll see cannon balls stuck on the walls. They were put in place decades later to mark the spots where enemy fire hit. The mausoleum in the atrium belongs to Gen. Manuel Belgrano, one of our greatest Independence heroes and the creator of the national flag.
Speaking of flags, inside the church you’ll find a few flags and standards captured in battle. Those belong to the 71st Highland Light Infantry (captured in 1807 after the failed invasion), and the Royal Navy (also from 1807), and two Spanish royalist flags donated by Gen. Belgrano.
Bear in mind that the official address is Defensa 422, but you can also use the gate on Avenida Belgrano.
Defensa 596 **** Brasserie Petanque ****
Brasserie Petanque is one of my favourite restaurants in this area. They serve traditional French dishes, as well as some Argentina classics. If it’s good enough for Ralph Fiennes and John Malkovich, it’s good enough for me!
Tuesday to Sunday: 13:30 pm – 3:30 pm, 8:30 pm – 12 am
Defensa 698 **** Mafalda and friends sculpture****
You’ll come across a colourful sculpture right on the corner of Defensa and Chile. It represents some beloved cartoon characters, Mafalda and her friends. I used to devour her comics. You’ll find other cartoon characters sprinkled around San Telmo. They are part of the Paseo de la Historietaand the idea is to pay homage to, you guessed it, beloved cartoon characters of all decades.
San Lorenzo 380 **** Casa Mínima ****
Take a small detour to see the narrowest house in Buenos Aires, the Casa Mínima. It’s not open to the public, but nothing stops you from posing in front of it with your arms stretched to show how narrow the house is. Nobody really knows why it is like that. The most popular theory is that it belonged to a freed slave. Romantic as it may be, it is not true.
Defensa 767 **** Casa Colectiva Bernardino Rivadavia ****
This building from 1921 was the second example of collective housing in Buenos Aires.
Estados Unidos 464 **** Mercado de San Telmo ****
Mercado de San Telmowas established in 1897 as a produce market. Nowadays, you’ll also find antique shops and trendy coffee shops. Look up at the beautiful wrought iron ceiling. Pedro Telmo is an interesting hole-in-the-wall, old school porteño bar outside the market, at Bolivar 962.
The market opens every day at 8 am and closes at 9 pm. Mind you, some antique stores may have different hours.
Carlos Calvo 383 **** Casa de Esteban de Luca ****
This house is one of the oldest in the city and it dates from the late 18th century. The façade is original, but the interior was renovated in the 19th century. It’s one of the few extant examples of colonial dwellings in Buenos Aires.
Corner of Defensa and Humberto 1°**** Plaza Dorrego ****
Plaza Dorrego is the epicenter of San Telmo, where everything happens. You can have a drink or a meal under the trees and watch tango dancers in action. You can browse the flea market’s stalls on Sundays when the Feria de San Telmo convenes (watch out for pickpockets).
Humberto 1° 340 **** Iglesia San Pedro Telmo ****
The Jesuits started building San Pedro Telmo church in 1734, but the current Baroque façade is the result of the renovations carried out between 1916 and 1931. Many original features and works of art from the late 18th century survive today.
The Church is open Monday to Friday 7:30 am – 12 pm, 4 pm – 8 pm. Saturday 9 am – 1 pm, 4 pm – 8 pm. Sunday 8:30 am – 8 pm.
Avenida San Juan 350 **** Museo de Arte Moderno ****
The Modern Art Museum’s collection includes more than 7,000 modern and contemporary works of art by Argentinean and international artists from the 1950s to today. The Italianate building, from 1918, belonged to Tabacalera Piccardo, a leading tobacco company known today as Nobleza Piccardo. The museum is constantly evolving and expanding.
Tuesday to Friday 11 am – 7 pm, weekends 11 am – 8 pm, national holidays 11 am – 8 pm. Admission is AR$30 (US$ 1 at the time of writing), free on Tuesdays.
Carlos Calvo 599 **** Bar El Federal ****
El Federal is one of the city’s oldest bars and a total classic. In its 150-year history, it was a pulpería (a general store where gauchos used to meet), a corner shop, it housed a brothel, film location, and a café. The building is the original one from 1864. The carved wood bar is 105 years old. You’ll definitely go back in time!
Sunday to Thursday 8 am – 2 am, Friday and Saturday 8 am – 4 am. You read that right, it opens until the early hours!
Chacabuco 863 **** Casal de Catalunya****
The Casal de Catalunya (1886) is a little bit of Catalonia in Buenos Aires, as well as the place where my maternal grandparents met. I wouldn’t be here without this place! This modernist building has been the hub of the Catalonian community in Buenos Aires for the over 130 years. Pop in and soak up Catalonian culture and its neogothic style and, if you wish, enjoy a traditional dish at the restaurant.
Take a little detour to see the Beaux-Arts building of the former National Library.
Perú 535 **** Ex Ferretería Hirsch****
This building from 1894 is an iconic example of industrial architecture in Buenos Aires. The iron structure was made at Gustav Eiffel’s workshop in France and assembled on site. Look up at the blacksmith that crowns the building, a symbol of hard work and industry. The place is nowadays a nightclub called Club Museum.
Avenida Belgrano 601 **** Otto Wulf building****
This wonderful building was built in 1914 in the Jugendstil style, the German version of the Art Nouveau, and was designed and built by Danish architect Morten F. Rönnow. A romantic urban legend has it that one tower represents Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and the other, his wife Empress Sissi. As with most urban legends, it’s not true.
Walk two more blocks along Peru and you’ll end up where we started, La Manzana de las Luces. I hope you enjoyed this self-guided walk of San Telmo and felt like a local for a day.
Whether you’re planning your first trip or you’re thinking of going back, these Buenos Aires travel tips will sure come in handy!
The coffee culture is vibrant in Buenos Aires. There is a handful of cafes that have been declared part of the city’s historic and cultural heritage. Make sure visit at least one to soak up their old-world atmosphere. Cafe Tortoni is the most famous and touristy. If there’s a queue outside the door, head to Los 36 Billares (Avenida de Mayo 1265) or any of these. Expect a bite of something sweet with your coffee.
Unfortunately, not all bars and restaurants take credit cards. Ask the waiter before ordering (or make sure you have enough cash).
Walk, walk, walk! Buenos Aires is a pedestrian-friendly city (even if some motorists are most definitely not.) Its grid pattern makes it easy to find one’s way around the place.
Tips. You’re not expected to tip taxi drivers. If you’re feeling generous, you may round the fare up. The standard tip is about 10% of the bill in restaurants and bars. Leave more if service was great. Some places add it to the bill when there’s a party of eight or more people.
Haggling is not a common practice in this part of the world. Don’t even try.
Taxes are already included in the final amount.
Taxis are relatively cheap. You can flag one down on the street (just stand on the corner and put your arm out), call a taxi company, or use apps like Easy Taxi. You can also order a remis, a sort of hired car. There is a remisería in every neighbourhood. You can use Uber, but bear in mind that it’s not quite legal yet. They may refuse service in central Buenos Aires because there have been instances of attacks by enraged taxi drivers. I still use Uber, though. Cabify is another option (this one is legal). Download the app and go!
Just like in any other big city, pickpockets target tourists. Take a few sensible precautions: don’t carry valuables in your back pockets, don’t hang your handbag from the back of the chair in a restaurant, don’t walk and text, carry your backpack or handbag in the front rather than your back when travelling on public transport.
Buses are cheap and will take you absolutely everywhere. Try to get hold of a Guia T, which lists every bus line, bus stop and bus route in the city (Caveat: it’s available in Spanish only). The bus stops on some avenues, like 9 de Julio or Juan B. Justo, are in the middle of the road. You’ll find them very easily, as they are clearly marked and they all have maps with each line’s itinerary and stops. The system is called Metrobús.
You’ll need a SUBE smartcard for buses, trains, and the underground (Subte). You can buy one at casas de lotería (and buy a lottery ticket as well, why not?), underground (Subte) stations, and kioscos (newsagents). You can top up with pay-as-you-go credit. There’s no need to register your SUBE card, as you probably won’t be eligible for a government discount.
Argentina is known for its beef. Parrillas, local steakhouses, range from little holes in the wall to establishments. Most are somewhere in between. If you can’t wait to get stuck in, you may want to learn how to order beef: vuelta y vuelta (rare), jugoso (medium rare), a punto (medium), bien cocido (well done). Some of the most popular cuts are bife de chorizo, vacio, lomo, asado, entraña. Beef lovers, rejoice! You don’t eat meat? Here’s what you can eat instead!
Our Italian ancestors heavily influenced our culinary tradition. Thus, pizza and pasta have become staples. The basic Porteño pizza is thinner than deep dish, laden with cheese, and topped with olives. Other favourite kinds are fugazza (cooked onions, oregano, and black olives), fugazzetta (onion and cheese pie), fugazzetta rellena (a real gut bomb! the pizza dough is stuffed with ham and cheese and topped with more cheese, cooked onion, and black olives). El Cuartito and Los Inmortales are among the most traditional pizzerias.
Order a picada, Argentinean-style tapas, and wash it down with craft beer. There are many microbreweries around the city. The oldest and most established ones are Cervelar and Antares.
More Buenos Aires travel tips from my Facebook page
If you’re looking for a hotel in Buenos Aires that combines elegance and tradition with a modern touch and a fantastic location, then Esplendor Hotel (770 San Martin Street) is for you.
The original building
There’s always been a hotel in this location. The old Hotel Phoenix was built in 1889 by the same investors who built the local branch of Le Bon Marché department store. Although the hotel was built in the same block, it is separate from the department store.
The Phoenix was famous for its restaurant, called Alexandra in honour of the English queen, and was known as the “hotel de los ingleses” because most of the guests were British.
The Phoenix was an avant-garde hotel. The spacious rooms had a private bathroom and a sitting room, ideal for extended stays after a long sea voyage.
Location, location, location
Esplendor Buenos Aires is in the heart of the Retiro neighbourhood and a stone’s throw away from the Microcentro area, the financial and administrative centre of the country. Although we mostly walked everywhere, we took public transport to go farther afield. The hotel is also very close to the ferry terminal, ideal for a day trip across the River Plate to Colonia, Uruguay.
The hotel today
The old Hotel Phoenix was gutted and renovated in 2005 as a boutique hotel. The Renaissance Revival facade was thoroughly cleaned and a skylight added to let natural light in. The architects tried to keep as many original features as possible, like the 13-foot ceilings, wood door and window frames, balcony tiles, and the columns and iron and majolica fireplace in the restaurant.
We got a room on the first floor (or second, if you’re American), overlooking San Martin Street. We were so close to Avenida Córdoba that I thought that traffic noise would be a problem in the morning. But I was wrong! It was really quiet.
Our room was very large and decorated in black, beige, and sandy tones. It felt elegant, modern and soothing. It had a large desk against a wall, a wonderfully comfortable King-sized bed, a couch, and my favourite feature, a full-length mirror.
Breakfast is served in the basement, where the old restaurant used to be. The large, cavernous room features the original ceilings, columns, and an alcove. There was a bit of everything in the breakfast buffet. Fresh juice, tea, coffee, pastries, facturas, toast, fresh fruit, cheese and deli meats. The medialunas (Argentinean croissants) were to die for!
The hotel is pet-friendly with an extra US$18 + tax a night. A US$100 cleaning charge applies.
I loved the daily weather forecast written on a chalkboard near the elevators.
The elevators have signs in Braille script.
Cribs available upon request.
Wake-up call service.
The following services carry an extra charge: room service, newspapers, shuttle, in-room massage and beauty treatments.
Games room on the mezzanine.
Grupo Mondongo, an art collective, created amazing works of art for Esplendor using unusual materials and techniques. These are portraits of many Argentinean political and popular culture icons, like Eva and Juan Domingo Perón, Maria Elena Walsh (poet, author, and songwriter), Jorge Luis Borges, Che Guevara, Diego Maradona, among others.
What to do near the Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires?
Buenos Aires is a vibrant city and there’s a lot to see and do within walking distance from the hotel. Put comfy shoes on and go!
Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall wraps around the hotel but is not connected to it. The magnificent building was built around the same time as the hotel. Don’t miss the frescos painted under the central dome. Pop in for a bit of shopping, a meal, or people watching.
The Church and Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena is on the opposite end to the hotel on San Martin Street. Pop into the church to admire the main altarpiece from 1776 and the Spanish colonial architecture. Built in 1775, this was the first enclosed convent in the then colony. The cloisters, on the left of the church, are open to the public and there’s a restaurant inside. It’s so peaceful that you forget you’re in the middle of a cement jungle.
Calle Florida is the most famous commercial pedestrian street in the country. You’ll find all kinds of shops and services here. One of my favourites is Librería Ateneo, where I like to go for a browse and a cup of coffee on the top floor.
Plaza San Martin is one of the oldest parks of Buenos Aires. It was the site of a battle between the defending creole forces and the invading English troops in 1807. Take a stroll under the mature trees, admire the sculptures, pay your respects to the soldiers fallen in the 1982 Malvinas war.
Esplendor Hotel is really close to all the bars in the hopping Retiro area, like the traditional Irish pub The Kilkenny (399 Marcelo T de Alvear St.), or Barbaro Bar on 415 Tres Sargentos St.
You can walk down Cordoba Ave. to your right to the converted docks of Puerto Madero, where there are endless choices of bars and restaurants.
If you’re in the mood for a longish walk, stroll up Florida Street all the way to Plaza de Mayo and the Cathedral, the political heart of the country. Don’t forget to look up and admire the monumental architecture! You may catch the changing of the guard at sunset if you’re lucky.
All in all, Esplendor is a great choice of hotel in Buenos Aires if you like stately, old-world elegance in the middle of the action.
If you’re looking for a hotel in Buenos Aires that combines elegance and tradition with a modern touch and a fantastic location, then Esplendor Hotel (770 San Martin Street) is for you.#buenosaireshotel #esplendorhotel #argentina #experienciaesplendor
If you’re looking for a hotel in Buenos Aires that combines elegance and tradition with a modern touch and a fantastic location, then Esplendor Hotel (770 San Martin Street) is for you.#buenosaireshotel #esplendorhotel #argentina #experienciaesplendor
We were guests of Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires. However, all opinions and images are mine.
The influx of European immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries has left an enduring legacy in Argentina. Our language, food, literature, and architecture would be vastly different without that influence. Not better nor worse, just different. One of those national groups that came and enriched our culture were the Scandinavians. Today, we can appreciate their legacy in the Nordic Church of Buenos Aires, which serves the Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish and all Lutheran communities. Nowadays, most services are held in Spanish.
The church was built in the mid-1940s, although the Swedish congregation had been active since 1918 in rented halls. The main aim of this church was to provide pastoral care to Swedish sailors in Buenos Aires. Initially, the church was Swedish, but later it included other dwindling Scandinavian congregations. The image behind the simple altar, Jesus calling the fishermen, represents that nautical motif. It was painted in Stockholm in the 1980s by Swedish artist Kuno Haglund.
The Nordic church is not as touristy as other temples, so you may want to give them a call ahead of your visit and make sure that there will be someone to open the door and show you around. I didn’t call ahead but I was lucky that the secretary, Ms. Eva Jeppsson was available. She very kindly showed me the chapel and explained its history. Ms. Jeppsson was also very patient and agreed to read out verses from the Bible in Swedish for me. I loved its stark, simple beauty. The multi-coloured light coming in through the stained-glass windows made a pleasant contrast to the white walls and dark wood. The pulpit was beautifully carved in light wood.
The Club Sueco restaurant rents a space within the church hall. They serve Smorgasbords, lunch, and brunch. It’s advisable to make reservations.
I didn’t know about this church until very recently. I love discovering unknown-to-me places in my hometown. Do you also love to explore your home turf as well?