Welcome to South America's cosmopolitan city of great shopping, tango and Evita... get ready to fall in love with Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires on the Rio de la Plata is the cosmopolitan heart of South America. It is emerging from recent political turmoil, so tourism is growing once again. This, of course, is good news for travellers, as well as the local economy. Twelve million people live here, making it the world's sixth-largest metropolis. The cosmopolitan city's population is mainly of Italian and Spanish heritage and polo and football are the sports everyone loves to play and follow.
Many associate Argentina with the late Eva Perón. She was immortalised in song, on stage and film and is still adored by many in this country, more than 50 years after her death. A new attraction in Buenos Aires is the Eva Museum, managed by her great niece, Cristina Alvarez Rodriguez.
Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace, is the city's top tourist attraction. It has been pink since 1873, when President Sarmiento blended red and white, the colours of the political federalists and opposing unitarians. The palace takes up the entire east side of the Plaza de Mayo. Colonial riverbank fortifications once stood here, but now, after much landfilling, it is over a kilometre inland. Many politicians, including Juan and Eva Perón, have stood on its balconies and been assured of their popularity by surging masses below.
Museo de la Casa de Gobierno provides a chronology of Argentine presidents, stopping in 1966. It has catacombs of the Guerte Viejo, a colonial ruin from the 18th century.
La Boca is a rough-and-tumble port neighbourhood, crammed with colourfully-painted metal houses. It was settled by Italian immigrants along the Riachuelo, a waterway lined with meat-packing plants and warehouses.
Recoleta is the country's most exclusive and expensive suburb and home to the Gothic cemetery, which last year made it on to UNESCO's World Heritage list. It is an astonishing necropolis, where generations of Argentina's elite lie in splendour similar to that which they enjoyed in life. Some ostentatious mausoleums have little windows, so you can peek in and see rich mahogany coffins with intricate brass fittings, neatly piled on each other. Not just anyone can have their final rest in this cemetery. It's for those of high social standing (or lying) only. This is where Eva Peron is entombed.
The city has many attractive public gardens and open spaces, such as Plaza Intendente Alvear, where the city's largest crafts fair takes place each Sunday. Recoleta is also the place for expensive shopping and eating, so don't look for bargains there.
One thing you do have to look out for, all over Buenos Aires, is where you step. While most people own dogs, they employ paseaperros, professional dog walkers, and there are lots of them, with maybe 30 charges each, so every day hundreds of thousands of canines make deposits on the footpaths, street and parks. Be very wary!
The tango is another Argentinian passion, but no one can agree on where it was created Argentina, Uruguay or France. Everyone wants to claim it. Even though the dance has such sensuous movements, it is considered impolite to speak while tangoing and you never walk away until the music stops, even if your partner has two left feet. Flabella at Suipacha specialises in tango shoes and Confiteria La Ideal on the same street offers lessons.
Fine food and drink are very important and beef is consumed in vast quantities. Coffee, wine, beer and sweets rate highly. Café Tortoni on Avenida de Mayo was founded in 1858 and has a rich history.
Teatro Colon is the best opera house in South America. It was built in 1908, modelled on La Scala, and embellished with Carrara marble and Venetian mosaics. Its perfect acoustics are unforgiving. Those whose voices are about to falter drop Teatro Colon from their list of venues very quickly.
Avenida Santa Fe is the place to shop, shop, shop. Interestingly, locals spend more per capita on underwear than anywhere else in the world! As you would expect, leatherwear garments, under and outer, are on sale everywhere, at reasonable prices.
The Argenta Tower is a comfortable 100-room hotel offering first-class service. It is elegantly decorated and fully air-conditioned. Vivaldi Restaurant serves international cuisine, with an exclusive selection of wines to complement all meals.
The capital of Argentina in South America
Qantas flies three times a week to Buenos Aires, codesharing with Lan Chile, starting at $1938 from Sydney, $2037 from Brisbane, $2038 from Melbourne, $2296 from Adelaide, $2572 from Perth and $2835 from Darwin, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing, but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply. Argenta Tower accommodation starts at around $120 a couple a night.
Juncal 868-1062 Buenos Aires
Ph: 54-11 4325-4100
Fax: 54-11 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cementerio de la Recoleta
Junin 1930 Buenos Aires
Ph: 54-1 4803 1594
Teatro Colon (Opera House)
Cerrito 608 Buenos Aires 1010
Ph: 54-1 358 923
Fa: 54-1 111 232www.teatrocolon.org.ar
Lafinue 1988-C1425FAB Buenos Aires
Ph: 54-11 4807 9433Institutoevaperon@arnet.com.ar
Flabella (tango shoes)
Suipacha 263 Buenos Aires
Ph: 54-11 5322 6036
Confiteria La Ideal (tango lessons)
Suipacha No 384 Buenos Aires
Ph: 54-11 4306 5800
Avenida de Mayo 825 Buenos Aires
Ph: 54-11 4342 4328 www.cafetortoni.com.ar