From May Square to La Boca, dive into Buenos Aires’ rich history with these iconic landmarks.
Encapsulating both a chic lifestyle and a perpetuation of its traditions, Argentina is a desirable destination for many tourists. Being the second largest city in South America, it comes as no surprise that the metropolis is a political, economic, and cultural hub. With its traditional 19th century buildings, parks, European elegance, and knowledge of wine; Buenos Aires definitely has a Parisian air to it. Being the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires has witnessed all of the major events that defined the country’s identity. Here is a list of things to see in order to further understand its history.
1. Plaza de Mayo
Impossible to avoid! Plaza de Mayo is the beating heart of Buenos Aires and a big part of Argentina’s political history. Since its creation in 1884 after the demolition of the Recova Building, it has been the scene for every momentous event in Argentina. The square’s first monument – Pirámide de Mayo – was officially inaugurated on the 1810 May Revolution’s anniversary (when Argentina became independent from Spain.) Before the revolution, the square was known as Plaza de la Victoria, but six years later it was rebaptized to May Square. Located in the financial district, it encompasses central monuments to Argentina’s history, including: the Cabildo, Casa Rosada, and the Cathedral (Pope Francis’s former parish.) Today, the square is the focal spot for Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, a group that meets every Thursday afternoon to remember the ones they lost during Argentina’s military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.
2. The Cabildo
The two-story white town hall was formerly known as the original seat of Spain’s colonial administration and served as an important governmental building for more than a hundred years. It was built over the 18th century, when the Cabildo witnessed Argentina’s 1810 Revolution. During colonial times, the town hall served as a prison. It also houses an intimate and stimulating museum on the monument’s history. Part of the museum is entirely dedicated to the 1810 Revolution where you can see original pieces of furniture, jewelry, paintings, and relics from that time period. You can also admire the panoramic view of Buenos Aires from the second-floor balcony.
3. San Telmo
Being the oldest neighborhood in the city, San Telmo is a must-see! Whether you wish to buy hand-made Argentinian treasures from open-air galleries or eat delicious street food from friendly vendors, this district comprises everything. With its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and lively atmosphere; San Telmo is the ideal way to spend an afternoon. Each Sunday, hundreds of stalls are set up for the market where you will be able to find jewelry, handmade lace, and traditional Argentinian souvenirs. The market was built in 1897 with one sole purpose: to supply food to the new wave of immigrants arriving in the city. You can admire its original structure and roofing. The market can be overwhelming for some travelers, so for a bit of fresh air, go for a stroll through Parque Lezama where you may find people playing chess or sharing a mate, which is very common.
4. Manzana de Las Luces
The Manzana de Las Luces or Illuminated Block in English is known for being one of the oldest historical landmarks in Buenos Aires. The area is especially known for housing the San Ignacio Church. Built between 1686 and 1722 by the Jesuit monks, the mission was closed 20 years later due to Spain’s repression of the Jesuit order, during which the Baroque church was converted into a cathedral. A few buildings were constructed with the church at the time, such as: a school, pharmacy, library, and museum. When the mission was closed, the school was transformed into the Royal College of San Carlos, and the pharmacy became the country’s first medical college. During the 1955 revolution which took out Perón – the former president of Argentina – the church was partially destroyed as he fought to repress the Catholic Church’s influence. It was only rebuilt in 2007 after being abandoned for many years. The city offers numerous exciting guided tours of the area, where you can visit the Jesuit’s underground tunnels, upon which the scope is still unknown.
5. La Boca
Known for its colors, tango, and football stadium; La Boca is an authentic district and a sight to see. Located on Buenos Aires’ former port, the neighborhood was used as a gateway into Argentina for products, goods, and immigrants. The houses were built with cast-off ship materials, like: sheet metal and planks. Today, the area has not changed one bit as it is still inhabited by Buenos Aires’ working class, despite the thousands of tourists arriving each year. For dinner or lunch, La Boca offers various restaurants, where you can enjoy appetizing street food. Despite the fact that we would not recommend staying in La Boca’s streets after dark, this area is as much part of Argentina’s history as any other.