Buenos Aires: “The Paris of South America”, a City with Flavor
Its unique History, Culture, Passion, Tango, Sexiness, and Sights.
Buenos Aires is situated on the long southeastern tip of South America. The capital of Argentina has been a travel destination for centuries.
Argentina was a destination for mainly Spanish, Italian and German (Note: European) immigrants from the late 1800's. Due to the varying cultures and countries, these immigrants came from, they left an indelible mark on Buenos Aires, making it one of the most unique cities in the world.
Today, the Argentine capital is an eclectic mix of cultures, architecture, and people. It is a country that is a melting pot that has experienced dictatorships and dark clouds, which still hang over its history.
Buenos Aires: The Paris of South America
Buenos Aires is an amazing place to visit, explore and experience. The city is growing as a travel destination. In 2017, 2.24 million tourists visited the city and took in its architecture, artwork and unforgettable sights.
Buenos Aires doesn't have the same tourist numbers as other capital cities around the globe. One reason for lower tourism numbers is due to the time it takes to travel to the Argentine city. Its southern location in South America means it can take 11 hours to get to Buenos Aires from New York and nearly 14 from Los Angeles and London, respectively.
But what people find in Buenos Aires is worth the travel time.
The city is known as "The Paris of South America". Buenos Aires' combination of cafes, restaurants, buildings, monuments, looks, nightlife, and atmosphere give it a unique French or European feel.
Yet, the Argentine capital is not a Paris rip off nor does it ape Paris in any way. Buenos Aires is its own city with culture and tradition that is special.
Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosado
One of the best examples of the city's unique history and culture is the Plaza de Mayo. The plaza contains beautiful colonial buildings that were built in the 1500s. Plaza de Mayo is a two-block area and it is where the citizens of Buenos Aires go when there is an important event or issue concerning them.
Throughout history, the city's people have assembled here and today it is still the site where groups go. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo still meet in the area today as they remember the children who were taken by the dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s. The plaza offers a real-life peek into the past.
A love for Tango Music & Dance, a matter of National Pride
It is claimed that tango music and dancing is the heart and soul of Argentina. Like Argentine people, tango is full of passion. Tango was formed from a mix of musical forms in the 1800s. The musical style came from immigrants and was heavily influenced by the locals once it reached Buenos Aires.
Initially, tango was considered a low-class, poor music. It would grow out of this stereotype and during the roaring 1920s tango became a popular form of music in Europe. Now, Argentina was exporting a music and dance back to the continent that so many people came from to seek their fortunes or escape hardship!
Homage to Tango
Tango street dancers can be found all over the city. However, two areas prevail as the major locations to find these exhibition dancers: Avenida Corrientes and La Boca.
Avenida Corrientes is one of the main thoroughfares of Buenos Aires. The avenue is seen as a symbol of the cultural pride of the "porteño" (someone from the port City of Buenos Aires) and their beloved tango. The bandoneón (button accordion) is the centerpiece instrument in tango music. You can see a monument of a stainless steel bandoneón on Avenida Corrientes.
Many tourists will be ushered towards certain areas such as La Boca while in the capital. La Boca’s claim to fame is the tango, the colorful houses, the cobblestone strip El Caminito (“little walkway”), and its soccer team.
Milongas are tango dancehalls found all over the city. Here you can either come and watch, or you may want to take lessons or simply test your existing tango skills.
Much like visiting the city's landmarks and great tourist sites, tango is something visitors are expected to see and experience.
Younger generations have looked back at the culture and history of tango and brought it into the fore. Taking lessons from experienced tango teachers and dancers is a top tourists activity while visiting Buenos Aires.
The Italian influence on the Argentinian Spanish dialect.
Spain may have colonized Argentina, but Italy had great influence on the South American country. It is estimated that 25 million Argentines have some Italian ancestry. Due to the large waves of Italian immigrants, Argentine Spanish is peppered with a distinctive Italian dialect. The dialect is not typically spoken in other Spanish speaking countries.
Due to the influence of Italians, Argentine Spanish has a popular slang dialect known as Lunfardo. It is said the slang language has 6,000 words. Lunfardo is used by many local Buenos Aires residents. My very own neighbor, who is from Buenos Aires, goes as far as saying “You are no Argentine if you don’t speak Lunfardo”.
From 1880 up until World War I, most of the four million people immigrating came from Italy and Spain. During that time frame, police officers noticed a language being used by some of those they arrested. It came to be known as Lunfardo, which means 'thief' in Spanish.
The police believed the people were using it as a secret code when communicating. Yet, they were wrong as it was Spanish containing Italian words and dialect!
Today, Lunfardo is everywhere in Argentina. Which could cause travelers some difficulties when trying to understand conversations. Non-native Spanish speaking tourists may know Spanish and be able to speak it well, but Lunfardo can be quite confusing to understand.
Culture and Passion
Immigration, language, and music have all combined to give Buenos Aires one of the most unique cultures in the world. Buenos Aires and Argentina as a whole saw military dictatorships and economic insecurities for decades.
Politics and the economy are now far more stable than in the past, but it has helped give the city a feeling unlike any other. The people live with their heart on their sleeves. Passion is everywhere in Buenos Aires and visitors will see it by simply walking the streets.
National Museum of Decorative Art
Part of that passion has helped fuel the arts in Buenos Aires. The capital is home to some of South America's best museums. The National Museum of Decorative Art is one of the most iconic. Established in 1911, the museum was built in a Classical French style, once again showcasing the European influence. Travelers will not only experience the phenomenal artworks inside but the architecture of the building too.
Buenos Aires is home to a number of theaters. Any traveler that loves the theater or opera should be ready to see a show while in the capital. Colon Theater is the most well-known in Buenos Aires. The venue was opened in 1908, and visitors can tour the inside of the theater as well as seeing internationally renowned acts.
For another look at Buenos Aires' European influence, visitors should look at the Metropolitan Cathedral. Located next to the Plaza de Mayo, the outside of the church was built in a neoclassical design while the inside takes influences from cathedrals back in the old world.
Palermo District (Barrio Palermo)
Bordering Recoleta northeast of the city, is a hip, upscale neighborhood worth exploring. Here you find great shopping opportunities, embassies of different countries, upscale homes, a great nightlife, restaurants, the Buenos Aires Zoo, and the Botanical Garden.
Recoleta Cemetery is a tourist attraction with the biggest collection of outdoor artwork in the world. Evita Peron's tomb can be found here, among the 4,000 other mausoleums.
Good to Know for your Buenos Aires visit
- If you are a meat lover, no trip to Buenos Aires would be complete without having an Argentinian steak. Known as being among the highest quality steaks in the world, you are encouraged to include a steakhouse dinner visit during your trip.
A word of caution:
- Buenos Aires consists of closely spaced areas of mixed socioeconomic levels. You may find yourself in an upscale hotspot one moment, just to step into an impoverished ghetto the next. Therefore, always check with your hotel desk for information on how to get to places and how to move around safely! Carry a map.
- The OK symbol: Do not use the thumbs-up signal or the signal with your forefinger and thumb to indicate something that is okay. In Buenos Aires, that is interpreted as meaning "up yours".
- The Citizens of Buenos Aires typically stay up late. Dinner usually starts around 10 pm, while clubs don't get busy until around 2 in the morning.
- Like many other European Spanish in-fluxed countries, the customs of Argentina's passionate people translate to talking loud and displaying a temperament which can switch from total calm to a firecracker in a heartbeat. Therefore, stay out of passionate favorite discussions such as soccer or politics.
- People in Buenos Aires are generally well-dressed, and they carry themselves in a very classy way.
- Punctuality: People customarily arrive late for a social engagement. That's the norm.
Argentinian leather is known for its exceptional quality. You can easily find a reasonably priced high-quality leather jacket while visiting Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires, a Travel Experience of a Lifetime
Buenos Aires is a city like no other. Its culture and charm deliver travelers an unforgettable experience. The capital's history and the pain many of locals felt over the decades gives Buenos Aires a feeling few may understand before setting foot in the city. Its nightlife is palpable and goes well into the wee hours forcing those who experience it to depend on your partner if any, and other caffeinated drinks to get through the day.
Yes, Buenos Aires is "The Paris of South America", but thanks to the people and cultures that built the city, the capital is so much more. It must be seen and experienced to be fully understood.
My advice? Go! It's so easy to fall in love with this city.