Architecture of Buenos Aires: Calle Florida & Plaza San Martin Walking Tour

Related: The Architecture of Buenos Aires: An introduction & guide

Related: Architectural Styles of Buenos Aires

Related: Avenida de Mayo Walking Tour

Related: Recoleta Walking Tour

Related: Corrientes & Santa Fe Walking Tour

Route Overview

This second walking tour takes you from the pedestrian street of Calle Florida to Plaza de San Martín in the neighborhood of Retiro. It is designed in such a way that it can be done either on its own or as an extension of the first tour of Avenida de Mayo. While it is presented here as beginning from Plaza de Mayo it can just as easily be done in reverse, starting at Plaza San Martin or the Retiro-Mitre Train Station.

The map below outlines the route. Buildings of architectural significance are specified in the map by blue icons, with data on the style, architect and year of construction (where available) provided by clicking on that icon. Locations to pause for a drink and/or some food are also listed in red. (See the article on Buenos Aires’ historic “Café Notables” for additional information). Additional walking tours for different parts of the city are also provided in the main article.

The walk from the northwest corner of Plaza de Mayo to Plaza San Martín covers only 2.6 km, making it relatively easy to complete in only a few hours depending on the pace at which you go. Short detours are also provided, though these would only increase the total walking distance to about 4 km. [Note that Calle Florida presents a number of shopping opportunities, so you may wish to allocate additional time for this].

As always, make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and devote time for rest.

Main Route (): Calle Florida to Plaza San Martín
Total Distance: 2.6 km
Highlights: Edificio Menéndez Behety, La Equitativa del Plata, Eclectic Bencich Building, Edificio Miguel Bencich, Citibank, Banco de la Provincia, Galeria Güemes, Centro Naval, Edificio Kavanagh, Palacio San Martín

Detour 1 (): Calle Florida (Pres. Peña to Rivadavia)
Total Distance: 0.2 km
Highlights: Casa Escasany

Detour 2 (): Pres. Peña to Maipú
Total Distance: 0.4 km
Highlights: Edificio Banco Comafi, Hotel 725 Continental

Detour 3 (): Palacio San Martín to Retiro-Mitre Station
Total Distance: 0.6 km
Highlights: Retiro-Mitre Station, Torre Monumental

The Route

Starting from Plaza de Mayo head northwest on Presidente Peña toward the pedestrian walking street of Calle Florida (approximately 150m). Prior to your arrival, you will pass a number of notable buildings including the Beaux-Arts Ministry of Modernization and the neo-Renaissance Edificio Menéndez Behety.

Ministry of Modernization | E. Le Monnier | 1928
Edificio Menéndez Behety | A. Prins | 1926

At the corner of Peña and Florida, make sure to pause and take in what is one of the most architecturally iconic intersections in the city. Starting from the northeast corner and moving clockwise you’ll find the neo-Plateresque Edificio First National Bank Of Boston, the Art Deco La Equitativa del Plata, the Edificio Miguel Bencich and the Edificio Eclectic Bencich (both in eclectic styles).

Clockwise Bottom Right: Edificio Eclectic Bencich (E. Le Monnier, 1927) | Edificio First National Bank Of Boston (P. Chambers & L. Thomas, 1928) | La Equitativa del Plata (A. Virasoro, 1929 | Edificio Miguel Bencich (E. Le Monnier, 1927)

From here you can head north on Calle Florida to continue with the main route or head off on either of two short detours. The first detour takes you south on Florida to the intersection with Av. Rivadavia (50 m) where you’ll find the neo-Gothic Casa Escasany. As you return to Peña you’ll note the Beaux-Arts Casa Mappin & Webb (above an HSBC).

In the second detour, continue northwest on Peña to the intersection with Calle Maipú (approx. 150m), where you’ll find the Venetian neo-Gothic Banco Comafi (southeast corner) and the eclectic Hotel 725 Continental (northwest corner). Return to Calle Florida and continue with the main route.

Continuing with the main route, enter the pedestrian walking street of Calle Florida heading north. Almost immediately you will come to the intersection with Bartolomé Mitre. Take a right, passing the Art Deco former headquarters of the Banco El Hogar Argentino on your left followed by the neoclassical Edificio Tornquist.

At the intersection of Bartolomé Mitre and San Martín you will arrive at two buildings of note: the Art Deco Citibank Building (southwest corner) and the “racionalismo”-style Banco Provincia Casa Central. Take a left, heading north on San Martín – continuing to appreciate the architectural detail of the Banco Provincia until you arrive at the eclectic Galeria Güemes on your left (just past the Peruvian embassy; look for the Starbucks). Enter Galeria Güemes, passing through the exquisite art nouveau interior on your way back to Calle Florida. [Note: for a fee, there is also the opportunity to take the lift to the 14th floor to see a panoramic view of the area].

Galeria Güemes | F. Gianotti | 1915

Continue north on Calle Florida. At the intersection with Perón, you’ll arrive at the Beaux-Arts Gath & Chaves Building (southwest corner) as well as the former headquarters of Banco Popular (northeast corner; now an HSBC). On the next block between Perón and Sarmiento take note of the Art Nouveau Edificio Lutz Fernando (about half-way on your left) as well as the Art Deco Gran Cinema Florida just opposite on your right.

Arriving at the intersection with Sarmiento, you can either continue north along Florida toward Plaza San Martín or use this opportunity to pause for lunch and/or a drink at one of the “Café Notables” located just 50 meters west on Sarmiento. If hungry, I’d strongly recommend going to Café Paulin – a place teeming with charm – and trying one of their obscenely large sandwiches. Just next door, you’ll find the opulent and historically well-preserved New Brighton Bar. Both are well worth a visit.

Making your way further north on Florida, you’ll find the Art Nouveau El Ateneo located about half-way up the block between Sarmiento and Avenida Corrientes. Just opposite this is the neo-plateresque Galeria Mitre. Arriving at Corrientes, make sure to appreciate the neo-Gothic Palacio Elortondo Alvear located on the southwest corner.

After Corrientes, the next building of note will be the Beaux-Arts Peña Residence. Continue for a further 3 blocks where you’ll find the Galerias Pacifico located between Viamonte and Av. Córdoba, which functions as a large shopping mall and also houses the Centro Cultural Borges (also in the Beaux-Arts style). Opposite this, on the northeast corner of Florida and Córdoba, pause to appreciate the impressive Beaux-Arts Centro Naval.

Centro Naval | J. Dunant & G. Mallet | 1914

As you continue on Calle Florida, you’ll soon arrive at the lovely French-inspired Plaza San Martin in the neighborhood of Retiro. The entire plaza is surrounded by a wealth of architecture and deserves considerable attention. Not to be missed is the dominating art deco Edificio Kavanagh directly in front of you as you exit Calle Florida on the eastern side of the Plaza. Once the tallest building in South America, this skyscraper is an absolute masterpiece and of great architectural importance. Given its strong influence from cubism, it is advised that you take time viewing the structure from different angles (as one might a sculpture) in order to take in the entirety of its brilliance. In the process, you will come the neo-Gothic/neo-Romanesque Basílica Santísimo Sacramento located behind Edificio Kavanagh on Calle San Martín.

Work your way back to the southern side of the Plaza to get a proper view of the stately neo-Gothic Palacio Haedo and Beaux-Arts Palacio Paz.

Palacio Haedo | 1870s
Palacio Paz | Louis-Marie Henri Sortais | 1914

On the northern end you’ll find the Beaux-Arts Palacio San Martin (possibly the finest Beaux-Arts structure in the city, in my opinion), which now houses the Foreign Ministry. Tours are possible but limited. (Check ahead to see about times and reservations). Before heading on, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to an ice cream at Rapanui on the southeast corner of Av. Sante Fe opposite the imposing statue of General San Martin.

This marks the end of the main route. For those with just a little bit more energy and desire, you have the option of heading north through the park until you reach Avenida del Libertador. Opposite, you’ll see the Torre Monumental, built in the Palladian style. It’s a minor annoyance, but you might consider crossing the avenue and going into the pleasant Edwardian-style Retiro-Mitre train station across from the Torre.

Torre Monumental & Retiro-Mitre Station

You’ve now completed the second in this four part series of Buenos Aires architectural tours. Congratulations! Now go get some more ice cream. You know you want to.