Related: Architectural Styles of Buenos Aires
Related: Avenida de Mayo Walking Tour
Related: Corrientes & Santa Fe Walking Tour
Buenos Aires is often referred to as the “Paris of South America”. On this walking tour, you will discover why.
Guiding you from the Retiro-Mitre Train Station to the Recoleta Cemetery you will be introduced to some of the city’s finest Beaux-Arts structures, erected during the city’s Belle Epoque when urban planners sought to model the city in the image of Paris (and the ideals espoused by the French Republic).
The map below outlines the route of this walking tour. Buildings of architectural significance are specified by the map’s blue icons, with information on style, architect and year of construction available by clicking on the associated icon. Recommended locations to pause for a drink and/or food are referenced using red icons. (See the related article on Buenos Aires’ historic “Café Notables” for further information). Additional walking tours for different parts of the city are also provided in the main article.
The walk from Retiro-Mitre Station to the Recoleta Cemetery covers 2.7 km, making it possible to complete in only a few hours depending on the pace at which you go and the extent to which you plan on exploring the cemetery. An extension of the tour is also provided, though this would add an additional 3.0 km to the total walking distance.
[Note that while the walking tour is presented as beginning at Retiro-Mitre Station (or Plaza San Martín), it can easily be done in reverse. Please also note that this tour does not account for the time needed to properly explore the Recoleta Cemetery. Given its size and density, at least a few hours are likely needed to properly explore the cemetery, making it perhaps best visited on a separate excursion].
Main Route (⟺): Retiro-Mitre Station to Recoleta Cemetery
▷Total Distance: 2.7 km
▷Highlights: Torre Mihanovich, Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernández Blanco, Palacio Fernandez Anchorena, Recoleta Cemetery
Extension (⟺): Recoleta Extension
▷Total Distance: 3.0 km
▷Highlights: Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno, Automóvil Club Argentino, Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, Floralis Genérica
This tour begins at the Retiro-Mitre Train station. From here you can either (1) appreciate the buildings around Plaza San Martin listed in the second walking tour if you haven’t done so already; or (2) head west on Avenida del Libertador for one block before taking your first left at Calle Basabilbaso. Approximately 30 meters on your right you’ll come to the Art Deco building at Basabilbaso 1378.
Take your next right on Calle Juncal and proceed to the corner of Calle Esmerelda where you’ll find the Palacio Estrugamou. Finished in 1929, this late period example of Beaux-Arts is somewhat unique, with its 8-stories making it a notably larger edifice than those commonly observed in earlier applications of the style. This notwithstanding, it maintains many of the characteristics common to Beaux Arts: symmetry, a clear hierarchy of space, neoclassical columns, a rusticated base and a mansard roof combine to create an imposing sense of elegance and gravity to the building.
At the Palacio Estrugamou, turn right on Esmerelda and then left onto Calle Arroyo. Roughly 90 meters on your right you’ll encounter one of the finer examples of Art Deco in the city: the Torre Mihanovich (now a Sofitel). (If time allows, try to head into the lobby in order to sample the building’s well-preserved interior).
As you continue further west on Arroyo, you have the option of taking your next right onto Suipacha where you will be treated to arguably the finest example neo-Spanish Colonial Architecture in Buenos Aires: the Palacio Noel (now the Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernandez Blanco). (Entry into the splendid courtyard is permitted without the need to purchase a ticket). From here, the tour continues further along Arroyo to Avenida 9 de Julio, where you will pass the eclectic structure at Arroyo 999 (on the northeast corner with Carlos Pellegrini) that combines elements of Beaux-Arts and Art Nouveau.
As you cross Avenida 9 de Julio, Arroyo becomes Avenida Alvear – the street with arguably the finest concentration of Beaux-Arts architecture in the city. This becomes immediately apparent as you will find the Palacio Ortiz Basualdo (now the French Embassy) greeting you on your left, followed by the Palacio Pereda (now the Brazilian Embassy, also on the left) and Palacio Unzue Casares (Jockey Club, on your right). A short detour down Calle Cerrito provides a brief respite from this concentration of Beaux-Arts by bringing you to the Edwardian-style Mansión Alzaga Unzué.
Continuing along Av. Alvear, the next cluster of notable architecture can be found on the block after the intersection with Calle Montevideo. Here, immediately on your right, you will notice the wonderful Beaux-Arts style Palacio Fernandez Anchorena (now the Vatican Embassy), possessing all the classic elements of Beaux-Arts: symmetry, subtle polychromy, ornamental cornices, a rusticated base and ornamentation around windows. Most striking, however, is the curved base, which – quite fittingly – invokes imagery of the Doric colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica.
This is followed immediately by the Beaux-Arts Palacio Duhau (now the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, also on your right). Two late-Victorian structures designed by the same architect then await you on the corner with Calle Rodríguez Peña: Residencia Maguire (right) and Palacio Casey.
The next block of Alvear brings you to one of the area’s few examples of Art Nouveau – the Residencia Llobet (French-style) – located shortly before the intersection with Avenida Callao on your left. From here, cross Callao and continue on towards the Cemetery, passing the Alvear Palace Hotel on your right (which is worth entering and offers access to an upscale “Café Notable” where you can treat yourself to a sumptuous serving of afternoon tea should the mood strike you).
Avenida Alvear ends at the green expanse marked by Plaza Intendente Torcuato de Alvear, where you will find the Colonial-style Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Recoleta Cemetery and Centro Cultural Recoleta.
This marks the end of the main walking tour. From here you a have a number of options. In addition to exploring the Cemetery, you can relax in the adjoining green spaces or pause for ice cream, coffee, drinks or food at any of the nearby establishments located nearby. One particularly good option for those finding themselves in the Plaza at dusk is Buller Bar, which has a rooftop terrace offering phenomenal views overlooking the Cemetery (note: the terrace is often closed during the day and may be only accessible as dusk approaches). There is also the option of visiting the Centro Cultural Recoleta (free entry) and enjoying its art exhibits, ping-pong tables and comfortable seating. If visiting on the weekend, you will also find a large selection of booths set up across the plaza selling handcrafted goods, souvenirs and snacks.
For those who have a continued appetite for architecture, there is also the option to continue with the walking tour and follow the suggested Extension that takes you further into Recoleta. In this case, head southwest from the cemetery entrance and take a right onto Calle Vincente López. Take your next left on Presidente José Evaristo Uriburu, followed by your first right on Avenida General Las Heras. At the next intersection you’ll come to the Faculty of Engineering associated with the Universidad de Buenos Aires. This is a rare example of neo-Gothic architecture and one of the city’s few non-religious buildings constructed in this style.
The tour continues by taking a right on Calle Azcuénaga, followed by a left on Calle Guido. As you cross Calle Dr. Luis Agote you will ascend a set of stairs on Guido, which will bring you to the Edwardian-style British Embassy.
Walk further, past the opulent Beaux-Arts style buildings that coalesce around the Plaza Gelly y Obes, until the end of Guido leads you to another staircase that ascends to the Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno. While not everyone’s favorite, this is one of the world’s finer remaining examples of Brutalism and worth entering to explore the unique architectural aspects of its interior (while also providing a good opportunity to make use of the public bathrooms).
Head across the library grounds and onto Calle José León Pagano. As you cross the intersection with Calle Tagle you will encounter the wonderful example of Argentine “racionalismo” on your right: the headquarters for the Automóvil Club Argentino.
Turn right onto Calle Pereyra Lucena and take note of the fine Beaux-Arts Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo located on your left. At Avenida del Libertador, turn right to bring you past the front entrance of the Automóvil Club Argentino make your way back towards the direction of the Cemetery.
As you arrive at the corner of Calle Austria, you will find the Plaza Eva Peron, which is flanked by Plaza Mitre and the Biblioteca Nacional. Take a moment to appreciate the series of monuments before crossing to the opposite side of Avenida Libertador and making your way to the Floralis Genérica.
One of the more popular landmarks in all of Buenos Aires, the Floralis Genérica was initially designed to open and close its petals with the arrival and departure of the sun. Its mismanaged assembly, however, subsequently led officials to disable this feature and leave it permanently in the open position. In a way, the monument today serves as a metaphor for the modern Argentine state: its once bright future and impressive stature undermined by government mismanagement.
As you leave the Floralis Generica, head southeast and past the neoclassical Faculdad de Derecho (law school) of the Universidad Buenos Aires. Cross back over Avenida Libertador street, passing the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes on your right and make your way back to the Centro Cultural Recoleta.
Congratulations! You have completed the third walking tour. Relax with a drink at one of the nearby bars and give those feet a well-deserved rest.