10. Buenos Aires Has an (Un)official Tea Time
The British had a strong influence in Argentina, including giving the country its traditional afternoon teatime. In Buenos Aires, it’s simply called té (tea) or merienda (snack). It includes tea, coffee or mate—a hot beverage made from a native plant called yerba mate—accompanied by toast, small sandwiches or medialunas, or an alfajor, a small cake filled with dulce de leche. The afternoon meal break is a great way to tide oneself over while waiting for Buenos Aires’ traditionally late dinner hour. The Alvear Palace Hotel has one of the most elegant afternoon teas in the city, as does the traditional Cafe Tortoni on Avenida de Mayo.
9. Tango Originated in Buenos Aires’ Brothels
Declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, tango might seem all high-class and elegance, but its origins are anything but. The dance originated in the mid-1800s in bordellos and other spaces in Buenos Aires’ formerly poor port areas like San Telmo, La Boca and Barracas, where recent immigrants, former slaves and others on the edge of society mingled. Only around the 1910s, when famous crooners like Carlos Gardel brought the music to Paris, did Argentina’s high society embrace the dance. Today, visitors can enjoy watching professionals at places like Esquina Carlos Gardel or Rojo Tango in the Faena Hotel, or head to Salon Canning, where they can try it out for themselves. Visitors can also visit the home of tango legend Carlos Gardel, which has been converted into the Museo Casa Carlos Gardel, housing a tango library and an exhibition about his life and career.
8. Most Bookstores Per Capita of any City in the World
If your clients love books, they’ll love Buenos Aires. According to a 2015 World Cities Cultural Forum report, the Argentinean capital has more bookshops per capita (25 for every 100,000 people) than any other city in the world. Bookstores line two of the most famous avenues, Corrientes in the Theater District, and Santa Fe, including the beautiful El Ateneo Grand Splendid (pictured), a bookstore built into an old theater. The city is home to over 800 bookstores and thousands of kiosks selling affordable paperbacks throughout the city, from San Telmo for used and antique books, to Palermo Viejo, a favorite neighborhood of one of Argentina’s greatest writers, Jorge Luis Borges.
7. Renowned Cemeteries
To be one of the fortunate dead who spend eternity in a garden of magnificent hand-carved stone mini-mansions is one of the privileges of the rich and powerful of Buenos Aires. Recoleta Cemetery (pictured) is a large 4-block cemetery opened in 1822, famous as the last resting place of First Lady Maria Eva Duarte de Peron, better known to the world as Evita. Wander among the tombs, many covered in exquisite statuary, the final homes to many of the former presidents and generals of Argentina, whose names also appear on the streets throughout Buenos Aires.
6. The Widest Avenue in the World
One of the most remarkable sites in Buenos Aires is Avenida 9 de Julio, or July 9th (pictured), named for the day in 1816 when Argentina won its independence from Spain. Among the widest thoroughfares in the world, the avenue crosses Buenos Aires from south to north, with the Obelisk its most prominent landmark. Planned since 1888 as part of the city’s redesign to more closely resemble Paris, it was not begun until the 1930s, reaching its current width of 12 lanes (six in each direction) in the 1960s.
5. The Largest Japanese Garden Outside Japan
Tucked amid the Palermo parks complex between Libertador and Alcorta avenues, along Casares Ave, Buenos Aires’ Japanese Gardens opened in the late 1960s in honor of the visit of a Japanese prince. With its ornamental landscaping, Japanese lighthouse and red bridges, it feels like entering a secret world. The Gardens play host to numerous Asian festivals, and they are home to a community center and tea house.
4. Oldest Metro System in Latin America
Opened in 1913, the Buenos Aires’ underground, called “El Subte,” is the oldest metro system in Latin America, and the fourth oldest in the Americas, after New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Its first line, the A line, connected the Presidential Palace, or Casa Rosada, with the Congress, running under Avenida de Mayo. This historic line is beautifully ornamented, with some stations having mini-displays on the history of the subway. Many stations are also a beautiful riot of colored tile, from Moorish designs to funky 1970s patterns. The newest line is the H, which also has the only subway station in the world named for a LGBT civil rights figure, Carlos Jauregui, at the corner of Sante Fe and Pueyrredon Avenues.
3. The First Latin American City to Allow Gay Civil Unions
Buenos Aires has long been a progressive city, and in 2002, legislation was passed making it the first city in Latin America to allow for civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Already a breakthrough for the region, this was only enhanced when in July of 2010, same-sex marriage became the law of the land in Argentina, ahead of the United States and many other countries.
2. Streets are Named for Women in History
The central monument in the Puerto Madero neighborhood is the Puente de la Mujer (pictured), or the Bridge of the Woman, designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, and meant to evoke a man and a woman embracing. The pedestrian bridge is a favorite kissing spot, especially when the sun sets. It’s also fitting that a bridge honoring the female half of the world is in a neighborhood where most of its streets are named for important women in Argentine history, like Alicia Moreau de Justo, the wife of Argentine political leader and writer Juan B. Justo (who has his own street in Palermo). Among her many accomplishments, she was the co-founder of the Union Feminista Nacional in 1920.
1. The City with the Most Soccer Stadiums
No city has a bigger passion for futbol, or soccer, than Buenos Aires. It is evident in the love people show for their teams, and in the fact that Buenos Aires has more soccer stadiums than any other city in the world. The most famous one is La Bombonera, “the candy dish,” home to Boca Juniors, the team that made Diego Maradona a star in the 1980s. One way to see many of Buenos Aires’ stadiums is on the Futboleros Barrio Tour. The tour gives information on 13 popular soccer neighborhoods, with visits to some of the stadiums, and starts at Tourist Hub in Plaza Correos, in front of the Centro Cultural Kirchner.