A Condor’s feeding ground; the Palacio del Congreso.
With a design based on Berlin’s Reichstag or Washington’s US Capitol building depending on which travel writer you believe, the Palacio del Congreso is hungrily surveyed by a condor on the Monumento a los Dos Congresos in the middle of the Plaza del Congreso.
Free tours in various languages are available Monday-Friday at 11am.
Buenos Aires, what to see and do
The third largest city in South America, BA is not a place for grand sights or world famous buildings, it’s more about the little urban experiences such as stumbling across a passionate tango display in the street (watched with as much appreciation, if not more, by locals as tourists), catching the purple jacaranda blooms in November, enjoying the occasional graphics and murals, trying not to notice tongue-entwined lovers on a bench while strolling a landscaped park, shopping for high quality local goods at very low prices, eating out at one of BA’s sophisticated restaurants for the price you would pay for breakfast in Paris and starting to party at 3 a. m.
Cafés and Restaurants
Drinks in Café Tortoni, Microcentro, Buenos Aires.
Café Tortoni has been in business since 1858 and is Argentina’s oldest traditional café.
Still popular with just about everybody from tourists to bohemians, it’s a must-try for a drink at least, or, even better chocolate con churros for breakfast, but the dinner and tango show event in the back room is good value too and in an appropriate atmosphere.
Those who are keen to avoid cheap pizzas or massive chunks of dead animal will find they can easily afford to dine at one of many foreign restaurants where the cuisine is modern, vegetarian is not a dirty word and an excellent dinner will cost the same as breakfast in Paris.
Porteños eat late so getting a table at 8pm-9pm should be no problem. Before that time only cheap eats may be available.
Argentinian food basically means meat, huge portions of freshly killed cow grilled to perfection and eaten in digestion-challeging mass, or as a snack sandwich (lomito).
Steaks are superb so BA is perfect for confirmed carnivores, but what else is on offer?
Cheap eats tend towards good pizzas, terrible pastas, ham and cheese sandwiches, various quality stuffed pies (empanadas) or fast food, but for those who can spare a few pesos more, Buenos Aires is home to a mass of superb foreign restaurants that deliver all kinds of cuisine – including vegetarian (e. g. Spanish tapas, Japanese, Thai, Middle-Eastern) – that anyone holding dollars/euros can easily afford.
Travellers who enjoy meat, drinking and late-night revelry – serious partying starts in this city at 3am – in an urban setting at a very low cost, with regular doses of soccer and cheap travel will find BA very attractive, even if the subway trains/metro /tube does close down from 11pm to 6pm. But taxis are plentiful and cheap and many porteños party all night anyway, tubing back in the morning.
Argentina’s population in 2013 was 42. 6 million, with about a third of those living in greater Buenos Aires and 3 million in the centre, the capital district.
The people are 85% from European stock which makes it easy for Anglo-Saxon travellers to slip into the background in order to reduce the chance of being targeted by thieves. Just keep the valuables out of sight and Argentinians will be asking you for directions in no time.
With a literacy rate of 95% and a keen interest in the world as well as local current events, local people are knowledgeable and keen talkers once you get past the stony city face, with soccer, rugby or politics as a natural starting point for a lengthy conversation, but remember that a pleasant greetings is a vital start.
Buenos Aires Safety
The most common crimes in BA are distraction theft, bag snatching and armed robberies. Take particular care on public transport and in the tourist areas of San Telmo, La Boca and Retiro and keep a close eye on your possessions at all times. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or wearing jewellery. Avoid isolated or poorly lit areas at night.
Con-men have been known to rob tourists while an accomplice pretends to help remove ketchup or mustard that has been ‘accidentally’ sprayed on them. Another common tactic is slitting handbags in crowded places and snatching mobile phones while they are being used.
Passport thefts are common especially in Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Leave your passport in a hotel safe or security box and keep a photocopy of the details page with you at all times.
If possible, book taxis in advance. If you hail a taxi in the street, only use a ‘radio taxi’. These have a clearly visible company logo on the rear passenger doors. If you are being met at the airport and you don’t know your greeter, confirm their identity before setting off. Alternatively use a ‘remise’ service from the official stand in the centre of the arrivals concourse.