Buenos Aires is commonly called the "Paris of Latin America," due to the ubiquity of Art Nouveau and other classic French style buildings in many areas of the city. Besides this, the city is home to an eclectic, original, and distinguished collection of architectural pieces ranging from colonial to classic to modern styles that are a testament of the cultural heritage brought by the colonizers and immigrants of Buenos Aires.
Our explorations will start at the financial center, commonly referred to as "Microcentro." We will walk here for about half an hour appreciating architectural pieces with classic French and Italian influences. First you’ll see buildings whose designs were inspired by the romantic belle époque era, before we make our way to one of the most original and bold manifestations of architecture in Buenos Aires: Banco Hipotecario (Mortgage Bank). This architectural gem is an example of brutalist architecture, a style of building that is known for not being the prettiest…! This abstruse rectangular structure designed with reinforced concrete was built in the ’60s and is one of the most unique buildings in the city. As you admire the imposing concrete building you’ll be left wondering whether it is a beautiful piece of art or an eyesore!
Next we’ll drive to the Avenida de Mayo (May Avenue). Often compared to La Gran Via in Madrid (Spain), this sophisticated neighborhood is famous for its varying architectural styles.
We will walk for one block, noticing the Neoclassical and Art Nouveau-style buildings that line the street. One building you will certainly notice is the former headquarters of La Prensa Newspaper. This large and imposing building is also known as the Casa de la Cultura (the Buenos Aires House of Culture), and was declared a National Historic Monument in 1995. If you look up high you’ll be able to see a distinct feature, the spire on top of the building which is a gilt bronze monument dedicated to the freedom of the press.
Then we will come to the famous Café Tortoni, Argentina’s first and arguably most chic café, founded in 1858. This cultural café was named after the Parisian café Tartoni and there is a strong French influence in its design. Historically the café is where many of Buenos Aires’ famous personalities met to discuss and partake in cultural activities. It has been a favourite haunt of tango singing sensation Carlos Gardel, and also of Argentina’s most celebrated writer: Jorge Luis Borges. Even international personalities like Albert Einstein enjoyed a coffee in this emblematic café.
As we continue along the diverse Avenida de Mayo we’ll come across the Barolo Palace. This commanding structure illustrates and pays tribute to the "Divine Comedy" written by Dante Alighieri. Its architect, Mario Palanti, was a scholar of the Divine Comedy and filled the palace with references to it. The general building (as in the Divine Comedy) is divided into three parts: Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. This building shows a unique architectural style, mingling the neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic appearance, followed by the dome with its original Hindu design dedicated to love and symbolizing the union of Dante with his beloved Beatrice. The care in the details gives the palace a unique sense of character that gives it a story all its own.
Another prominent building on the avenue is the Palace of the National Congress. This white-marble, neoclassical building is the seat of the National Congress of Argentina and has always been a central spot of political life in Argentina.
As we reach the corner of the Avenida de Mayo, you will see the Hotel Chile, a building that is one of the best surviving examples of the Art Nouveau style in Buenos Aires. We’ll also pass the former headquarters of the Critica Newspaper, a prominent example of Art Deco architecture.
We will then walk along Belgrano Avenue, stopping briefly to admire the Otto Wulf Building that is built in the Jugendstil style, a German version of Art Nouveau. It was built between 1912 and 1914 by commission of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s ambassador to hold its embassy and office, which were not needed just a few years later, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved at the end of World War I! The building has 8 human figures that appear to be holding the building on their backs, and each has a different face which corresponds to the workers involved in the building’s design and construction, including its architect.
This tour ends in the postmodern area of Puerto Madero, the newest and probably the most upscale neighborhood in Buenos Aires. It was built on and around the remains of a practically abandoned port in Buenos Aires, and every street in Puerto Madero is named after an important woman in Argentine history. Once in the area, we’ll stop at the Faena Hotel, a trendy and chic hotel built in a converted warehouse. You’ll also be able to see the Puente de la Mujer (Women’s Bridge), which is famous for its unusual and asymmetrical construction. Designed by the living legend Santiago Calatrava, it encapsulates the true spirit of Buenos Aires, as it’s made to look like a couple dancing the Tango!
We’ll then drive along Juana Manso Avenue before stopping for our final short walk. First we’ll see the Fortabat Museum, a distinct 2-storey modernist building that overlooks the Puerto Madero canal. The most fascinating thing about this building is its mobile roof which opens and closes depending on the sun’s position. It’s said that the woman who initiated the building of the museum, Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, wanted to look at the pictures and gaze at the stars at the same time.
During this short walk you will also get a great view of the Catalinas towers, the Yacht Club, and the old brick storehouses that are a distinguishing feature of Puerto Madero.
It is here that your fascinating half day of architecture sighting comes to an end!
Important: although the tour focuses on façades, when possible we will enter some of the buildings to see distinctive features (La Prensa Building, Barolo Palace, Faena Hotel and, depending on the time, a few of the banks too).
Since you’ll be doing this tour with your own private vehicle and guide, you’ll be able to enjoy each attraction at your own pace; making all of the stops you want while enjoying personalized assistance and care from your expert guide. You’ll also enjoy more convenient and faster transfers from and to your hotel, as there will be no other travelers to pick up or drop off at other hotels.
The tour’s exact itinerary and highlights may change subject to decisions of the tour guide to optimize your tour experience.