Buenos Aires is a city of neighborhoods, each with its distinct character. The central part of the city, including the plaza around which it was founded and the cities main commercial streets, blend some of the city’s historical past, with its bustling present.
Plaza de Mayo
This lovely square, which is the city’s historic center and its original downtown, is home of many of the country’s, as well as the city’s primary governmental, economic and religious institutions. These include:
- Casa Rosada is the home of the country’s executive branch;
- Palacio Municipal houses the city hall and the Cabildo, the town council;
- Cathedral Metropolitana is the city and the country’s religious “Capitol”;
- Banco de la Nacion is the home of Argentina’s central bank.
It is also one of the city’s prettiest squares and the gravitational center from which many of the city and the country’s other activities radiate:
- The financial district, La City, is just north of the plaza;
- The country’s largest newspaper was, until recently, located immediately west of the plaza in the Palacio La Prensa;
- Avenida de Mayo, which flows west from of the plaza, is both the city’s primary commercial and entertainment district, directly links the country’s executive and legislative branches by leading to Congreso Nacional;
- The city’s traditional port and dock area, since renovated into the high-end Puerto Madera office, retail and yachting development, is just to the east of the plaza;
- The city’s first residential areas, in the form of the so-called Enlightenment Block and the San Telmo neighborhood, flow to the south; and
- Many of the city’s oldest, most historic buildings and religious sites are located in and very close to the plaza.
The central city contains more than the Plaza and more than history, government, business and religion.
Central Commercial, Social, Cultural and Natural Sites
Avenida de Mayo, the city’s main commercial street, is also one of its primary social and cultural venues, stretching from Plaza de May to the Congreso Nacional, home of Argentina’s legislature. It, for example, houses live theater and a number of the movie theaters that show Argentinian, European and other art films. (Popular, commercial American films, as discussed in the Buenos Aries Northern Quarter blog, along with American chain stores, tend to concentrate primarily around Avenida Santa Fe.) Avenida de Mayo is also a primary social center, with its particularly dense concentration of restaurants and cafes (as exemplified by the ever-popular Cafe Tortoni) The nearby Avenida Corrientes, which runs parallel, is effectively, a commercial, social and cultural extension to Avenida de Mayo. These streets, as with streets throughout the city, are loaded with book stores, flower stands, pastry shops and public art, as well as cafes and restaurants.
Meanwhile, Avenida Florida, which runs north from La City, is pedestrian mall that serves as the central district’s primary shopping street.
And speaking of streets, there is the grand-daddy of them all–Avenida 9 de Juliowhich, at 18 lanes and 140 meters (460 feet) in sixth, is reputedly the widest street in the world It populated with suitably sized buildings, signs and monuments, especially the Obelisco and the 10 story-tall steel images of Evita on two sides of the 93-meter Ministry of Health tower, one of the tallest in the country.
One block north of the Obelisco is the city’s true cultural center–the magnificent Teatro Colon. This opera house, which was completed in 1908, after the untimely deaths of its first two architects, was funded primarily by a group of wealthy citizens who were intent on establishing Buenos Aries as a global cultural center. As we discovered in a beautiful and fascinating tour of the structure, we leaned, how, in an effort to replicate European culture, was modeled after European opera houses, was designed and built by European architects and craftsmen, and constructed primarily from European marble.
And, not content just to match European theaters, the made it the largest in the world, accommodating up to 4,000 people,
The Central District also provides some access to nature. While the area is practically devoid of parks and open spaces, the city has reserved a large swath of land, east of Puerto Madero, for use as open green space and ecological preserve. Reserva Ecological del Sur contains trails, lakes, and esplanade and a number of species of birds and mammals.