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Buenos Aires - Argentina
Clearly defined in the popular tango — "Buenos Aires, la reina de la Plata" — Buenos Aires is the Silver Queen. Along the banks of the Río de la Plata, the city spreads out its eclectic culture of art, music and incomparable nightlife. Buenos Aires was born with its eyes looking toward Europe, and as a result, it displays a touch of Madrid and a touch of Paris. Some assert this mix of styles surpasses the originals. However, the city does reveal its own stamp as well: the tango districts, the ubiquitous colectivo buses, the magic of the coffeehouses, and above all, the dynamism of the proud inhabitants, the Porteños. In this city, there are the poor areas, the large accordians, the spirit of the tango and deeply-entrenched folklore throughout the place. The passage of time has brought urbanism, the avant-garde and tourism which has been caught up by the enchantment of a country that is capable of creating new scenes.
Tourists favor this picturesque district for its rich history and vibrant colors: greens, yellows, reds and purples highlight the urban scenery. Genoese immigrants chose these colors for their classic conventillos or tenements. These colors also dominate the works of the painter Benito Quinquela Martín, who immortalized his beloved barrio. In La Boca, you can eat lunch in a picturesque cantina while enjoying a fine tango show. Other attractions of the district include the exhibitions organized by the Proa Foundation, and the Museo de Cera or wax museum. Up the street in the so-called Vuelta de Rocha area, one will encounter Caminito, the famous street that inspired the popular tango song of the same name. Every weekend Caminito hosts a craft fair where you can purchase anything from a painting to a typical Argentine mate drinking gourd. Also in the area is the soccer stadium, Bombonera, which is home to one of Argentina's finest soccer clubs, Boca Juniors.
Continuing down the riverbank, we find the recently transformed district of Puerto Madero. In this renewed space and social scene, Porteños have found yet another excuse to celebrate life and dine with friends in the innumerable restaurants, cafes and discos that populate this fantastic sector by the river.
Prior to its official inauguration in September of 1998, this section of the port had fallen into disrepair. Today, luxurious restaurants, offices and movie theaters have replaced the ancient brick silos, making this the city's most exclusive district, preferred by tourists and business travelers. All the streets of Puerto Madero carry the names of women. The Boulevard Azucena Villaflor directly connects the city to the river. Every Saturday and Sunday, another street, Calle Vera Peñaloza becomes a pedestrian-only zone, where the public can skate, ride bicycles or stroll. Nearby one will find the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, a natural oasis in the heart of the concrete jungle.
This district preserves colonial-style houses along narrow cobblestone lanes, illuminated with pretty wrought iron lanterns. In San Telmo, one breathes the history of Buenos Aires. Visit the church of Santo Domingo or investigate the city's cultural heritage in the City Museum.
The Bohemian character of the district flourishes every weekend at the antique fair held in Plaza Dorrego and the picturesque cafés that surround it. There, one can buy anything from an antique wedding dress to a 1900 table setting, or one can enjoy the improvisations of the street performers. Also worth visiting are the Pasaje de la Defensa, an 1880 mansion converted into a commercial gallery, and the picturesque street Balcarce with its concentration of bars, restaurants and tango houses.
This is another historic district, where evidence of Buenos Aires' past surprises visitors at every turn. In colonial times, Monserrat was the political, economic, social and cultural center of the city. Here, the Porteños defended themselves against English invasions. One can still experience history in Monserrat today just by visiting a few of the buildings, streets and underground tunnels that traverse the district. Take a stroll through Manzana de las Luces, contemplate the architecture of the Iglesia de San Ignacio and pass by the Cabildo de Luján. Then take a rest in the historic Plaza de Mayo. Another option is to sit down for coffee in one of the many cafés. The more restless can learn the two-four rhythm in a tanguería.
Without a doubt, this is the city's most elegant district. The opulence of the houses and manors symbolizes the splendor of the Argentine aristocracy. The area is a meeting point for tourists and locals with an interest in international design and aesthetics.
During the day, take a stroll through the gardens of Plaza Francia, which fills each weekend with dancers, living statues, street artists and astrologers with the future in their hands. A world of possibilities can be found at the adjacent Buenos Aires Design, the traveler can find souvenirs and a plethora of fine restaurants. Other areas of interest located around Plaza Francia include the Centro Cultural Recoleta, the Palais de Glace, and the famous "City of the Dead."
During the middle of the 19th Century, this was the summer home of many local families. Today, it contains much of the city's social and cultural activity. Attractions include the Museo Histórico Sarmiento, the Museo Casa de Yrurtia and the Museo de Arte Español ¨Enrique Larreta¨. And for those who prefer outdoor activities, there is the Barrancas de Belgrano, four hectares (ten acres) of undulating ground where one can sunbathe, jog or enjoy the dog show provided by the dog walkers.
Belgrano is one of the busiest, most dynamic areas of the city, with people coming and going by train, bus and subway, and with bars, cafes and kiosks everywhere. If you want to shop, Belgrano is a paradise for the modern consumer. Cabildo gives the impression of an authentic open-air market street. Chinatown is one of the area's newest attractions. In addition to the typical Chinese restaurants, there is a Buddhist monastery, and every February there's a celebration of the Chinese New Year.
In Palermo, there is something for everyone. Here some of Buenos Aires' most expensive restaurants intermix with the bars of the Feria Plaza Serrano. On weekends, the Palermo Woods and Rose Garden are ideal spots for walking, playing soccer, and for boat rides. Other nearby attractions include the Jardín Zoológico, the Galileo Galilei Planetarium and the tea offered in the impeccable Japanese gardens.