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    Spirit of the city: Buenos Aires

    What to see

    Plaza de Mayo

    Plaza de Mayo is surrounded by some of the city’s most important buildings, including the main cathedral and the prime ministerial residence. Throughout history, the square has seen protests, fiery propaganda and other civil movements. The Pirámide de Mayo monument in the center of the square was built to celebrate the anniversary of the May Revolution which saw Buenos Aires shake free from Spanish control. To the north of the square you’ll find the national bank, Banco de la Nación, which was designed in 1939 by the famous Argentine architect Alejandro Bustillo.

    La Boca

    The name La Boca literally translates as “The Mouth”, and it’s because the district sits on the mouth of the Riachuelo River that it was given this name. La Boca has a real international feel, particularly because many living there have their roots in Spain and Italy, and the district is a favorite with bohemian artists, tango dancers, the working class and football fans. You can get to see the district fairly quickly if you plan your route – Casa Amarilla, Ghost Tower, Banchero Pizzaria, the old bridge Puente Transbordador, Teatro de la Ribera and the Benito Quinquela Martin Fine arts Museum should all be on your list of places to see in La Boca. And of course, Caminito Alley is the birthplace of tango, so be sure you spend some time here, as you’ll be likely to catch live dance performances.

    The Pink House

    It’s as if the Pink House (Casa Rosada) has its back turned to the Plaza de Mayo, with the main entrance of the building on the other side of the square, but it’s balconies are certainly well known for the rousing speeches they’ve staged. It’s from the balconies at the rear of the building, looking out on to Plaza de Mayo, that politicians and leaders such as Tarihte Juan, Eva Peron, General Leopoldo Galtieri and Raul Alfonsin have addressed the people. When she was portraying Eva Peron in the film Evita, even Madonna stood on that very balcony. The pink of the building really comes alive on sunny days, and it’s been this color since the rule of Sarmiento between 1868 and 1874.  The palace itself was closed during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983, but is now open to visitors. You can take advantage of the free 30-minute tours on offer, and take a glimpse back into Argentina’s history.

    La Recoleta Cemetery

    La Recoleta Cemetery (Cementerio de la Recoleta) is certainly one of the most important stops on a tour of Buenos Aires, and you’ll find the place looks more like and abandoned city rather than a cemetery. The cemetery is large enough to have its own streets, and is full of beautiful mausoleums decorated with incredible marble statues. The cemetery is the final resting place of some of the most important names in Argentine history, from prime ministers to military heroes. Entry to the cemetery is free of charge, and you’ll find there are free tours given in English on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00.

    Carlos Thays Botanical Garden

    Carlos Thays Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanica Carlos Thays) is dominated by three distinct styles –  the symmetric, the mixed and the picturesque, all of which are recreated in the Roman, French and Oriental gardens. The gardens are full of plants from all around the world, as well as sculptures and monuments. The garden’s most important sculpture is that of the French-born Argentine landscape artist Carlos Thays himself. Within the gardens there’s a gardening school, library and museum which belong to the University of Buenos Aires Faculty of Agriculture. Entry to the park is free, and there’s plenty of opportunity to take some amazing photographs while you’re there.

    Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens

    Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens (Jardin Japones) was created in 1967 to commemorate the visit of Japan’s imperial family to Argentina, and it still stands as a symbol of friendship between the two countries today. A short time after opening, the gardens was neglected to the point where it was going to be destroyed, but various efforts of upkeep saved it. Since 1989, the gardens have been one of Buenos Aires’ most visited spaces, and it really is a great place to get some peace and quiet away from the city. Interestingly, the gardens are the largest of their kind outside of Japan.

    Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve

    Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve (Reserva Ecologica) is spread over an area of 350 hectares and is truly one of the most spectacular nature reserves you’ll find. It has a large population of reptiles, including iguanas and turtles, and is also home to over 200 species of bird. You can watch the waters of the Rio de la Plata flow past, take a guided tour, and if you’re lucky enough to have your visit fall on the first Friday of the month, you can take part in the full-moon-night celebrations which take place here. It’s also a real treat to discover the park by bicycle, particularly in the hot weather. You can rent bicycles from both the north and south entrances.

    What to eat

    Milanesa

    Milanesa is prepared in a similar way to the Austrian dish schnitzel, where a cut of meat is coated in batter and breadcrumbs and fried in olive oil. The dish became part of Argentine cuisine thanks to the number of Spanish and Italians which moved to the country, and now you’ll find milanesa all over Latin America. Served with salad, fries and a slice of lemon, you won’t have to look far to find this dish in Buenos Aires.

    Alfajor

    Though alfajor is available in many parts of the world, the fact that Argentina consumes the most means that Buenos Aires is one of the best places to enjoy it. Alfajor is made by sandwiching a sweet filling of jam or cream between two cookies, and then glazing them or coating them in chocolate. There’s a whole host of different varieties on offer, so make sure you try as many as you can while you’re in Buenos Aires.