Cosmopolitan, indigenous, nationalist, the streets of Buenos Aires are an eclectic mash up of architecture through the ages. From bright art nouveau apartment buildings to Italian Renaissance style palaces, around every corner you turn there is a new gem waiting to be discovered.
Buenos Aires Cabildo
Once the main government building in Buenos Aires, the Cabildo is today a museum. Built in the 18th century, it is one of the few fine examples of colonial architecture left in the city, it is a nod to Argentina’s Spanish colonisation. The museum includes exhibits covering the history of the building as well as the revolution of May 1810, when Argentina declared independence.
Palacio de Aguas Corrientes
The Water Palace is so called because it was once the pumping station and water tank for the whole city. Built in 1877, following an epidemic of yellow fever, it was built by an English company Hale and Co with the help of Norwegian engineering designer Olof Boye. A French Renaissance palace, it is covered in 300,000 terra cotta tiles made by British ceramics powerhouse Royal Doulton.
An Art Deco sky scraper in the Retiro neighbourhood, this 29 story building is something of an architectural symbol of Buenos Aires. Construction began in 1934, completed in 1936, it was the tallest skyscraper in Latin America at the time, and in 1999 it was declared a national historic monument.
Buenos Aires’ main opera house, the Teatro Colon is ranked the third best opera house in the world according to National Geographic, mostly due to its exceptional acoustics. The building was influenced by German, French and Italian Renaissance styles, and took 20 years and three architects to build.
Mercado de Abasto
One of the biggest shopping centres in the city, this building was the central fruit and vegetable market from 1893 to 1984. In an area relatively unaffected by tourists and filled with everything from international eateries to textile stores, the market is today a beautifully restored shopping mall.
Architect Mario Palanti borrowed thematic and structural inspiration from his native Italy to build this impressive 22-story building. Commissioned by Luis Barolo in 1923, it was inspired by Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, with the bottom floors representing hell, the middle floors, purgatory and the top floor a heaven paradise. One of the best ways to experience the building is with an evening tour, which includes seeing the elaborate details of the building, panoramic views of the city from the top floor and a wine tasting to finish.
Museo Xul Solar
A museum exhibiting the quirky artwork and inventions of painter, musician, writer and mathmetician Alejando Xul Solar, entering this building is like entering another world. The artist, who lived from 1887 to 1963, created his own imaginary languages, lived in his own time zone and created very avant-garde works – and the museum building reflects this.
Avenida de Mayo
One of, if not the grandest stretch of buildings in Buenos Aires, this area of Montserrat was built between 1880 and 1930. Start at the Palacio de Congreso (National Congress), the current seat of the Argentine parliament. Design was started by Italian architect Vittorio Meano and completed by architect Julio Dormal, before being inaugurated in 1906. Be sure to stop in at Cafe Tortoni, built in 1858, for a pause and a drink. Frequented by famous artists, musicians and writers, the cafe is filled with marble topped tables, period lighting and decor as well as artworks from some of its famous regulars. The Confiteria El Molino is an old Art Nouveau style coffeehouse and museum, not open to the public currently, by worth a glimpse for its beautiful facade as you head toward Plaza de Mayo.
La Manzana de Las Luces
The Jesuit San Ignacio church was constructed on this site in 1616, and is the oldest church in Buenos Aires. After the Spanish crown expelled the Jesuists in the late 1700s, the first medical school of Buenos Aires was built here, before it became a seat of the University of Buenos Aires, and the Collegio Nacional was built, cementing it as the intellectual heart of the city. The President of Argentina is even known to attend graduation ceremonies of the students at the college.
A theatre turned bookstore, this is well worth a wander inside. The interior is full of intricate carvings and detailed paintings on the ceiling, while the balconies provide cosy reading nooks for customers. Originally designed by Pero and Torres Armengol in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the main theatre is now the bookstore, with the stage playing host to a cafe, so you can while away the afternoon in arguably the world’s most beautiful bookstore.
At the other end of Avenida de Mayo to the Palacio de Congreso, this is located inside the main office and residential complex of the Argentine President. Built in Italianate-Eclectic style, it was built in the late 1800s. The museum here hosts exhibits and collections of former presidential rulers of Argentina.
Off the beaten tourist track, this quaint cobblestone street in the Belgrano district is a beautiful detour to take. Lined with European inspired architecture, most of the houses here were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, featuring charming stonework, grand entrances and Juliette style balconies.
Museo National de Arte Decorativo
Along the Libertador, nearby to most of the city’s biggest museums, this one is slightly hidden away behind a tall wall. Built in 1911, first as a family home, the interior is mostly neo-classical in style, with furnishings and materials originally shipped over from Europe. Many of the family’s artwork and collectables are still on show today.
Puente de la Mujer
One of the only examples of modern architecture on this list, this contemporary masterpiece was unveiled in 2001. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatreva, it represents a couple dancing the tango.
Florales Generica Sculpture
This is a giant flower sculpture, designed by Eduardo Catalano in 2002. The huge metallic petals open to the sun at sunrise and close again at dusk. It is certainly a sight to see if you’re up early enough, or around the area at sunset.