Buenos Aires

What I like about Buenos Aires

Lately I’ve had a rant or two, with abundant sarcasm, about what I don’t like about Buenos Aires, and like any gigantic city in Latin America, there is a lot not to like. But there are a lot of things about life here that I do like, that I enjoy almost everyday. Here is a pictorial list of some of my favorites. (Photos can be enlarged full size by clicking on them.)

Flying into the city at night

View of the city from the river on a summer day (in January)

Polo. We live across the street from the twin lipstick tube towers

The abundance of leafy streets offering barrio cafes, shops, and restaurants

Nondescript doors along sidewalks that open to reveal quaint courtyards and private lives.

The urban parks that provide beautiful green spaces in the heart of the city; this one is a few blocks from our place, which is visible in this photo.

Museums housed in palaces

The many grand old apartment buildings

That there's one of these every couple of blocks in most barrios

The famous Buenos Aires dog walkers

The quirky and cute, and sometimes silly, names for some restaurants

The very strange and often imaginative graffiti

But most of all, it’s the cafes of Buenos Aires, and the culture of cafe life, but that is a subject requiring its own post. Next time.



16 replies »

  1. When was the Palacio de Obras Sanitarias converted into a museum? (your picture). I was under the impression that it was built for water storage and later — by presidential decree — was privatized and now is an office building. By the way, any comments on Café Tortoni?

    • I have no idea what the history of the building is, although it looks like a palacio to me. I walk by it often, although not for the last few months, and there is always a sign by the Cordoba entrance advertising some exhibition, and around the corner on the Riobamba side there is a sign calling it the museum of something I’ve forgotten — it’s been a while. That’s pretty much all I know about it, except it’s great architecture.

      I don’t know enough about the Tortoni to write about it. I’ve only been in it three times, and while it is a gorgeous old world cafe, it was filled to overflowing with quite obvious crowds of tourists, and it seemed to be promoting mostly its for tourists tango show. Too bad. It was obviously once a great cafe.

      Later I’ll put up some photos of the cafes I spend time in, not so much the ones that are popular or people may have heard of.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Here’s a bit on the history of the building:

        Built 1877-1894 by the Swedish architect, Carlos Nyströmer, as a water pumping station. The building is distinguished by a façade that is covered with more than quarter million ceramic tiles that were imported from the Royal Doulton factory. Offices of the city water company still occupy the building, which also houses a small waterworks exhibition (no doubt the “museum” of the signage fame).

  2. Pictures like these make me realize how American architecture, at least here in Texas, is so remarkably bland. Our surfaces rarely have ornamentation. It’s like we have no tolerance for the imaginative at all. One might say that we resemble our land, but that’s not true. Even the flattest, most barren Texas prairie is ripe with burs, cracks, swoops of branch, and jagged leaf. How is it that a land boiling with ants and curlicue juniper can only muster flat, grey walls? Even the Communists had some occasional flare.


    • Much of what I like most here (and especially in Europe) is what is old. American architecture suffers from a lack of old. Buenos Aires, in European terms, isn’t all that old, either, but did not destroy all of its older architectural gems in the race toward modernity. Buenos Aires was also rich (and it shows in art and architecture) when America was poor and plain.

      The Communists must have had a committee with the purpose of mandating the ugly. I have traveled widely in the (former) Communist world, and its architecture is butt ugly, hopelessly and horrendously ugly. One of my eternal unanswerable questions is why did the Communist decide that everything must be pathetically ugly? There must have been some reason.

      I think what you see as bland is mostly just new – in relative terms. Old is usually prettier than new. I mean really old. I used to daily walk through this gate into the old part of town in Bratislava, Slovakia, that had stood there since the mid-12th century, like 11 something. It wasn’t grand or anything, but just old and pretty. I have friends in Europe who live in buildings that people have been living in continuously since before the Pilgrims tripped over that rock, when native Americans lived either in tents or caves.

      It is old we don’t see in the States. What you see as bland is just new. For reasons I cannot explain, new is more often than not bland. As if everything after the mid-20th century was Communist inspired.

  3. Wonderful photos Don, our beef tomatoes aren’t a scratch on those in the picture and I love the ones offering a peak into the nooks and crannies of city life.