The cultural capital of Argentina is one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Spread out along the banks of the Rio de Plata, Buenos Aires is a vibrant patchwork of inviting barrios, green parks, and welcoming porteños. If you’re like us, the more you explore it, the more you’ll love it. Case in point:
What’s in a Name? Theories abound about the origin of the city’s name. One tale tells of a statue of the Virgin Mary that was pulled from the sea after sailors believed that it helped calm a storm. The statue was placed in a local abbey and sailors often stopped to pray for Fair Winds (“Buen Ayre”) before they embarked on their journeys. Another legend has it that one explorer proclaimed “How fair are the winds of this land!” as he arrived for the first time. Regardless, English-speaking locals tend to go with the shorthand “B.A.” and travelers refer to it as the “Paris of America” for its European air and wide boulevards.
All the City’s a Stage. Of all the cities in the world, Buenos Aires boasts the highest concentration of theaters. The Teatro Colon is the centerpiece, rated a top international opera house. It is acoustically among the Top 5 theaters alongside those in Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Boston. The city also hosts several symphony orchestras and choral societies and even has a museum devoted to theater and popular music.
Hometown of a Pope. In 2013, Buenos Aires made international headlines with the election of Pope Francis, the city’s former archbishop. Before entering the seminary, Francis—then Jorge Mario Bergoglio—held jobs that were a far cry from Catholicism: He was a chemical technician and a nightclub bouncer. Known for his humility and outreach to the poor, he is the first non-European Pope in more than 1,270 years.
Birthplace of a Dance. The tango originated in the working class port neighborhoods of Buenos Aires in the mid-19th century. Often called the music of Argentinean immigrants, it is thought to be a fusion of ancient African rhythms and European music, instruments, and technique. In 1912, dancers and musicians from Argentina were traveling to Europe to showcase the dance. It wasn’t until it caught on in Paris that it grew into an international sensation.
People of the Port. The locals of Buenos Aires are known as porteños. It’s a term that came into use in the late 1800s as European immigrants poured into the city. Many settled along the shores of the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean just past the city. Just across the river, the people of Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, are also known by the name.
Endless Neighborhood Charms. Consider Buenos Aires a collection of small barrios, and you have a treasure trove of mini-cities to explore! La Boca rests along the old port; the 19th-century ambiance here is marked by wrought-iron streetlamps and pastel-hued rowhouses of blues, greens, reds, and yellows. The decorative arts along some of the quaint caminitos (or little streets) have earned them status as “street museums.” San Telmo is one of the oldest barrios. Cobbled streets lead to well-preserved colonial buildings, tango parlors, antique shops, and cafes. The tony district of Retiro is known for its tree-lined avenues, Art Nouveau eateries, Art Deco office buildings, and posh shops. And the affluent Recoleta district is marked by outdoor sculpture, museums, and the Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Perón is buried.
So Many Reasons to Visit. More and more travelers are discovering the sophistication and culture of Buenos Aires. The city is European to a fault. Its architecture echoes that found in Paris, Madrid, and Barcelona. It is a bastion of culture, brimming with museums, theaters, churches, and book stores. And vast green spaces dot the cityscape, from an internationally renowned zoo and botanical garden to manicured parks and plazas. Little wonder that it holds a highly ranked spot on Travel + Leisure magazine’s list of the world’s most desirable cities to visit.