So Much To See On A Private Guided Tour Around Buenos Aires
We found so much to see on a private guided tour around Buenos Aires. Our tour started in the Palermo area with stops at Floralis Generica and El Rosedal Garden. We continued to the famous Recoleta Cemetery. From there we explored the Plaza de Mayo and the Metropolitan Cathedral. We finished up in the colourful La Boca following the Caminito (or the “Little Path”). But no day was complete without sampling some interesting coffee shops on our visit to Buenos Aires.
After a busy cruise to Antarctica and 3 days exploring Iguazu Falls, we arrived in Buenos Aires exhausted. But we had so many things we wanted to see. So were were really glad we booked a private guide and driver for our tour of the city. We saw everything and more than we planned. Our guide knew the perfect timing to visit each site with less crowds.
Planning To Tour Around Buenos Aires
On our first visit to Buenos Aires on our cruise around South America we did not see all we wanted. One day we wandered around the city and on another we did a day trip to the Tigre and the Parana Delta. We knew there was much more to see. So when we planned our Antarctica cruise we added in an extra 8 days in Argentina.
We enjoyed wandering around Santiago in Chile on our own on this visit to South America. So we considered starting our visit to Buenos Aires with a hop-on-hop-off bus tour and then visiting selected sites on our own. But we ultimately chose to book a full one day private tour through Tully Luxury Travel. We decided there were advantages to having a car and driver to provide local expertise. And we then wandered in Buenos Aires on our own on the other days.
We provided a rough list of places we wanted to visit on a guided tour around Buenos Aires. But we expected the guide to add many other gems as we moved around the city. Laura did not disappoint. She made sure we saw so much of the city on our tour and we learned so much about Buenos Aires as we went. Our driver got us close to each site and was there to move us quickly to the next spot. A great way to travel around busy Buenos Aires.
Gardens In The Palermo Area
Our first stop was in the Palermo area of Buenos Aires. This was a new and very green part of the city along the waterfront. When we saw the Floralis Generica statue the driver pulled over and we got out for a quick stop. This steel flower sculpture was animated and was meant to be a symbol of hope. At sunset the petals closed and the sculpture was lit with an amber glow. The petals reopened in the morning to symbolize the regeneration at dawn. This polished sculpture reminded us of the Cloud Gate sculpture we saw in Chicago.
There were two large gardens in the Palermo area. The driver let us out at the Paseo El Rosedal (the Rose Garden) in the heart of Tres de Febrero park. When in season, the park was filled with over 18,000 roses (over 1,000 varieties). It was the end of rose season when we visited but we still occasionally got bursts of colour. Our guide Laura urged us to return in November (the spring for South America) for roses and the beautiful blooming Jacaranda trees.
As we wandered around the garden we saw an artificial lake complete with swimming ducks and small boats to rent. We stopped at the Andalusian patio and admired the colourful tile work we remembered from many visits to the Andalusia area of Spain. The White Bridge (or Lovers Bridge) was a common point for lovers to stop. Local legends suggested that lovers must hold hands, step on the first step at the same time with their right feet first, then stop in the middle of the bridge to kiss.
As we headed back to the parking lot, we wandered past the poets garden with 26 busts of famous world-wide writers. Our final stop was under the massive rubber tree.
The Japanese Garden ((Jardín Japonés) was located beside the Rose Garden. It was the largest Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan. The park was created in 1967 and donated to the city to thank Argentina for welcoming Japanese immigrants. With temperatures around 40C (104 F), we were not prepared to stroll through a second garden at this time. So we saved the Japanese Garden for a future trip.
Relaxing green spaces and gardens were the perfect way to start our guided tour around Buenos Aires.
Stopping At The Nuestra Senora del Pilar Cathedral In The Recoleta Area
We headed to the Recoleta area and were dropped for our first stop at the Nuestra Senora del Pilar Cathedral. This simple, whitewashed colonial style church was built in 1732. In the outer courtyard we stopped and looked at a tile art piece that showed Buenos Aires from that period with the churches and steeples across the waterfront.
While simple on the outside, we were amazed when we entered and saw the baroque main altar with Inca ornamentation and silverwork from Peru. As we wandered the ornamentation continued in the side altars and pulpit. Only the organ seemed simple.
Our next stop was the Recoleta Cemetery. It sat in what was once the orchard of the Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar church.
History In The Recoleta Cemetery
On our first visit to Buenos Aires we had the Recoleta Area on our plans but we just ran out of time. One of the key attractions in the Recoleta area was the Recoleta Cemetery. We often visited cemeteries when we travelled and learned much about the history of an area. When we visited New Orleans, we could not leave without visiting the St Louis Number 1 Cemetery.
The Recoleta Cemetery was built in 1822 and was the first public cemetery in Buenos Aires. We went in the main entrance and found the small chapel.
Much like in New Orleans, we found the above-ground graves displayed a stunning variety in architecture and art in the Recoleta Cemetery. We saw styles from Greek temples through to miniature Baroque cathedrals and Roman-inspired structures. There were about 6,400 statues, sarcophagi, coffins and crypts that commemorated some of Argentina’s most celebrated people. We learned that more than 90 crypts have been declared as National Historical Monuments.
As we walked around the cemetery our guide Laura provided us with historical background on the people and events in Buenos Aires. Some of the small buildings even included small alters. And many had stairs that went down to the coffins.
The Art In The Recoleta Cemetery
Like the cemetery we visited in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this cemetery was an outdoor art gallery. We found statuary everywhere we looked. Stained glass adorned many of the tombs. At the tomb of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, we found a bronze sculpture of her dog Sabú. It was said to be good luck to rub the dog’s nose. So of course many people stopped for a little extra luck!
The most visited spot was the burial site of Eva “Evita” Perón. Evita’s remains were in a heavily fortified crypt five metres underground. When we got close to this tomb we were quickly deterred by the very long line.
We wandered around the aisles in the Recoleta Cemetery and were fascinated. It deserved much more time. But when the cruise ship bus tour crowds descended it was time for us to move on. On a guided tour around Buenos Aires it was great to visit the Recoleta Cemetery very early in the day.
More Of The Recoleta Area On A Guided Tour Around Buenos Aires
After we left the Recoleta Cemetery, we did a slow drive around the area. We saw beautiful buildings in different styles. The area was known for its Paris-style houses, former palaces, and lovely boutiques. As we drove along, we saw quiet tree-lined streets and continued to be amazed at how green the city was. The current embassies in the area were once large palaces occupied by local wealthy residents.
Everywhere we looked we saw monuments and statues. Laura had the driver pull over beside the monument to Eva Peron. Much better than waiting in line to see her grave!
When we passed by the new location of the Colon Theatre we talked to Laura about visiting this opera house. Opera season was on but she said that back-stage tours were still available. On a return visit we hoped to take in a performance.
Our final stop in the Recoleta area was at the Libreria El Ateneo Grand Splendid. At one time, this building was one of South America’s most opulent theatres. There was now a bookshop in this beautifully restored building. It reminded us of the fun Livraria Lello and Irmão bookstore we visited in Porto in Portugal that was used for a Harry Potter movie!
When we entered we got our first glimpse of the theatre and a lovely dome painted with frescoes. We wandered around and looked at the array of books. But we passed on stopping at this coffee shop in the bookstore.
The Recoleta area was a beautiful spot to visit on our guided tour around Buenos Aires.
Wandering Around The Plaza de Mayo
Our next stop was the Plaza de Mayo. This was the oldest public square in Buenos Aires and was the backdrop for many of the most important events in the city’s history. We passed by the Plaza de la Republica and got a glimpse of the Obelisco de Buenos Aires (Obelisk of Buenos Aires). This national historic monument and icon of Buenos Aires was something we saw on our first visit to Buenos Aires.
We stood in the Plaza de Mayo and looked around at the interesting and decorative buildings. We saw the Museo Histórico Nacional del Cabildo y la Revolución de Mayo with the clock tower behind it.
At the other end of the square was the Casa Rosada. This was where the President’s office was. In front of the Casa Rosada we walked around the Pirámide de Mayo. It was the oldest National Monument in Buenos Aires and was built to commemorate Argentina’s revolution of Independence.
We found reminders of the history of Argentina in Plaza de Mayo on our guided tour around Buenos Aires.
Visiting The Metropolitan Cathedral And The Mausoleum
The Metropolitan Cathedral was on of the Plaze de Mayo and looked a bit like a Greek temple from the outside. The columns represented the twelve apostles of Christ. This was the main Catholic Church in Argentina. This cathedral was often very busy but Laura got us here at a perfect quiet time.
When we entered we saw the first sign of the Venetian mosaics that covered the floors. We headed towards the gilt wooden altar that depicted the Holy Trinity. When we looked up, we admired the decorative ceiling.
Along the side we found small chapels. On the back wall we saw the Walcker organ built in Germany with more than 3,500 pipes. We were sorry we did not hear it play while we visited.
On a guided tour around Buenos Aires we were glad we did not miss the fascinating Metropolitan Cathedral.
The Mausoleum of San Martín And The Unknown Soldier
We were surprised when we found one of the side chapels with guards outside. We learned this was the mausoleum of San Martín and the Unknown Soldier.
As we prepared to enter we stopped for the changing of the guard. We enjoyed many different changing of the guard ceremonies around the world. But we did not expect it inside the Metropolitan Cathedral.
As we walked around the sarcophagus we saw three female figures that represented the countries liberated by General San Martín – Argentina, Chile and Peru.
On a guided tour around Buenos Aires plan to see the changing of the guard inside the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Heading To La Boca On A Guided Tour Around Buenos Aires
From the Plaze de Mayo we headed towards the La Boca area. But we had one stop along the way. We loved visiting local markets on our travel and Laura planned a stop at the Mercado San Telmo. The market sold an interesting variety of goods.
We found two different shops that specialized in the local dulce de leche treat. We sampled a tasty variety in flavours of dulce de leche. Although the traditional was still my favourite!
We knew we were close to the La Boca neighbourhood when the colour started to show up in the buildings. And we found colourful street art.
While we searched for parking, we passed the La Bombonera football stadium where the junior team played. It apparently got its name because the stadium resembled a chocolate (bombon). We checked out the colourful scenes we found displayed all around the outside.
As we got closer to La Boca we got excited on our guided tour around Buenos Aires.
Colour In The La Boca Neighbourhood Following El Caminito
La Boca may be the most colourful and photogenic district. We felt its bohemian charm as we wandered the streets.
We explored the former rail route called El Caminito (“Little Path or Walkway”) and found houses painted in a rainbow of colours. Historically the locals painted their houses with leftover paint found in the nearby dockyard. It reminded us very much of the Jellybean house we found when we wandered in St John’s in Newfoundland in Canada.
We strolled into alley at the Conventillo Centro Cultural de los Artistas and took in the vast murals on the walls. As we walked deeper we found more colour and fun displays.
Everywhere we looked as we strolled we found art on the walls. Much of it paid tribute to the history and culture of the area.
As we wandered, we passed many antique stores, art galleries, and crafts shops. Shops sold great local food and drink. And we even saw a couple dancing tango in the streets.
We were so glad that Laura left the La Boca region until later in the day. Much of the crowds has disappeared and we enjoyed our slow walk. This was certainly a highlight of our guided tour around Buenos Aires.
Beautiful Coffee Shops
We had a very busy day as we moved from spot to spot around Buenos Aires. We hoped to enjoy some good food and drink along the way. The first stop of the morning was at the fun La Biela Cafe. The statues of Jorge Luis Borges and Bioy Casares greeted us at the door. And we even saw statues of them seated at their favourite seat. But sadly we did not get to stop to try this local cafe.
When we visited Buenos Aires the first time we had the iconic Cafe Tortoni on our list of things to visit. But the line up was really long and we did not get inside this Parisian-style cafe. Laura said she had an even better treat for us.
When we pulled up to the La Ideal Cafe we were not missing a chance for a coffee stop. But the first thing we found stopped us in our tracks. Tango moves were painted on the sidewalk. And Laura took David through the steps! They sure did better than when David and I tried to follow the stops.
The La Ideal cafe originally opened in 1912 but was closed in 2016. We were glad it re-opened in 2022. We entered a stunning cafe filled with restored French chandeliers, Italian furniture, stained glass windows and other period treasures. The stunning ceiling kept us enthralled.
We found a table and ordered coffee for all. And we got our first taste of the local Alfajores treat. The different flavours all provided a great thick layer of dulce de leche deliciousness! When we left we stopped at the store in the front and found the counters filled with delicious treats. This coffee stop sated our hunger for sugar!
We never stopped for lunch on our long guided tour around Buenos Aires. But the sweet stop at La Ideal kept us going!
A Great Day On A Guided Tour Around Buenos Aires
It was great to explore the city on a private guided tour around Buenos Aires. Our tour took us to many different areas and we got a real taste for the history of the city. We saw so much on this visit to Buenos Aires.
Our stops in South America on this trip were busy and filled with amazing sights. Booking our private tour in Buenos Aires was one of the smarter things we did. We were absolutely sure we would not have seen anywhere near as much on our own.
Have you taken a guided tour around Buenos Aires? Did we see some highlights best visited with a guide?
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