Sitting over a cafe con leche y medialuna (cappuccino and croissant) and watching the world go by across 12 lanes of traffic on the Avenida 9 de Julio (still the widest street in the world), you’d be forgiven for thinking you are somewhere on the Champs Elysees in Paris, or in Rome or Madrid. Buenos Aires, considered to be the most sophisticated city in South America, has often been compared to these cities, yet has a flair all its own. It keeps reinventing itself, moving on, physically reacting to political events, seeking out new angles on traditional institutions such as the tango.
Take time to tango
However, if you are in town on a Sunday, go to San Telmo, the colorful neighborhood where tango gained notoriety. There is a fabulous flea market, live bands, contests for costumes and couples dancing intricate tango steps. When walking around, don’t be surprised to see the Byzantine-style, blue onion domes of a Russian Orthodox Church, built for one of the many ethnic groups that settled in Argentina. This church was commissioned by Czar Alexander II in the late 19th century, with all the important elements such as the stained glass windows built in St. Petersburg and then exported to Argentina.
Hip, hipper, hippest Palermo
Navigating the city
Getting around the sprawling metropolis of 13 million people is made possible by six subway lines (the subte) and over 100 lines of collectivos – colorful and inexpensive buses. The official black and yellow taxis are metered and affordable and there are thousands of them! Just flag any one down, but don’t expect the driver to know English, so best to have your address written down.
The dance, music, movie, art gallery, literary and theater scene is very alive and porteños love to eat out in any of the more than 3000 restaurants. Being on your own is no problem, though, and you will be served well and with respect. Be sure not to miss an asado – a side of beef and sausages on a spit over an open fire – coupled with a few glasses of velvety mellow local red wine and you will quickly feel like a porteño yourself.