Buenos Aires – Balvanera – an Art Nouveau walk along Avenida Rivadavia

After previous visits, in 2004, 2011 and 2014, I’d managed to tick off most of the main Art Nouveau sights in central Buenos Aires, so in 2018 I decided to search out some of the harder-to-find spots, in this case along Avenida Rivadavia which is well off the beaten track. I’ve put the buildings in this post in geographical order but be aware they are often several blocks apart. You’ll see more in a shorter space of time on my Calle Florida and Avenida de Mayo walks. Everywhere mentioned is on my map (key top left).

Taxis are cheap in Baires so I jumped a cab from my hotel in Palermo down to Almagro, a neighbourhood in the south-west of the central area, where my tour started with a second breakfast at…

Café Las Violetas (Intermediate B), 3899 Avenida Rivadavia, www.lasvioletas.com

This famous old cafe is over 135 years old. It was first opened in 1884 and later remodeled in the 1920s. In its later years I understand the café was actually abandoned until it was renovated and reopened in 2001.

The expansive Belle Époque interior has broad columns, curved glass doors and Italian marble floors. The stained glass windows at the back, made in Argentina with French materials, are particularly stunning.

In my opinion, Las Violetas is just as nice as the much more famous and very touristy Café Tortoni, which is on my Avenida de Mayo architecture walk, and you won’t have to queue to get in here.

The cafe is known for its Chocolate (hot chocolate) which with some Churros (fried dough pastries) constitutes a typical Spanish breakfast. The other pastries and cakes are also supposed to be good.

The service is a bit brusk and I hear the coffee isn’t great, but oh, those windows…

From Las Violetas I walked seven blocks east along Avenida Rivadavia down to Casa de los Pavos Reales (The House of the Peacocks) at 3216 Avenida Rivadavia, in Balvanera. Sadly I mislaid my photos but here’s the Streetview. Although quite uniquely eclectic, the building has been described as Milanese Art Nouveau, although the pointed arches and the ornamental motifs are more reminiscent the architecture of Venice. The elevator housings and enamel murals inside are supposed to be remarkable.

Right next door at 3202 and 3206 Avenida Rivadavia, on the corner with 24 de Noviembre, is this colourful beauty, about which I have no information whatsoever.

Over the road on the next block is the Hotel Garay (now closed) at 3047 Avenida Rivadavia which is a nice example of Italian Art Nouveau, also known as Liberty or Floreale.

Two blocks east on the same side and you come to Plaza Miserere where you could take a rest under the purple Jacranda trees.

Continuing in the same direction for another eight blocks brings you to Casa de los Lirios (The House of Lilies) at 2027 and 2031 Avenida Rivadavia, a fine example of Catalan Modernisme built between 1903 and 1905. The cornice is the face of an old man with his hair flowing to the sides of the building. The balcony rails have a similar pattern as his hair.

The walls, windows and the undersides of the balconies are decorated with lily stems and flowers, giving the house its name.

From here the Congreso de la Nación Argentina is only another two blocks east from which you could do my Avenida de Mayo architecture walk in reverse.

Having already done that I instead zig zagged north east in the direction of Plaza Lavalle, more of which in the next post.

First though I went for lunch at the rough house El Litoral (Elementary C) at 2201 Moreno where they do a good Bondiola; a classic Baires sandwich of thick slices of pork in french bread, served with Salsa Criolla and Chimichurri. There’s no finesse here but it certainly fills a hole.

Please be aware of your personal security while in Balvanera. I have no idea how dangerous it actually is but it definitely feels more gritty and real than the tourist areas. Walking along Avenida Rivadavia was fine but I would keep my wits about me if detouring down the side streets. Personally though I enjoy a bit of edge to my urban tourism. Back in town next!

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