Archive for the Buenos Aires Category

Buenos Aires – La Boca

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, La Boca with tags on November 14, 2015 by gannet39

La Boca and San Telmo are the oldest barrios in Buenos Aires, and the birthplace of tango.

La Boca, the port area, was populated by Italian, and in particular Genoese, immigrants. For this reason fans of Boca Juniors, the football club the immigrants founded, are known as ‘Los Xeneizes’.

Some say that La Boca got its name from a part of Genoa called Boccadasse (I’ve been there, see my post). In both cases ‘la boca’ refers to ‘the mouth’ of a river.

The area has a militant political history as well. In 1882 after a General Strike, the barrio seceded from Argentina and formed the ‘República Independiente de La Boca’ over which they raised the Genoese flag (the St. George cross), until the revolt was put down by the President Roca and his army.

In 1904 the barrio elected the first Socialist member of the national congress and in 2001 it was the scene of big demonstrations over the economic crisis.

The neighbourhood is famous for its brightly-painted multicoloured houses. The story goes that this came about because the inhabitants were using up leftovers from painting the ships in port. This paint would quickly run out so they had to use another colour, or several colours, to finish the house.

On my last night in Buenos Aires in 2014 I went out with a group of friends to this famous restaurant in the neighbourhood.

El Obrero (Intermediate A), 64 Agustín R. Caffarena

This is a down-to-earth parrilla (El Obrero means ‘The Worker’) that has heaps of character, a must do in my opinion.

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The walls of the restaurant are covered with football scarves, pennants, posters and pictures, including some choice ones of local hero Maradona.

We kicked off with some Calamari rings and grilled Proveleta, both of which were fine (B).

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As it was my going away do, I got to have a platter of offal; sweetbreads, liver and kidneys (all B), although my companions didn’t give me much help with it.

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Three kinds of steak were on show. I ordered Vacio (flank steak) as I’d never had it before, and never will again (C).

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Thankfully my friend Nicky couldn’t manage all of her excellent Bife de Lomo (A), so I came to her aid.

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Anthea went for the Asado which was so big she took half of it home with her.

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The six of us got through three different bottles of Malbec. Can’ t remember how good they were but they went down a treat.

Despite being a bit of a rowdy crew we got excellent service from our lovely waitress. She showed us a few pictures on the wall of her and some Hollywood stars and members of European royal families who’d popped in for a steak.

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Finally we all got a shot of real limoncello, homemade and served ice cold as it should be. This was definitely evidence of a strong Italian influence as nowhere else in Argentina seems to be able to serve it properly.

So, a fantastic evening. Good food and a great atmosphere. I really can’t wait to go again!

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At night you should get taxis to and from this restaurant as walking around the side streets in La Boca isn’t a good idea after dark (or in the daytime either for that matter) as it’s a very poor area. Please see my La Boca comments in my post on Staying Safe in BsAs.

Buenos Aires – Palermo Soho – Restaurants & Bars

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Palermo, Palermo Soho with tags , , , , , on November 13, 2015 by gannet39

Along with Palermo Hollywood (see separate post), Palermo Soho forms what is still sometimes called Palermo Viejo. For me it’s the biggest, and best, entertainment district in BsAs.

La Cabrera (Advanced A+), 5065 Cabrera, Palermo Soho, Tel.4832 2259, lacabrera.com.ar

For my colleagues; La Cabrera is just 25 mins and $60 in a taxi from the Hotel Sileo, so you need to meet in the lobby at 6.15.

This is my favourite steakhouse in Baires, an example of a restaurant that has got everything right, down to the last detail, as far as I’m concerned anyway. The fact that they’ve had to open an annex on the next block (La Cabrera Norte at Cabrera 5127) to cope with demand demonstrates how successful they’ve been.

I love everything about the place; the waiters in flat caps and leather aprons, the dish clothes for napkins, the food porn on the telly, the mobiles of toy cars and other amusing artworks, the pics of gorgeous female Hollywood stars in the gents (also vice versa I’m sure) and the soundtrack of accordion covers of Spandau Ballet tunes. It’s the little details like these that add so much to the experience and in my opinion it’s everything a modern parrilla should be.

Naturally a place of such quality is not particularly cheap but another great thing is that everything you order between 7 and 8pm is 40% off the asking price on the menu, including the wine. This of course is great for people who like to eat early, like the English. You should aim to arrive at about 6.45 to snag an outdoor table. The terrace was full by 7.10pm when I arrived (on a week day) so I had to sit inside. By 8pm other latecomers were queuing down the street.

While you’re waiting for you food to reach the table you’re provided with a small dish of gorgeous liver pate (B+) and a basket of different kinds of excellent bread (B+), which comes with some nice mayo (B) and delicious cherry tomatoes (A).

The half portion (still huge) of Mollejas Grilladas I had for my starter were the best I’ve ever tasted. Euphemistically known as sweetbreads (as opposed to sweetmeats), perhaps due to their sweeter taste relative to meat, they are usually just the thymus gland (found in the neck) of the cow, but here included the slightly tougher pancreas as well (A+ and B+ respectively).

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The perfectly seasoned and cooked Ojo de Bife (ribeye) was fantastic too (A+).

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Another thing I love is the multitude of little pots of extras you get with the steak which offsets the potential boredom of eating so much meat. On the tray put in front of me there were small pots of potato puree (A), pumpkin puree (A), another dish using more cherry tomatoes (A), a miniature zucchini soufflé made with parmesan and cream (A), mustard sauce (A), grilled red peppers (B+), couscous and sweet corn (B+), baby pickled onions (B+), apple sauce (B), lentils (B).

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My friendly waiter suggested a very reasonably priced Malbec by Reto www.vicentinfw.com.ar which was also excellent (A).

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To finish the Volcan de Chocolate involved a chocolate fondant with Chantilly cream studded with blueberries and ice cream and a berry sauce, which was visually stunning and tasted divine (A). This was ordered after the 8pm watershed however so it cost me $112. Given the quality I was quite happy to pay that though.

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With the bill came a tree of lollipops, as if to sweeten the blow, but it wasn’t too bad. It should have been $541 but with the 40% discount it was reduced to $324.60. The experience pressed more buttons than I knew I had. In fact I decided this could well be my favourite restaurant ever!

Don Julio (Advanced C), Guatemala 4691, Palermo Soho

According to many blogs and guides this place is also a contender for best parrilla in the city but I think many of the reviews were written before La Cabrera opened. They have got many things right but sadly the food just doesn’t score highly with me.

Arriving at 12pm without a reservation for Sunday lunch, my friend Nicky and I were surprised when we got a table outside after just a short wait of a few minutes, which had been made more tolerable anyway by a complimentary glass of fizz. The service was very efficient and polite and in no time at all we were tucking into a slab of grilled provelta (B-) and a bottle of good Malbec by Tempus (B) www.tempusalba.com.

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The Tabla de Achuras (offal platter) was ok, but the kidneys were overdone and we couldn’t finish the intestines (B-).

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My butterflied Bife de Chorizo, although usually a tough cut, was chewier than others I’d had and disappointing in flavour (C+).

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The accompanying Parrillada de Vegetales was unimpressive too and lacked any finesse (C). Another blogger who loves the place did say that the veg wasn’t great, but I didn’t listen. (Btw, his tips are to get the ribs and avoid the marrowfat peas).

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The Panqueque Dulce de Leche with vanilla ice cream rescued things a bit (B+) and the glass of 2012 Malbec Dolce from Achval Ferrer we had with it was excellent (A), but too expensive at $85 for a tiny glass.

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The final bill was $675 each, about £55, not good value as far as I was concerned.

The ambience inside is nice enough (impressive displays of wine bottles), the service is impeccable and I like the leather tablecloths but I’ll be going back to La Cabrera next time.

Cabernet (High Intermediate B+), 1757 Borges, Palermo Soho, Tel. 4831 3071, www.cabernet-restaurant.com

This is a nice spot with an open air courtyard and reasonably priced food. I came on a work outing and had the Bondiola Braseada a la Miel de Jengibre con Arroz Pilaf Oriental (roast pork loin with honey and ginger sauce with a pilaf) as I wanted a change from beef and was craving rice. It was fine (B). I also enjoyed the Bonarda from La Madrid which made a nice change from the more full-bodied Malbec (B).

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Burger Joint (Elementary B), Borges 1766, Palermo Soho www.facebook/burgerjointpalermo

This is a branch of an American chain of hipster burger bars and it’s certainly doing well in BsAs as the crowds of customers demonstrate. It’s a great business concept that presses all the hipster buttons with its graffiti covered walls, collections of Star Wars characters and other plastic dolls on the walls, menus written on old bits of cardboard suspended above the service bar and a band of buskers playing on the pavement outside.

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The one thing that lets it down is the crappy bread buns they use, which is a shame because the burgers are pretty good. I had the Mexican Combo with Papas Fritas (B-) with a plastic glass of draught Pale Ale for $90 (£4.50). I guess they’re keeping things simple to keep the prices down but if they just got a few more details right, like the buns, it would be the perfect antidote to Mac D’s.

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Post Street Bar (Elementary A), Thames 1285, Palermo Soho www.poststreetbar.com

A dive bar with walls covered in graff and street art. The best thing is the large outdoor terrace they have on the first floor. My friend Damian and I put away a few pitchers of draught beer up here one hot Spring evening.

Isabel (Advanced A), 1664 Uriarte, Palermo Soho barisabel.com

This beautiful bar is at the other end of the scale from Post Bar above. It’s one long room with a list of good cocktails and an excellent sound system and a DJ with good taste (at least when I went). I’m sure it’s packed at the weekend but I went very early on a weekday just to check it out. The door to the unisex loos is invisible unless you know where it is and once inside the mirrored walls make you even more confused. A great bar but I can imagine it would be difficult to get served once it gets busy.

Victoria Brown Bar (Advanced B+), 4827 Costa Rica, Palermo Soho victoriabrownbar.com

This place is pretending to be a secret bar (a trend in BsAs) but as soon as you enter the doorman pushes a handle and the wall moves away, revealing a very large jam-packed room, and you just walk right in. There are seats around the sides and one long bar, with about five mixologists all working at full stretch. I didn’t get served as quickly as I’d like but the cocktails were decent.

Buenos Aires – Centro – Places to Eat

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Centro with tags , on November 12, 2015 by gannet39

You’ll need a pit stop after working up an appetite from walking around nearby Plaza Lavalle (see separate post) so here are a couple of suggestions. Here’s a map of the Centro to help you get your bearings.

Pizzeria Guerrin (Intermediate B+), 1368 Avenida Corrientes, www.pizzeriaguerrin.com

I’ve mentioned my dislike of Fugazetta, the local style of pizza, elsewhere (see my review of El Cuartito in my Recoleta post) but this place isn’t actually too bad. They make a thin crust ‘a la piedra’ pizza as opposed to the thicker pizza ‘de molde’ at El Cuartito. The buzzing atmosphere also adds to the experience.

I went for the classic combination of Fugazetta and Farina , a chickpea pancake with its roots in Genoa (both B). Some locals put the Farina on top of the pizza and eat them together. Apparently you’re supposed to have a glass of sweet Moscato wine with it as well but it was a bit early in the day for me. If you find the ground floor too frenetic there is the quieter Sala Familial upstairs. Guerrin has been an institution since 1932 and is definitely worth a visit.


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La Pasta Frola (Intermediate B+), 1365 Avenida Corrientes, www.la-pastafrola.com.ar

Rather than have dessert in Guerrin I dashed over the road to this Italian pastry shop immediately opposite and treated myself to a Sfogliatelle Ricce (B+). The shop has been around even longer than Guerrin, since 1917.

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Buenos Aires – Centro – Plaza Lavalle

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Centro, Plaza Lavalle with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2015 by gannet39

Plaza Lavalle is the heart of the theatre district in the centre of BsAs.

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This was the last walking tour that I did. More details here. See my separate post Centro – Places to Eat.

For me the highlight of this walk was viewing the beautiful interior of the Teatro Colón at Tucuman 1171. It’s a popular tourist sight so there are tours in English every hour, on the hour. You can buy tickets ($180 in 2014) from the ticket office inside by going in one of the side entrances on Tucuman or Viamonte.

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Opened in 1908, the theatre has been ranked as the third best opera house in the world by National Geographic. Highlights for me were the statues and the marble work of the grand staircase in the main hall and the stained glass windows and electric chandeliers upstairs in the Salón Dorado.

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In the auditorium itself the guide pointed out the hidden gallery reserved for widows in mourning who shouldn’t be seen and the musician’s gallery high up in the ceiling. The acoustics are fantastic and we were invited to sing if we wanted to, although thankfully no one did!

The theatre was renovated fairly recently (finished in 2010) and was shut for many years due to the work was being done and because all the money for it mysteriously disappeared. The tour was very informative but the guide judiciously ignored my thorny questions about the corruption and the love triangle that led to the death of the first architect!

Next door to the theatre at 581 Libertad is the Escuela Presidente Roca, a school that many people confuse with the Teatro Colón because of its Greek revival architecture.

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On the other side of Teatro Colón at 621 Libertad is the Byzantine-style synagogue Templo Libertad, built in 1897.

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Next to that in the northeast corner (where Libertad meets Cordoba) is the Teatro Nacional Cervantes, built in the Spanish colonial style.

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In the opposite southwest corner of the square is the monolithic Palacio de la Justica (Supreme Court). Also known as Tribunales, the building is defended by police barriers due to the many protests that take place in front of it.

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There are several other nice buildings around the square.


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And a few others I stumbled across in the streets around it.

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Leading off the square is the pedestrianised Avenida Presidente Roque Sáenz Peña which gives excellent views of the Obelisk, the iconic symbol of the city. I’d like to have seen it in 2005 when it was covered with a giant pink condom to commemorate World AIDS day!

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Buenos Aires – Monserrat – Getting Fed

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Monserrat with tags on November 11, 2015 by gannet39

Chan Chan (Intermediate B+), 1390 Hipólito Yrigoyen

Out of the back door of Palacio Barolo (please see my Avenida de Majo post) you’ll find this affordable and authentic Peruvian restaurant.

It’s highly rated by Time Out who suggest trying the Ajiaco de Conejo (rabbit and potato stew), Arroz Chaufa (Peruvian-style fried rice) and a pitcher of Chicha Morada (a sweet fruity drink). The Guardian suggests the Ceviche and sides of Papas a la Huancaina (sliced potatoes in a thick cheese sauce) or fried Yuca (cassava).

Upon arrival you get a bowl of Choclo which are large kernels of toasted and salted maize. They’re okay but are often quite hard and crunchy (C). This comes with two sauces which I guess were Salsa de Aji Amarillo (yellow pepper sauce) and Salsa Verde (coriander sauce). To drink I had a stellar Pisco Sour (A).

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I ordered the Degustacion de Ceviches (B) which included Tiradito, Ceviche, Ceviche Mixto and Ceviche en Crema de Rocoto, which was served with sliced red onion, lettuce and cold potatoes.

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Tiradito reflects the influence of Japanese immigrants as it is sliced and served raw. The indigenous Ceviche however is cubed and marinaded. Crema de Aji Rocoto is a salsa made with the hot Rocoto pepper.

To be honest I struggled to finish the whole plate as it was so large and I wasn’t really in the mood for cold food. Generally I’m still learning to appreciate this cuisine which is why I always try to come to a good place like this to try it. It’s not on the level of Osaka (please see my Palermo Hollywood post) but it’s much cheaper.

Buenos Aires – Monserrat – Avenida de Majo

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Monserrat with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2015 by gannet39

This is another architecture walk I did starting from from 575 Avenida de Mayo and finishing at Plaza Congreso, all in the barrio of Monserrat.

At 575 Avenida de Mayo you will see the Casa de Cultura (the office for culture in BsAs) which used to be the home of La Prensa, an important newspaper. Frommers describes a tour of the interior (weekends only) as ‘a must do’ but it looked closed up on the day I went. On the exterior though I loved the ornate lion’s head door knockers.

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At 825 Avenida de Mayo you’ll find Café Tortoni, the most famous café in the city. It’s so popular that you’ll probably have to queue to get in. I was up for a coffee and a medialuna but the service was so poor that I just took some snaps and left.

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Continue along Avenida de Mayo and cross over Avenida 9 de Julio which is the world’s widest avenue. It can take quite a while to cross the five sub streets, maybe two or three flashing green men, but I have managed to sprint across the whole width in one go. If you go more slowly though you can take in the fountains and the Don Quixote monument.

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At 1152 Avenida de Mayo is the architecturally unimpressive Hotel Castelar. Once one of the most important hotels in the city, this is where Lorca the famous Spanish poet lived for six months in 1933. Apparently his room has been kept as a shrine and can be visited by arrangement.

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On the north side of Avenida de Mayo where it meets Santiago del Estero you’ll find the Hotel Chile, another formerly important hotel. The Art Nouveau structure has Middle Eastern influences with round window tops decorated with faience (ceramic glaze).

At 1333 Avenida de Mayo is my second favourite building on this walking tour, the Art Deco Federal Police HQ. I adore the ornate statues on the façade. Frommers suggest just wandering inside for a look but it was always closed whenever I went past.

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At 1370 Avenida de Mayo is my favourite building; the highly eccentric Palacio Barolo, which was once the highest building in South America. Its Italian freemason designer Mario Palanti intended it to be an architectural celebration of Dante’s Divine Comedy (the poet was also a mason). I snuck in for a look at the lobby which, with its light bearing dragons and condors and coiled snakes in the corners, is meant to symbolise Hell.

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I came back on another occasion with my friend Nicky and took the guided tour. The middle floors represent Purgatory and are relatively unadorned although the cornices have faces if you look at them from a certain angle. From the 14th floor you ascend narrow stairs into Heaven, which is represented by a lighthouse.


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From the upper levels you can get stunning views over the city and Plaza Congreso. Actually sitting in the lighthouse with your backs to the glass windows can be quite vertigo inducing though! Originally the parabolic mirror sent a beam of light to a sister building, Palacio Silva in Montevideo, (please see my Montevideo Centro post).

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You can join an English speaking tour (at 5, 6 and 7pm most evenings, more times at the weekend) by reserving first (Tel. 4391 1885 or 5027 9035) and then paying for your tickets ($135 in 2014) at the small Art Nouveau ticket booth on the ground floor. The tour is one of my top tips for experiences to be had in Baires.

Continue up Avenida de Mayo and on the south side between San Jose and Peña you will see La Inmobliaria, an Art Nouveau office block with an ornate tiled sign at the top of the façade. This building marks the end of Mayo and the beginning of Plaza Congreso.

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In the Plaza you can see a copy of Rodin’s Thinker aka El Pensador in Spanish. Next to it is the Kilometro Cero from which all distances from BsAs are measured.

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Next you’ll see the fountains of the Monument of the Two Congresses. I’m not a fan as I think it obstructs the view of the Congress itself.

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I’m told the guided tours of the Congress building are quite interesting. Ask about them at the Rivadavia entrance.

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To the right of the Congress is another favourite building, the sadly derelict Confiteria de Molino with its windmill tower. Once the informal meeting place for all the politicians from next door, the Art Nouveau café was closed in 1997. There are plans to renovate and reopen it one day but the state of the Argentinean economy hadn’t allowed it at the time of writing in 2014.

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Buenos Aires – Centro – Calle Florida

Posted in Argentina, Buenos Aires, Calle Florida with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2015 by gannet39

Leading from Plaza San Martin is Calle Florida, the BA’s most important shopping street. It’s kind of the equivalent of Oxford St in London except that it’s a pedestrianised.

It starts at Plaza San Martin in the Retiro and goes through the barrio of San Nicolas before finishing at Avenida Rivadavia in Monserrat. Together San Nicolas and Monserrat are known as the Centro.

There are heaps of fantastic buildings along the length of Floridabut its easy to miss them unless you look up. Most people are too busy avoiding the numerous buskers, salesmen and money changers pestering them at street level.

I managed to see a few thanks to this architecture tour.

Coming from Plaza San Martin, the first stop is Centro Naval at 810 Cordoba, where it meets Florida. Unfortunately the sun was too bright for me to get a good close up of the golden statue that sits above the doorway on the corner. It’s of a naked sea god blowing a conch while sitting in a Spanish galleon. The cast stone façade is also very impressive.

As always please click on these pics to get the best view.

Next stop is Galerias Pacifico (on Florida between Cordoba and Viamonte), BA’s most famous shopping mall, built in 1889. It was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan and has quite a history, some of it quite dark.

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The cupola in the basement level has some frescoes that were painted in 1946 and the upper levels house an art gallery.

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Next at 460 Florida is the Sociedad Rural Argentina with its beautiful Belle Epoque doorway and balconies.

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On the west corner of Florida and Corrientes you’ll find was has to be the world’s most beautiful Burger King. Go inside, walk up the stairs and look up to see the stunning stained glass ceiling of the rotunda. The ornamental plaster ceilings in the other rooms are beautiful as well.

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Midblock on the eastern side between Corrientes and Sarmiento you’ll see Galeria Mitre. The building was designed in classic colonial style and has an astonishingly ornate frieze above the doorway.

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Not sure what building this is but the balconies are great.

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Midblock on the west side before Peron is what used to be an optician’s shop, as alluded to by the pairs of spectacles on the bronze plaques.

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If you look up at the tower on the western corner of Peron you’ll see the name Gath & Chaves, as the building was once a British department store.

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On the other side of the road there’s a Spanish Gothic building with a big bronze door.

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At 165 Florida you’ll find Galeria Guemes which looks like nothing special from the outside but has a stunning interior and beautiful ornamental elevators. It was designed by the same architect who designed the Confiteria del Molino (see my Avenida de Mayo post).

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At 99 Calle Florida (on the corner with Diagonal Norte) there’s another Spanish colonial building with bronze doors made in England. The cupola is one of a row of five that mark the intersections along Diagonal Norte.

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In front of the latter is the Art Deco monument to Roque Sáenz Peña who was president of Argentina between 1910 and 1914.

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This statue marks the end of the walking tour I was following but on other occasions I’ve found some other gems on the streets around Florida.

Such as the Art Deco Teatro Opera at 1860 Corrientes, built in 1936.

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Also Iglesia San Miguel Arcangel Bartolomé at 886 Mitre.

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This stunning statue of Ophiuchus is in a square nearby but I can’t remember the address for the life of me.

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