Plaza San Martin is my favourite square in Buenos Aires, mainly for the beautiful trees that grow in it, but also for the impressive buildings that surround it.
Several types of tall exotic trees shade the southern end of the plaza. My favourites are the purple flowered Jacarandas that are a symbol of Buenos Aires and can be found all over the city.
The south-eastern side is dominated by El Edificio Kavanagh, the Kavanagh Building, which was South America’s highest skyscraper when it was buiilt in 1936. The architects took a Rationalist approach to a combination of Art Deco and Modernism which has resulted in a beautiful, slender construction. It has quite an interesting history.
Next door is the Plaza Hotel. The restaurant in the basement was the top spot for the elite to dine and socialise for more than a hundred years. The bar is a good spot to treat yourself to a posh cocktail in classy surroundings (see my post on eating and drinking in the Retiro).
In the north-western corner is the imposing Circulo Militar, a club for retired military offices. We tried to sneak in to get a glimpse of the interior but were ushered out straight away. I think you can get in when the cafe is open.
Part of the building looks like it should be in the Loire valley.
The square has many allusions to Argentina and Britain’s love/hate relationship. In 1807 (the square was created in 1883) the land was the site of Britain’s defeat when it made a second attempt to conquer Buenos Aires during the Napoleonic wars.
At the southern end of the square is the Falkland’s memorial; a long wall bearing 645 names of the fallen. Argentina lost more than twice as many men as Britain during the conflict.
Opposite the memorial is the Torre Monumental, a clocktower that was a gift from the local British community to commemorate the centennial of the revolution of 1810. It was once know as Torre de las Ingles but was renamed in 1982 after it received minor damage from an angry anti-British mob.
Beyond the memorial is the Retiro Railway Station with its three terminals. The most historical is the Retiro Mitre Station, built by the British in the early twentieth century. The steel frame, like many similar structures in South America, was cast in the UK (Liverpool in this case) and shipped over.
As ever, please click on the photos for an enlarged view.
I find it hard to believe (as I think it’s quite ugly) but for a long time it was considered an engineering masterpiece and one of the most important buildings in the world.
I do like the station’s beautiful cafe though and it’s a good place to stop after a fair bit of walking around. The station also appears several times in The Secret in Their Eyes, an excellent Argentinian movie which one the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009.
I did this architectural tour which gives a lot more detailed information about all these buildings.
For a few days in November 2014, Plaza San Martin hosted this amazing outdoor exhibition of alien figures made entirely with plastic water bottles.
This seems to be a major art form in Buenos Aires as I’ve seen ingenious plastic creations on numerous other occasions.