Picturesque Colonia del Sacramento is one of the main gateways into Uruguay from Argentina. Only 1 hour away from Buenos Aires by boat, its tranquil old town has been awarded UNESCO world heritage status. Founded by the Portugese in 1680, it was of strategic importance due it being placed on the tip of the north peninsula of the Río de la Plata. Its most famous street, Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs), has two equally interesting theories on how it got its name. One story states that prisoners who were convicted to death were led up the street to be tied up and drowned when the tide came in. Another claims that the sighs refer to the sounds of the many brothels that were allegedly located on the street.
Puerto Madero is the waterfront area of Buenos Aires. Built in 1897 to allow direct docking for cargo ships, which was not possible due to the river being shallow, it only remained properly in operation until 1911. As cargo ships got increasingly larger, the port became unable to accommodate them and an alternative port was built. Following years of degradation, it has seen a massive regeneration, now featuring bars, restaurants and hotels.
Like many other major cities, Buenos Aires has its own Chinatown. Roughly the same size as the one found in London, it predominantly consists of restaurants, supermarkets and shops selling cheap asian tat. Not exclusively populated by the Chinese, there are also businesses run by Tawainese, Japanese and Thais. Interestingly, it is where most Argentinians go to buy “exotic” food, such as fresh fish, basmati rice and noodles.
We visited La Boca and San Telmo on Sunday. La Boca means the mouth in Spanish, with its name arising from the fact it is positioned at the mouth of the river Riachuelo. It was also the arrival point for immigrants in the 1800s when it was Buenos Aires’ main harbour. The houses are built from cast off ship-building materials, and painted in fun patch work colours. Known as conventillos, they each used to be home to numerous immigrant families, with one family per room, living in very poor conditions. Now they have mostly been turned into shops and restaurants. La Boca is also supposedly the birthplace of tango. As it was a Sunday there were many people dancing in the streets, though this did seem something of a contrived affair aimed at tourists.
San Telmo is one of the oldest barrios (neighbourhoods) in Buenos Aires and as a result one of the most picturesque. On Sundays, cobbled streets play host to an amazing market about a mile long, made up stalls selling food, antiques, handmade jewellery and lots of incense!
On the southern side of BA there is an ecological reserve open to the public during the day, where we spent an afternoon enjoying being away from the noise of the city. On one side you can see towering skyscrapers, while the other opens out to the Rio del Plato and Uruguay. Most of the people there appeared to be either runners, cyclists or teenage couples. There is a variety of plants and wildlife and we were lucky to to spot terrapins and a brief glimpse of a Brazilian guinea pig.
We visited Recoleta cemetery—which is absolutely huge, the larger the mausoleum generally the more important the family. Most of the coffins are posted in shelves, it’s a pretty bizarre thing to see but pretty impressive nonetheless. After we stopped by in this beautiful bookshop which was an old theatre.