A central square has existed on this site since the 16th century, but the current name, Plaza de Mayo, commemorates May 25, 1810, the day the Argentine Congress declared independence from Spain. Many of the dramas of Argentina's history (and there have been plenty) have played out on this stage, the political heart of the city. At one end stands the Casa Rosada, the pink-hued seat of the executive branch of government; at the other, the Cabildo, the government building until 1821; and on the northern flank, the imposing Cathedral. The Madres de Plaza de Mayo, mothers of those who "disappeared" during the military dictatorship of 1976 and 1983, still demonstrate here on Thursday afternoons at 3:30 pm.
Looking for a bit of nature in the big city? Though there are many parks in Buenos Aires, the Reserva Ecológica is the city's favorite and most rugged green lung. At this 350-hectare park you can enjoy walking, running and cycling along the paths while taking in the trees and natural landscape. If you sit quietly, however, you can observe some of the birds that live in the park. The Reserva Ecológica is normally open from 8 am to 5 pm, but the park also hosts a monthly full moon guided walk on the Friday closest to the full moon. The four-hour walk has to be booked in advance.
The Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral is a splendid church with soaring ceilings, beautiful stained glass, marble columns and frescoes on the walls. The Rococo-style altarpiece features the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity, and the large German organ dates from 1871. Look down to appreciate the Italian-style mosaics that cover the floor. In the cathedral you will also find the Mausoleum of General San Martin, a national hero in Argentina for his part in the nation's independence. Today the cathedral is known as the Pope's church. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013, the year he was elected and became known as Pope Francis.
Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The historical Metropolitan Cathedral is a beautiful and ornate place to visit.
Sarah's expert tip: Don't miss the grand Mausoleum of General San Martin, where Argentines pay their respects to the man most often credited with liberating the nation from the Spanish.
While gondolas are forever associated with Venice's charms, Buenos Aires has joined mother Italy in offering visitors a unique type of boat ride. Local gondoliers navigate the calm waterways of Buenos Aires' Puerto Madero area, including under the city's emblematic Women's Bridge, and give passengers a unique perspective from which to enjoy the area's sights. Rides last for about an hour. While rides are not exactly cheap, they are a pretty cool experience to have in Buenos Aires. The company has a small fleet of gondolas, one them named after Pope Francis. In addition to standard routes, they offer special occasion packages.
A landmark in the Puerto Madero neighborhood, the Puente de la Mujer (meaning Women's Bridge in Spanish) is a white, asymmetrically-shaped footbridge designed by Spaniard Santiago Calatrava and said to resemble a couple dancing tango. Pedestrians use the bridge to cross from one area of Puerto Madero to another, or simply to enjoy the views from the bridge. Built in 2001, the bridge was not originally part of the Puerto Madero neighborhood's urban renewal project, to convert the old port zone into an area of expensive shops, restaurants and homes; however, the bridge quickly became the most recognizable symbol of modern Puerto Madero.
Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: This bridge is a beautiful and modern Buenos Aires landmark.
Sarah's expert tip: While the Women's Bridge makes a great pedestrian path, the bridge was designed to swing open in case there are ships that need to pass through.
Built in 1936 from white stone to commemorate the city's founding, the Obelisk, or Obelisco, is one of Buenos Aires' most important monuments and an icon of the city itself. The Obelisk stands 67.5 meters tall at the intersection of 9 de Julio Avenue, the widest avenue in the world, and Corrientes Avenue. The 9 de Julio subway (subte) stations are nearby. On special occasions the Obelisk is wrapped with decorations or illuminated with colored lights. The Obelisk's architect, Alberto Prebisch, also designed the Teatro Gran Rex, an Art Deco theater modeled after Radio City Music Hall in New York.
Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The Obelisk has become an icon representing the city of Buenos Aires.
Sarah's expert tip: The Obelisk stands at a very large and busy intersection, but as a pedestrian, there is plenty of open space to sit and gaze up at the monument.
This delightful, city-center park stretches from the grand, British-built Retiro station at the bottom of the hill up to shady, tree-lined walkways at the top, which is the northern end of the pedestrian shopping street, Calle Florida. The park is surrounded on all sides by historic, iconic buildings: the art deco skyscraper Edificio Kavanagh, once the tallest building in South America; the Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento, an ornate church; the early 20th century Palacio San Martin, the palace once owned by the wealthy Anchorena family; and the Palacio Paz (now the Circulo Militar), built as the residence of wealthy newspaper founder, Jose C Paz. Near Retiro station is the black marble monument to the soldiers who lost their lives in the Falklands War. With an irony not overlooked by the authorities, it stands opposite the Torre Monumental (more commonly known by its previous name, Torre de los Ingleses), which looks like Big Ben and was a gift from Anglo-Argentines to Argentina for the centennial celebrations.
One of the world's great cemeteries and one of the city's most memorable sights, Recoleta tops most tourists' Buenos Aires itineraries. A city in miniature, the cemetery, which opened to the public in 1822, is a dreamy vision of domes, pantheons and sculptures right in the heart of the city. The great and good of BA are laid to rest here – scientists, writers, presidents and the just plain rich. Most graves are well kept while others appear abandoned to time. The cemetery's most famous resident is Maria Eva Duarte de Peron, or Evita, whose grave is surrounded by a crowd of camera-wielding tourists at all times.
Located on one end of the Plaza de Mayo, the Casa Rosada (in English, the Pink House) was once a beautiful post office, but today it is Argentina's presidential palace. It is where the Argentine president works, but not lives. Some of the interesting places you can visit in the palace include: the White Room, which is a stunning formal hall where the most important state events are held; the President's office; the Hall of Busts, containing statues of former presidents; the Hall of Bicentennial Thinkers and Writers, where speeches are often given; as well as the pleasant Palm Tree Patio.
Recommended for Attractions near Cruise Port because: The Casa Rosada is an interesting look into the country's past and present.
Sarah's expert tip: There are regular group tours in English, Spanish and other languages when the presidential palace is not being used – on the weekends and holidays.
Considered one of the finest opera houses in the world and an impressive sight even from the outside, the Colón opened its first season in 1908, after some 20 years of construction. Its classical horseshoe auditorium makes for great sight lines and acoustics, and it is often cited as one of the top five opera houses worldwide. During the season (meaning not January or February) you can buy tickets to see grand opera and ballet productions, as well as hear the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra. Otherwise, there are guided tours throughout the day every day, even on most holidays, where you can get a closer look at this Buenos Aires jewel.