BUENOS AIRES — It may be a commonplace, that Argentina’s capital is South America’s most European city. To see it for the first time is a revelation of sorts, nevertheless.
Other cities on the continent offer plenty of evidence for their European roots, too, but in this case, uniquely, think Paris.
Buenos Aires stands apart in other ways, as well. A higher percentage of the population is of European descent (as is true for all of Argentina) than elsewhere on the continent, and, although the country was a Spanish colony, it attracted a broader mix of European — and even American — immigrants.
For today’s visitors, that translates into more choices for dining and even places to hang out; food may be Argentinian beef or fine Italian, after-hours entertainment may mean watching or learning the tango or making the rounds of a cluster of Irish pubs downtown.
The historic churches, the French mansard roofs, the colorful nightspots, all are tucked in among countless towering office buildings downtown and apartment towers in residential sections.
The combo yields a city that is often pretty and feels larger than a population of around 3 million would suggest. (In fact, it feels large because of the suburbs in the surrounding province of Buenos Aires creating a metropolis of perhaps 14 million. Sources vary on this, ranging from around 13 million to 15 million, but regardless the number is a big one.)
Highlights for the first-time visitor will likely include:
• Plaza de Mayo, the square where the city was born in 1580. The de rigueur church here, the 19th century Metropolitan Cathedral,
has a neoclassical exterior — in other words, it looks like a Greek temple — and the interior is Baroque.
It also is the burial site for the country’s hero-liberator Jose de San Martin who died in France but was eventually transferred back here; his coffin is so long it is positioned at an angle under the grandly designed urn over it.
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