Buenos Aires For the First-Time Visitor

Also, on Plaza de Mayo is the Presidential Palace, where the president works but does not live.  For good reason, it also is called the Casa Rosada, or Rose House: From 1884, the facade has been painted pink.

• La Boca, a down-and-out waterfront neighborhood, with cache. That sounds contradictory, but in the 19th century, a local artist hatched the idea of adorning public spaces and the sides of houses with art — which is still there — and painting the houses in bright colors  — another tradition that lives on. It also is said to be the birthplace of the tango.

Buenos Aires’ La Boca neighborhood, with numerous artworks on permanent view and brightly painted houses, is a colorful place in every sense of the word.

Although it is favored by some artists, most people still would not choose to live in La Boca, but it is a lively place for a daytime visit, walking a pedestrians-only “main” street (the Caminito), the center for the area’s attractions.

On a typical sunny afternoon (my experience), there were plenty of visitors on hand, taking photos, listening to the tango music piped into the streets and posing for pictures with live models in seductive tango postures. Artists also were selling drawings and paintings in street-vendor set-ups reminiscent of Montmartre.

• The ornate Teatro Colon, one of the world’s grandest opera houses. Tourists can take guided tours of

a building that is evocative of all the glamor that theatrical settings can suggest. The

Close-up of the Buenos Aires opera house, the ornate Teatro Colon, in a photo taken during its recently completed renovation.

facility was renovated, at a cost of $100 million, according to the Associated Press, and reopened in 2010.

• Recoleta Cemetery, burial site of Eva Peron. Recoleta is a fashionable

neighborhood distinguished by broad, well-kept boulevards (in a city of boulevards), upscale shopping — and the eponymous cemetery where scores of mausoleums and a tidy street plan add up to another fashionable neighborhood, for the dead.

Entry is free but an inexpensive “town map” is very helpful. The map identifies 158 burials of note including, of course, the real estate assigned to Eva Peron. For her, there is no mausoleum but a pillar topped by a winged figure, and some say “Evita” is not really there.

Ricoleta Cemetery, with mausoleums that look like tiny houses and its own “town map,” is a fashionable neighborhood for the dead.

The cemetery abuts the charming Our Lady of Pilar Basilica, which fulfills every fantasy of how a small, white mission-style church should look.

• Tango show. No city’s name is so closely entwined with a dance as is Buenos Aires with the tango. Not even Vienna and the waltz.

Born on the wrong side of the tracks, the tango has come uptown — and spread across the world. In the Argentine capital, tourists can drop in on the low-cost milongas at almost any time to practice their steps. Watchers and other cowards have numerous dinner shows to choose from.

My tango sampler was the dinner show at Michelangelo, clearly designed (and priced, not quite $50 a person, basic show only; up to $75, least costly dinner and show option) for tourists. There are plenty more such shows to choose from.

In a relatively intimate setting, visitors from across the globe saw varying renditions of the dance, with performers dressed (or not) for the bordello; women in flared skirts, men in pinstripes; and women in skirts split nearly to the waist, men in tuxes.

Then, we spilled onto the cobblestones of San Telmo, a down-and-dirty barrio/up-and-coming bohemia — a good match for the occasion.

Travel trivia: At 460 feet, the widest avenue in the world is Av. 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires.

— Excerpted from Travia: The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia, by Nadine Godwin, author of this article and published by The Intrepid Traveler.

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