Buenos Aires provides travellers with a fascinating slice of South American urban life. Both Argentina’s capital and largest city, it still bears signs of its European colonial past and 19th-century boom years, as well as the Latin passions of more recent decades.


Most visits to Buenos Aires begin at the Plaza de Mayo, scene of many defining events in Argentina’s history

Most visits begin at the Plaza de Mayo, home to the presidential palace and the scene of many defining events in the nation’s history. The name of the square itself commemorates the May Revolution of 1810, which eventually led to Buenos Aires and the surrounding provinces declaring independence from Spain.

For the real action, though, head into the suburbs. San Telmo is home to beautiful architecture and a celebrated Sunday street fair, while La Boca is a colourful working-class dockside area. Perhaps oddly, for such an energetic city, Buenos Aires’ most celebrated sight is the Cementerio de la Recoleta, the burial place for film star and political icon Eva Perón, affectionately known as ‘Evita’.

Buenos Aires is undeniably hectic, meaning that many travellers use it as a base for exploring the neighbouring areas. For a more unconventional experience, head north to Tigre and onto the waterways of the Paraná Delta, lined with a mishmash of eccentric houses.

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Alternatively, pack your passport for a ferry ride across the River Plate to the Uruguayan town of Colonia del Sacramento, with historic buildings aplenty to justify its Unesco World Heritage designation.

If you’d rather stay in Argentina, San Antonio de Areco is another colonial treat a couple of hours away from the capital by bus.


● A similar mix of energy and history in beautiful scenery can be found closer to home in Naples, Italy.

● If you're seeking a more tropical take on South American cities, the Caribbean port of Cartagena, Colombia is worth a visit.

By Tom Hall, travel writer and author of Lonely Planet's Best Ever Travel Tips.


This article was first published in the August 2019 edition of BBC History Magazine