Buenos Aires is a city with a grand reputation, famed for its nightlife, architecture and buzzing cultural scene. It's a city which has often been labelled, 'The Paris/Madrid of Latin America' (or, so it seems, any European city with similarly wide avenues and colonial-esque architecture) but in reality it is difficult to make such comparisons. The fusion of people, as well as cultural influences, from Europe and Latin America is unique and creates a distinctive and energetic atmosphere unlike any other.
That said, immigration from Europe, particularly intense during the early decades of the twentieth century, has had a major influence in shaping the city as it exists today. The city's geographical location and orientation has meant that it has always been susceptible to influences from other parts of Latin America and the world. Diverse peoples have always been drawn to Buenos Aires, a process which began in the sixteenth century with the European 'discovery' of the city and which continues right up to the present day, with more recent immigrations from other countries in Latin America.
These historical flows have created a city which is undoubtedly a little rough around the edges, but one which is exciting and interesting in equal measure. Metropolitan Buenos Aires is a huge sprawling urban area which hosts some 13 million people, as well as the inequality and poverty which is sadly a familiar part of life in Latin American cities. The streets can be extremely crowded and occasionally a little polluted, as most of the vehicles in Buenos Aires are of a certain vintage. However, the hustle and bustle of the sidewalks is also what helps to create the ambience and buzz inherent to different barrios
of the city. Visitors should take the usual kinds of precautions to those when moving around any global city, but it should be said that Buenos Aires is relatively safe when compared with other urban areas in Latin America. There are dangerous barrios
but these are generally situated a long way from the places of interest to the visitor and thus generate few problems.
The diverse neighbourhoods (barrios)
of Buenos Aires each have their own inimitable flavour and feel. The sophisticated and chic northern barrios
of Belgrano, Palermo and Recoleta are known for their shopping, nightclubs, trendy bars and restaurants. Moreover, the extensive parks situated in these areas provide space to get away from the congestion of the city during the day. Recoleta hosts the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta
with its dramatic mausoleums for distinguished Argentinean individuals (including Evita and many ex-presidents), as well as several other reputed galleries and museums. Villa Crespo, to the east of the city centre, is an up-and-coming barrio
which has a slightly edgier feel than Palermo and is home to some great bars, as well as numerous high-quality and reasonable restaurants. In contrast, the attractive southern barrios
of San Telmo and Boca have a more traditional feel with their cobbled streets and decorative architecture. The Feria de San Telmo
(or fair of San Telmo) which takes place every Sunday is a must-see for those wanting to sample some tango and traditional music on the streets of Buenos Aires, as well as purchase those classic Argentine souvenirs. The colourful and quaint barrio
of Boca holds its own intrigue, but visitors are generally encouraged to stick to two or three streets due to the dangers of the surrounding neighbourhood. This generates a rather intensive and overly-commodified tourist experience but Boca is worth visiting for the architecture alone, which is unlike any other in the city. The central area of Buenos Aires is perhaps most famous for its sweeping avenues and majestic buildings, such as the Casa Rosada, Obelisco
The streets are notorious for their shopping, coffee-shops and nightclubs and there are innumerable hostels situated in and around the centre of the city. Adjacent to the heart of Buenos Aires is the more recently developed barrio
of Puerto Madero, located on the site of the old port. This has some of the city's finest restaurants with unmatched red meat and heladerias
with ice cream to die for, which all come with a great vista of the re-generated port area.
There are always interesting events or festivals taking place in the city regardless of the time of year you choose to visit. Buenos Aires hosts literature, dance, art, photography, music, food and wine festivals to name just a few. There is an extremely active arts scene with an abundance of live music, ranging from international acts in the city's large stadiums to tiny informal jams involving local musicians. For those with a more sophisticated ear there is the famous Teatro Colon
where you can watch some of the world's greatest opera performers. Theatre and musicals are also extremely popular and there are countless shows to choose from. The sporting scene in the city is equally exciting and a trip to the stadium of Boca Juniors
or River Plate
will leave you in no doubt as to the passion Argentines have for the game. Polo, rugby and tennis are all popular sports here and it's possible to watch matches at different times throughout the year.
While there's more than enough to keep you occupied within the city, there are also a number of interesting places to visit nearby. The scenic town of Tigre, situated about an hour from Buenos Aires on the train or bus, offers a more relaxed and naturally beautiful environment in contrast to the city centre. Its riverside restaurants and bars make this a popular retreat for portenos and visitors alike. The quaint town of Colonia in Uruguay is a short boat trip from the port of Buenos Aires and offers a similarly laidback atmosphere, and even the capital Montevideo is within easy reach. The Province of Buenos Aires which surrounds the city has a number of other places worth visiting, including the beaches in Mar del Plata and the green rolling valleys of Tandil. These locations will be of particular interest to those who don't wish to spend too long travelling around the country by bus. Whether you're looking to stay in the city or travel to some of the places around Buenos Aires, you're guaranteed to have a varied and culturally-rich stay.