Buenos Aires city government has launched six free walking tours in English, traversing some of the city’s most historic jaunts. Local guides impart their expertise and socio-historical knowledge as the tours, dubbed ‘Buenos Aires Classics’, unfold six days a week.
The range of tours on offer aim to cater for both those wishing to encounter some of the city’s more bourgeois haunts, as well as those looking for a grittier experience.
The Indy took the Plaza de Mayo tour, which included the Casa Rosada and the Cathedral, to get a feel for what was on offer.
Tours commence at a laid-back 3pm, but the starting point wasn’t particularly well signposted, with no distinct placard or sign, so it would be a good idea to allow some time to find the guide. Our tour guide, Walter, is a porteño in his late 30s, complete with a few facial bristles and a respectable command of English.
He is nonchalantly dressed in a white t-shirt, which as the smallest possible Buenos Aires government emblem on his chest, which did make locating him somewhat of a tricky affair amongst the swell of the general public.
The tour begins with the Cathedral, just metres from the meeting point on the corner of San Martín and Rivadavia, and Walter recounts the inception of the building at the hands of Juan de Garay in 1580, sharing anecdotes, such as how the floral path laid in coloured stones took in excess of four years to conclude.
We finish at the mausoleum of General San Martín, which was designed by French sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and was finished with distinctive colours of marble. General San Martín is laid to rest in a black sarcophagus, which in turn lies alongside three females figures, in representation of the countries he liberated: Argentina, Chile, and Peru.
Subsequently the tour moves onto the Casa Rosada.
Once more Walter relates several stories in relation to the presidential building’s origins, including the famous balcony from which Juan and Eva Perón gave speeches, and where Diego Maradona famously raised the World Cup in 1986.
The final stage of the tour is Plaza de Mayo itself, the “heart of political life in Argentina”. It was originally designed to commemorate the May Revolution of 1810, which would later signify the independence from Spain in 1816. In addition, Walter discloses that in an attempt to overthrow the Perón, the square was bombed on 16th June 1955, resulting in dozens of fatalities. Today Walter advises that the Plaza is more synonymous with the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, who congregate each Thursday at 3pm, in order to remember their children who were disappeared during Argentina’s last dictatorship.
The tour is a free cultural exploration of the rich history and cultural heritage to be found in Buenos Aires. Walter provided a lot of original insight and explains he can be “happily found” in the tourist information booth next to Catedral metro station, should we have any further queries.
The free tours run six days a week with each day offering an insight into a different neighbourhood. All tours start at 3pm.
Monday is an opportunity to visit of Puerto Madero, the old shipping port and in turn sample some of the local gastronomy. The meeting point is Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo and Azucena Villaflor.
On Tuesdays you can visit La Boca, the vibrant port neighbourhood, where football, immigration, and tango all go hand in hand. The meeting point is Av. Alte Brown and Av. Pedro de Mendoza.
Wednesday is the day to discover Palermo’s Rose Garden, a beautifully verdant oasis of serenity within the city. The meeting point is the Sarmiento monument, Av. Sarmiento and Av. del Libertador.
On Thursdays the tours head to the affluent neighbourhood of Recoleta, including Plaza Francia, Recoleta cemetery and adjacent church. Meeting point: Av. del Libertador and Eduardo Schiano.
On Fridays the tour passes through San Telmo, and takes in the craft antiquities and more contemporary artisan goods. The meeting point is corner of Perú and Carlos Calvo.
Tours operate year round, but do not run in the rain. There is no need to book a place on the tour, those interested can just arrive at the meeting point to join the tours, which last between 90 minutes and two hours. For more information, visit the Buenos Aires City Tourism website.