Walking around Buenos Aires is a visual treat. The architecture, culture and feel of each area is so incredibly unique. I have found myself constantly curious about the story behind certain barrios or buildings. My guidebook, however, can only tell me so much. The Ayres de Arte tour in Retiro is an opportunity to gain some historical context of Calle Arroyo – famous for its many art galleries and swanky feel.
It begins and ends at the Isaac Fernández Blanco Museum of Spanish American Art. Although it was built in the 1920s, the building looks like a colonial Spanish villa – red tile roof, a large courtyard, and thick adobe-like walls. Take a moment to sit in the garden, it is a peaceful sanctuary from the loud and busy streets right outside. The building looks out of place among the mixture of early 20th century French architecture and modern construction.
The 90 minute outing is a short course on the history of art and architecture of Calle Arroyo between Carlos Pellegrini and Esmerelda. There is the French embassy – sold after the Wall Street crash in 1929, the contemporary memorial park to the victims of the Israeli embassy bombing, and an Art Deco hotel, once slated to be demolished. You also get a chance to window shop as you walk past the eclectic art galleries. That is quite a lot in the span of two city blocks.
The tour de force, however is the iron replica of the Nike of Samothrace, a headless angel standing on the helm of a ship, imported from Italy in the 1920s. The Nike logo is based off of the wings of the original sculpture – located in the Louvre.
The $10 tour fee also buys you entrance to the Isaac Fernández Blanco Museum of Spanish American Art. After your walk take some time to walk through the old house and see Spanish colonial craftmanship from all over South America. There are religious paintings by indigenous schools of art, silver handiwork, and replicas of “typical rooms” during the Spanish colonization. In the bedroom you’ll notice some chairs are lower than others – they are where the woman was supposed to sit. Men sat in taller chairs, so a lady was literally never above her male counterpart. If you’re not paticularly keen on walking tours, you can still visit the museum for only $1.
The Ayres de Arte tour is a chance to go for a short walk, enjoy the temperate weather, and learn a thing or two about your surroundings. You’ll hear how the city borders of Buenos Aires were created, when the aristocracy moved from La Boca to Retiro during the yellow fever epidemic, the inspiration behind certain buildings and reconnect with the streets views of Argentina. The tour will give you a new frame of reference to any street in this massive city. The things you walk by everyday will take on a new luster of historical meaning.