Buenos Aires: Retiro & Congreso
Retiro is north of Microcentro and known for its office buildings and the hilly Plaza San Martin. It flows into stately Congreso, named for its government and national court buildings (tribunales).
Plaza San Martín
North end of Calle Florida
A great place to take a breather and people-watch on the rolling lawn. A statue of Argentinean independence hero General San Martin provides the centerpiece for the green-fringed colonial town square (or, in this case, circle).
Avenida Corrientes 1368, 011-54-11/4371-8141, pizzeriaguerrin.com.ar
The B.A. pizza joint since 1932. Start with a few slices of the fugazza (cheeseless pizza), before moving on to any one of the savory cheesy varieties. $3.80 for a large mozzarella pie; $3.10 if you eat it standing up.
A mini Spanish-language Broadway that spans 10 blocks of Avenida Corrientes, from Calle Maipú to Avenida Callao. Check out the state-owned Teatro San Martin (Av. Corrientes 1530, 0800-333-5254, teatrosanmartin.com.ar) for affordable, high-quality theater, dance, and concerts. Buy tickets online, or just walk up to the box office. $10.
Calle Cerrito 618, 011-54-11/4378-7100, teatrocolon.org.ar
B.A.'s version of the Paris opera house. Founded in 1908, it hosts orchestra, opera, and ballet performances in its gold and red velvet salons. $5-$15 for symphony tickets. Tours from 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. daily. Reserve at least a day in advance. $4.20, kids under 17 $1.
San Antonio de Areco: The historic town (welcomeargentina.com/sanantoniodeareco) and the surrounding pampas (grasslands) give a glimpse into Argentina's romantic gaucho past. The gaucho was Argentina's equivalent of the cowboy; his signature garb included baggy pants, a knife at his waist, and a beret. The gaucho way of life is long gone but today men come out in traditional gear for horse shows and dances. San Antonio's highlights include a pedestrian bridge, once the toll crossing between the capital and the unknown interior, and the Gaucho Museum (Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes). Getting there: The first-class Nueva Chevallier bus line at the Retiro bus terminal (Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro, Av. Antártida Argentina at the corner of Calle 10) has more than 20 buses to San Antonio de Areco per day. To reserve, call 011-54-11/4000-5255, or show up, buy your ticket, and board. $8.30 for a two-hour round-trip ride.
Estancias: Gaucho Country is full of charming traditional Argentine ranches, or estancias. Many of these are luxurious guesthouses, where you can spend a "day in the country" (día de campo). Activities include horseback riding and eating asado criollo (Argentine open-pit barbeque). Prices often include meals, but activities are separate. It's $240 for a double room (continental breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner for two, and all nonalcoholic beverages included) at the Estancia La Bamba (la-bamba.com.ar, 011-54-11/4732-1269), $50 for a día de campo. Contact Estancias Argentinas (Avenida Diagonal Presidente, Roque Saenz Peña 616, 011-54-11/4343-2366, estanciasargentinas.com) for a complete listing of ranches and prices. If you're willing to explore farther into the province you can find cheaper rates.
Only 20 miles from downtown Buenos Aires, Tigre marks the beginning of the lush Delta del Paraná and is a popular weekend getaway. Its amazing fruit market, craft shops, and channels lined with stilt houses are not to be missed. Getting there: Take the tourist Tren de la Costa (coastal train) from the Maipú station (Avenida Maipú 2300, between Calle Ramseyer and Calle Marconi). Taxi rides to the Maipú station from downtown run $7-$9. When at the Tren de la Costa, ask for a direct ticket to Delta, $4.20 for a round-trip tourist-class ticket (boleto turístico); you can hop on and off at any of the nine stations along the way.
This pleasant colonial town lies across the river from B.A. and, because it's in another country, you'll need your passport. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Colonia was founded by the Portuguese in the late 1600s. Getting there: Buquebus ferries (Avenida Antártida Argentina 821) leave from Puerto Madero at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., and return at 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. $35 for a three-hour round-trip ferry ride; $62 for a one-hour ride on a smaller, faster boat. (Buquebus Ticket Office, Avenida Córdoba 879, 011-54-11/4316-6500, buquebus.com)
THE DIRTY WAR
Argentina was under military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983 after a junta led by General Jorge Rafael Videla seized power from then-president Isabel Perón (the widow of famed former president Juan Perón). Initially, the regime drew broad popular support for its efforts to fight left-wing terrorism. But its heavy-handed tactics soon became violent and were ultimately aimed at innocent civilians. Human-rights groups estimate that nearly 30,000 Argentine civilians disappeared during this time. Mothers and grandmothers of "the disappeared" still meet every Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Plaza de Mayo to demand justice for their relatives.