I started my walk down the street at the Congreso Nacional, the imposing Argentinian National Congress building built in 1906. It was modeled after the US Capitol in Washington, D.C.
One interesting building on the north side of Plaza del Congreso is the Auditoría General de la Nación (General Auditor’s Office). It was formerly the Instituto Biológico Argentino and was built in 1924. The auditor has occupied the building since 1997.
Another is Confitería Molino (Windmill Café) with its signature windmill on the tower. It opened in 1916 and was built by Italian architect Francisco Gianotti. It was one of the tallest buildings in the city when it opened and was a popular place for politicians to meet and drink coffee.
The large open space is actually split into three plazas, with the section east of Avenida Montevideo called Plaza Mariano Moreno and tiny Plaza Lorea at the northeast corner. Plaza Mariano Moreno was named after Mariano Moreno, a hero of the Argentinian May Revolution. There’s a monument to him in the plaza as well as a lot of sculptures, including the third of only eight original casts of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. Plaza Mariano Moreno also has a small monolith marking Kilometer Zero for all Argentine national highways.
At the east end of Plaza Mariano Moreno, on the south side of Avenida de Mayo, are two very interesting buildings. The first one is Edificio La Inmobiliaria, built in 1910. It was built to house the first insurance company in Buenos Aires, founded in 1893. When the original owner died in 1920, his heirs sold the company and the building was occupied by different tenants thereafter. Many of the original design elements have been lost to neglect and time, including when one of the copulas was severely damaged in a severe storm in 1994.
The second building is Palacio Barolo. Built in 1923 by Italian architect Mario Palanti, it’s supposed to resemble Dante’s Divine Comedy. The ground floor and basement represent hell, the first through 14th floors are purgatory, and the 15th through 22nd represent heaven. I don’t see it, but it’s still an impressive building. When completed, it was the tallest building in South America. Its twin, Palacio Salvo, was built in Montevideo and is of greater height. It’s also possible to see the lighthouse on top of Palacio Barolo all the way in Montevideo.
Continuing down Avenida de Mayo, you’ll see plenty of very nice buildings, including the Teatro Avenida and Ex Hotel París. Teatro Avenida opened in 1908 and enjoyed a successful run until a sharp decline with the rise of Argentina’s military dictatorship in 1976. It was closed in 1977 and burned down in 1979. It was rebuilt in 1994 and has been open ever since.
Keep walking down Avenida de Mayo and you’ll see more buildings (yes, it gets old). This is probably a good time to stop and rest at Café Tortoni. It’s one of the oldest establishments in Buenos Aires, dating back to 1858. It was a popular haunt of the city’s writers, poets, and musicians. If you make reservations for the evening, you will also be able to catch a tango show there. Continuing down Avenida de Mayo will finally bring you to Plaza de Mayo.