The historic plaza in the center of Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo, contains a lot of interesting buildings and landmarks to keep you busy. The beautifully landscaped area always seems to be buzzing with some kind of excitement.
You’ll also see lots of banners and signs referring to Las Malvinas (Falkland Islands). There is a small memorial near the center dedicated to the 1982 war with Britain. It’s still a major issue with most Argentinians.
On the east side of the square is a monument to Manuel Belgrano, a revolutionary hero and the designer of the Argentinian flag.
The most prominent building on the square and perhaps Buenos Aires also sits on the east side. It’s called Casa Rosada (Pink House) and is the presidential palace of Argentina. It was built between 1862-1885 on the former site of Fuerte Viejo, the old fort of Buenos Aires. For many the building is most famous for when Eva Perón addressed her supporters from one of its balconies. Tours are available on weekends.
Clockwise from Casa Rosada are two government buildings, the Minister of Economy and Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos (Public Revenue). Next to Public Revenue is Calle Defensa, which on Sundays hosts an open-air craft market that runs through the heart of Barrio Monserrat all the way to Plaza Dorrego in historic San Telmo.
On the southwest corner at Diagonal Sur is the Gran Victoria, a famous restaurant, and Palacio de la Legislatura de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, the city legislature. The Palacio de la Legislatura was built between 1926-1931. Besides being a beautiful building, the clock tower is a really cool feature. Between them is Avenida Roca, where every Sunday the Feria de Consumo Responsable takes place between 10am and 6pm. It’s a recycling fair promoting the use of green products and sellers of sustainable goods.
At the southwest end is one of the colonial buildings from Spanish rule, the Cabildo de Buenos Aires. It was built between 1725-1822 and now houses a museum about the Revolutión de Mayo. Admission was ARG $10, but it was kind of a waste of time and not very interesting. Don’t bother visiting.
Avenida de Mayo starts between the Cabildo and the Palacio Municipal de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, the Buenos Aires city hall built in 1890. Next to it is the SGP de la Jefatura de Gabinete de Ministros. It was formerly the Banco Argentino Uruguayo and was built in 1928.
The huge Neoclassical building on the northwest end of the plaza is the Catedral Metropolitana. I was lucky to visit on the same day that Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were declared saints. There were several members of the Polish community of Buenos Aires in traditional dress there to celebrate.
The gorgeous interior of the cathedral also contains a room holding the tomb of General José de San Martin, an Argentinian independence hero. He also played important roles in the independence of Perú and Chile. He died in France in 1850 and his remains were transported to Buenos Aires in 1880.
Continuing clockwise is BBVA Banco Frances, built in 1933. It was originally the Nuevo Banco Italiano. Finally, on the northwest corner of Plaza de Mayo is the massive Banco de la Nación, built in 1943. It is the national bank of Argentina and the biggest in the country.
I recommend visiting Plaza de Mayo on a Sunday. This way, you can do a tour of Casa Rosada and visit the market on Calle Defensa when you finish. With the time for a Casa Rosada tour included, about two hours is worth dedicating to the square and the buildings around it.
When I visited on a Sunday there was an Arab cultural festival on Avenida de Mayo. They had food, shopping, music, and dancing. I had a nice lunch there and enjoyed the entertainment.