Retiro is centered around Plaza San Martín, an impeccably landscaped park just to the north of the city center of Buenos Aires. The plaza is a great place to sit and people watch under the shade of tall trees.
Plaza San Martín also contains a couple of monuments. There is an equestrian statue of General José de San Martín, and on the lower part down the hill, Monumento a los Caídos en Malvinas. This is a memorial for soldiers killed in the 1982 war with Britain over Las Malvinas (Falkland Islands).
Retiro is a wealthy district and the architecture of the buildings surrounding Plaza San Martín reflect this wealth. The large Art Deco concrete structure, Edificio Kavanagh, was built in 1935. It was once South America’s tallest building and the tallest in the world made of reinforced concrete. The building was built by a rich Argentinian woman of Irish descent, Corina Kavanagh. Legend has it that she built it as revenge against another wealthy family, the Anchorenas, that had disapproved of her engagement with their son. The Anchorenas had built a church in Retiro, and Kavanagh built the skyscraper to block the Anchorenas’ view of their church from their palace across Plaza San Martín.
The church in question is the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento, built in 1916. It can be found just a block behind Edificio Kavanagh.
Continuing clockwise around Plaza San Martín from Edificio Kavanagh is the beginning of the famous pedestrian street, Calle Florida. Calle Florida continues all the way to Plaza de Mayo and is full of shops.
Next is Palacio Haedo, built in 1880 for the Haedo family. They made their fortune exporting meat. The national park service occupies the building today.
Palacio Paz, built in 1914, is part officer’s club (Círculo Militar) and part military museum. The museum, Museo de Armas de la Nación, is Argentina’s national military museum and has an interesting collection of weapons. It’s worth a visit and admission is cheap.
The aforementioned Anchorena family lived at the Palacio San Martín, directly across the plaza from Edificio Kavanagh. The building was finished in 1909 and now houses the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
On the north end of Plaza San Martín is a large clock tower, Torre de los Ingleses. Built in 1916, its official name was changed to Torre Monumental after the 1982 war with Britain. There is a small museum inside, but visitors were not allowed up to the observation deck during my visit.
Across the street from the tower is Estación Retiro. This train station built in 1915 is one of the busiest in all of Argentina.
While Retiro is known as a wealthy district full of impressive buildings and five star hotels, it should be noted that a portion of it is one of the poorest slums in all of Argentina. Villa 31, an area that should not be visited, is located just across the tracks from Estación Retiro. You can get a good look at it from the highway that cuts through it.