Plaza de Congreso—Plaza de Mayo Corridor
When people refer to Buenos Aires as the Paris of South America, they are remembering this genteel quarter along the Avenida de Mayo. The city’s first European-style boulevard (À la Paris’s Champs-Élysées or Madrid’s Paseo del Prado), the avenue originally cut a wide, tree-lined course from the Plaza de Mayo to the Plaza de Congreso. Although a dense downtown has grown up to cramp this dignified strip, the Avenida de Mayo still lays claim to the most exquisite collection of French-style architecture in Latin America. To get a sense of the immense wealth and unbridled European pretensions that characterized 19th-century Argentina, start at the Plaza de Congreso, anchored by the Greco-Roman National Congress building. Then walk eastward, crossing Avenida 9 de Julio, toward Plaza de Mayo—the political, historic, and symbolic center of Buenos Aires, where you’ll find the peachy-pink presidential palace known as the Casa Rosada; the Spanish Cabildo (seat of the government); and the Neoclassical cathedral. Between these two plazas, stunning Second Empire edifices line the way, including the historic façade of the 36 Billares pool hall (No. 1265) and the Palacio Barolo (No. 1366), once South America’s tallest building. Top off your stroll with a coffee or drink at the legendary Café Tortoni (No. 829), Buenos Aires’s oldest literary hangout (the food is passable, but better meals are had elsewhere).