Spend a Day in Argentine Gaucho Heartland

October 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

talk-to-el-ombu-horses

Read the full post here!

Your personal Buenos Aires Photo Tour

September 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Richard Photographer

Buenos Aires Spanish Classes

June 6, 2012 by · Comments Off on Buenos Aires Spanish Classes 

Learn Spanish in Buenos Aires

If you are going to be in Argentina for a little while, then surely you’ll want to improve your Spanish, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or already advanced (in which case you’ll still want to get up to speed on the local Argentine dialect). Patricio, of Che Vos Spanish, is a good friend of BuenosTours and an excellent, experienced, and fun teacher who will help improve your castellano in no time!

Patricio of Che Vos Spanish teaching some students

About the Spanish Lessons

They are run by Patricio, a Spanish (and English) teacher from Buenos Aires, who has been teaching for 12 years in high schools, language schools and companies, which helped him develop his own dynamic approach to teaching Spanish.

Patricio’s classes focus on communication but also include vital elements of Argentine culture, such as songs, movies, newspaper articles, history and politics, sports, local folklore and slang/street porteño Spanish. This makes it more fun to learn and also will give you indispensable local knowledge to help make your time in Buenos Aires happier and more interesting.

The class schedule can be flexible and the lessons are adjusted to your needs, interests and learning pace. The course is very affordable and can be taken in the neighborhood (barrio) of Caballito (close to the Primera Junta stop on the A Line of the Buenos Aires subway), which is in the geographical center of the city, or any other place of your choice for a small extra fee.

What the students say…

“I have been taught by a few people – but this chico Patricio really knows what he is doing. Classes are structured, homework is reasonable and purposeful, and he is patient, thorough and insightful. I’d recommend him to anybody in BsAs looking for a step up, whatever the level. Do it.”

Steve Mitchell, South Africa

A happy Spanish class with Patricio, their teacher in Buenos Aires

“I recently took private lessons with Che Vos Spanish after attending a well-know Spanish institute in Buenos Aires. The experience was great and in my opinion is a much better value than that offered by the language schools. The structure and quality of instruction is at least equal to that offered by the schools, but you can tailor the classes to your own interests.

Patricio, my teacher, was very patient and made you feel totally at ease. In addition, he is very intelligent and well-read with the result that he knows a lot about many different things. He makes the classes fun, stimulating, and thought-provoking. And for those on a budget, his prices are very affordable.”

Carol Philips, USA

And you can also click here to see more testimonials for Patricio and his Spanish lessons, on his website.

Get in touch about Spanish classes with Patricio

For more information and up to date prices etc, please use the following contact form to get in touch:

Buenos Aires Guitar Lessons

June 4, 2012 by · Comments Off on Buenos Aires Guitar Lessons 

Learn to play the guitar in Buenos Aires

If you are staying for more than a couple of weeks, get into some local grooves with Maxi, a porteño who gives private classes in the international language of music. He has been studying and playing guitar music for 15 years, and knows his stuff.

Description of guitar classes

First there will be a general discussion of the student’s needs, expectations for the class, music they like to play and learn (whether it’s rock, folk, blues, electronic, or other types), etc. The course plan is designed specially for each student, and they can receive emails with exercises to practice at home. This keeps music in the students’ minds all the time… not just the time that they are in class.

Maxi is in continual contact with his students – they can feel free to contact him if they have questions or want more exercises, which for example can relate to scales, chords and other music theory, open tunings, particular songs, and chords. Reading and writing music, ear training, pick and finger techniques can also be covered.

But perhaps most importantly: all levels are welcome and catered for.

Details of classes

  • Classes generally take place at Maxi’s apartment (in the north of Buenos Aires),
  • OR Maxi can go to your place (for a small extra fee)
  • The classes cost 250 pesos* per hour at Maxi’s apartment (at present he doesn’t have the time he would need to travel to you) and are usually 1 hour long (*price as at August 2017)
  • They can be in English or Spanish
  • Using Electric, acoustic or classical guitar, which can be provided for you for the lesson
  • Contact us for more information by completing the contact form below:

Happy playing!

Buenos Aires Wine Tasting

May 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

*PLEASE NOTE: Anuva Wines unexpectedly closed down permanently on January 12th 2017. We are currently looking into alternative wine tasting options in the city to be able to update the below article – feel free to contact us in the meantime to ask for a wine tasting recommendation in Buenos Aires*

Daniel Karlin and his team will talk you through some of Argentina's best wines

Discover the best of Argentina’s Wines with a wine tasting in Buenos Aires…

Anuva Wines: The Company

Argentina’s wine regions attract wine lovers from the world over, who fall in love with the bountiful and unique wines produced here.  One such man is Daniel Karlin, owner and operator of Anuva Wines, a wine club that offers wine tastings for visitors to Buenos Aires.  Anuva – a Spanglish wordplay on the word uva (grape), is also a name in India and Russia, translated as ‘knowledge’ and ‘new beginning’ – a perfectly fitting name and mantra for this new(ish) business which boasts extensive expertise of Argentine wines.

Read more

Buenos Aires Safety Tips

May 29, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

General Safety Advice and Street Smarts in Buenos Aires

Yes, Buenos Aires is a beautiful, cosmopolitan tourist destination, but it is still a large city, and large cities come with the typical risks. Violent crime is rare in Buenos Aires, but petty theft, pickpockets and scams are much more common. The best way to avoid them is to be alert and well prepared.

Below you will find some important information and some simple suggestions that will help reduce any chance of trouble.

Basic Preparations

Don’t go out with anything you don’t need. It is completely unnecessary to carry all of your cash and credit cards with you.

If you have an ID card (a drivers license, for example) that is more easily replaceable than your passport, it will be enough for credit card transactions and the like. The only time a passport is necessary will be to exchange money – but if you are not changing currency, leave the passport at the hotel.

If you must carry important documents like plane tickets, they would be safest in a money belt worn underneath your clothing.

Be discreet. Don’t display large amounts of cash in public, and make sure to count bills while they are still in your wallet. It is also wise not to flash expensive technology that may be commonplace back home, so it’s best not to stand on a busy street corner near the curb to check your iPhone.

Wearing expensive jewelry, clothing or accessories should be generally avoided, as should anything that could draw extra attention to you (which is a sensible rule to follow in any city in the world).

Take care of your valuables. This mostly refers to women with handbags and purses. Be very careful about where you set things down, whether on a park bench or even inside a restaurant. If you are eating outside, keep your bag on your lap, or at the very least, on the floor with one leg through the strap.

If your bag is on your chair (and this counts for inside too!) make sure it’s where you can see it. On the armrest is much better than on the back of the chair. And men are not immune – obviously this applies to camera and computer bags as well.

In addition, sometimes it is easier to guard a bag than it is a wallet in a back pocket, so always be conscious of where you keep your valuables.

Scams to Watch Out For

General Distractions – Raise your safety alert level whenever someone is trying to get your attention. Thieves often work in groups and use ploys, such as, pretending to return money that you dropped, or dropping money themselves and then taking advantage of your awkward position as you stoop to help out. There is no harm in chatting with someone who talks to you, but keep your hand on your camera/bag/wallet as you do!

‘Accidental’ Spills – A common ploy used by thieves is to spill any sort of liquid on you, as a distraction. They will then grab your bag as you put it down to clean up, or even clean out your pockets as they “help” you out with a tissue or water.

In some cases they may even try to get you to go around the corner to a supposed faucet. If you do have something spilled on you, LEAVE IT, and go inside somewhere safe to clean up. Refuse ALL help, no matter if its an elderly man or a woman in a business suit.

A common variation on this is the “bird crap” approach – the thieves will somehow get a liquid on you that looks like bird’s mess (probably without you noticing), and then will come up to you to tell you and try to “help” clean it off. How kind of them!

Taxi Use in Buenos Aires

Radio Taxis – It is generally recommended that you take radio taxis, which can be most easily identified by having a sign on top of the cab. A radio taxi is one that works for a taxi company, rather than being an independent driver. Most of the taxis in BA are radio taxis and are a better option because they have set standards determined by their employer, and each individual driver can be traced back to their company in the event of any problems.

Running up the meter – If you are not paying attention, a driver can easily take the “long way” to your destination to try to run up the fare (it can happen to unassuming locals too). The best way to avoid this is to have a general idea of where you are going and how long it will take you, and to state the address with confidence. If you feel you are being taken for a ride – politely ask the driver and you’ll find yourself back on track.

Also, unless getting a taxi from the airport or cruise terminal (where taxi journeys are often a fixed price depending on your destination, and unfortunately more expensive), make sure that the taxi driver turns the meter (reloj, in Spanish – pronounced “REY-LOCK”) on as you start your journey – otherwise the driver could just make up and inflated price at the end of the trip. The meter is usually in the top right hand corner, above where the front passenger would sit. If not turned on, point at the meter and say “el reloj”, and the driver should switch it on.

Bill swapping – a common scam in taxis is to switch out your good bill for a counterfeit bill. This usually happens when paying with a $100 peso bill, which is why you should try to only use smaller bills ($50 pesos or below) in taxi cabs.

Paying with small bills also helps to avoid a situation where a driver has no change, or a scam such resembling the following…

A taxi driver will take your bill, examine it, and then reject it and hand it back for whatever reason (it’s ripped, it’s fake, he has no change, etc). If a driver tries to return a bill to you, your alarm bells should go off… he has probably changed the bill for a fake – don’t take it! Of course, this can all be avoided by paying with smaller bills!

Confusion from the airport – At the end of a long taxi journey from the international airport, it’s easy to get confused about the payment. This is especially true if the driver intentionally tries to confuse you!

Some drivers will try to do this by changing the price, shuffling around bills, handing back strange combinations of change… basically anything that might get you to give more than you actually owe.

Problems can be avoided by taking an official taxi or remis, such as Taxi Ezeiza, where you pre-pay inside the airport at a taxi stand. The current cost with Taxi Ezeiza from EZE airport to the city center (as of February 2015) is 400 Argentine Pesos (between US$30 and US$48, depending on which exchange rate you use). There is no need to book with them in advance for the journey from the airport. But on the way back if you do then you can save 50 pesos!

The Taxi Ezeiza stand can be found immediately in front of you as you exit the glass sliding doors after baggage claim and customs – here’s a photo to help locate it:

Taxi Ezeiza stand at EZE airport

Counterfeit Money in Argentina

Yes, like in most places, counterfeit money circulates in Argentina, and it is often very hard to spot. The quickest and easiest way to check if a bill is real, is to hold it up to the light (fifties and hundreds have a metallic strip in them).

But probably the best approach is, upon arrival, to ask a trusted local (e.g. a hotel concierge, your BuenosTours tour guide, etc) for some tips about the feel and look (as they are very difficult to describe in writing!)

Bonus Tip: Use of US Dollars in Buenos Aires

At the time of last editing this addition (February 2015) it is still HIGHLY recommended that you bring US Dollars to Buenos Aires, for the majority of your travel funds, rather than changing money into Argentine pesos before you come here, or using ATMs in Argentina to withdraw pesos, funded from your account bank home.

This is because, at present almost all places in Buenos Aires will accept US Dollars in payment in addition to Argentine Pesos, and in fact, often in preference to the local currency. And you will usually get a far better rate of exchange than any “official” exchange rate, plus incur no fees etc, so much more bang for your buck! Granted, it is good to also have some pesos with you too, just in case, as not everywhere is guaranteed to accept dollars, the most common place being taxis (due to their lack of change).

This isn’t the place to go into why dollars are preferred in Argentina at the moment (this article is, a must-read and goes into other ways to get the best bang for your buck), and why you can get a better rate than the official exchange rates here, apart from to say that demand for dollars is high and supply is low here right now!

If you have any other safety (& money) advice/tips for Buenos Aires that you would like to see added to this list, please add it in the comments below. Thanks!

Recoleta: Best Cemetery Tour in the World

October 28, 2008 by · 2 Comments 

Recoleta Cemetery with Buenos Tours Best in the World

Great Press For BuenosTours!

As you might have guessed from the less regular of blog posts around here recently, we’ve been working hard giving lots of walking tours around Buenos Aires. And it’s certainly paying off, with some good press coming in from both traditional and modern publishing formats…

This weekend BuenosTours was recommend by the Guardian newspaper (one of the UK’s most widely read dailies) in their article on The Five Best Cemetery Tours, in which they listed BuenosTours and our tour of Recoleta Cemetery (plus surrounding areas) first – I guess making us the best cemetery tour in the world!

If you want to book the “best cemetery tour in the world” with us, click here for more information. The cemetery part of the Recoleta tour is also included in our private day tour of Buenos Aires.

And some Podcasting love too…

But the recommendations don’t stop there. BuenosTours also has fans living in the high-tech age. The podcast guys over at For Whatever Reason yesterday posted up their latest episode, including a long feature on the recent walking tour of Buenos Aires city center they took with us and how much they enjoyed it. Thanks guys! Just to quickly quote a few things they said about the tour in the podcast:

“This walking tour was possibly the best thing that we did on the entire trip”

“A great way to get a feel for everything and learn a lot about the area”

“Most people booked a tour of Buenos Aires, most of them booked a bus tour where they got on a bus and somebody with a loudspeaker talked as they drove through different parts of the city. The tour that we booked was actually a private walking tour and so it was just the tour guide, and me, and Tim… It was wonderful, we had a lot of one-on-one time, or two-on-one time, with him, we could ask questions without feeling like we were interrupting someone else’s tour, we didn’t have other people interrupting what we felt like was our tour, and having been on lots of tour type situations that’s always the case where… you just feel like the experience isn’t what you want it to be, where this was what we wanted it to be, and it was so perfect.”

“He was very knowledgable in history – he had funny stories, he had tragic stories, he had everything inbetween.”

“It gave us a great sense of comfort to walk around the streets… in fact I stopped him about 10 minutes into the tour and said thank you… because this is the first time I have done any kind of international travel… and you’ve helped me realize that this isn’t any different than home, it’s just a different city.”

You can listen to the episode here: For Whatever Reason on BuenosTours (the part about Buenos Aires and BuenosTours starts at about 16 minutes in).

(And stick around to listen to some more of their stuff, because it’s pretty cool, plus they have great radio voices! Also, check out their Buenos Aires photo album on Flickr, with photos from their walking tour, including a couple of rather unfortunate ones of yours truly…)

Finally, you can click here to book the private guided city center walking tour they took!

Now were just waiting on that long-promised Oprah endorsement, and we’re all set… 😉

[Second photo credit: Javier Kohen @ Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0]

Argentina Flag Day

June 18, 2008 by · 5 Comments 

Every Day Should Be A Holiday?

In Argentina, every day really is a holiday. Of sorts. But there are so many national holidays and assorted celebratory days here, that it’s not far from the truth. In Argentina, it seems, every dog has his day, or feriado. From conventional days like Love Day (Dia del Amor, 14th November) and National Tango Day (Dia Nacional del Tango, 11th December), to wild and wacky ones like Train Tracks day (Dia del Riel, 18th July) and Day of the Noodle Maker (Dia del Obrero Fideero, 22nd May), they’re all here.

Yes, it’s “National Flag of Argentina Day”

Pigeons in Plaza de Mayo enjoying the Argentine Flag
Argentine Pigeons are fiercely patriotic

Still, the streets are deadly quiet on the 20th June, as per most national holidays here. Everyone has the day off for Dia de la Bandera (National Flag Day, in Argentina), which always gets put on the third Monday of June, so that we can all enjoy a long weekend. Read on to learn a little more about the Argentine National Flag.

Manuel Belgrano, Creator of the National Flag of Argentina

Manuel Belgrano created the national flag of Argentina

Manuel Belgrano, born Manuel José Joaquín del Corazón de Jesús Belgrano, lived up to the grandiosity of his name. Born in Buenos Aires, Belgrano went on to be a successful lawyer, politician, economist. Belgrano was indeed a man of many talents, and national flag designing is just one of his many legacies.

His many accomplishments landed him a spot on the Argentine 10 peso note, an honor of great distinction.

Manuel Belgrano, how we love to spend you so...

Belgrano and the Dia de la Bandera de Argentina

Most importantly of all, Belgrano was a commander in the Argentine Wars of Independence, making himself a national hero in the process. It was during this time, in 1812, that Belgrano created the national flag of Argentina, for his troops to fight under.

Belgrano later died of dropsy on June 20th, 1820, which is why we celebrate the Dia de la Bandera here in Argentina on the anniversary of his death each year. Except of course, that the date is changed slightly to allow for a lazy long weekend. Manuel surely doesn’t mind.

Pablo at D for Disorientation also has a couple of great posts on Flag Day too, from the perspective of a Rosarino (Rosario being where Belgrano first hoisted his newly designed flag back in 1812).

One Day in Buenos Aires

June 10, 2008 by · 28 Comments 

Imagine it is your last day ever in Buenos Aires, and you have just 24 hours to see and do all of the things you love in Buenos Aires for the very last time. Makes you think, no?

My Perfect Day in Buenos Aires

This thought inspired the following blog post, an itinerary for which I would definitely need all 24 hours of the day to pack everything in. I hope at least some of my fellow bloggers in Buenos Aires will read this and be able to weigh in with their own post about their perfect day in BA.

Please read on for mine…

Perfect Morning in Buenos Aires

  • Facade of Cafe TortoniMy perfect day in Buenos Aires would have to start with breakfast at Cafe Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 829, City Center), which is the cafe in a city of cafes. It is also the oldest, having 1st opened in 1858, and one of the most beautiful, with lovely wooden panelling, bevelled mirrors, Argentine artwork, a stained-glass skylight and colorful tiffany lamps. What would I have for breakfast? My sweet tooth dictates chocolate con churros, an old Spanish favorite; a thick, sweet hot chocolate drink with long, thin, sugary donut sticks for dunking.
  • Exiting Cafe Tortoni, I would walk a few blocks down Avenida de Mayo (towards the Pink House), admiring the beautiful turn of the century art-nouveau facades and balconies along the way.
  • Upon reaching the sign for Peru station on the Buenos Aires subte (subway) A Line, I would descend the staircase to go almost 100 years back in time. Line A became the first subway / underground in not just Latin America, but the whole of the southern hemisphere, when the 1st train ran here in 1913. Peru station has been beautifully preserved to look like it did back then, with period hand-painted adverts on the colorfully tiled walls, and the original kiosks and ticket offices. What’s more, the whole line was built by my fellow Brits, so it runs on the left hand-side, making me feel at home!

Inside the wooden carriage on Subte Linea A

  • A hop on the subway train, and I’m off down to station Saenz Pena. Most of the trains are the original wooden carriages, with subdued lamp lighting on the inside which really makes you feel you have gone back in time. I usually travel in the first carriage, where a front window lets you watch as you snake your way through the underground tunnels; hold on tight for the bumpy, but fun, ride.
  • I get off at Saenz Pena to enter the amazing Palacio Barolo building. I take a quick tour of the interior (available for a reasonable price from Monday to Thursday between 2pm and 7pm, ask at their front desk), which takes you up to the very top of the tower of what was once the tallest building in Latin America when it was opened in 1923. This gives you some of the best views available of the whole city and out across the river, including an excellent bird’s-eye view of Congress and back down Av de Mayo to the Pink House. The Palacio Barolo building itself is one of the most interesting structures in Buenos Aires, both architecturally and symbolically speaking. Here is my slightly blurry photo of the daytime view to Congress from the Barolo tower:

View of Congress from the roof of the Palacio Barolo

  • Then it’s back down into old Line A of the underground and a ride up to the Castro Barros station in Almagro, although I always call that area Caballito (it’s basically on the border between the two, and Caballito is the better known barrio).

A Cake-o-holic’s Lunch in Buenos Aires

  • On a corner very close to the Castro Barros station is Cafe Las Violetas (Avenida Rivadavia 3899, Almagro). As previously confessed, I am a cake-o-holic. The picture in that link is of me stuffing myself with a huge plate full sandwiches and sweet, sweeeeeet cakes at Las Violetas. I can’t think of a better way for me to have lunch on my perfect day in Buenos Aires. Las Violetas also happens to be one of the other more beautiful cafes in the city, with even more stunning stained glass than Tortoni. But it’s their cakes that really do it for me! Here’s a photo of Las Violetas to keep you going:

Stained glass in Cafe Las Violetas

  • Now I waddle to catch a taxi on Rivadavia, and head over to Plaza Francia in Recoleta, to walk off, ooh, around 1% of the calories from lunch in its grassy sloping hills.

An Argentine Afternoon

  • Plaza Francia leads into Recoleta cemetery, which just so happens to be my favorite place for a stroll in Buenos Aires. Now that might sound a little bit morbid, but it’s nothing like that at all. It has some amazing architecture, ranging from Egyptian Art Deco to over the top French sculptures, and (literally) contains some of the most interesting Argentine figures from the last few centuries, with many stories to be told. And it’s not all about Evita…personally, I prefer the many resident cats. You’ll see when you visit!

Art Deco Egyptian Style Tomb in Recoleta Cemetery. Plus a cat!

  • After I’m finished seeing dead people, there is nothing better to do than sit and have afternoon coffee in La Biela, possibly the most upmarket cafe in Buenos Aires, and a Recoleta landmark. It’s my perfect day, so it is sunny, and I’ll sit outside under the shade of the massive ancient gomero tree.
  • Then I walk a few blocks through upper-class Recoleta, until the corner of Santa Fe and Callao, where the Un Altra Volta ice cream parlor is found. I have my usual, a quarter kilo of dulce de leche and chocolate amargo gelato, in the quiet of their nice outdoor patio.
  • Next up, it’s the expat’s favorite mode of transport, the 152 bus along Marcelo T de Alvear, to Plaza Italia in Palermo. From here, its a pleasant walk through the green parks of Palermo, until El Rosedal / the Rose Gardens.
  • After admiring the blooms in the last light of the day, I patter around in a ‘pedal boat’ on the Rosedal’s lake, as the sun goes down…

Exceptional Evening of Eating & Drinking

  • After sunset at the lake, it’s a brisk walk back to Plaza Italia to take the subway to Plaza San Martin (first Line D, changing to Line C at 9 de Julio).
  • Here I would definitely partake in a pre-dinner gin and tonic, in the lovely, expensive, Art Deco style bar downstairs in the Marriott Plaza Hotel (Florida 1005, facing Plaza San Martin), and then almost certainly some kind of silly fruity trago (cocktail) at the small, colorful, arty Dada bar (San Martin 941, Retiro) a couple of blocks away.
  • Now we’re well lubricated, it’s a short stumble down the block to the El Establo parilla restaurant (corner of San Martin & Paraguay), one of my favorite places for a succulent Lomo steak, papas fritas, and an ensalada mixta (a simple classic; tomato, lettuce & onion, with oil and vinegar) even though the waiters will undoubtedly advise that this is too much for me – but, I’m English, so I will not let that phase me. Of course, it’s all washed down with a nice glass of Malbec red wine, and maybe finishing up with panqueques con dulce de leche (there’s my sweet tooth again), if I am not feeling too stuffed by then.

Night-time to morning: No time for sleep in BA!

  • After all that indulgence, some exercise is definitely in order. A nice stroll down the slope to Puerto Madero, seguing into a night-time walk along the lit-up docks, and past the beautiful Puente de la Mujer, is the perfect after dinner activity in Buenos Aires.

Puerto Madero Lit Up by Night

  • But don’t stop there! Continue along the docks to the Faena Hotel + Universe (Martha Salotti 445, Dique 2, Puerto Madero) and don’t be shy…walk in confidently, non-guests of the hotel are still extremely welcome here. There is no better place in Buenos Aires to have a couple of mega-expensive cocktails than in their breathtaking cocktail bar – the design is simply out of this world (or universe). And the staff treat you like royalty (there is even the odd gold throne to sit on!) – all of this actually makes the expensive drinks worthwhile! (for more about this, see my post on the top 5 expensive Hotels in Buenos Aires, and how to enjoy them on a budget)
  • It may be well into the middle of the night by now, but in Buenos Aires that means most people are probably still getting ready to go out! And so, I hail a taxi to take me all the way back to stylish Palermo Hollywood, to enter Niceto Club (Niceto vega 5510, Palermo Hollywood) – there’s no line to wait in, because I’m probably still a little early by BA standards (it’s difficult for a Brit to ever fully adjust to this!) – and it’s time to dance through to the morning, porteno style, among a crowd that are far trendier and better looking than I’ll ever be. Still, maybe something will rub off!
  • As the sun comes back up, it’s time to exit the club and go for breakfast! Coffee and medialunas in any small, neighborhood cafe will do at this point, before I finally fall into bed, with my apartment windows shuttered, to sleep through the rest of the daylight hours…

Your Perfect Day in Buenos Aires?

I’m very interested to hear about other people’s perfect days in Buenos Aires. Let us know, either on a blog of your own, or by posting your perfect day in the comments below. Thanks!

Teatro Colon

June 9, 2008 by · 17 Comments 

Splendid old opera house in Buenos Aires

Teatro Colon

Back in 2006 took the opportunity to take in a performance at the Teatro Colon (Colon Theater) which many say is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Buenos Aires, as one of the most famous opera houses in the world.

I had been prompted to get along to the Colon by the fact that it was closing for reconstruction work at the end of October 2006, with original plans to reopen on May 25, 2008, the 100th anniversary of the opening of the theater. However, in the end the renovations took almost twice as long as expected, and so the Teatro Colon instead reopened on May 25th 2010, the 200th anniversary of the May Revolution, when Argentina split from the Spanish to become an independent nation.

It was a long wait until the re-opening, and knowing Argentina and it’s reputation for tardiness, I correctly doubted works would be completed on time, so it was important for me to check the legendary theater out before the prospect of a long wait.

To bring us back to the present for a moment, the Teatro Colon reopened its doors, as expected (the delayed forecast!), on May 25th 2010, after almost 4 years of renovations. And it’s now more beautiful than ever.

Show tickets are available either at their ticket office (entrance on Tucumán 1171), or buying online through the Tu Entrada website, using the following link: Buy Teatro Colon Tickets Online Here for Opera, Ballet, other Concerts & Guided Tours (after purchase you will still need to collect the tickets from the ticket office from 2 hours to 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the show). The ticket website is thankfully now working in English (see the language option in the top right corner of their webpage), after many years of only being available in Spanish, making things a little easier for visitors to the city to buy tickets.

The Concert

Back when I visited in 2006, my companions and I saw a concert from the Camerata Bariloche orchestra, playing pieces from Strauss and Beethoven, which was all very pleasing to the ears (I have to admit I’m not much of a classical music fan), but the star of the show was of course the venue itself, which was resplendent in its rich scarlet and gold decoration, along with several forests worth of beautiful wooden construction that make up the auditorium, with hints of Italian, Greek, German and French Renaissance design. And that was before the renovations, when it was looking a little tatty. The place is now back in pristine condition.

It’s all very impressive when you are looking down, way, way down, from above, in the ‘Paradise’ (‘Paraiso’ – the 7th and final seating level) area, which are the cheapest tickets in the house, but still offer an interesting view and due to the famed acoustics of the Colon, it sounds great from wherever you are sat.

Teatro Colon Buenos Aires

For the record, I turned up in smart shoes, trousers, a shirt and tie, taking note of the dress code I saw in the ticket office earlier that day. I was easily the most over dressed person in the ‘Paraiso’ area – but in the more expensive areas I did see some well dressed ladies and gentleman. I think in reality you could go along dressed as you please – I saw quite a few people in jeans and t shirts.

Colon Theatre

Some Teatro Colon History

The famous venue is not without some interesting history. It opened in 1908, almost 20 years after the first cornerstone was laid in 1889, under the direction of architect Francesco Tamburini. You might understand why I thought the recent restorations may not be completed on time when I tell you that the theatre was originally due to be opened in 1892!

But to be fair, a series of tragedies did complicate the process. Tamburini died soon after construction started, and his friend Vittorio Meano took over the project. Who also promptly died (murdered in a love triangle ‘gone wrong’ – though actually I’m not sure if there are many love triangles that ‘go right’). The architects were followed to the grave by another Italian guy, Angelo Ferrari (assassinated), that had been partly funding the building works. Italians dropping like flies…

Fortunately, a Belgian, Julio Dormal, came in and finished the job, breathing a sigh of relief as the finishing touches were made without event. This further confirmed my feeling that Belgians are in fact some of the greatest people on this planet, not only producing the best beer in the world and some of the finest chocolate, but also bucking architectural death trends without batting an eyelid. And that’s not to mention the waffles! I used to drink to Dormal and his kind whenever I could (sadly no Belgian beer) inside another of his many BA constructions, the Confiteria Richmond cafe, on pedestrian Florida Street (near Lavalle), but sadly that classic cafe closed to the public in 2011.

The Colon Finally Opens…

But back to the theatre. It finally opened on 25 May 1908 with a performance of Verdi’s Aida, and never looked back, as it became one of the world’s premiere centers of opera. Over the years the Teatro Colon has hosted such musical greats as Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, French opera singer Jane Bathori, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, Greek soprano Maria Callas, the legendary Luciano Pavarotti, Argentine Tango bandoneon maestro Astor Piazzolla and even Weird Al Yankovic. OK, I made that last one up, but it would have been interesting.

Colon Theatre Buenos Aires

Previous Colon Theater

There was actually a Colon theatre before the current one, which had opened in 1857 on the edge of Plaza de Mayo, and served Argentine aristocracy well for a good many years until the current Colon was opened in 1908. These days in the old Colon location you’ll find the the Banco de la Nacion – the national bank of Argentina, an imposing structure that looks down upon the tourists that buzz round the Pink House.

Teatro Colon Stage

Perfect Acoustics

The current theatre, located in the City Center (in the unofficial sub-barrio of Tribunales) and visible from Avenue 9 de Julio, has virtually perfect acoustics. This is one of its main attractions, the sound reaching each and every audience member perfectly – so you can save money and still enjoy the concert, even if the orchestra do look like musical ants from the loftier vantage points.

If that doesn’t sound like a nice visual experience, you can always take in the music while staring at the beautiful surroundings, such as the decoration around the top of the stage, the huge, dazzling chandelier, or the ceiling frescoes that surround it. Though sadly the latter are not original, due to damage caused by damp in the 1930s. Instead they were painted in 1966 by famous Argentine muralist Raul Soldi, whose work can also be found on the ceiling of the wonderful Galerias Pacifico shopping center, on Florida street (on the corner of Avenida Cordoba).

Teatro Colon Verdict

I very much recommend that any visitor to Buenos Aires pay a visit to the Teatro Colon – especially now that this great attraction has been restored to its former glory. If you don’t have the chance to catch a show there, then you can always go for a guided tour of the building during the daytime, for which tickets can be bought through the Tu Entrada website (click on Visitas Guiadas), or by visiting the theater in person when you get to Buenos Aires. They run on the hour, every hour, from 9am to 5pm, although only a few of the tours through the day are given in English – you can check those times on the Tu Entrada website.

Or if you are really tight for time, the Teatro Colon is still there on Avenida 9 de Julio (although that is the back, go around onto Plaza Lavalle for the front view) to be appreciated from the outside, and that’s not such a bad view in itelf…

Exterior of the Teatro Colon

For more detailed information on the Teatro Colon, check out the history section of the official Colon website. And of course, Wikipedia is always good.

Location of Teatro Colon

Teatro Colon, Tucumán 1171, Tribunales (City Center)

Telephone: (54-11) 4378-7109

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