6 Buenos Aires tips

Visit a toilet museum inside a palace

The Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes is an imposing building clad in terracotta tiles opened in 1894. The terracotta-clad exterior walls enclose one of the biggest cast iron structures on the continent: three story-high water tanks supported by 180 columns. This structure was built in Belgium and then shipped and assembled in Buenos Aires. The terracotta tiles were shipped from England. Nowadays, the building houses the administrative offices of AySA, the water company.

The Museo del Agua y la Historia Sanitaria is located inside the palace. It provides a fascinating insight into the history of sanitation and water supply in Argentina. Its collection includes terracotta pipes, meters, bathroom fittings, and toilets dating from the late 19th century to the 1970s. Don’t worry, these were only samples.

Take a respite from the hustle and bustle in this green oasis: Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena                  

The thick walls of the historic Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena cloisters filter the noise from traffic. The gardens become a secluded, peaceful spot in the middle of the city chaos. The monastery was built in 1745 and the nuns were known as the Catalinas and, by extension, so was the neighborhood. The monastery is open to the public, anyone can come in and sit in the shade of hundred-year-old trees. The church next door is also open to visitors. The intricately carved high altar is 12 meters high and dates from 1776.

San Martín 705 C1004AAO CABA

Eat at one of the city’s oldest pizzerias: El Cuartito

Order a slice and eat it at the counter or sit down at one of the white Formica tables for a feast of pizza and empanadas. Either way, you’ll enjoy eating at El Cuartito. This pizzeria has been in business since 1934, which makes it one of the oldest pizza places in Buenos Aires.  The sky-blue walls are chock-full of old photos, posters and other sports memorabilia, like soccer club pennants. Smells of melted cheese and baked dough envelop you as soon as you step in.

The pizza dough is media masa – kind of deep dish -, with a crispy base. El Cuartito is known for the fugazzeta rellena. Other tasty variations are napolitana, with slices of fresh tomato a chopped garlic; mozzarella, a plain cheese pie; or verdura con salsa blanca, white pizza with spinach and bechamel sauce. The empanadas are tasty as well. Pizza and empanadas are a classic Buenos Aires duo. Desserts include tarantela (bread pudding with apple slices) and homemade flan with whipped cream and dulce de leche. El Cuartito opens Tue-Sun 12 PM- 1 AM. There’s usually a line at the door before opening time.

Admire the tiled houses of Calle Lanín

This quiet, non-descript street in the neighborhood of Barracas hides a big surprise. The façades of 40   houses have suffered an art intervention by local artist Marino Santa Maria, whose workshop is in also on calle Lanín. Homeowners agreed to participate in this instance of site-specific art. Santa Maria decorated each façade with abstract shapes and contrasting colors using Venetian mosaic and trencadís (the technique made popular by the Catalan Modernisme movement). Any time is the best time to take stroll along Lanín Street and enjoy the art -unless it’s raining. Bear in mind that these are private homes not open to the public, but it’s OK to take photos. To get there, take any bus to Doctor Ramón Carrillo Hospital, like the 95A, 95B or 45A.

Browse antiques in an historic tenement house from the 1870s

San Telmo used to be where the rich families lived. In 1871, a yellow fever epidemic struck Buenos Aires. The rich fled to Recoleta, at the opposite end of the city. Some of the abandoned houses became tenements, called conventillos, where new immigrants lived, sometimes in appalling conditions. Pasaje La Defensa is one of those houses. It was restored in the late 20th century. The former rooms of the two-story house, arranged along a leafy patio, became antique shops, boutiques, wine stores, arts and crafts stores, and a café. Pasaje La Defensa opens Tue-Sun 10 AM-7 PM. Crossing the gates to Pasaje La Defensa is like crossing the gates to the past, where you can see what a rich home was like in 19th century Buenos Aires. And the best part is that you can take home something to remember your trip by.    

Visit Buenos Aires’ first pharmacy

Although the current location of Farmacia La Estrella dates from 1885, it was founded in 1834, which makes it the oldest pharmacy in Buenos Aires. The walnut display cases and shelves, the Carrara marble tops, the Murano crystals, the tiled floors, the two paintings and the fresco are all original features. It is a working pharmacy, but visitors are welcome to pop in and admire it. Farmacia La Estrella opens Mon-Fri 8 AM- 8PM, Sat 8 AM-1 PM.

Attractions near the pharmacy include the Museum of the City of Buenos Aires, located in the same building but entrance is through Defensa 219/23 (opens Wed- Sun 11 AM-6 PM) and the Basilica of San Francisco, from the 18th century, right across the street. It’s said that in the past, pharmacies were located close to churches because the church spire acted as a distinguished landmark that made finding the pharmacy easily in an emergency.      

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