Jul
23
2012

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Buenos Aires Barrio Guide – Balvanera – Abasto, Congreso & Once

Buenos Aires Barrio Guide

Balvanera

Abasto, Congreso & Once

Balvanera is west of Microcentro, el Centro” (the business and commercial center of Buenos Aires City) and Monserrat (along with San Telmo, one of the oldest barrios in Buenos Aires).  It combines both commerce and residential living, and is a densely populated downtown barrio.

Locals tend to refer to its three main neighborhoods – Abasto, Congreso and Once – making it rather confusing for travellers.

Balvanera is a barrio often overlooked by tourist and more often than not, it’s a barrio where tourists sightsee and Buenos Aires Stay, without even knowing it!

If you are looking for good value for money vacation rentals and a lower-cost central location in Buenos Aires City, tourists should consider Balvanera, there’s some great value accommodation.  And, you are close to many of Buenos Aires’ best attractions.

Most tourists visit Congreso east of Balvanera.  The neighborhood known as Congreso is busy with office workers during day and is perfectly safe, although quieter after office hours and very quiet at weekends.  At night, this area requires a little more caution.

Balvanera should not be confused with the Barracas, in the South-East of Buenos Aires, that is a brrio that tourists should generally avoid.  We do have property for rent in Barracas and places like La Boca, but these apartments are for locals or Argentines returning home, who know these areas and how to negotiate some of the no-go areas safely.

The Balvanera was originally the name of the parroquia (parish) that grew around the church of Nuestra Señora de Balvanera, built in 1831.

Like most of the barrios in Buenos Aires, Balvanera has three neighbourhoods that each with its very own and distinct personality:

Abasto – by Jack Brooker, Advisor Buenos Aires Stay) reserve@bastay.com

I have lived in a lot of places, and have visited a lot more.  I consider it a blessing.  One thing I have always avoiding is living in the heart of where all the tourists or expatriated persons tend to gather and forms their little cliques.

I once visited a real estate agent here in Buenos Aires, when I got here just over 7 years ago.  Upon her realizing that I was indeed a ¨Yankee¨ her first words to me where (in Spanish), ¨Oh, because you´re a Yankee you want to live in Recoleta, Palermo or Belgrano¨.  I was curious about this, already knowing her motivation, rents, and just about everything else is more costly in those areas, but, I played along.  I responded to her asking, ‘’WHY would I want to live in those barrios’’, to which she replied, ¨Because all the Yankees live there¨.  I laughed and walked out, telling her if I wanted to live in the middle of ¨all the Yankees¨ my bum would still be in New York, and I would not be in Buenos Aires!

The fact is, I wanted to then, and still do love living away from the tourist scene, away from the ex-pat ghettos.  7 years, and 4 apartments later, I still have yet to call Recoleta, Palermo or Belgrano my home address.  Don´t get me wrong, GREAT places, but there are other places that folks visiting or relocating often forget, because of what is popular or trendy.

I have lived in Centro, Congreso, Microcentro, and my favorite, ABASTO.  I can be anyplace within 15 minutes.  I have access to 4 subway lines, and countless buses running on Avenidas Corrientes and Cordoba, and if I get bored and run out of bootleg DVDs, I can catch a movie at Shopping Abasto or a snack at 11pm or later no problem.

Further, I find that I enjoy the cultural mix that Abasto provides.  There are not many of the ¨chain¨ places other than in the mall.  The streets are loaded with stores of all types, and great cafes and restaurants, that are family owned by not only Argentinos, but folks from Peru, Paraguay, Colombia and Bolivia, as well as elsewhere.  There´s even some really great kosher places!  Abasto, is in a renaissance.  It is gentrifying.  It is being updated and modernized, but the beauty of it has not (yet) been lost.

Apart from its reputation as the heart of Tango Culture, where it all presumably began, it´s still the only area in town where if you want a bite to eat at 3am there´s a little place, just a few tables,  still open where you can go and still be attended by the owners, and they welcome you wholeheartedly.  There is vibrancy about this area that is so often and sadly overlooked, excepting the shopping mall.  ABASTO is a melting pot of what makes Buenos Aires, well, Buenos Aires.  There is a clash of cultures that mesh so well to inspire you to better accept and understand the warmer side of the Argentine people and culture.  You look as you walk down the street and see that, and feel it, from the Argentine natives, to the other South American cultures, to Abasto being the center of the Chabad Lubuvitch Jewish community as well.  (Can´t beat hot pastrami on rye at a kosher place!)

If you travel to Buenos Aires, save yourself time and money, consider ABASTO in your plans.  BA is great.  I enjoy visiting Recoleta, Palermo, and Belgrano for their spots as well, but to really appreciate life and experience it as it truly is here, consider ABASTO.

Congreso Buenos Aires (Palacio del Congreso)

Congreso Buenos Aires (Palacio del Congreso), must be somewhere near the top of the list of “must see” for tourists sightseeing in Buenos Aires City.

Argentina’s constitution, in fact, much of the country’s early federal structure and politics was inspired by the earlier successes of federalism, and indeed both the constitution and political institutions, in the United States of America.

It is astonishing that two countries so similar in their postcolonial histories are so far apart today.

Palacio del Congreso, Argentina’s congressional palace is no exception.

The Congress of the Argentine Nation (Congreso de la Nación Argentina) is the legislative branch of the government of Argentina, located at the end of Avenida de Mayo, at the other is Casa Rosada.

Argentina’s senate is bicameral, with a 72-seat Senate and the 256-seat Chamber of Deputies. A Greco-roman style building designed by the Italian architect Vittorio Meano and completed by Argentine architect Julio Dormal, between 1898 and 1906.

The building’s copper clad dome stands 80 meters tall. At the front of the building sits the Plaza del Congreso, with many distinctive monuments and beautiful public spaces.

Find Argentina’s congressional palace on a block at the intersection formed by Avenida Rivadavia, Combate de Los Pozos, Avenida Entre Ríos and Hipólito Yrigoyen Streets.

Once

For bargain-hunters, this is the perfect alternative to shopping in the city center. One of the sub-neighborhoods of Balvanera, Once, that is mainly commercial and residential streets around a train station of the same name.  There are tons of outlet stores and cheap shops where 50 to 100 pesos will buy you pretty much anything from jeans and jackets to that fake Boca Juniors shirt you’ve always wanted. Heading down Avenida Pueyrredón from Recoleta into Balvanera, both sides of the street are lined with shops, and once you reach the train station, the street turns into a virtual outdoor market. The clothes may not be of the best quality, but that can’t really be expected at these low prices.

Walking down Av. Córdoba, it’s hard to miss this massive building, the “Palace of the Running Waters.” It looks, indeed, like a palace. Strangely enough, it was never a residence, but the city’s water-storage facility. Constructed by British and Swedish engineers during 1887-1894, the building is a mix of architectural styles and is strangely colorful; the entire exterior is covered by glazed ceramic tiles and embellishments in yellows, blues, and greens. The interior skeleton of the structure couldn’t be more different; the building houses 12 enormous tanks that once held up to 72 million liters of water, as well as a huge number of offices. The only way for tourists to get inside is to visit the small museum on the second floor, which has exhibits on the history and architecture of the building, as well as a not-so-interesting collection of toilets, urinals, bidets, faucets, and pipes. Though the museum is absorbing for those interested in the building’s background, it’s best to come during one of the guided tours, when visitors are also allowed to see some of the Palacio’s inner industrial skeleton and a few of the impressive original water tanks.

Metro

Balvanera has access to five out of the six Subte lines. The downtown area is a short subway trip from anywhere in Balvanera. During peak hours, inbound trains are usually packed with commuters, making the ride uncomfortable. All intercity train stations are accessible from Balvanera by Subte.

Bus

Many bus lines go through Balvanera, including the Colectivo 60 line, venerated by locals as el internacional, because its route passes many city landmarks. Other important lines include Colectivo 19, which has been the subject of a composition by Lito Vitale, and Colectivo 86, which links La Boca to Ezeiza International Airport.

Train

The Once de Septiembre train station provides commuter service to the western neighbourhoods and suburbs.

Roads

Entre Ríos Avenue, the neighborhood’s eastern limit.

Westbound: The main avenues are Independencia, Rivadavia and Córdoba.

Eastbound: The main avenues are Belgrano and Corrientes. Both run all the way to the former shoreline and the Puerto Madero area.

Northbound: The main avenue is Entre Ríos; north of Rivadavia, its name changes to Callao.

Southbound: The main avenue is Pueyrredón; south of Rivadavia, its name changes to Jujuy.

Rent an apartment downtown Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Barrio Guide

Balvanera

Abasto, Congreso & Once

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