Tour guide Chance Miller shares some of his favorite hidden sights unexpectedly located right off Plaza de Mayo.
When people ask me what Off-The-Beaten-Path locations I suggest, I tell them that they often don’t have to stroll more than two blocks from Plaza de Mayo to see all sorts of cool stuff. And in fact, some of the places I take my clients for their OTBP Tours are right there on the Plaza. So if you have it in your day planner that you want to go see the Mothers of May at 3:30pm on Thursday, I’d suggest getting to the Plaza by about 2pm-2:15pm just to be safe, because two of the buildings my clients like most are banks. And banks close at 3pm in Buenos Aires. Banks? Yes, banks! Lots of Money = Really Cool Architecture . There’s also a church (you knew that there had to be a church), a former convent next door (if you get there between 12pm-2pm, you can eat lunch there), and an almost 100 year-old galeria that now offers you a bird’s eye view of the city. 1st Stop: Memorial on the front of the Ministerio de Economia building.
WHERE: Due south of the Casa Rosada (Hipolito Yrigoyen 250)… Left of the main entrance near the Subte A subway entrance. WHAT: A plaque commemorating the 39th Anniversary of the Bombing of Plaza de Mayo (June 16, 1955) – the military’s first coup d’etat attempt to overthrow President Juan Perón. WHY: The façade of the building still exhibits pock marks in the granite from the airplane strafing and bombs that killed more than 300 people on that day. 2nd Stop: Banco de la Nación Argentina is located directly catacorner (kittycorner?) from the Casa Rosada on the side with the gigantic Néstor painted on the walkway in front of it.
WHERE: NorthWest of the Casa Rosada with its main entrance facing the C.R. WHAT: A huge bank that was founded in attempt to quell the bickering between provinces over money. WHY: Previously the location of the original Teatro Colón, when the bank was established on October 26, 1891, the bank actually used the remodeled theater until 1940. DON’T MISS: Miniature models of both the former Teatro Colón and the current bank, the Alejandro Bustillo art gallery just past that, the massive main room of the bank (where you can sometimes see queues of 40 people or more), and the curly stair wells across from the elevators on the other three exits. Also, there are plaques along the side on Reconquista remembering those B.N.A. employees who were disappeared during Isabelita Perón’s presidency (2-3 of the names) and the military dictatorship that followed. 3rd Stop: Basilica de Nuestra Señor de la Merced
WHERE: NorthWest corner of Reconquista & Peron (Reconquista 207) WHAT: A basilica in the middle of the banking district that is actually closed on the weekends. WHY: The outside is nice enough, but the interior has been almost completely renovated in the last 5 years to its former Baroche greatness. My photo is better than anything you’ll take inside the church, so just enjoy looking around, and don’t worry if you don’t get the same shot. DON’T MISS: The floors (Argentine churches have great tile floors), the altar, the “M” up in the dome. Also, the “Convento” next door has three restaurants that service an array of tables in its courtyard. 4th Stop: Banco de la Provincia de Buenos Aires WHERE: Calle San Martin 137 (between Peron & Mitre), across from the Galería Güemes. WHAT: The oldest bank in the country and second largest, it was founded on September 6, 1822 WHY: First, once you enter and see the massive multi-colored marble inlay of the 12 Signs of the Zodiac on the floor, you’ll wonder if this is really a bank or the Kabbalah Center of Buenos Aires. Then you’ll check out the art deco brass work to each side and know that someone has put some money into this place. Walk through to the main room and take in the massive stained glass to your left. DON’T MISS: The main banking in the basement. Take the escalator down from the lobby with the Zodiac Circle and then walk past the helpful ladies into the “waiting area”. Tell me that it doesn’t feel like you are in an airport or intercity bus terminal. 5th Stop: Galeria Güemes
WHERE: Between Calle San Martin 150 & Florida 151. WHAT: A one block long galeria/“shopping mall” built in the 1910s and restored in the last decade. WHY: Awesome early art deco influences, especially in the domes in between the elevator lobbies. DON’T MISS: The brass elevator sculptures, especially in the two toward Florida Street. Also, a 14th floor observation deck opened up in the last year to get a difficult-to-find bird’s-eye-view of the city. Chance Miller is a tour guide based in Buenos Aires since 2007.