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All you need to know about Buenos Aires' historical center and financial district

Are you planning a visit to Buenos Aires and want to make the most out of your time in Buenos Aires Downtown (a.k.a “Microcentro”)? This guide is the ultimate traveler’s handbook to exploring one of Buenos Aires’ most iconic districts (like a local!).

Perhaps you have read about Buenos Aires being a city with 100 neighbourhoods! Well, it is not exactly true, as we have just 48 of them. But there are many small areas within some of the districts that are so famous on their own that can almost be considered separate neighborhoods, as it happens with Microcentro, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Also known as “La City”, it is mostly located in San Nicolas neighbourhood and a small part in Montserrat area in Buenos Aires. It is the central business area in the city, with many offices for local and foreign companies, center of banking activities (most banks have their home offices here) and service companies.

But apart from a wide range of services, Microcentro offers multiple options to enjoy your stay: historic buildings, wonderful architecture, restaurants, and much more await in one of Buenos Aires’ most frequented spots, both by locals and visitors.

Where to stay in Microcentro, Buenos Aires

There are some 4-star hotels in this area, that give you the possibility to be very close –within walking distance- to many interesting attractions.

On the other hand, Puerto Madero is not far from this area, so if you prefer a 5-star hotel, this could be another excellent option.

That being said, each area of Buenos Aires —and in the world— has its downsides as well, and Microcentro is not the exception. You should be cautious after dark and not walk along lonely streets. It is advisable to take a taxi (the ones that are labeled under the “Radio Taxi” sign are the safest) to go back to your hotel after dinner.

What to do in Microcentro, Buenos Aires

Visit Argentina's most iconic public square: Plaza de Mayo (May Square)

a group of people walking down a street next to tall buildings

Known as “the heart of the city”, Plaza de Mayo is located in the limit between Montserrat and San Nicolas, two of the oldest neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires. In fact, this is the exact place where the city was founded in 1580, so there is plenty to see and do around the area.

Upon arival it is easy to grasp that this is not just an ordinary park. This is one of the most significant historic and political spots in the whole country, since many of Argentina’s most remarcable political events took place in or around it. This is the chosen place by “porteños” (Buenos Aires’ residents) for political celebrations, but also for demonstrations and protests: The place where millions of people gather from time to time, to both show their support or their disappointment towards the authorities and their decitions.

It is very likekly that you come across a huge crowd gathered in the square during your visit (demonstrations take place at least once a week in Buenos Aires). As exciting as it might seem to take part in these typical public demonstrations that are a symbol of Argentina’s love for democracy, we strongly suggest you to avoid the square if there are any special events unless you are in company of a local, as not understanding local codes might get you in trouble and the atmosphere can get dangerous some times.

While in the square, these are a couple spots you should not miss:

  • Pirámide de Mayo (Pyramid of May)

Inaugurated in 1811, it is the country’s first monument to be built. Located at the center of the square, it pays homage to the revolution which took place there on May, 25, 1810 and was the beginning of Argentina’s path towards independence.

If you look down at the floor, you will see white symbols painted on the floor around the pyramid. This is the place where “Madres y Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo” (Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo” have been gathering every Thursday and walking around the pyramid since the late 70s asking for justice for their sons and daughters disappeared during the last dictatorship (1976-1983). The scarves represent the nappies of their children.

a large clock tower towering over a city

  • Casa Rosada (Government House)

On the east side of the square, it is not hard to spot a very particular and beautiful pink building. It is the seat of the Executive power, hosting the President’s main office.

Towards the left side of the main archway, on the first floor, there is world famous balcony. You might know it from the film “Evita” (the one having Madonna in the leading role). The film director, Alan Parker, got special permission to film in that historic balcony, that was onced used by president Juan Perón to give speeches to people gathered at the square accompanied by his wife, María Eva Duarte de Perón.

a view of a large building

  • Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan cathedral)

Just opposite the square, a neoclassic façade caughts visitors eyes. Although not very church alike (i.e. no towers, no belfries), this is the most important Catholic Church in the whole country. In fact, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, better known as Pope Francis, officed mass there after being designed as metropolitan archbishop (prior being elected Pope in 2013).

Inside the church, on the right side, there is a huge mausoleum that pays homage to General José de San Martín, considered the father of the Nation. Two soldiers guarding the gate will probably catch your eye. They are grenadiers, an Army created by Gral. San Martín during the time of the independence wars (early 1800s). If you are not in a rush we recommend you to attend a very significant and meaningful ceremony that takes place here a couple times a day: the change of guards every two hours. They come in a group from the Pink House, replace the two of them standing there and the rest go back to Government House (ask for the ceremony schedule once in the church, as it changes times often trhough out the year).

city tour inside building

  • Cabildo (old Town Hall)

Towards the west side, opposite the square, one of the few buildings with Spanish architecture still kept in the city can be found: It is easy to spot, with its traditional white adobe walls and green doors and windows. It was the seat of the Town Council during Viceroyalty times. Today, it is a museum keeping alive part of our history during May revolution times.

a group of people walking in front of a church with Buenos Aires Cabildo in the background

Experience the essence of Microcentro at Florida street

Florida is the most important pedestrian shopping street in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

It is a very important tourist attraction, showing the hustle and bustle that has always distinguished Buenos Aires downtown. Watch how a tide of shoppers, office workers, buskers and tango dancers and singers crowd the street at rush hour. Along its way, you will find a wide variety of stores, arcades and souvenir shops.

On the corner of Florida street and Córdoba avenue, an astonishing building will capture your attention: Galerías Pacífico, one of the most important shopping centers in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In it, you will find important local and international brands, but even if you are not fond of shopping, we suggest you to visit this place, which is a national historic building with wonderful architecture, to admire the central dome and the murals painted on it by important local artists.

A good option: having a break at the food court.

Florida street at rush hour, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Buenos Aires city from the sky

Admire the architecture in Galería Güemes

Location: Florida 165, San Nicolás, Buenos Aires.

Designed by the Italian architect Francisco Gianotti in art-nouveau style and finished in 1915, it offers a perfect combination of shops, apartments and offices.

A gem in the building: a theatre and tango academy located in the basement. The beautiful art-nouveau decoration is amazing.

One of its most important highlights is the viewpoint on the 14th floor, from where you will enjoy a panoramic view towards the city and admire unbelievable domes. Not to be missed!

Walk along Buenos Aires most iconic Avenue: 9 de Julio

9 de Julio Avenue aerial view, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This amazing avenue crossing the city from south to north was formerly known as the widest street in the whole world. In some cases, in order to cross it you will have to go trhough up to 20 lanes! It is more than 110 yards (100 meters) wide.

Its name honours Independence Day in Argentina.

The first part was opened in 1936, but it was completely finished in the ‘70s. Lot of time, right? One of the reasons: a whole block of buildings and houses had to be demolished all along its way to give way to progress.

Beautiful trees line the avenue, with an outstanding beauty in spring, specially in November when jacaranda trees are in full blossom and paint the city in purple with their beautifull flowers.

Jacaranda trees in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Take a selfie featuring the city's most iconic monument: the Obelisk

Location: Av. 9 de Julio and Av. Corrientes.

This is the most important symbol in the city.

Inaugurated in 1936 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first Spanish settlement, it is much more than a simple  monument: it is a meeting point for celebrations (specially those related to soccer, such as the national team’s victories and local clubs championships) and demonstrations.

Just a few steps from the Obelisk, you can find the traditional “BA” green letters, the perfect spot to take wonderful pictures.

a statue in front of a building
a building lit up at night

Watch a live performance at Latin America's top Opera House

Location: Tucumán 1171, Buenos Aires.

The Colon Theater was built in 1908, and it was designed by three architects, all of whom left their traces in the design. The main auditorium amazes visitors with its wonderful dome painted by a local artist and a beautiful chandelier. 

Due to its almost flawless acoustics, it is considered among the five best concert theatres in the world. Because of this we recommend you to watch a live performance (even if you are not very fond of music). The whole experience feels like traveling back in time to the Europe of the Renaissance.

This season will feature very important ballet productions, like “Giselle and The Sleeping Beauty”; and as always, concerts by the excellent local Philharmonic Orchestra.

Interesting fact: rehearsals are free, as well as some of the performances. Plus, the theater also offers daily tours to appreciate its beautifull architecture and understand a little bit more about its history and importance.

Definitely not to be missed while staying in Buenos Aires, also known as the cultural capital of Latin America.

a close up of a busy city street

Discover Corrientes Avenue

Usually known as “Calle Corrientes” (Corrientes Street), it is one of the bussiest areas in Microcentro. In the old days, there were many cinemas all along its way. Today it can be compared to Broadway Avenue in NYC, as dozens of theatres, cafés, restaurants, and bookshops complete a very particular landscape.

In contrast with Colón Theater (home to classic music and performances), Corriente’s theaters are preferred by locals due to the simplicity of the shows, most of them related to popular genres such as stand ups and musical comedies.

How to get to Microcentro

This area is close to the main neighbourhoods in the city, so walking is a good option. Something to take into account: some of the streets are very narrow and traffic is restricted.

Another good option: a taxi. It is always better to take the ones reading “radio taxi” at the top of the roof. Having some pocket money handy will be very helpful in this case. Even though some of them perhaps accept American dollars, they will not be able to give you the change in the same currency, and it will be always far more convenient to pay in Argentine pesos.

If you want to delve beneath the surface of Buenos Aires city while seeing Microcentro and other major attractions leaving the organization up to someone else check out our Small-Group Buenos Aires City Tour, a great tour to do if you want to get a good feeling of the city and discover places to keep exploring afterward.

Another possibility could be booking a private tour, which is more convenient if you want to have a fully customized experience based on your particular interests, have a closed tour exclusively for your travel group, and have all of the tour guide’s attention for yourself. If this is the case, we recommend you to take a look at both our Private Highlights of Buenos Aires Tour and our Private Customizable Walking Tour to see which option is best suited for your needs and budget.

You have bumped into one of our hidden coupons! Use this code (MICROCENTROBLOG) and get 10% OFF in any of the tours mentioned above. There are several of these spread all over our blog. Keep surfing our website and hunting for more discounts.

Where to eat in Microcentro

Bear in mind that Microcentro is mostly a commercial area, with lots of offices and where the most important banks have their headquarters, so some of the restaurants will only open during office hours or will offer just lunch. 

What really abound in the area are “cafés”, which are usually good places to have a break and have something to eat, perhaps not the best places for an excellent lunch or dinner, but it is worth visiting them since they are very classic venues in Buenos Aires. 

With that being said, these are some interesting options to eat while in Microcentro:

Café Tortoni

Location: Av. De Mayo 825, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Opened since 1858, it is one of the most traditional “bares notables” (notable bars) there are in Buenos Aires, because of both its architecture and people who used to visit the place.

Many important local artists, singers, popular idols and writers were among its habitués: Alfonsina Storni, Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Gardel and Juan Manuel Fangio, just to mention some of them.

The “café” still keeps the decoration since the early years: marble tables, chairs, wonderful stained glasses to be admired, as well as its mirrors and boiserie.

If not sure about what to order, go for the “churros con chocolate” (churros & chocolate milk), the most acclaimed item on their menue.

Centro Naval (Navy Center)

Location: Florida 801, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Built in 1914, it hosts a sport and social institution founded by a group of Navy officers. This building is mostly used for social activities and events.

You will find a nice restaurant on the sixth floor. At the moment, only lunch is offered.

Perhaps not the best eating option in the city, it is an excellent example of French architecture in Buenos Aires, giving you the chance to eat while admiring a piece of Paris in the middle of Buenos Aires.

London City

Location: Av. De Mayo 599, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Situated in “La City” and opened in 1954, many local artists, politicians and writers used to meet there. It is also considered a “Café notable”.

Writer Julio Cortázar wrote one of his novels while having coffees in this beautiful and traditional “café”. Nice place to sit and relax.

La Estancia

Location: Lavalle 941, Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

This is a traditional steakhouse with a menu offering a wide range of different options.

Besides the meal, the best part is that you can take a close look at the “asador”(a.k.a. grill master) performing an ancient barbecuing technique cooking the meat vertically on an iron cross over an open flame.

La Posada de 1820

Location: Tucumán 501, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This traditional old building has survived the passing of time. The place opened in 1820 as a lodging building, and now the restaurant serves local cuisine: beef, lamb, fish and homemade pasta.

Trade Skybar

Location: Av. Corrientes 222, 19th floor. Edificio Comega. Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A place to enjoy the rooftop with stunning views of the city while having a drink and something to eat.

Pizzerías (pizza houses)

Eating pizza is a centuries-old and well established tradition in Buenos Aires.

It was introduced by Italian Immigrants, but nowadays it is quite different to pizza prepared in other countries.

There are two dough options: thick and thin crust, and usually with lots of mozzarella cheese. You will discover more than 30 options: with ham, egg, tomato slices, mushrooms, vegetables, anana, palm hearts, etc.

Something that will likely caugh your attention when walking in these venues (specially at lunchtime): a lot of people eat while standing. Remember this is mostly a commercial area, so most guests are workers having a snack during lunch break (so they barely have time to eat on the go).

The two most traditional pizzerías are:

Banchero Pizza

Location: Av. Corrientes 1300, Buenos Aires.

Pizzería Güerrín

Location: Av. Corrientes 1368, Buenos Aires.

Travelers' top choice activities to explore Microcentro

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