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World Travel Guide > Guides > South America > Argentina > Buenos Aires

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Local time Buenos Aires

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Buenos Aires History

Founded in 1536 by Spanish explorer Pedro de Mendoza, Buenos Aires was named after the patron saint of sailors – said to be responsible for the good wind, or buen aire.

After Mendoza’s initial settlement (in what is now the San Telmo neighbourhood) was abandoned, a second and successful attempt to found a city, led by another adventurous Spaniard, Juan de Garay, happened in the late 1500s.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Buenos Aires grew rapidly, with its port conducting an increasing amount of trade. The British invaded at the start of the 19th century, but failed to capture the city. In 1810 the Argentines campaigned in force to free themselves of Spanish rule; independence was achieved six years later.

Mass immigration to Buenos Aires occurred at the end of the 1800s, as workers were brought in from abroad to service agriculture and the railways. Development ceased in the mid-20th century, as the country’s economy declined – mostly owing to lack of investment from war-torn Europe. Immigrants arrived from other parts of Argentina and were forced to reside in shanty towns – or Villas Miseria as they were aptly described.

One of the most prominent events in Buenos Aires’s history was the election of President Juan Perón, in 1946. Strong socialist roots made him popular amongst the working classes, as did his much-celebrated wife Eva Perón, known as Evita. Anti-Perón forces were notable, and they enlisted Argentina’s own army to bomb Plaza de Mayo in an attempt to dislodge him. Although this ultimately failed, Perón was removed from power twice – the final time, in 1976, and it was followed by a brutal military dictatorship that lasted until 1983.

After defeat in the Falklands War, Argentina returned to democratic government.

In 2001, the country suffered a disastrous economic crash that left Buenos Aires paralysed and desperate, and there were many violent protests in the capital. Today, the city is a much calmer and more stable place.

Did you know?
• The tango dance originated in the brothels of the city in the immigrant ghetto in the late 19th century in what is present day La Boca.
• Avenida 9 de Julio is the widest street in the world and spans a head-spinning 16 lanes.
• The use of finger printing in forensic evidence was first ever used successfully in the world in Buenos Aires to convict a woman who committed a double murder in the late 19th century.

Featured Hotels

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Casa Calma

In the heart of downtown Buenos Aires, this wellness boutique equips its 17 rooms with jacuzzi tubs and six deluxe rooms have saunas. The vibe throughout is eco-chic, with furniture fashioned from recycled fabrics and floors crafted from sustainable pine. Healthy buffet breakfast, bicycle hire and an honesty bar are among its many attractions.

Faena Hotel

A pioneering design hotel, opulently contemporary Faena has been crafted out of a former grain warehouse along the docks of Puerto Madero. Designed by Philippe Starck, the interior is an eclectic mix of minimalist décor, regal furniture and quirky artefact, with facilities counting a spa, outdoor pool, a state-of-the-art meeting and events space and two stylish restaurants.

Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

A 5-star Park Hyatt property in the affluent downtown Recoleta district, chandeliers and working fireplaces set the tone in this grand palace - first built in 1934 and lovingly restored in 2006. The 165-room hotel commands an impressive array of art in its underground gallery, the Paseo de las Artes Duhau, and facilities include the Ahín Wellness & Spa with its indoor swimming pool, sauna and whirlpool.

Hotel Frossard

This centrally located hotel offers simple, modern facilities in an old, French-style house. Most visitors are attracted by the reasonable prices and ease of access to nearby cultural attractions rather than its specific charm. Offering bed and breakfast, Hotel Frossard is also surrounded by many of the city's finest cafés and restaurants which makes it a worthy budget choice in what can be a pricey city.

Telmo Tango

This friendly San Telmo hostel and bed-and-breakfast is a comfortable option for newcomers to Buenos Aires. Organised trips include outings to football games and sailing from Puerto Madero, and the English-speaking manager is happy to share his tips on the city. The building's top terrace is a nice little spot to catch the sun away from the busy streets. Ask for a room at the front of the building that benefits from a balcony.

Pop Hotel

This budget boutique hotel is located in the emerging neighbourhood of Villa Crespo amid a scattering of trendy cafes, art spaces and new restaurants. The hotel's design is fresh and urban, with 44 air-conditioned rooms boasting plenty of light and fitted with iPod docks and security boxes for laptops. The deluxe rooms offer private balconies and breakfast croissant delivery.