Besides ever-burgeoning Palermo, Belgrano is one of the largest barrios in Buenos Aires spanning an area of 6.8km. Although not instantly recognizable for its tourist attractions, it is a pleasant neighborhood for walking and admiring the residential homes.
An introduction to Belgrano
Stretching back from the River Plate, the barrio of Belgrano lies to the northeast of Buenos Aires Centro and is bordered to the northwest by Nuñez, to the southeast by Palermo and to the south by Coghlan, Colegiales and Villa Urquiza. Originally, the area occupied by the neighborhood formed part of the Pago de los Montes Grandes, which was a flourishing terrain for livestock grazing that spread from Retiro to San Isidro.
Named after General Manuel Belgrano, the creator of the Argentine flag, the history of the barrio is an interesting one. Following the general’s death in 1820 a law was passed to give his name to the next new town, which eventually happened in 1857. The then town witnessed so much instant growth that it was soon declared a city and in 1880 even served as the nation’s capital, albeit for no more than a few weeks. In 1887, the federal district of Buenos Aires grew to incorporate Belgrano and Flores (also a town at the time), thus creating the neighborhoods of today.
Recognized as an upper to middle class neighborhood, Belgrano is loosely split into four areas: Belgrano R, Belgrano C, Central Belgrano and Bajo Belgrano. The major characteristic of the barrio is its residential feel and the presence of grand 19th century homes lining wide, leafy avenues.
Things to see, do or both
Rather than being inundated with must-see sights, Belgrano is a great place for aimlessly strolling and discovering what lies around the next corner. A popular meeting point of locals is Barrancas de Belgrano, a green park designed by French-Argentine landscaper Carlos Thays. At the heart of the park is a pergola and if you are lucky you might catch the public milongas (tango dances) that take place during the weekend.
Marking the center of Belgrano, you will find Plaza Manuel Belgrano, a pleasant square that hosts a weekend artisan fair where local venders display a range of handicrafts and jewelry. If you take a walk around the edge of the plaza, you will discover some of Belgrano’s most famous landmarks. The Iglesia de Inmaculda Concepcion de Belgrano, also known as La Redonda, is a stunning church where you’ll often get a glimpse of Argentine weddings. On the corner of Juramento and Vuelta de Obligada streets is the Museo de Arte Espanol Enrique Larreta dedicated to the life of writer Enrique Larreta and one block east along Juramento is the Museo Sarmiento, which houses memorabilia belonging to Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and Nicolas Avellaneda, both former presidents of Argentina.
Owing to its affluence, Belgrano is also popular for shopping. Avenida Cabildo runs the entire width of the barrio and is lined with a huge quantity of clothing and shoe shops ranging from chain stores to independent boutiques.
If you have come to Belgrano in search of something different then head past Barrancas de Belgrano in the Belgrano C area to find Barrio Chino (Chinatown). A collection of around 100 Asian-owned shops and restaurants, this mini-barrio covers two blocks of Arribeños street, between Juramento and Olazabal. This is a great location to experience the life of the city’s Asian population, pick up some souvenirs or dine out. It is here that you will also find the city’s best selection of fresh fish; ideal if you are staying in a rented apartment and feel like eating in.
Nightlife and restaurants
Belgrano is home to an eclectic range of bars and restaurants to choose from.
Jolie Bistro (Conde 2036). Sat on the edge of Plaza Castelli in Belgrano R, Jolie is a pretty café serving French cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Upon entering, you’ll be greeted by the intoxicating smell of freshly baked bread used to create delights like smoked salmon bagels with cream cheese. For dinner, think along the lines of pork sirloin and red berry sauce with sweet potato mash. Tempting?
La Parolaccia (Libertador 5823). Part of a chain of restaurants scattered around the city, La Parolaccia serves up delectable Italian fare from an Italian written menu (don’t worry, with some knowledge of Spanish it is easy to read). Classically Italian in décor, on a sunny day, asks for a table on the open-air patio. Stop by for lunch and take advantage of the great value three-course menu. In addition, if you are celebrating a birthday, let the waiter know to receive a complementary cake and bottle of limoncello.
Aldonza Bar (Sucre 1920). Just one block from Barrancas de Belgrano, you could easily miss the staircase leading up to this bar, but keep your eyes peeled to discover a classy watering hole reminiscent of a medieval Spanish castle. The ambience is unassuming, the bar is well stocked and you might just find the best nacho-guacamole combination in the city, amidst a menu of other delicious Mexican plates.
Puerta Uno (Juramento 1667). Round the corner from Barrio Chino, Puerta Uno is a semi-secret bar proud of its underground image. I say semi-secret because you can find the address on the website; however, to get in you’ll either need a password or be a friend of the owners. Once inside, the bar is cool and cozy offering a bartender dedicated to creating sake and fruit cocktails and DJs spinning a house-rock fusion.
Rumi Ba (Figueroa Alcorta 6442). A restaurant, lounge and nightclub all in one, Rumi is a popular haunt of Argentina’s chic and glamorous where celebrity spotting is second nature. Come 2am, punters stand in line hoping to make it past the notoriously strict doormen. To guarantee entry and the chance to mingle with the beautiful people, book for dinner then stick around for the party.
Why it’s hot / Why it’s not
Whilst neighboring Palermo gets the recognition for being a tourist haven, supposedly rich Belgrano goes about its business in an effortless manner. Spending a day or two in the barrio is a great way to get a true feel for residential life in Buenos Aires. Furthermore, you’ll also get the chance to check out some great tree-lined streets, restaurants and homes.
Contrary to popular belief, the Argentine national football stadium and home to Club Atletico River Plate, El Monumental, is located in the boundaries of Belgrano and not neighboring Nuñez. Nevertheless, staunch fans of the club will argue until red in the face that the club’s home is the latter.