Photographing the Obelisk of Buenos Aires

Gringo in Buenos AiresHacking Buenos Aires12 Comments

[box type=”alert”]8/28/12: We have had reports that this technique does not work anymore, so proceed at your own risk!![/box]

If you’re reading this, then chances are you have at least a passing interest in photography: very few people leave home and travel half-way around the globe without wanting to capture their new environment. After all, how will you impress the folks back home without photographs of your new and exotic surroundings?

Photographing Buenos Aires is a little bit tricky though. Sure, there’s stuff like tango, the dog walkers in Recoleta, the colorful houses of La Boca, and that most classic photo of all – you, about to eat a huge steak – but there’s no grand vista, no easy-to-capture skyline that sums the city up in one shot. The only instantly recognizable physical landmark that Buenos Aires has is the Obelisk, and that’s pretty hard to get a good shot of. Shooting it from ground level on Avenida 9 de Julio just doesn’t do it justice: you’ll have to point your camera up at it and it’ll look like it’s falling over backwards in the photos.

The far better alternative is to get a photo of the Obelisk from the top floor of the Panamericano Hotel, located just a few doors down from the Plaza de la República at Carlos Pellegrini 551. You don’t even have to be staying at the hotel! (That’s a good thing, it looks really expensive!)

For best results, aim to get to the top of the Panamericano around late afternoon so that you can catch the sunset. It’s also a great idea to take a little tripod so that you can support your camera and take a shot with a slow shutter speed without getting “camera shake” (flash ain’t going to help).

Here’s how you do it: go to the hotel and stride confidently through the large lobby to the elevators. If anyone asks you what you’re doing just say quiero ver la vista desde el piso superior (I want to see the view from the top floor). They’ll wave you on. Summon an elevator and ride it to the top floor, which is the 23rd.

On the 23rd floor of the Panamericano is a “Fitness & Mineral Spa” with a glassed-in pool. When you get to the top floor, explain to the staff at the desk immediately in front of you that you want to see the view (they speak perfect English). You’ll have to leave ID at the front desk and they’ll also let you know that you’re obligated to buy at least one drink from the juice bar next to the pool (you can get beer, but be warned that it’s the most expensive Quilmes in the city!).

The staff at the front desk will ask to see your camera. If you have a digital SLR they might comment on it, as they seem to have a policy against allowing people with ‘professional’ cameras to access the roof terrace area, but as long as you stress that you’re not a professional they’ll let you go on.

Ok! Now you can walk beside the pool to the outdoor roof terrace area and photograph the Obelisk for as long as you like! The view is absolutely spectacular – along with the Obelisk and Avenida 9 de Julio you can also see Teatro Colón, Palacio Barolo, out to the Rio de la Plata and much more. If you’re leaving Buenos Aires soon, it’s a great thing to do on your last day in the city.

(The photo that illustrates this article was taken with a Canon 40D digital SLR and a Canon 10-22mm lens at 14mm.)

12 Comments on “Photographing the Obelisk of Buenos Aires”

  1. Pingback: Buenos Aires Expats - Online Community of Expatriates and guide to living in Buenos Aires, Argentina

  2. Andi

    I have ALWAYS wondered how to photograph it, this is great! I will try it next time I’m in BsAs. 🙂

  3. Rai

    I’ve always wanted to go to alguna terraza and see a view like that one!!!!! do you know any other places where I could do that? I could go there and pretend to be american but it’s a bit embarassing.. and what if they notice!? (soy una porteña más..)


  4. Myles

    I have been in Buenos Aires once a year for the past ten years and I have always wanted a good vantage point to shoot this. Thank you for the tip. Now another reason to be excited about going back

  5. Brett

    Thanks for the tip, I was in BsAs a few months ago and managed to get up on the balcony. Didn’t have the right filters with me to get a good pic of the obelisk, so took one of the congresso instead.

  6. t

    I went up this 3 days ago and there was no chance the lady at the desk was letting me out on the balcony, she was very polite but adamant that if I was not a guest of the hotel I could not go on to the balcony… maybe too many people are trying?

  7. Antoine

    I tried yesterday but it’s not working anymore : if you are not sleeping at the hotel, you can go to the balcony ONLY if you pay the entrance for the swimming pool and sauna (250 $Ar).
    Does anyone know another place to go to take great pics of the Obelisk ?

  8. Peter

    Looks like the glory days are over.

    I tried my luck last night (just in case) and as T said there is no way to get to that balcony without being a guest of the hotel. Even the Ar$250 to go to the pool/health place wouldn’t work for me. The story I was told by the one of the staff upon some further questioning is that apparently a ‘non guest’ either knocked off or threw a glass from the balcony and so now there is a blanket ban on all ‘non guests’ and the balcony….

    Also note their prices do not include sales tax. So when they say US$160 per night for the cheapest room is just shy of US$200 per night in when it comes time to pay.

  9. Elaine

    A woman tried to commit suicide by jumping off of the roof in January, 2011. She fell on a taxi and survived. A couple of days after that I tried to visit my friend that was staying there but there was a man in the lobby that wouldn’t let me up. I called my friend, who then called the front desk but they still wouldn’t let me up. My friend came down to the lobby to get me but that didn’t work either. Hopefully, they’re more relaxed about guest’s friends now but it seems they’ve adopted the policy of not admitting people off of the street.

  10. Marcos

    Even if its no longer an option, thumbs up for creativity there! That’s the sort of lateral thinking you require in order to get the most out of the city.

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