Getting There: There are no real public transportation options, so a taxi is best.
Start: The Alvear Palace Hotel.
Finish: The Four Seasons Mansion.
Time: 1 hour, provided you don't get caught up shopping.
Best Times: Monday through Saturday between 11am and 8pm (not at night when things are closed).
You may have to be wealthy to do your shopping on Avenida Alvear, but you don't need a penny to walk on it. In this tour, I'll touch on the architectural highlights of this exclusive area and only briefly on the shopping. I'll leave that up to you for later. Unlike most walks where the numbers go up, you'll be proceeding down in the numbering system as you follow this tour along Avenida Alvear. This tour is an easy walk and a short distance. However, not all the streets have cutouts for wheelchairs, and there are also some gently sloping hills.
Begin at Av. Alvear 1891, at the intersection of Ayacucho, site of the:
1. Alvear Palace Hotel
This is the most famous hotel in Buenos Aires, and certainly its most elegant. Opened in 1928 and built in a French neoclassical style, the lobby is a gilded marble confection, and the central dining area, known as L'Orangerie, resembles the Palm Court in New York's Plaza Hotel. I highly suggest taking the time for the hotel's brunch buffet. While expensive by Argentine standards ($41-$71/£29-£50 per person), it is a relative bargain compared to a similar setting in Europe or North America. Attached to the hotel is a shopping gallery full of exclusive art and bridal shops.
Walk out of the Alvear Palace Hotel and with the hotel to your back, cross Avenida Alvear, turn to your left, and then cross Calle Callao before heading to Av. Alvear 1750, home to the:
2. Polo Ralph Lauren Shop
Shop here if you want, but I recommend taking a look at the building of this Polo Ralph Lauren store, one of the most exquisite of all the shops on this street. It was once a small Art Nouveau mansion. Within the interior, much of the ornate and heavy wood decoration remains, with a stained-glass skylight over the central staircase.
Continue walking down Avenida Alvear, staying on this side of the street. Cross Peña Street to Av. Alvear 1661, location of the:
3. Palacio Duhau and Park Hyatt
The Palacio Duhau was the spectacular home of the Duhau family, built at the beginning of the 20th century. It is now part of the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, which maintains an entrance through this building as well as in the new tower built behind on Calle Posadas. The family was involved in the Ministry of Agriculture, and many of the decorations of the building use such agricultural elements as wheat, corn, and cow heads. The Hyatt has worked well in restoring these elements, along with adding modern materials. Make sure to walk inside and take a look at the Piano Nobile or library room off the lobby, with its decorations mimicking Versailles, or the Oak Bar, with its paneling taken from a medieval French castle. The back garden leads to the new building and is a place for tea for the ladies-who-lunch crowd as well as business executives.
Continue walking down Avenida Alvear until you get to no. 1637, the:
4. Apostolic Nunciatore, or Anchorena Palace
Though originally built for the wealthy Anchorena family, they never lived in this magnificent French-style mansion with its distinctive circular front. The next owner wanted to give the building to the Vatican, but the local representative felt it was too ostentatious and refused to live in it at the time. The Papal insignia, a papal tiara over a pair of keys, is on the building. It remains owned by the Catholic Church.
Continue walking for 2 more blocks until you reach a widening of the street and a small plaza with a statue and fountain, the:
5. Plazoleta Carlos Pellegrini
I think this is one of the most beautiful of all the small plazas in Buenos Aires, not just for the plaza itself, but also for the buildings that surround it. A large, recently restored statue of Carlos Pellegrini, a famous intellectual and industrialist and a senator representing the province of Buenos Aires, sits in the center of this plaza. The statue was created in France by Félix Coutan and dedicated in 1914. A small fountain and a bench add to the relaxed environment. This plaza is the most Parisian-appearing part of Recoleta, and it gives an idea of all that was lost when Buenos Aires decided to widen Avenida 9 de Julio in the 1960s, destroying other little corners of the city that were similar to this one.
With Carlos Pellegrini to your back, turn to your right and cross the street, heading to Calle Arroyo 1130, site of the:
6. Brazilian Embassy
First, a note about the name of this street. Arroyo means "stream" in Spanish, and one once flowed through this area until it was filled in as the city began to develop. The Brazilian Embassy, one of the city's most beautiful embassies, is one of the two most impressive structures overlooking this plaza. Known as the Palacio Pereda, in honor of its original owner Doctor Celedonio Pereda, it took almost 20 years to build and has details borrowed from the Palais Fontainebleau in France. It was originally designed by the French architect Louis Martin and finished by the Belgian architect Julio Dormal.
With the Brazilian Embassy behind you, turn to your right, cross Calle Cerrito, and stop once you reach the other side. Be aware that this odd intersection has a confusing traffic pattern, so be careful when crossing to see the:
7. French Embassy
It's hard to believe when you see this beautiful structure, but the plans for the expansion of Avenida 9 de Julio originally included the demolition of this building. Fortunately, the French government refused to give up the building, and it now serves as the vista point for the northern terminus of Avenida 9 de Julio. Created by the French architect Pablo Pater, it became the French Embassy in 1939. The building is a beautiful example of Beaux Arts, and you should be sure to notice the main dome and the grillwork on the surrounding fence. You'll notice trompe l'oeil mansard roofs and windows on some of the surfaces of the surrounding modern buildings, an attempt to give an impression of the once surrounding Belle Epoque buildings that were demolished to make way for the expansion of Avenida 9 de Julio.
With the Obelisco on Avenida 9 de Julio to your back, cross Arroyo and Cerritos, stopping at the corner, where you'll find the:
8. Jockey Club
Carlos Pellegrini, whose statue sits across the street in the plaza out front, started the Jockey Club in 1882 along with other like-minded equestrians. The Jockey Club became a major part of the social networking scene for the wealthy and powerful of Argentina. The Jockey Club's original Calle Florida headquarters were burned to the ground on April 15, 1953, after a Perón-provoked riot against this elite institution. Perón seized the assets of the organization, but it was able to regroup in 1958 a few years after he had been thrown out of power. This current building was once the mansion of the Uzué de Casares family, and the organization moved here in 1966. It is not open to the public, but its interior is full of tapestries, works of art, and a library.
Walk back across Cerritos, walking only for a few feet toward the immense tower a block down, but stop when you get to Calle Cerrito 1455, site of the:
9. Four Seasons Mansion
The official name of this Louis XIII-style redbrick palace with heavy quoins is Mansión Alzaga Unzue. It was built in 1919 and was given three facades, anticipating the eventual construction of Avenida 9 de Julio to the east of the building. It was designed with an extensive garden complex in front of its northern facade. The mansion is now part of the Four Seasons Hotel, and it is attached to the main tower through a garden courtyard. The tower sits on what were once the mansion's gardens. Some Porteños can still recall the tragic day when the trees here were cut down to make way for the building's foundation. The tower and the mansion were formerly the Park Hyatt until the Four Seasons purchased the property. (A new Park Hyatt has reopened close by.) Renting the entire mansion is the ultimate in luxury, and it's often here where stars party in Buenos Aires. When Madonna filmed the movie Evita, she used the mansion's balcony to practice her "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" scenes as mobs gathered on the street out front trying to catch a glimpse.
Congratulations, you've finished another tour. There are no nearby metro stations, but there are plenty of cabs in the area that can get you wherever you want to go next.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.