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What to read and watch when visiting Buenos Aires

Argentina's capital city has influenced generations of writers and filmmakers. To help you get a feel for this ever stimulating and always inspiring city, here’s what to read and watch before you visit Buenos Aires.

Books

Mysterious Buenos Aires by Manuel Mujica Láinez

The San Telmo district regularly appears in *Mysterious Buenos Aires*

The San Telmo district regularly appears in *Mysterious Buenos Aires*

Colonialism has shaped Buenos Aires and no one understood this better than Manuel Mujica Láinez. In his collection of 42 short stories, Mysterious Buenos Aires (published in the 1950s) Mujica Láinez traces the history of Buenos Aires, from its founding by colonisers in 1536 up until 1904. Mujica Láinez was especially concerned with how the Buenos Aires landscape changed to match the fortunes of its inhabitants and many of the stories include local dialects and geographical markers. For a glimpse of Mujica Láinez’s Buenos Aires, visit San Telmo, a district full of visual reminders of the city’s colonialist past.

Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer

The fantastical Buenos Aires skyline

The fantastical Buenos Aires skyline

It’s easy to see why Kalpa Imperial was the first of popular Argentinian writer Angélica Gorodischer’s 19 novels to be translated into English (by sci-fi legend Ursula K. Le Guin, no less). As an introduction to both Gorodischer’s style and the city of Buenos Aires, it’s hard to beat. A fantasy novel that tells the story of an empire that has repeatedly risen and fallen, Kalpa Imperial uses multiple storytellers to create an alternative history of Argentina. Echoes of Gorodischer’s fantasyland can be seen in the contemporary Buenos Aires skyline, especially at sunset when the city is frequently bathed in gold and rose tones. One of the best places to see this spectacle for yourself is from the Sky Bar at Hotel Pulitzer.

My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain: A Novel by Patricio Pron

The names of the victims of Argentina's 'Dirty War'

The names of the victims of Argentina's 'Dirty War'

The narrator of Patricio Pron’s My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain has returned to Argentina to comfort his dying father and ends up helping to solve a local murder. The investigation leads to the narrator reliving memories from the country’s ‘Dirty War’ and takes the reader on a journey through this chaotic period. To understand more about the war’s impact on Argentina, make time to visit the Remembrance Park. Located close to the University of Buenos Aires in the Belgrano district, the park contains artwork by artists like Clorindo Testa and Magdalena Abakanowicz.

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara began his Motorcycle Diaries in Buenos Aires

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara began his Motorcycle Diaries in Buenos Aires

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara made his name as a political revolutionary, but he was also a talented storyteller whose motorcycle road trip through South America makes for an enthralling read. Guevara’s travels began in Buenos Aires and contemporary street artists have covered the city in tributes to the revolutionary. Visit the San Telmo district to see one of the most popular Guevara murals and for other highlights, visit the street art gallery in Palermo Hollywood (you can stay nearby at the Vitrum Hotel).

Films

Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens)

Buenos Aires has inspired artists for centuries

Buenos Aires has inspired artists for centuries

Director Fabián Bielinsky’s Nine Queens takes its title from a forged sheet of rare stamps that a pair of petty criminals are attempting to sell. The result is a hilarious yet gripping heist that encompasses large swathes of both respectable and not-even-slightly-respectable sides of Buenos Aires. The film culminates in asatisfying twist that will leave you smiling and grimacing in equal measure. Ilum Experience Home offers a tranquil base for your own exploration of Buenos Aires.

Happy Together

A story of lost love in the city's nightlife district

A story of lost love in the city's nightlife district

In Happy Together, Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing are a couple who move to Buenos Aires, only to see their relationship fall apart. It’s not exactly a cheerful introduction to the city but while the onscreen romance flounders, director Kar-Wai Wong’s love for Buenos Aires shines through. The wild and wonderful world of Buenos Aires nightlife, in particular, is a focal point for Happy Together. Experience a few days of living like a local by checking into the self-catered La Editorial Segundo C, just a short walk from the city’s nightlife district.

The Secret in Their Eyes

Rooftops in Buenos Aires

Rooftops in Buenos Aires

Assuming you have no interest in a gripping plot, romance and beautiful cinematography, The Secret in Their Eyes is still worth watching for the impressive five-minute-long, continuous shot of the Estadio Tomás Adolfo Ducó, home to the Atlético Huracán football team. At the time of filming this shot was a groundbreaking technical feat and watching it today still feels like being transported into the heart of the roaring crowd.

Evita

La Casa Rosada where Eva Perón spoke to the country

La Casa Rosada where Eva Perón spoke to the country

While this Madonna film is often criticised for its inaccuracies, Evita features many historically significant sites across Buenos Aires, including the Casa Rosada (the ‘Pink House’) balcony where Eva Perón spoke to hundreds of thousands of Argentinians. The Alvear Icon Hotel sits on the other side of the river to Casa Rosada and the staff are happy to organise personal tours of Buenos Aires’ historic landmarks.