Exploring the past in Buenos Aires

Argentina’s largest city is a buzzing metropolis of fiery tango, sizzling steaks and colourful buildings.

Delve a little deeper into Buenos Aires and you'll find it's also a window into the past - a place where the dead live on in splendour, where artists find their muse and life moves a little slower amongst its magnificent waterways.

On Sunday you can visit the San Telmo market, where you'll find all manner of antique treasures to take home.

Walk among the tombstones

Hanging out in a graveyard might not sound like your typical excursion in a foreign city, but a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery is a must for anyone wanting to get a feel for Argentina's history, architecture, and culture. Spend half a day exploring more than 6,400 eclectic tombstones, many of which hold the remains of the Buenos Aires elite. Traipsing along Recoleta's wide, tree-lined streets and footpaths is much like walking around a town. It pays to consult a map if you want to track down some of the Recoleta Cemetery's most notable graves. Actress-turned-First Lady Eva Perón, more affectionately known as Evita, is buried here, as are past presidents of Argentina and Napoleon's granddaughter.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this city of the dead is its diversity. The graves are decorated with elaborate marble mausoleums and statues. Some resemble gothic chapels, others are like tiny houses from a fairytale and some are pure art deco or baroque.

Venture back in time

Wandering through San Telmo, Argentina's oldest barrio, is like stepping into another time. You'll want to capture its faded beauty with video and stills as you stroll along the cobblestone streets, taking in the old churches and colonial buildings. Browse the many cafes, tango parlours and antique shops in this well-preserved part of town, or indulge in a little people-watching - San Telmo is a favourite haunt for artists and dancers.

Be sure to make the journey to the historic 'Illuminated Block', which is still home to important academic and religious institutions of the 17th and 18th century. Have lunch in the shady Plaza Dorrego and watch it transform at dusk, as Buenos Aires' tango dancers take to the streets. It's also worth visiting on Sundays to catch the famous San Telmo market, where you'll find all manner of antique treasures and souvenirs to take home.

Get out on the water

There's a greener side to Buenos Aires if you venture just outside of the city. Here, on the edge of the Rio de la Plata, you'll find a natural paradise. Taking a boat tour is perhaps the dreamiest way to learn about the lifestyle of the islenos, the people who live on the islands of the Parana Delta. As you cruise the network of streams, rivers and waterways, you'll see first-hand how the locals have transformed this formerly swampy area into a lush, watery suburb, the kind you'll never want to leave. It's now marked by grassy paths, waterfront houses on stilts and luxurious yachts.

Keep an eye out for the home of former Argentine president Sarmiento, who lived here for nearly 30 years. Check out the grand English architecture of the Tigre and the quaint cobblestone streets of the old quarter in San Isidro, where you'll see several majestic mansions inhabited by old aristocratic families.

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