Retiro is one of the main entry points to Buenos Aires. Due to the extensive bus network that operates in Argentina, Retiro bus station (a rather grim eyesore from the 1980s), is the focal hub of passengers disembarking for the capital city. With the bus terminal being relocated to Flores that will leave just the train station in Retiro, it will be interesting to see how the neighborhood changes after the bus station has gone.
Because of the constant arrival of local and international passengers, there are a swathe of hotels in the area, including the renowned Sheraton and the Four Seasons. There is also a lot of commercial activity here as the streets are buzzing with fast food vendors. Needless to say, it can get very crowded.
Opposite the bus station is Plaza San Martin, a large expanse of green area which provides some peace outside the cacophony of the city center. The plaza is home to the Torre Monumental and a huge statue of the Argentine national hero José de San Martín. Retiro is a typical entry point to a big city, bursting with activity and excitingly close to the center of one of the greatest cities in the world
The Torre de los Ingleses (English Tower) is often called Big Ben. It was built in 1916 by local British residents who had made their fortunes building the nearby Retiro railroad station complex. It was constructed to commemorate the centenary of the May Revolution of 1810 (Revolución de Mayo). Spain had lost great political and military authority during the Napoleonic wars and a British ship was seen off nearby Uruguay. This led the local people of Buenos Aires to force the resignation of the Viceroy appointed by the Spanish crown. It was the first time locals held any political power in Argentina.
It was designed by Ambrose Poynter and built by Hopkins y Gardom, with materials shipped from England. The inauguration of the building took place on May 24, 1916 and was attended by President Victorino de la Plaza and local British dignitaries. The building celebrates the United Kingdom with reliefs of an English rose, Welsh dragon, Scottish thistle and Irish shamrock. It has 8 floors and the bells are imitations of the ones in Westminster Abbey, not the Houses of Parliament (Big Ben). It is open 10am-5pm Mon-Fri and admission is free.
In the Plaza San Martin I, across from Retiro Station, stands a sad monument to the hundreds of soldiers who died for the vanity of a failed dictator. This is the monument to the war dead form the short war over the Islas Malvinas or Falkland Islands (April - June 1982). In the early 1980s Argentina was still controlled by the brutal military regime headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri. His disastrous economic policies lead to the people openly questioning the junta’s authority and he hoped that the war would rebuild support for his regime and fan nationalist fervour. The Falkland Islands had been a small fishing outpost and territory of Britain for several hundred years and there had been an on again/off again war of words over ownership. Galtieri invaded the virtually undefended islands and declared victory. He sent ill-equipped and un-trained conscripts who were soundly defeated by professional soldiers and elite special forces. He even sent a WWII battleship (The Belgrano) against modern nuclear submarines and lost that with the lives of hundreds of sailors.
The defeat ultimately led to the ousting of the bloody military dictatorship and the restoration of democracy in Argentina.
The large horizontal monument has metals plaques depicting the islands, the 3 branches of the military (Army, navy and Air Force) and has an eternal flame. It is guarded by one of the armed services on 2 week rotations. It strategically faces the Torre Monumental, previously known as the British Clock Tower, which was a gift from British citizens living here (1916).
Donated by English residents of BsAs on the centennial of the May Revolution centennial, the English Tower – renamed Monumental Tower after the Falklands War – rises out of the center of the Plaza Fuerza Aerea Argentina (Air Force Plaza) opposite the Retiro train station and the Sheraton Hotel. Topped by a weathercock in the form of an Elizabethan frigate, you can ascend to the balcony for views Wed-Sat from 1200-1900.
Close to the Torre de los Ingleses, after crossing the Av del Libertador we reached the Plaza San Martin. In the middle of this green park is the rather impressive Malvinas/Falklands Memorial situated, just in front of the 'British Tower' !!!
This monument is a tribute to the Argentine soldiers who died in the war between England and Argentina in 1982. The names of all victims are graved into marble plaques. There are always guards of the Argentine army in front of the monument and 'of course' there is an eternal flame burning.
There is a huge Argentine flag blowing in front of the memorilal, which is - during summer - surrounded by flowering jacaranda's.
Named after General José de San Martin, one of the most famous Argentine heroes, Plaza San Martin is a lovely square in the middle of busy downtown Buenos Aires.
The square is filled with lots of trees and provides the resting people with some shade during hot (sunny) summer days. Iyt has a couple of statues, for instance the impressive statue of General San Martin and the Falklands/Malvinas monument.
Plaza San Martin is surrounded by some famous buildings like the Kavanagh building and the Palacio San Martin.
Do just like the 'portenos' when they are sitting on the green hills and enjoy the views to the Rio de la Plata or the shade of the trees.
The Plaza San Martin is a park filled with trees, benches and areas to lounge. t also has the Monument to Jose San Martin as well as beautiful views of the English Clock Tower. That day there were plenty of people relaxing on the grass and benches enjoying the beautiful sunshine. We enjoyed walking around the Plaza on a very sunny day on our way to the river.
Torre de los Ingleses is located in Retiro. It's a short walk from the Plaza San Martin. Locals refer to it as the Big Ben or Argentina.
The tower was constructed in 1910 by British residents of the city to commemorate the centenary of the May Revolution of 1810.
The tower is built in Palladian style and is decorated with symbols of the British empire and features the thistle of Scotland, the English rose, the Welsh dragon and the Irish shamrock.
The tower is over 200 feet tall and has eight floors. There are clocks that were designed to chime like the bells of Westminster Abbey (the clocks have been damaged and do not work currently I am told). At the top of the tower is an octagonal copper roofed cupola. Above the entrance there are the shields of Argentina and Great Britain and the inscription "al gran pueblo argentino, los residentes británicos, salud, 25 de mayo 1810-1910" (To the health of the Great Argentine people, from the British residents, May 25 1810-1910).
We were walking around the Plaza St. Martin. It is impossible to miss the Monument to Jose De San Martin. The monument is of Jose San Martin on horseback as if he is charging into battle. Jose San Martín is regarded as one of the Liberators of Spanish South America and is regarded as the national hero of Argentina. The Order of the Liberator General San Martin or Orden del Libertador San Martín) in his honor is the highest decoration in Argentina.
Retiro is one of Argentina's busiest railway stations. there are three lines; Mitre, Belgrano, and San Martin. The station is across from the Plaza St. Martin. The station was opened in 1915 and was designed by Eustace L. Conder, Roger Conder and Sydney G. Follet.
Avenida Alvear is one Buenos Aires' best addresses - a few short blocks of elegant small palaces and old houses, the city's most exclusive shops and art galleries and some very, very grand hotels. Strolling stylishly (no-one runs in Avenida Alvear) between Recoleta at its western end to Plazoleta Carlos Pellegrini near Ave 9 de Julio in the east, it used to be longer but the widening of 9 de Julio in the 1960s saw it being truncated - though not as much as the planners wanted - the French Government refused to allow them to demolish their embassy. One victory for the lovers of beautiful architecture.
The Palacio Ortiz Basualdo ( the French embassy) and the Palacio Pereda (the Brazilian embassy) are the most famous of the Avenida's many gorgeous belle époque buildings. Others of the same era to look out for include the Palacaio Duhau (recently converted into the Park Hyatt hotel) and Palacio Fernández de Anchorena (now known as the Nunciatura Apostolica - the Vatican embassy). The spendid Hotel Alvear came later - it was built in 1932.
My favourite is the pretty house that now houses the Ralph Lauren shop (Alvear 1780) - not a palace but a charming Art Nouveau mansion that retains many of its original internal features. You might like to combine sight-seeing with a little shopping here - their prices are a bit lower than in North America and Europe.
The Torre de los Ingleses (English Tower) is an impressive building in Plaza San Martin in Retiro. It supposedly offers great views over the district but like many places we visited in the city it wasn't open to visitors, meaning we could only admire it from outside. The tower is covered in graffiti like "Las Malvinas son Argentinas" (The Falklands are Argentinian) showing that there is still plenty of strong feeling about the islands and the Falklands War.
Until you visit Argentina you don't realize how important The Falklands, or Las Malvinas as they are called here, are to the Argentinians. Argentina lost far more soldiers than Britain in the Falklands War and even today the Falklands War is a sensitive issue here.
All the local maps of Argentina refer to The Falklands as Las Malvinas while the capital city is referred to as Puerto Argentina instead of Stanley. In Buenos Aires the war is commemorated by a memorial in Plaza San Martin. Two soldiers stand in front of it and face towards the Torre de los Ingleses, which is in an area known as Plaza Britannica until 1982, the year of the war.
I found this square at the end of Florida street. In fact, it’s a park! A lot of green trees around, I stand for a while to rest and read some info about the hero of San Martin. His statue is at this square and now I can remember a statue like this in every city I visited in Argentina! Then I noticed it’s their here and they have many streets and square named San Martin…
Another important local monument is the memorial for Falklands war (Malvinas for the Argentinians). There is an eternal flame burning. The war took place in 1982, between UK and Argentina and Argentina lost. The locals are very sensitive about this issue.
Around Retiro Railway Station
The Retiro railway station is the first things many people see in Buenos Aires if they arrive by train or by bus by the nearby huge bus terminal. The station was built in 1915. I guess they will be shocked when they go outside and see crowds of people and hundreds of buses, cars and taxis. If you calm down you will notice some nice parts!
The Clock Tower is one of them right opposite the station. It’s called Torred de los Ingless, given as a donation by the Buenos Aires’ british community in 1916. It’s 76m high and you can visit it Thursday to Sunday 12:00-19:00. Avoid the area around the station when the sun is going down…. it’s really dangerous!
Don’t miss the Kavanagh building(built in 1935), a 120m high skyscraper that used to be the tallest in South America some years before.
Having spent over a year in the Falkland Islands and having visited many of the war memorials and battle sites the islands have to offer, I was determined to see the Malvinas memorial during my brief stay in Buenos Aires .. to get the other side of the story as it were. The Monumento a los Caidos de Malvinas is located within the Plaza San Martin and contains the names of the Argentine servicemen who fell in that conflict. If war memorials are not your thing there are other things to see and do while there, huge 'Ombu' trees, statues, lawns and plenty of seats to relax on and enjoy a picnic.