Formally known as San Nicolás, the area bounded by Retiro on the north, Puerto Madero on the east, Monserrat on the south, and Balvanera to the west encompasses much of the traditional financial, commercial, and entertainment centers.
The area between Avenida 9 de Julio and the riverfront, immediately north of the Plaza de Mayo, is commonly called the Microcentro and, on occasion, Catedral al Norte.
Named for Argentina’s independence day, Avenida 9 de Julio literally separates the Microcentro from the rest of the barrio—only a world-class sprinter could cross all 16 lanes of seemingly suicidal drivers fudging the green light. At the corner of Corrientes, the 67.5-meter Obelisco (Obelisk, 1936) is a city symbol erected for the 400th anniversary of Pedro de Mendoza’s initial encampment.
One of the Microcentro’s foci is the pedestrian Calle Florida, once the city’s major shopping street. Originally a private residence dating from 1910, the Sociedad Rural Argentina (Florida 460) houses an organization that has voiced the interests of large landowners—some would say “the oligarchy”—since 1866. The traditional axis of porteño nightlife, Avenida Corrientes has taken a backseat to trendier areas, but the recent widening of sidewalks has encouraged pedestrians to return.
Calle San Martín, with its banks and exchange houses, is the axis of La City, the financial district that’s home to the Italianate Banco Central de la República Argentina and its Museo Numismático Dr. José E. Uriburu (Reconquista 266, tel. 011/4393-0021, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. weekdays, free), which helps explain the country’s volatile economic history. After the events of late 2001 and early 2002, angry protestors expressed their bronca by defacing even the elegant Spanish Renaissance Standard Bank (1924).
Across Avenida 9 de Julio, on Plaza Lavalle, the Palacio de Justicia (Tribunales or Law Courts, 1904) has lent its colloquial name to the neighborhood. North of the landmark Teatro Colón (1908), protected by bulky concrete planters, the Templo de la Congregación Israelita (1932) is the city’s largest synagogue and home to the small but impressive Museo Judío Dr. Salvador Kibrick (Libertad 769, tel. 011/4132-0102, ext. 105, museojudio [at] judaica [dot] org [dot] ar); from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday it offers guided tours (US$8 pp) in Spanish, English, and Hebrew. Having ID is obligatory; do not photograph this or any other Jewish community site without explicit permission.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition