Above: A mural by artist Taty No Duerme in La Boca - ANDREW HARPER EDITOR

Buenos Aires Experiences

A mural by artist Taty No Dueme in La Boca - Andrew Harper editor

There are many ways to get to know a place. In Buenos Aires, I usually focus on its restaurants and museums. On this occasion, my traveling companion and I found more unconventional ways to delve deeper into the culture. Inside a beguiling mansion — and under it! — we discovered the literal and figurative foundations of the city; we learned the rituals and social aspects of South America’s favorite drink, yerba mate; we explored several vibrant neighborhoods by bicycle; and we participated in the local sporting culture by watching a professional tennis tournament. Each experience provided fresh insight into a city we’ve long loved.

Mansion Museum

El Zanjón - Gonzalo Viramonte

We took the fascinating hourlong El Zanjón: Tunnels and Mystery tour inside this 1830s mansion turned architectural museum in San Telmo. Abandoned by its original owners in the 1870s, the property became a tenement building for the next 100 years, housing 23 families in 23 rooms, with just one kitchen and two baths among them. In the 1980s, chemical engineer Jorge Eckstein thought the derelict property had great potential to become a restaurant. But his plan would never come to be. Architects found the two-story site structurally unsound, and upon further investigation, they discovered why: It stood atop a labyrinth of underground tunnels built by the original owners to cover an open sewer, a common solution adopted by wealthy families at the time. But the tunnels had long been forgotten. Over the next 38 years, Eckstein dedicated himself to excavating and restoring the site, going so far as to shore up the walls by having the adobe mortar replaced with cement. Today, visitors can tour the two-story home and its eerily beautiful brick tunnels, learning more about the immigrants who lived there and the deadly yellow fever epidemic that prompted the wealthy to leave their San Telmo mansions and move to the countryside of Recoleta and Palermo.

El Zanjón de Granados
Defensa 755, San Telmo. Tel. (54) 11-7078-1542

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Above: A mural by artist Taty No Duerme in La Boca - ANDREW HARPER EDITOR

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