by Laura Schaposnik
Almost two centuries ago, Argentina became independent - after being colonised by the Spaniards, and having been involved in several wars and revolutions. It was not until 1882 that La Plata was planned by Dardo Rocha, and officially founded on 19th of November that year. It has since been known as “Cuidad de las diagonales” (City of diagonals), and you will quickly see how geometrical the place is on getting there. Thanks to its enormous university, and being the capital of the province of Buenos Aires, La Plata has become a very active city, filled with new and trendy eateries, local breweries, a great music scene and beautiful parks.
People watching| 5 p.m.
La Plata is connected by rail to Buenos Aires through the Estación La Plata (Avenida 1 y 44), a beautiful building worth visiting. In the busy hours of Friday afternoon you will see workers commuting to the capital of the country, as well as to suburbs of the city. After walking in that area, stroll by Diagonal 80 to see how the streets are filled with locals and shops selling all kinds of bargains. It won’t be long until you are able to recognize how different parts of the city are dedicated to different social strata, and complete integration has not yet been achieved. To get a different feeling of the city, visit also Wilkenny (Calle 11 y 50), where you will find the posh students and workers having a coffee or a beer. If you then explore Calle 8 between 47 and 51, you will also see how school kids gather on Friday afternoons, waiting to receive party invitations by the corner of 8 and 48.
Local BBQ - Parrillada night | 9:00 p.m.
Argentina is most known for its meat. It is said that one of the best butchers in the country, ``Don Mario’’, is based in La Plata. He sells meat to the top restaurants of the country and fanciest hotels, including Los Discos (Calle 48 e/ 3 y 4). Try the “bife de chorizo” (a half will be more than enough, as it approaches half a kilo of meat!), but don’t forget to start with a “provoleta con oregano”, an amazing disc of melted cheese. A famous dessert in Argentina is “postre vigilante”, a piece of hard cheese with quince on top. For sweeter teeth, another of renown dessert is the “flan con dulce de leche”, an egg based pudding with toffee. If you would rather have a more relaxed dinning environment, head to the Cerveceria Modelo (Calle 5 y 55), where waiters dispose of peanut shells to the floor in getting your table ready. A beer and a “picada” (a sharing board of small bites) are a typical way of finishing the week among friends. For those missing english written menus, you can head to Foodie (Calle 5 y 50), in a trendy spot offering american dining.
Music, Dancing | 11 p.m.
The night in Argentina only starts when the day is ending. To join the local youth until the early morning, you should head after dinner to one of the trendy neighbourhoods filled with bars, clubs and music venues. A classic option is Calle 51 between 4 and 7, where many local bars, restaurants and shops have recently been established. You will see there El rincon de los amigos, as well as many other small and quaint places. If you fancy trying some local brews, head to Cerveceria Laurus (Calle 27 y 60), where the outside tables get filled with happy people all night.
Morning walk | 10 a.m.
Start your morning at Market Cafe (Diagonal 74 y 48), a local coffee house which has delicious pastries and will get you ready for a day exploring. The diagonal will lead you to Plaza Moreno, the park which lies in the geometric centre of the city. If you walk to the middle, you will see a beautiful stone map of the city, and have amazing views of the Cathedral. The Catedral de La Plata is the largest in Argentina, and it is well worth ascending the spire, from which the views of the city are mesmerising in the late evenings or early mornings. The tower can be accessed via the coffee shop on the lower level, the entrance to which is on the right of the Cathedral’s main entrance.
Noon by the parks| 3 p.m.
For a relaxing lunch time walk, take avenues 51 or 53 towards El Bosque, the forest that encloses not only many university buildings, but also the observatory, the natural science museum and a beautiful lake. In summer time, you will be able to rent a little pedal boat to spend some hours in the water, and maybe listen to some classical music in the open air auditorium. For children, the “grutas” or hill of rocks is a very entertaining spot. All around there are food stands which sell local sandwiches and other treats: you’ll recognise them as they are big circular green constructions in some corners, with tables outside all time of the year. The adjoining Museum of Natural Sciences houses one of the biggest collection of dinosaurs’ remains in South American.
Art and music Break | 4 p.m.
Take the afternoon to relax and stroll by parks in the city. For some local art, and a chance to listening to Argentinian music in the park, walk to Plaza Italia (Calle 7 y 44). Every Saturday, Sunday and Holidays a craft market appears selling colourful small trinkets. Local musicians often perform, and locals spend entire afternoons chatting and drinking mate there. If instead you would rather see some expositions, head to Plaza Islas Malvinas (Calle 51 y 19), where the Centro Cultural Islas Malvinas features different exhibits, and hosts a nice coffee shop where one can also have a quick bite or a beer. The park was created to commemorate the 1982 war between England and Argentina. You can go afterwards back to the city centre to visit El Pasaje Dardo Rocha (Calle 50 e/ 6 y 7), the old train station from the times the city was founded. The beautiful interior hosts many cultural events, and across the street you will be able to find high quality and affordable Argentinian leather items at El Recado (Calle 5 y 49). If you ask nicely, you might even be shown the basement where everything is made by the owner!
Local eateries | 9 p.m.
For an evening full of good food as well as music or art, head to La Enseña de las Tres Ranas (Calle 8 y 60), where each evening different bands play while locals enjoy their homemade treats. If you are lucky, Tango Diagonales, formed by quickly raising stars in the Tango scene, will be playing fantastic music. Alternatively, for the economic traveller, visit Dante “El rey de la milanesa” (Calle 15 y 41), called the King of the milanese. For very little money, you will be able to sample the most amazing milanese (a.k.a. schnitzels), served by waiters in formal attire that have worked there for half a century. If you are in a daring mood, order “a milanesa a caballo” (to the horse) where your meal comes with two fried eggs riding it. Everything is delicious there, but the oil used to fried things might not be the newest.
Dancing the night out | 11 p.m.
A Saturday night wouldn’t be over without dancing the night out. Head first for a delicious ice-cream in Plums (Diagonal 74 y 47), where the banana split is a perfect combination of banana ice-cream with chocolate chunks together with real dulce de leche (toffee). You’ll find in that diagonal many breweries and bars. In the summer the party continues until the early hours.
There are also many local breweries where one can sample beer, and sometimes also grab a bite a bit further away. A hidden place, further from the city centre, is Cinco Sabios (Calle 13 e/63 y 64), where the quaint decor makes for a perfect spot to relax with friends. The streets there are very quiet late at night, so do not linger after dark.
Western Breakfast | 9 a.m.
A trip to La Plata wouldn’t be complete without having breakfast at La Gran Confitería Paris (Calle 7 y 49), or simply La Paris. This coffee house has persevered for many decades. Choose a table by the window facing Calle 7, to see the people passing by whilst enjoying a cup of coffee under the sun: the breakfast menu, very reasonably priced, is displayed under each table’s glass. Don’t leave without visiting the pastries counter on your way out, and buying a few “milhojitas” (pieces of thin layered pastry with toffee) for your trip back.
The river | 11 a.m.
When leaving the city, near the fast route entrance, is a road that reads Punta Lara (in Ensenada). This town was established by some of the first immigrants who came to Argentina from Europe - it boarders the magnificent El Rio de La Plata. The river appears more akin to a small sea, as it is so large that it becomes impossible to see the opposite shore. If you have some time, stay to stroll by the beach, where locals spend days together eating by the water.