Just a few blocks to the northwest of Buenos Aires’ busy, noisy Avenida 9 de Julio, lies the lovely Plaza Lavalle. We discovered it quite by chance as we followed a quiet and blissfully car-free passage off and away from the ceaseless roar and rush of the world’s widest avenue.
Plaza Lavalle centres on a small park, shaded by tall palms and leafy trees, with lawns edged by low wrought-iron fences, worn, dirt paths and statues planted in dry, overgrown gardens.
On one side of Plaza Lavalle stands the Palacio de Justicia and the imposing Tribunales, or federal courts. On another, ornate apartment buildings lend an air of old France. Narrow art nouveau and plain “modern” buildings sit side by side. On the northeast end of the Plaza is Argentina’s largest synagogue, Templo de la Congregacio Isrealito, its narrow facade adorned with the symbols of the faith.
Peaceful. pretty and with an air of faded grandeur, Plaza Lavalle is a glimpse of old Buenos Aires.
At 140 meters, the width of an entire city block, Avenida 9 de Julio is the world’s widest avenue. Its name commemorates the 9th of July, 1816, when Argentina achieved independence.
Avenida 9Julio, then to be named Avohuma, was mooted as early as 1888, but as plans involved cutting a giant swathe through a large part of the city, residents and business people resisted vehemently and for a very long time.
Work on the project finally began in 1935 and continued for 45 years. The first piece opened on July 9, 1937, the main section in the 1960s and the final stretch was completed in 1980.
Avenida 9 de Julio is an impressive road, by any standards. With sixteen lanes of relentless traffic speeding in two directions, it’s a serious challenge, even to the most intrepid pedestrian. Fortunately median parks of surprisingly leafy trees and amazingly healthy lawn provide a kind of oasis in which to take a breather and gather the strength to complete a crossing.
Some of the city’s loveliest landmarks are here on Avenida 9 de Julio. Obelisco Ade Buenos Aires, located in the Plaza de la Republica was built in 1936, to commemorate the fourth centenary of the first Spanish settlement on the Rio de la Plata. Just as the Eiffel Tower symbolises Paris, so does this he 67 metre national historic monument represent the city of Buenos Aires.
Nearby stands the beautiful seven storey Teatro Colon, Argentina’s main opera house. The present building, which opened in 1908 with a gala performance of Verdi’s Aida, stands on the site of the original theatre which was built 1857. Considered to be among the five best concert venues in the world, has seen performances by some of the world’s greatest stars, including Enrico Caruso, Arturo Toscanini and Luciano Pavarotti.
Other must-see landmarks on the Avenida 9 de Julio are the statue of Dan Quixote on the intersection of the Savenida de Mayo and the magnificent Estacion de la Constitucion.
Shoulder to shoulder with some rather ordinary modern monsters are some real art deco and art nouveau architectural gems, so it’s really worthwhile taking a stroll along this rather chaotic and loud thoroughfare and when it becomes unbearable, the side streets lead away into some really beautiful little squares, like the Plaza Lavalle. But that’s another story.