Nothing sums up the chaotic Microcentro better than this pedestrian axis, which has fallen from grace and risen from the ashes at least as many times as Argentina's economy. It’s a riotous spot on weekdays, when throngs of office workers eager for a fast-food or high-street retail fix intermingle with buskers and street vendors who busily hawk souvenirs and haggle over leather goods. You can wander it in less than an hour: start at the intersection with Av. de Mayo and a bench or patch of grass in shady Plaza San Martín will be your reward at the other end.
En route, lift your gaze from the brash shop fronts to take in the often noteworthy buildings that house them. At the ornate Edificio Bank Boston (Number 99) attention tends to focus on the battered, paint-splattered 4-ton bronze doors—unhappy customers have been taking out their anger at corralitos (banks retaining their savings) since the economic crisis of 2001–02.
The restoration process
at Galería Güemes has left the soaring marble columns and stained-glass cupola gleaming. The tacky shops that fill this historic arcade do nothing to lessen the wow factor. Witness Buenos Aires' often cavalier attitude to its architectural heritage at Florida's intersection with Avenida Corrientes, where the neo-Gothic Palacio Elortondo-Alvear is now home to Burger King. Buy a soda and drink it upstairs to check out the plaster molding and stained glass.
Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele served as the model for Galerías Pacífico, designed during Buenos Aires' turn-of-the-20th-century golden age. Once the headquarters of the Buenos Aires–Pacific Railway, it's now a posh shopping mall and cultural center. Head to the central stairwell to see the allegorical murals painted by local greats Juan Carlos Castagnino, Antonio Berni, Cirilo Colmenio, Lino Spilimbergo, and Demetrio Urruchúa. The Centro Cultural Borges, which hosts small international exhibitions and musical events, is on the mezzanine level.
Past the slew of leather shops in the blocks north of Av. Córdoba is Plaza San Martín, where you’ll see a bronze statue of the namesake saint atop a rearing horse. It's overlooked by several opulent Italianate buildings and South America's tallest art deco structure, the Edificio Kavanagh.