At the famous 1889 Paris Exposition (think Eiffel Tower), Jules Verne honored La Plata with a gold medal, citing the newly built city as a symbol of resplendent modernity. Accepting the medal was Dardo Rocha, the Buenos Aires governor who a few years prior assembled a team of architects and planners and created the provincial capital from the dust of semi-arid desert.
La Plata succeeds today from that creative genesis, a beautiful city of palatial estates on an ordered grid intersected by wide, diagonal boulevards and a rational scheme of parks and plazas every six blocks. The core of the city's planning is the "monumental axis" between 51st and 53rd streets, which contains most of the attractive churches and government and cultural buildings. A stroll around the city and a visit to the Museo de Ciencias Naturales (Natural Science Museum) make a pleasant day trip from Buenos Aires. Streets have numbers instead of names, and though the city's perfect geometry makes it seem like a cinch to get your bearings, the diagonals can be disorienting, so keep a map at hand.