City Rumble – Buenos Aires versus Rio de Janeiro
Yes the rumble is BACK! It’s been an awfully long time since I did a city rumble, so it seems a good moment to unleash it again. I should do a few more of these this time around, but I thought it would be a good time to compare two of the BIG cities of South America, the capital of Argentina – Buenos Aires and the host of the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro.
If you look at a map of the world, or even South America, they don’t look that far apart, but in fact it is quite a difference. These two cities probably are the two most prominent in South America. Rio de Janeiro was the former capital of Brazil until the 1960s, and today has population of somewhere between 11.5 and 13 million people in its greater area. Buenos Aires has a population of around 13 million too, although these figures are dated to 2010.
As far as transport goes, both have metro train systems. Rio’s is newer, both are supplemented by buses. The metro in Buenos Aires is often packed and seems more comprehensive than Rio’s, but Rio’s network is slowly growing and being worked on.
Both have something of a reputation for not being the safest of places. Stories abound of muggings and the like Rio, it wasn’t until I was in South America that I heard stories about Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires apparently suffered after they crisis where they defaulted loans to the World Bank, and since then hasn’t been the same place. From my experiences in both cities, neither of which brought me any grief or trouble, I have to say that Buenos Aires did have a bit of a nervous vibe to it, especially in certain areas. I was warned about dangers in Rio, but it is a more chilled vibe and honestly I never felt like I needed to be looking over my shoulder.
Now for the history, and when it comes to amazing historical buildings, well Buenos Aires is well ahead here. I saw some amazing buildings in BA including the Palacio Paz and the old presidential palace (Casa Rosada), not to mention Palacio Barolo, a stunning 100 year old building inspired by Dante’s divine comedy. A lot of historical Rio no longer exists, however the old presidential palace in Rio was a wonderful building worth touring. Known as Catete Palace.
Rio though is a modern city and this means there are cable cars on Sugarloaf Mountain and the ride up to Christ the Redeemer. Not to mention these amazing places for stunning views of a visually incredible city. With mountains, beaches, lakes and more, and these are things Buenos Aires can’t compete with.
Oh beaches. Yes. BEACHES! Ipanema. Copacabana. The life, the sport, the view, the volleyball. Here is one HUGE plus for Rio. No beaches in Buenos Aires – you need to travel away from the central city to enjoy some sand and sea.
Although there are some awesome parks, and of course, the spirit of Eva Peron. No-one is more enduring or indeed famous from South America. Her spirit is unmistakable in Buenos Aires and there can be no doubt – it adds a certain undefinable element to Buenos Aires.
Expense wise, well they are both big cities, and whilst not ragingly expensive you need some cash to appreciate both. Rio would be slightly more expensive then Buenos Aires. But worth it too! For me, Rio had the warmest people I met in any of the South American cities (by chance, not people I knew before going). Although I thought that people in BA tried to help to when they could if I needed something (usually to find my way somewhere). But in Rio I got the chance to have a couple of good conversations with people who lived there about life and the like.
So in summary, the mountains, the view, the vibe do definitely give it to Rio for me. That’s not to say that Buenos Aires isn’t a highly rewarding city to visit and experience. I can’t say I ate out much in either city also – BA is certainly good for a meat lover, Rio had more choice.
So there are my findings. I know Rio is not everyone’s favourite city but for me I was surprised at how likable it was. It’s so green and honestly beautiful. Have you been to either? How did you find them?