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.

The ballroom Palacio Paz.

Dining room in Catete Palace.

Inside Barolo Palace.

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.

Also Rio from Christ the Redeemer.

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.

Volleyball on Ipanema

Ipanema beach

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.

Beauty in the centre of Buenos Aires.

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.

Aqueducto de Carioca, Rio de Janeiro.

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?

Fevela, Rio de Janeiro. Surprisingly beautiful.

Thanks for reading, and….. May the Journey Never End!

7 comments

  • Love the city rumbles.
    haven’t been to BA – but we really didn’t like our Rio experience back in 2007. Beautiful city, but people weren’t friendly and it felt very dodgy. One of the few places we really didn’t like.
    BA on the other hand a place I’d like to see and we’ve liked Argentinians we’ve met (and we’re comfortable in Spanish).

    So, having been to only Rio but having had a negative experience, I’ll vote for BA in this city rumble.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    • well that can be chance too because the people I met in Rio were friendly and welcoming. and that makes a big difference. Sorry that you had such a crummy experience there because it’s really such a beautiful location

  • I love these city rumbles, too 🙂 I haven’t been to Rio, only BA, but Rio has been on my list since I was a teenager. Maybe one day I’ll make it there…the beaches, the samba, the vibe – I can only imagine! 🙂 Being super safety-conscious by nature, I knew all about BA’s dangers in advance, and I also know people who’ve been mugged in both cities. But I’ve witnessed muggings in Europe, too, so it can happen anywhere really.

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    I loved the chilled out vibe in Rio but I have to say, I didn’t feel unsafe in any way at all in BA but I guess that might be because we mostly stuck to the tourist routes but overall, I think I actually preferred the overall feel of BA, even though I found the sights of Rio definitely more impressive of the 2 cities.

  • Interesting – and a tough choice, I’d imagine! I feel like comparing Rio with BA is a bit like the comparison between Sydney and Melbourne…

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