The Square of Enlightenment (Manzana de las Luces) is a square block of a few different historical buildings, located very close to the plaza de Mayo. There are daily tours offered for those interested in an important part of Buenos Aire’s history, which take you through the major points of interest in the Square of Enlightenment. Tours are only offered in Spanish, once per day, and cost around $7 pesos.
The handout offered at the starting point to the tour does a nice job of describing the area:
“Church, Jesuit residence, point of concentration of merchandise from Jesuit missions, school, and after our independence, seat of a number of institutions which contributed to shape the Argentine Republic, the Square of Enlightenment is a beloved part of our city, which evokes the fascinating mystery of its tunnels or the magnificence of the Parliamentary sessions held in the Hall of Representatives. In some ways, this is the cradle of our nation.”
If you aren’t interested in the tour, or aren’t able to make it for the single daily tour, you are still able to see certain parts of the square.
San Ignacio church – construction of this church was begun in 1688, making it the oldest in Buenos Aires. It was built by the Jesuits, and can be visited at any time.
Underground Tunnels – they were many underground tunnels built in Buenos Aires, connecting churches, public buildings, a fort, and perhaps certain residences. There isn’t much factual information about these tunnels, but they are believed to have been used as an escape in case of attack, or perhaps for contraband trading. The tour takes you into a small section where you can see the tunnels, and is one of the highlights.
Right by the entrance to the tunnels is a large plaza, housing a large building that was originally used to store food, and another building that was the first pharmacy of Buenos Aires. Off to one side of the plaza is a small market selling artisan products, although there are many better places to buy artisan products in Buenos Aires. This plaza can be accessed by anyone, not just people on the tour.
Veladas Virreinales Cafe
Located in the plaza of the Mission’s Law Office is a really nice café that serves a signature hot chocolate – instead of a high tea, they serve a “hot chocolate for 2” that comes with sweets and sandwiches. There are tables outside in the plaza, and inside as well. The atmosphere is great, a pleasant oasis from the chaotic downtown of Buenos Aires. Staff is dressed in old fashioned clothing, and the café is surrounded by old brick walls and a high arched ceiling. It’s the kind of place your Grandma would love, and is definitely worth a visit.
The Hall of Representatives
The hall is viewable only with the tour. This is where many parliamentary sessions took place, and at one point was also the location for many faculties of the University of Buenos Aires.
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