There are many excellent regions and cities to visit in Argentina, but one new place that I’ve just discovered is actually the (dispusted) second city of the country, Rosario. Mostly overlooked by foreign tourists, I feel that this quiet and laid back place deserves a second chance and more attention. Let’s look at the reasons why.
I like to think of Buenos Aires as “Latin America Light” (or for my American readers, “Diet Latin America”. What I mean by this is that you are in South America but in a relatively safe bubble comparably. Likened to Europe, the Westernized city is a smooth transition and perhaps easier to drink in than other places in the continent like Guayaquil or Cuzco. If that’s the case for Buenos Aires, then Rosario should also fall in that category.
Some rosarinos told me that there are dangerous parts like with any city, but it was clear to me that it was a safer environment in the center with less traffic, noise and pollution. Things like the bus system seemed to work well and people were respectful of each other. In the center you find bigger buildings and even newer towers that have sprung up in the last decade, but once you get away from the small downtown, the city becomes a quiet suburbia with cobblestoned tree-lined streets with low-story houses. Walking down the street you automatically feel at ease and greet the neighbors that you pass.
Rosario is only four hours by bus from Buenos Aires, and on the Río Paraná you’re able to go swimming, kayaking or even parasailing. The city is hotter than Buenos Aires in the summer and colder in winter, but at night (in the summer) a cool breeze comes in from the river and you can head out towards the costanera, or river front, where bars and night clubs wait. Your money goes a bit farther in this town as well, as you notice how much less you need to spend on food, lodging and other goods.
To get a sense of the country outside of Buenos Aires, many people take day trips to the Pampas, but in many ways those small towns aren’t total representations of the Argentine culture because the gaucho lifestyle is played up pretty strongly. Rosario is a typical and authentic city with no touristic edge. What you see is an excellent representation of Argentina, right down to the incredibly friendly and welcoming locals. The people I met there went out of their way to be friendly and hospitable, from my bus neighbor who gave me a city bus card for free to my local host Juan who went out of his way to show us the fun that Rosario could offer.
This one is for the guys—Rosario is said to be the home to the most beautiful women in the country, and I would easily agree with that. The attractive women over the place were also friendly and approachable. As a foreigner you’ll likely find it easy to engage in a conversation with a rosarino because there just aren’t too many visitors there like in Buenos Aires. Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) are used to foreigners and therefore might not be as interested, but rosarinos want to talk to you and tell you to come back with your friends. This also makes for an excellent place to learn Spanish, because unlike Buenos Aires where you can easily get by on English, you’ll need to immerse yourself and practice in Rosario.
If you’re coming to Argentina soon and have an unset itinerary, take my advice. Visit Rosario, even if just for a day while on a stop over to some other city like Córdoba or Puerto Iguazú. If you understand the need to see something more peaceful after the go-go pace of Buenos Aires, this is the place for you.