Running parallel to Avenida de Mayo, four blocks north of Plaza Congreso, Avenida Corrientes is one of the city’s principal arteries, sweeping down to the lower grounds of El Bajo. It’s not so much the architecture that is of note but the atmosphere generated by its bustling mix of cafés, bookstores, cinemas, theatres and pizzerias. For years, cafés such as La Paz, on the corner of Corrientes and Montevideo, and the austere La Giralda, two blocks west, have been the favoured meeting places of left-wing intellectuals and bohemians – and good places to observe the Porteño talent for whiling away hours over a single tiny coffee.
Corrientes’ bookstores, many of which stay open till the wee hours, have always been as much places to hang out in as to buy from – in marked contrast to almost every other type of shop in the city, where you’ll be accosted by sales assistants as soon as you cross the threshold. The most basic places are simply one long room open to the street with piles of books slung on tables and huge handwritten price labels, whereas the leftish, alternative Liberarte at no. 1555 and its ilk take literature more seriously. Almost as comprehensive as the bookstores are the street’s numerous pavement kiosks, proffering a mind-boggling range of newspapers, magazines and books on subjects from psychology and sex to tango and politics.