More water than dry land, Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires’ newest and glossiest barrio, centres on a defunct port directly to the east of the historical centre. Here four enormous oblong diques, or docks, run parallel to the Río de la Plata, connecting on either side to the Dársena Sur (Southern Harbour), near Boca, and the Dársena Norte (Northern Harbour), near Retiro, from where ferries depart for Uruguay. Lining these docks – which are officially numbered one to four, Dock One being the most southerly – are a series of preserved and restored brick and iron warehouses, originally used to hold grain from the Pampas before it was shipped around the world. By 1898, before the port was even fully finished, it was already insufficient in scale to cope with the volume of maritime traffic, and a new port was constructed to the north. For most of the twentieth century, Puerto Madero sat as a forlorn industrial relic, but in the 1990s private money was injected and it began to be converted into a voguish mix of restaurants, luxury apartments and offices. While this dockside development is decidedly upmarket and somewhat lacking in colour, it’s nonetheless a relaxing place to stroll, and there are far worse ways to spend a lazy summer afternoon than sitting on a terrace here, sipping a clericó, watching the yachts bob on the water and enjoying the gentle breeze off the river. Docks Three and Four host the pick of the barrio’s restaurants and bars.
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The Reserva Ecológica is a strange but wonderful place, a fragment of wild and watery grassland stretching for 2km alongside the Costanera. Having self-seeded with grassland after the landfill project was abandoned in 1984, the reserve offers a juxtaposition of urban and natural scenes, whether factory chimneys glimpsed through fronds of pampas or the city skyline over a lake populated by ducks and herons. Inside the reserve, near the entrance, the visitors’ centre displays panels explaining the park’s development and serves as the starting point for ranger-guided walks along the park’s many trails (Sat & Sun 10.30am & 3.30pm). Full-moon nocturnal tours (weather permitting) allow you to spot all manner of creatures, mainly birds, which keep a low daytime profile. There is a surprising diversity of flora and fauna in the park, with over two hundred species of bird visiting during the year. Aquatic species include ducks, herons, elegant black-necked swans, skittish coots, the common gallinule and the snail hawk, a bird of prey that uses its hooked beak to pluck freshwater snails out of their shells. The park is also home to small mammals, such as the easily spotted coypu, an aquatic rodent, and reptiles such as monitor lizards. The reserve’s vegetation includes the bright red ceibo, but the most dominant plant is the cortadera, or pampas grass.