Where Spirit, Culture and History Collide in Argentina

You might not find Argentina's third largest city in your travel guide. Here's why it's worth a visit.

So you’re already planning to dance the tango in Buenos Aires, find your favorite Malbec in Mendoza, experience the immense power of Iguazú Falls and lose yourself in the art galleries of Córdoba—what else should you add to your travel itinerary to enrich your time in Argentina?

Still undiscovered by many tourists, the city of Rosario is a hidden gem brimming with history, sustainable travel experiences and contemporary culture. The port city, located 300 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, offers access to mostly uninhabited islands during the summer months, along with fascinating city tours and lively nightlife all year round. Copa Airlines recently launched new routes from New York and Miami to Rosario, making it easier than ever for Americans to visit. Here are three reasons you should include Rosario on your next trip to Argentina.

History and Culture Galore

National Flag Monument Argentina
The National Monumnet to the Flag is a must-visit in Rosario, Argentina. (©Joni Sweet)

As the birthplace of both the Argentinian flag and revolutionary Che Guevara, Rosario is rich in historical and cultural sites. The National Monument to the Flag should be a priority for visitors to the city. You’ll see nationalistic sculptures from famous artist Lola Mora flank the passage to the impressive monument, followed by an eternal flame in the Triumphal Propylaeum, providing a moment of reflection and reverence. Finally, a large set of stairs leads you to The Tower, a 230-foot monument which houses the crypt of flag creator Manuel Belgrano and offers expansive views of the Paraná River.

While the flag monument pays tribute to a prideful time, the Museo de la Memoria reflects on a troubled period in the nation’s history. The moving museum, located in a former army post, depicts photos of citizens who were disappeared during the military dictatorship and Dirty War of the mid-20th century. It aims to expose the violence everyday Argentines endured during this tumultuous time through heartbreaking exhibits, poignant art shows and displays of historical maps and documents. The exhibits are in Spanish, but some museum staff speak English and can provide context about the exhibits.

Travelers will also experience the contemporary culture of youthful Argentines in Rosario. Health and fitness are valued among locals, and you’ll see tons of people going on their morning runs on the relatively quiet streets of the city and walking their dogs along the riverfront. The third largest city in the country is home to dozens of colleges and universities, and the student-driven culture has given birth to energetic nightlife. You can experience a taste of the after-dark experience (along with a dangerous menu of innovative cocktails) at Rock&Fellers, a rock ‘n’ roll themed pub.

Green City

Sustainable tourism activities abound in Rosario. Eco-tourists will feel right at home at the Holiday Inn Express, part of the Intercontinental Hotel Group’s Green Engage Initiative. It takes efforts to reduce water use and the carbon footprints of each of the 200 cozy, affordable rooms. Located just blocks from the banks of the Paraná River, the Holiday Inn Express makes a great base for a tourist in Rosario.

The city’s sustainability efforts extend well beyond hospitality, however. Tourists and locals alike enjoy miles of parks lining the riverfront and sprinkled throughout the downtown area. Independence Park, a particular favorite, boasts stunning rose gardens, marble fountains, soccer fields and a bench in the exact location where Che Guevara was photographed as a baby with his parents in the late 1920s. Overall, it’s a prime place to see how much locals value and utilize their green spaces.

Independence Park Rosario Argentina
Pack a picnic and head to Independence Park, a massive, lush green space in the heart of Rosario. (©Joni Sweet)

As a finalist for the 2016 Sustainable Transport Award, Rosario offers countless ways to zip around town with minimal impact on the environment. Cyclists enjoy more than 62 miles of bike routes and dedicated lanes throughout the city, along with a bike share program. Don’t feel like pedaling? Exclusive bus lanes and a well-connected, efficient public transportation system will get you everywhere you need to go. Among other sustainable efforts, the city has converted old rail stations into event halls and an abandoned grain silo into the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rosario, which leaves plenty for the eco-tourist to discover.

River Activities and Eats

Paraná River, Rosario, Argentina
The Paraná River is the lifeblood for the economy and recreational activities of Rosario, Argentina. (©Joni Sweet)

Life in Rosario revolves around the Paraná River. It’s the source of work and recreation for the city’s 1.2 million residents. A leisurely sailboat ride with the Rosario Rowing Club provides phenomenal views, along with the chance to see the big ships, port activities, fishermen and bridges that are essential to the local economy.

Arguably, the best way to enjoy the river is through the fresh-caught fish served at many of the city’s seafood restaurants. Charming restaurant Bajada Escauriza has built a loyal following by serving shareable platters of local river fish since 1928. The restaurant has played an essential role in river activities since founder Don Carlos Escauriza took it upon himself to open the first beach with life guards in Rosario and teach local children how to swim. Nearly 90 years later, Bajada Escauriza still celebrates its connection with the water with decorative mounted fish and a mini-museum of vintage fishing photographs for patrons to see up close. 

Fisherman Rosario, Argentina
Rosario's fishermen hawk their freshest catches from humble stands along the highway. (©Joni Sweet)

My favorite interaction with the river community was at the small seafood stands dotting the highway near Bajada Escauriza. From behind dozens of river fish dangling from hooks at their modest stands, these fishermen happily tell you about the best catch of the day. It would be irresponsible not to take their expert advice.