A lot of tourists believe the name of the game is checking off a list of tourist attractions that you can brag about seeing when you get home. Of course, if you travel to Paris, you’d be remiss if you didn’t see the Eiffel Tower. Or if you visit London, you shouldn’t miss Big Ben. These are all important and iconic attractions, but sometimes travel can just be about wandering aimlessly in a new town or city, meeting new people, and absorbing yourself into the culture. In Rosario, Argentina there aren’t a whole lot of tourist attractions and as a result there aren’t that many tourists.
Today is our third day in Rosario, and we haven’t done a whole lot. Most people only visit this city on their way to other places like Córdoba. It’s not on the tourist agenda. There aren’t large plazas and palaces or iconic monuments. It is simply a University city full of young med students, artists, hippies, and expats.
It is a great city for aimlessly wandering around or sitting in one of the many cafes and people watching. There’s a pedestrian only shopping avenue named Córdoba Ave. It has all the latest styles and many accessory shops and electronics. People don’t even harass you here like on Peru St. in Buenos Aires, where at every step someone is trying to sell you tours or shows or exchange your money. No one bothers the tourists here, because they aren’t used to seeing them.
We’ve arrived at the start of spring, which has brought some warmer weather and sunshine. People are emerging out of their winter hibernation and laying in the parks for picnics, dining afuera (outside), and strolling along the long Paraná river that borders the entire city. I, like many of the other women and girls, am wearing my sweatshirt around my waist as the day warms up to a perfect 75 degrees. Kids and their parents are rollerblading on the shiny flat tops along the waterfront. We enjoyed a corona at a riverfront bar, watching stray cats sunning themselves and cargo ships headed for Buenos Aires chugging by.
It only takes 4 hours by bus from Buenos Aires to get here. El Rosarino bus company provides comfortable double decker buses with reclining seats, snacks, and movies. For the two of us, we only paid $93/$1600pesos total for roundtrip bus tickets. We are staying at La Lechuza Hostel in the center of town. From the outside of the hostel it looks like it doesn’t exist, but inside it’s unassuming, cozy and full of friendly staff. They provide a delicious free breakfast of crepes, hard boiled eggs, croissants and other pastries. There are only 5 other guests currently, but everyone is friendly.
We didn’t come here to see much beyond the birthplace of Che Guevara. Even the house where he grew up has nothing more than a sign out front. There’s no museum or attraction. There are art museums along the water and cultural centers. In the spring, they show movies on the grass on the waterfront. Trees are starting to bloom with pink and yellow flowers and regain their green leaves.
We were also able to find healthier food here than in Buenos Aires. There are restaurants with fresh salads and smoothies, a better option than the constant sandwiches and heavy carb-centric menus in Argentina. This city feels very liveable and reminds me of Portland, Oregon with its many bike riders and the river waterfront.
If you are looking for something other than the heavy tourist meccas of major cities like Buenos Aires, and you just want a chill town for wandering around, Rosario is perfect. There’s no pressure here to check off a list of attractions. You can sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, and go for an afternoon stroll along the Paraná river. Buy ice cream from the men on motor bikes blowing horns as they zip down the promenade. Or rollerblade with the kids on the cement blocks. Sit on a bench, stare at the gray waters and meditate. It’s a city made for living not for tourism.