Inside Palacio Barolo in Buenos Aires: Step Into Heaven and Hell

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Article written by: Rebecca
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Want to get off the beaten path in Buenos Aires? Check out the incredible Palacio Barolo, one of the city’s most interesting buildings.

Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is known for its architecture. The city’s reluctant moniker is, of course, the “Paris of the South” and all it takes is a stroll along any street to understand how it got this name.

One of the more unique and overlooked building in Buenos Aires is Palacio Barolo, located in the heart of the city.

I initially came across Palacio Barolo on our first weekend living in Buenos Aires. As newbies to this vibrant city, we’d decided to take a walking tour with a local tour company to learn more about the city, its neighbourhoods, Argentine culture – and basic things like how to use public transport.

As we walked along the wide Avenida de Mayo in downtown Buenos Aires, we strolled past Palacio Barolo, gazing up at its curious facade. Because it was a Sunday it was closed. But an inquisitive peek inside the huge glass doorway was all it took for me to go home and immediately book a Palacio Barolo tour.

Here’s why you should also step inside this unique building.

This blog post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).

Palacio Barolo design

Palacio Barolo isn’t your average high-rise. It has one of the most unique back stories.

Commissioned by Italian immigrant and businessman Luis Barolo, it was built in 1923, after only four years of construction. The building’s design was inspired by Dante’s 14th-century poem, Divine Comedy. Barolo was such a fan of Dante’s that he petitioned to have Dante’s ashes housed here. But, alas, they never ended up here.

So, how does the building mimic Dante’s famous poem?

Palacio Barolo is divided into three parts: the basement and ground floor are Hell, the first to fourteenth floors are Purgatory, and floors 15 to 22 are Heaven. At the top, there’s a lighthouse with a light so powerful it can be seen in Uruguay.

At 100 metres (one metre for each canto of the Divine Comedy) it was the tallest building in South America. That was until 1935 when Edificio Kavanagh (also in Buenos Aires, not far from Palacio Barolo) was completed.

Palacio Barolo is now full of offices (ironically, the offices are actually located on the “Purgatory” floors) but you can still see the splendour of the architecture and of a building built during a time where no expense was spared.

Latin inscriptions are carved into the ceiling in the lobby, and an antique elevator slowly lifts visitors to the higher levels. Statues adorn the columns, and the smooth marble floors and walls would have cost a pretty penny.

In “Heaven”, you’ll find the most incredible views across Buenos Aires. Palacio Barolo is one of the few places in Buenos Aires with such vistas across the city. Until we arrived up here, I had no idea just how far and wide we’d be able to see. Even if you’re not interested in the history and architecture of the building, the views alone are worth coming on a tour!

Aerial view of Buenos Aires from Palacio Barolo, showing the expansive cityscape. The foreground features the distinctive red dome of the building, with the sprawling urban grid, green park spaces, and distant buildings stretching to the horizon.
The view from the top of Palacio Barolo

How to book Palacio Barolo tours

The only way to get inside Palacio Barolo is on a guided tour. It’s one of the more unique things to do in Buenos Aires – when we visited, we were the only foreign tourists on the tour.

You can book tickets on the day at the kiosk inside the Palacio Barolo lobby. The Palacio Barolo booking website always appears to be being updated, which is frustrating (although their team is very responsive on email), so I recommend booking a tour with an external company instead.

Book a daytime Palacio Barolo tour (tours are in English and Spanish). Or try something more special with an evening tour. The evening tours of Palacio Barolo include a glass of wine. I unfortunately never did this but it looks like a fun way to see the building.

Be warned that the tour does involve some steep climbing in tight stairwells as you get closer to the top. It’s really steep and if you have a fear of small spaces, you may not want to go all the way to the top of the building – but that is where the best views are!

So, will you take a tour of Palacio Barolo when you visit Buenos Aires?

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Have you ever visited Palacio Barolo? What’s your favourite building in Buenos Aires?

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I'm a travel junkie who started dreaming about seeing the world from a very young age. I've visited more than 40 countries and have a Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. A former expat, I've lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the United States. I share travel resources, tips and stories based on my personal experiences, and my goal is to make travel planning just that bit easier.

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