Altitude: 38 meters/125 feet, Population: 616,142, Telephone Code: 0223
Mar del Plata is Argentinaâ€™s largest coastal tourist destination (resort), and during the summer months it certainly feels that way. The medium sized city of 600,00 swells with roughly six million annual visitors, all during the peak period of December through March, looking to mingle on the crowded beaches, take in a show or simply escape the heat of Buenos Aires. This is not the destination for every traveler. The beaches are far from spectacular and the city itself is a little rough around the edges, literally, with nicer neighborhoods around the coast and center. The bulk of the tourists that come to Mar del Plata are Argentine. Travelers looking for a glimpse at the Argentine holiday culture that want to meet new people, practice Spanish, eat fresh seafood and shop would definitely enjoy the area in the lively summer months. Mar del Plata is a family destination. Expatriate families living in Buenos Aires would enjoy the variety of entertainment and activities.
Founded in 1886 in conjunction with the arrival of the railroad, the area soon became a popular destination for upper class families from Buenos Aires looking to colonize a cooler climate during the summer. The whims of this aristocratic class led to the development of the Mar del Plata architectural style, a combination of Art Deco, Picturesque and others, that adds a unique charm to a city dominated by high-rise hotels and apartment buildings. Many examples of the style are still found on the quieter streets of the residential neighborhoods. Villa Victoria Ocampo and the neighboring Arhivo Historico Municipal, a must for history buffs interested in seeing photographs of how the city developed, are both excellent monuments to this eclectic style.
The city developed through tourism and the summer holiday period and remains defined by both. Play Bristol and Plaza Colon, the area directly in front of the Casino Municipal, become the ad hoc center of town when the beach goers and holidaymakers arrive. The Plazoleta de Las Provincias, adjacent to Playa Popular, fills with people headed in every direction, often stopping to take in a show by a street performer or talk to a friend in front of the enormous sea lion statues. The Peatonal San Martin, a popular pedestrian shopping area likely to be crammed with people throughout the day, heads away from the coast into the official center of town, Plaza San Martin. Further to the North is quiet and charming La Perla, filled with hotels and known for its popular beach. Playa Grande and the port area are located to the south of the center. The seafront walkway that connects Playa La Perla and Playa Grande is a great way to visit the entire coast and experience the city.