Rosario’s greatest attraction is, undoubtedly, its riverfront, which is divided into two parts. The Avenida de la Costa in the downtown section consists of a wide boardwalk with plaza and parks like the Parque de las Colectividades in which to play sports or simply go for a stroll. This area has been renovated in recent decades and it is now a beautiful spot with restaurants and bars to enjoy by day or at night. Don Ferro, one of the bars in the area, is located in an old train station that has been modernized. It is known for its grilled meats and fish and view of the old railway platforms and of the river. Another wonderful spot to get a bite or a drink is Davis. It has a spacious indoor dining area as well as tables on the terrace and a balcony overhanging the river that makes it an unforgettable spot in the spring and summer.
If you drive for just five minutes down a winding coastal boulevard that changes names several times, you’ll find places to engage in a wide range of activities: plazas where people get together to have an afternoon snack and drink mate as well as river beaches—by far the greatest attraction in the summer months. Many of the beaches are public and crowded. Though private, La Florida beach is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. You may not find a placid sandy haven at La Florida since it is such a popular spot, but for a very reasonable sum you will find a parking place and a clean spot with a good bar and restaurant and stands where you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas. Remember that, since this is a river beach, the water is muddy. But you can still cool off when the temperature climbs into the nineties.
Another way to enjoy the river is by taking a short boat trip to one of the islands that can be seen from the coast. A number of boats to Isla La Invernada which has a number of beaches leave from Embarcadero Costa Alta. Be prepared for a wait and get there early, since these boats tend to get crowded and it’s not most people’s cup of tea to wait around on the steaming hot docks for an hour.
It is impossible to talk about Rosario without talking about Roberto Fontanarrosa, one of the most popular writers and cartoonists from Argentina whose work makes constant reference to his hometown. Known as “El Negro,” Fontanarrosa, who died in 2007, would often meet his friends at a downtown bar called El Cairo that is immortalized in many of his stories. Recently renovated, El Cairo has been around for over seventy years. It is not only a bar and restaurant, but also a venue for jazz concerts and temple of sorts for those who loved, and still love, “El Negro” and his work. Fontanarrosa was so beloved in Rosario that the city’s cultural center took his name in 2011.
Another essential cultural spot is the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Rosario (MACRO). Located in the former dock area, the museum opened to the public in 2004. It houses one of the largest collections of Argentine modern art in the country, with works by figures of the stature of León Ferrari and Marta Minujín.
Many people do not know that the mythical Ernesto “Che” Guevara was born in Rosario. The apartment at 480 Entre Ríos Street where he lived until the age of four is still there, though unfortunately it is private property and not open to the public.
There are more and more culinary options in Rosario. The most traditional food is river fish like the golden dorado, boga, tiger catfish, and pacu, often served grilled at the restaurants along the coast. Beware that, though delicious, the flavor of these fish might be jarring for those used to the milder taste of hake or sole. Where to try them? One great option is Escauriza, a barbeque restaurant in front of La Florida beach with a lovely view of the river.
But there is more to life than barbeque restaurants. Locanda Valentino is a pleasant, and reasonably priced, family restaurant specialized in pasta and other traditional dishes. Refinería is an excellent signature-cuisine restaurant with tables in a lovely garden and a good wine list. Sara de O is another restaurant with a creative menu. Benito has some of the best Italian fare in the city. Espiria serves ethnic food and cocktails. And the recently reopened Sunderland is a traditional restaurant on the river and a favorite of the artists, musicians, and writers passing through Rosario.
Speaking of classics, the essential Restaurante & Bar Savoy Grand Café located in Esplendor Hotel has been around for over one hundred years. Figures of the stature of Federico García Lorca and Lisandro de la Torre, Aníbal Troilo and Edmundo Rivero, have eaten here. Recently renovated, the Savoy offers modern Italian fare prepared under the care of chef Roberto Ottini. It features fixed price menus and cocktail specials at happy hour. The Savoy is not only a great place to eat, but also a part of the history of Rosario.
When it comes to bars, the most striking choice may be Rock & Fellers. This spacious venue with festive atmosphere serves North American food in addition to a range of cocktails. If you want to venture off the beaten track, get an aperitif at Chinchibira, a new bar created by some of the most creative bartenders in the city. Diablito is another good choice with shows some nights of the week. Brewpub Fenicia features home-brewed beer.
The downtown and commercial center revolves around Córdoba Street, a seven-block stretch of which is a walking street. This is where you can find the greatest number of stores and get a sense of the city and its pace. If you want to go shopping or to the movies outside the downtown area, visit the modern Alto Rosario Shopping.
The vast Parque Independencia—the green center of the city—is a major attraction. The park has a manmade lake (with pedal boats), a playground, and a number of city-run museums. It is also the home of El Coloso del Parque, the stadium of Newell’s Old Boys, the traditional rival of Rosario Central, the other major team in a city that lives for soccer.
One great tourist attraction closer to the banks of the river is the Monumento a la Bandera, where the Argentine flag was first raised in 1812.