The Centro Cívico was built in the late 1930s, to reflect the architecture of the early German and Swiss settlers (from Berne) in a style referred to as “Bariloche-Alpine.” It serves as a central reference point, and a nearby sheltered area houses the helpful, multilingual tourist office.
The plaza that lies between the civic center and Lake Nahuel Huapi is a scene of ongoing activity and contrast. There are the tourist-happy vendors, complete with photo-ops with barrel-toting Saint Bernards, and more than its share of postcard vendors. At the same time, there’s a continual rotation of graffiti on the statue of General Roca, a controversial figure in Argentine military history.
Connected to the Centro Cívico is a tall stone tower with a steeply-pitched roof, which serves as the clock tower (Torre Reloj), and which strikes noon every day. Also on the plaza, to the north east, is the Museo de La Patagonia Perito Moreno (Perito Moreno Patagonian Museum), which brings together ethno-historical and natural displays, the former about the original (indigenous) inhabitants of the area, such as the Mapuche, Tehuelche and Fuegian peoples.
The natural history part of the museum contains a taxidermied collection of animals endemic to the area and farther afield. The third part of the museum follows Bariloche’s development from its founding in 1903. Next to the Patagonian Museum is the Biblioteca Sarmiento, a library and cultural center. One block north is the building that houses the administration of the national parks.
The Centro Cívico is on the lakefront, on the plaza. The Museo de La Patagonia is closed on Mondays. A brisk wind does not stop tourists from visiting one of the nearby heladerías (ice cream shops) and posing for many photos in front of this picture postcard historic landmark, with or without the presence of the Saint Bernards.