No trip to Argentina is complete without a visit to its seductive capital city, Buenos Aires. I’ve been a couple of times – once after visiting Brazil for the World Cup in 2014 and more recently as the meeting point for a mega Patagonian adventure. Both experiences served very different purposes, but both equally enjoyable. For those who have spent time in Europe, you’ll very quickly see there is a very familiar charm as you make your way through each of the different barrios.
Buenos Aires is quite spread out – I find the easiest way to tackle the city is to divide it up by its neighbourhoods. Each are unique, have lots to offer and depending on where in the city you stay, can be easily accessed through public transport. While there are technically 48 barrios in the city, most tourists stick to the smaller set below for both popularity and safety reasons.
Check them out here:
Palermo is the largest barrio in BA and is separated in three parts: Palermo-Chico, Palermo-Soho and Palermo-Hollywood. These trendy areas are great for strolls up and down tree-lined streets full of cafés, the best restaurants, wine bars and quirky boutique shops. We spent a few nights at the boutique Hotel Clasico and made our way around the streets exploring.
Feel like you want a great meal with a bit of kitsch? Check out Peron Peron – complete with an Eva Peron shrine.
If you stay long enough the locals will even burst out into song mid meal. If you like ice cream and enjoy cocktails – step into Alchemy where you can have a tasty concoction with both. I had Gin & Tonic ice cream – yum.
Perilla don Julio is also great food-wise, but be sure to call in advance to make a reservation, as I’m not the only one who likes it.
Palermo is home to the 17 acre Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens and The Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires – both worthy of a visit if you find yourself bored of millionaire and celebrity spotting.
// San Telmo
One of the oldest barrios in BA, San Telmo is your bohemian paradise. The streets here are cobblestone, full of bars and really come alive at night. This is the place to go if you want to check out the creative side of BA – plenty of live music, pantomime street performers and even tango dancers. The highlight of this barrio takes place on Sundays when the San Telmo Market dominates. In the market that appears to go on for blocks and blocks, you’ll find handcrafts, antiques, vintage clothing, standard tourist tat and street food stalls to die for.
If you find yourself in BA and it does not feel European, simply make your way Recoletta – the Paris of the South. This upscale and most affluent part of town boasts lovely French architecture and has streets that are lined with lavish mansions and government embassies. I stayed in this barrio during my first visit at the Dazzler Recoletta and enjoyed it. Not only was I close to San Juanita, a local favorite for some of the best empanadas in BA, but also directly across the street from BA’s most popular tourist attraction – the Recoleta Cemetery.
This cemetery has to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. The tombs are big, reek of money and sit above ground so you can meander through the grounds. The big draw here is the tomb of Eva Peron. Just follow the tourists – you can’t miss it.
If you are into books be sure to check out El Ateneo Grand Splendid. It is considered one of the top 2 most beautiful bookstores (with Polare Maastricht being the first, housed in a 13th Century Dominican church).
Downtown’s Centro is a big tourist draw as it houses a lot of BA’s famous landmarks and historical buildings. Many of the government buildings are located on Plaza del Mayo where the city was founded in 1810 – including the government palace Casa Rosada. Originally painted in cow’s blood, this pink building is the location where Eva Peron conducted her famous speech on the balcony (think Don’t Cry For Me Argentina without the music.).
The Cathedral where our current Pope was the Archbishop and the Liberator of America, Jose de San Martin, is buried is also on the Plaza.
This barrio is also home to the famous Teatro Colon. While I haven’t been in, apparently it’s acoustics make it number one for concerts and number two for operas in the world. Just around the corner you can also check out the Obelisk landmark on Avenue 9 de Julio. It is the symbol of the city and was created to bring the northern and southern parts of the city together.
If you find yourself in the mood for shopping (and don’t mind dodging the crowds) check out the pedestrianized Florida Street.
Peurto Madero was an old port that has been modernized over the past few years. With a mix of businesses and warehouse residential buildings on the water it gives off a Canary Wharf, London vibe. There is nothing much to do here except go for a stroll or cycle along the canal or across one of the three bridges. The area is less pretentious than other barrios and is becoming quite trendy. There are lots of restaurants and bars that have sprouted up over the years, but still not as busy as other areas in BA.
I always make it a point to come to stop into Siga La Vaca. I normally stay far away from buffets, but this place is always packed with locals and has great food. For a small fixed fee you have tons of salads to choose from, empanadas for days and a grill your dad would be jealous of, loaded with all different types of meat. Unlimited! Oh – did I mention that each diner gets his or her own bottle of wine?
Looking for economical, unlimited, no frill eats? This is your place. You are welcome.
La Boca is where the first Italian immigrants arrived in BA. This barrio is often referred to as the Little Italy of South America, it is the birthplace of tango and is considered one of the poorest areas of the city. In the 1950’s the area was painted to improve it and draw tourists (and their money) to the area. The legacy can be seen and felt on this barrios famous Caminito Street, which is full of colorful facades and tango dancing on the cobblestones streets.
The barrio also contains the fútbol stadium La Bombonera home to Boca Juniors – the most famous football club in Argentina. Note – it is often advised to be watchful of your belongings in the area and stay within the vicinity of Caminito Street and the Port.
Like other large, cosmopolitan cities there are tons of things to do in Buenos Aires and you simply should not try to do them all in one trip. Enjoy your tango on the streets or in one of the famous tango halls, shop in the local markets or make your way through high fashion boutiques, snack on street food or hit the fine dining gastro joints, sip your way through Malbec heaven or opt for a cocktail – I could keep going. Whatever you decide to do be sure to tell yourself that you will be back for more.