Well I’m back from my month long travels to Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, and although it was a great one it really truly is not even close to being enough. I don’t know why I chose to do such short trip this time around, but I guess this just means that I must come back.
Buenos Aires, what can I say? It was the first and last city I saw and said hello and goodbye to on this journey. While I was traveling throughout the country and to the other two, I kept missing my time in Buenos Aires, and always wondering, ” What’s going on there?” Needless to say, I had some amazing experiences, and a really good time. Now to work off all the food and wine I splurged on.
Quick history of Buenos Aires ….. As I’m sure you are aware, Buenos Aires is the Capital City of Argentina, and the largest in the country. It is located along the banks of the very grand Rio De la Plata which shares its waters with neighboring Uruguay. The city is so large and is part of a greater Capital Federal identification as the city spans miles upon miles outward like cloud and boasts a population ( with the Capital Federal included ) around 17 million strong.
In 1516 Juan Solis, a seaman traveling under the crown of Spain , was the first European to reach the Rio De La Plata. Unfortunately his time there was cut short, or rather he was cut down by the brave and strong indigenous people of the region .In 1536, a second wave ensued under the name of General Mendoza ( there is a whole city , where all the wine regions are…. think Malbec , that carries his name) and established a small community in what is now San Telmo ( considered to be the oldest part of the city). Primarily a trade city and port, Buenos Aires saw great advances in their community and a growing population. In the early 1800’s the British ( The British are coming the British are coming ) invaded Buenos Aires, but was later defeated with the help of sister neighbor city, Montevideo.. In the 19th Century Argentina gained independence from Spain, but the country has lived through a continuously tumultuous past. From Dictators, to Omni Rich devouring the poor, Argentina, and buenos Aires are true survivors and the epitomal definition of perseverance .
When you first walk through the center of Buenos Aires ( micro Center) you would feel as if you are in Europe. Besides the beautiful lazy palms and Jacaranda trees you see lining its streets and parks, trying to gather the feel that you are in South America may prove to be very difficult. Bold and commanding edifices, beautiful Art Nouveau buildings and wide avenues and streets, gorgeous parks, and blonde hair and blue eyed Germans and Sweeds, who share their love of life with their Dark eyed , thick eyebrow, and long beautiful flowing jet black hair of their Italian and Spanish counterparts, its a rare sighting when one sees a hint of the indigenous locals among the sea of European faces and then realize that surely you must be in South America.
The one thing I did note after the second or third day however, is that Buenos Aires is no joke. This city is huge and by huge I mean HUGE!!!!!!. Fortunately they have a Metro system , and weather that’s truly fortunate is another topic within itself, as the metro trains go along a hand print design, where no one line intersects or connects with the next like the fingers on a hand, but for me it was perfect.
There is so much to see in this city , that even though i spent an equivalent of 2 weeks total of exploring this city, I feel like I’ve not even scratched the surface. Sure there are all the typical and important sights to visit, but Buenos Aires is so much more than its European Buildings, or its absolutely fabulous museums, its about the people, and the hidden gems that await you just around the corner.
Arrival: Arriving in Buenos Aires is a trip within itself. After passport control, the real circus begins. I didn’t understand it then, but I understand it now. Buenos Aires, and Argentina in General , as previously mentioned, has gone through so much turmoil and it is reflected easily on daily wears. I found it so expensive for the poorest of quality, that there is no wonder why, at customs, there were locals with 6 – 7 suitcases filled to the brim with clothing, and other wears that cost a fortune in this city and country . You can read all about my first day arriving and touring this amazing city here: Argentina Day 1 : Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a walking city, if you’re up to it. I walked and walked and walked and absorbed the local culture, and happenings like a true Porteña ( Porteno/ portena, from the spanish world referring to people who live by a port, and is what Local residents of Buenos Aires are called)
Districts: Buenos Aires, like all big cities, is split up into Barrios, or Districts of the capital. The oldest being San Telmo with their colorful baby sister city of La Bocca, and the cool cat being Palermo which in itself is split up into Palermo , Palermo Vieja, Palermo Hollywood, and Palermo Soho ( where I lived in an apartment for 10 nights, and finally stayed a hotel for 3 days ) . Then there is the grand and beautiful Recoleta, where the rich fled from San Telmo many years ago after a black plague outbreak and settled into their grand houses, wide avenues, and cultural centers, and Barrio Norte, it’s northern counterpart with cool cafes and a busy working life. . Then there is Centro ( Central) and Micro Centro, where all the government houses, banks, businesses, and old colonial Buenos Aires is located. Puerto Madero covering 3 lochs that lead to the River De La Plata and shares its area with the Ecological Refuge, cool modern buildings, gorgeous hip hotels and restaurants and a lovely river walk. Almagro , where I learned to dance the Tango after a private lesson in this Barrio, sharing the streets with Hasidic Jews going about their daily lives. Retiro, with the Main Train Station and lots of local life. Those were the Barrios I spent some time in, with Palermo Soho demanding most of my time there. I’ll try to break down my time in Buenos Aires according to Barrios, it may make this easier for you and for me.
PALERMO SOHO is the first part of the city I actually truly saw. I arrived mid morning, and checked into my gorgeous apartment in the sky . I was astounded by its vastness. Palermo is the largest barrio in Buenos Aires, and is why it is also broken down to mini barrios within itself. It took me a while to figure out everything about my micro barrio of Palermo Soho. Even it being micro, it was so huge and I spent hours walking its dog pooped lined streets, enjoying the cool graffiti art transforming a once old and forgotten home and building into a vibrant part of urban life. There is art Everywhere here. On the walls, on the streets, in the plethora of little boutique galleries, and in their fashionably clad dressed inhabitants who streamline the local designer stores’ wears in a constant runway show of the cool and Chic . Let us not forget to mention that everything happens here and everything is here. Fabulous Gastronomical restaurants, super cool pubs and bars from Irish, to beautiful house . Don’t even think about going elsewhere to party, and make sure you get plenty of rest before you decide to do so, because the very hard to get into amazing clubs don’t open their doors till 3 am and don’t close them until 8 or 9 am. Unfortunately I was too busy enjoying the daylight that I decided to skip the party, although I really, really wanted to . Located on the Green Line, Palermo is easily accessed from Centro by Metro and bus and Cheap taxis. Like I said I spent a lot of time here. From visiting all there beautiful fashion forward shops, only to be deterred by the outrageous prices and lack of quality. I dined like a princess here as well. From The bobo Hotel, which I ate a few times Bobo Hotel and the food was to DINE I mean to DIE for :). Palermo also has drop dead gorgeous parks Acres or Hectares of land dedicated to the Green of the Earth. Lot’s of stunning sculptures, rose gardens ( Rosedal Gardens), Japanese tea Gardens, lakes, and wide open spaces, I thoroughly enjoyed almost daily, my walks through the parks. There are a multitude of Art Museums here as well as lovely Art Galleries. From the MALBA ( Museum of latin American Art Buenos Aires) you can see some photos I took here: Argentina Day 1 : Buenos Aires , Museo de Artes Plastics Eduardo Sivori, located right across the street from the Rosedal Gardens and full of local art and of course the Evita Perone Museum, which I loved absolutely. There’s also a gigantic Planetarium, a full on Zoo ( which i never support, ever) the Hipodermo, a fabulous Horse Race Track and casino, and 5 star Boutique Hotels like the one I stayed at 1828 Smart Hotel. Streets with familiar country names criss cross along the famous Avenue of Santa Fe which rolls on for miles and a clear indication you are now in Palermo….
Recoleta and Barrio Norte: Located about a nice 20- 25 minute power walk from the parks of Palermo Soho, is the beautiful Barrio of Recoleta. There are no metro system to get here, so you either have to walk ( highly recommend) or take a taxi. Recoleta is really a lovely barrio. Wide open spaces, lovely museums, the famous and gorgeous Recoleta Cemetery, fine dining, and a peaceful and wonderful Barrio to explore. Unfortunately the Dog Poop epidemic has hit this part of town as well, hahahaha but its easily avoidable by doing some wonderful tricks. I spent some time here as well exploring their free museums, and outdoor parks and Feria ( markets).
The Jewel of this Barrio has to be the Recoleta Cemetery. With its 12 Acres of Mausoleums holding the cities most important, influential, and the Rich. it is absolutely Eerily stunning. The Mausoleums are gorgeous and fiercely ornate, showing off how wealthy these people truly were. Its like a graveyard of amazing art. One can spend a few full days there just looking, and enjoying how beautiful this place truly is. On the day that I went, the clouds were very low and the weather was cold. A mist formed around the graves, and it really added to the drama … Dark skies, mist by the graves, and the cold of death… like a novel…
The Belles Artes Museum ( free) has some wonderful works of arts by the Great French Masters as well as local Argentinean and Mexican Art, think Frida Kahlo.
The gorgeous Alvear house and Museum . The Museo National De Arte Decorativo ( also free) was very beautiful. A very wealthy family, they are the name sake for the Alvear Palace Hotel also located in Recoleta . There is a gorgeous Cafe outside where you can enjoy a cafe or wine and the afternoon Sun.
Basilica de Nuestra Señora Del Pilar: Located adjacent to the Recoleta Cemetery, this beautiful church is the stage for all the fabulous weddings of the influential. Free as it should be to enter, there is a very odd yet striking alter with Bone relics dressed in Gold.
San Telmo and La Boca: As previously mentioned, San Telmo is the original settlement of the city, famous for its Sunday Feria ( market) where artisans and some not so artistic alike, gather for a huge and long street fare along side of all the Antique shops that make this area so popular. One can find impromptu ( or rather well thought out ) Tango performances for tips at Dorengo Square. There is definitely something for everyone and its shows with the hundreds upon hundreds of local and tourists shopping there. A bit beyond the craziness of the Market is an area with chic restaurants which provide a definite culinary delight. I’ve enjoyed 2 dinners and a lunch there. To get here I took the metro ( Green Line) by my apartment at Plaza Italia, and took it to the end of the stop at Cathedral. From there I walked on Avenue Bolivar for a few blocks then crossed over to Defensa, from there straight up you’ll start your journey past the hundreds of stalls that line the street.
There is also a great museum about San Martin, the Museo Historic Nacional, the prover of independence and justice for the people of Argentina. His home, located in San Telmo was a welcome reprieve from the nip of the day.
La Boca: is equally old and a place were the first immigrants settled. The colors of this place is unbelievable , but for me nothing I wanted except to see all the colors. It is advised that this may or rather is not the best place to be when the sun sets, and for good reason. The multitude of tango dancers and picture takers hustle you to no end to try and earn a quick buck. Just say no Gracias, and you’ll be fine. Another thing to note is that you should and need to take a taxi to and from here. You can see how rough it gets around its edges, but go early and leave early, and you’ll be fine.
Puerto Madero: After my very brief stint in La Boca, I took a taxi to Puerto Madero. There I walked along the back side by the Ecological Refuge which was unfortunately closed to the public during Fall. Big Bummer as i was hoping to see some local wild life. I then made my way close to the river and loch banks and enjoyed the red exposed bricks of the river front shops and restaurants, fabulous Faena Hotel, and a gorgeous Bridge that looks like a white sail, dedicated to the women of Buenos Aires.
Centro and Micro Centro: This is what most tourist who come to Buenos Aires, come for, the diplomatic, congressional, political crazy, grand Old world charms of Centro.
Here you can see the beautiful Casa Rosada ( Pink Palace) where Evita Perone and her husband made their famous speeches to the thousands who gathered in Plaza Mayo right next to the Palace. There is also the Cabildo Museum which was their first city hall of the city. Why not visit where the current pope , Pope Francis spent his days at the Arch Bishop of Buneos Areas at the Metropolitan Museum. Or take a stroll along Calle Florida with their thousands of people secretly or not so secretly yelling or whispering ” Cambio” ( Change) to you to lure you to exchange your crips 100 USD bills, while window shopping at the multitude of stores and shops along this long street. Or pop into the many different cafes and restaurants all the while trying to beat the lunch rush at 1pm – 3pm where all the business people cram into the 100’s of establishments to get a bite to eat. Or make your way down to the 9 De Julio Avenue with the grand Obolesque piercing its space, or take gander or a concert ( I did… I saw a piano concerto on Eric Sabite) at the absolute grand and beautiful Teatro Colon. Or go and visit the desolate caged off Congress building with its eerie reminder of how even today, the country is in chaos, although you would never know it. Centro is definitely filled with tons of Action.
Every Thursday at 3pm Exactly , the Mothers of Plaza De Mayo march , cry, scream, and chant at the unfair justice they have experienced. Between 1976- 1983, 30,000 Women, Men, and children dissapearedd without a trace. Some babies were stolen by authorities and adopted into new families. Only recently have a few of them been found and reunited, yet thousands still go uncounted for. You can feel the grief of these women and how sad it is to think about never seeing your loved ones again and not knowing what or how it happened to them.
A few insights and tools for traveling to Argentina, and visiting Buenos Aires.
Airports: There are two main airports in Buenos Aires. Upon arrival from your international flights, you will more then anything, land at the EZEZIA airport which is about 40 -60 minutes away .
Second airport is much closer and located in Palermo. The Aeroparque BUE airport is the primary airport for domestic and close international destinations. It’s really small with just 2 terminals.
Airlines: Two main airlines serve the domestic and close international routes for Argentina. Aerolineas Argentina and LAM. I used AA and they were great. I suggest flying Premium Economy as you skip many lines while checking in, and have a lot more weight you can check in. You also sit in old first class style seats and are the first to board and disembark. It was fabulous.
Money: It is always best ( i know this is going to suck, when you read this but…. ) to bring cash in USD with you. The higher the denomination the better. The ATM’s will suck you dry with only allowing you to withdraw a max of 2000 pesos ( about $165) with a hefty fee of about $6-7 USD each withdrawal. You can change your cash on Calle Florida with the millions of people yelling ” cambio” or do what I did and exchange a large sum at the EZE airport at Banco De Nacional just be prepared to carry a lot of cash as the highest denomination is the $100 bill which is work only around $7 USD.
Metro: Pop into any “Kiosko” kiosk to purchase a SUBE card. They do not sell this at the metro stations. AT the stations you can top them off by holding your card up to the picture where it will be loaded and giving the station operator however much you want to put in it. You can use this card to ride the buses as well. There are no paper tickets..
Food: Cheap and plenty or not so cheap ( i splurged) but so delicious. The best cuisines to eat are of course the Argentinean Parillo style Asado ( barbecue) Steaks and meats. I don’t eat Beef so I can’t comment on their steaks which they are world famous for. Italian food is also excellent here as there are a huge amount of Italian decedents living here. I loved dining in Buenos Aires, but I would suggest if you really want to try a restaurant out, either call to make a reservation ( trust me you need to) or show up a day or so before and ask for a reservation. They take dining seriously in Buenos Aires and it shows in their packed restaurants. Of course don’t forget to try Dulce de Leche for desert.
Safety: As a solo female traveler , I felt very safe in the city. I was cautious where I went and always kept an eye out. They say that there is a lot of petty crime, but I was fortunate not to be a victim of it.
Taxis: Always call for a taxi, or radio taxi. If you can’t call, try downloading the app easy Taxi where you can enter your address and destination . Or if on a street, don’t take any taxi that is parked, instead flag one down that has a radio taxi number on it. At the airports I hired Remise ( for hire) cars . You can do this at the airport where there are a number of stalls offering transportation.
Shopping: Unfortunately for me I didn’t like this very much. It is very expensive to buy clothing and shoes . I wouldn’t mind it if it wasn’t created with such poor quality. The fashion is beautiful though.
Language: The Porteños and Argentineans alike have a gorgeous twang when they speak . the double LL in Spanish is normally pronounced as a Y, but there it is a SHA… so como say Llama would be como say Shama. So beautiful.
The people are just amazing and so full of culture. They are wise and brilliant and so entertaining. I truly enjoyed my time in Buenos Aires, and am looking forward to my quick return.
I visited in the fall , and although it was cold ( please dress accordingly) it was pleasant and beautiful. I can only imagine what it must be like in the Spring and Summer. Cafe society is definitely on, even in the Fall and Winter. It is fantastic.
I made a really dear friend from this city, just another gift from this city that is forever giving. Its so deep with history and full of strife, yet the beautify of its people is truly with their perseverance and lust for life and living it to its fullest. I love Buenos Aires
Do yourself a favor and visit the Paris of South America. Buenos Aires ……