Buenos Aires boasts the world’s best cuts of meat, most exquisite wines, and highest prevalence of tango (and soccer) virtuosos per city block. But the allure of Argentina’s capital city extends well beyond its famed cliches. Often referred to as “the Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires is a city that marries Belle Epoque with Latin panache, an intoxicating cultural concoction that mobilized the city’s European-style street cafe culture, which draws in coffee lovers and literary sorts, and gave rise to a prolific street art and music scene. As for its architecture, the city’s cobblestoned alleys give way to sprawling boulevards which are lined with crumbling structures of used-to-be Spanish colonials hoisted up next to dwellings of the Franco-Italian variety. Glossy reflective skyscrapers, the city’s New World watchtowers, loom above it all.
Underpinned by its complex history, varied architecture and passionate people, Buenos Aires is a blood-pumping metropolis home to the bookish, the artsy, and the business-minded… and there’s always a live musician not too far away. It’s easy to see why it has quickly become one of the world’s most sought-after travel destinations. So go ahead and take a 10-minute vacation and let us guide you through the bests that BA has to offer.
Know before you go
- Cabs are your best bet for getting around and safe to hail on the street (even as a single woman traveler), just make sure to have cash on hand and that the driver turns the meter on when you get in.
- Prices for everything fluctuate erratically and frequently due to Argentina’s inflation. (For example, @DiegosDaughter had her heart set on purchasing a leather purse she eyed on her first visit. When she returned only one month later the same purse was three times the price).
- Neighborhoods that are hot right now: Eat, drink, and dance in lively Palermo; take a stroll through the posh and presidential el Retiro; take a step back in time wandering the streets of San Telmo; walk across the bridges in the canal district of Puerto Madero; and see BA’s top cultural attractions in La Recoleta.
- AirBnb is your best bet for well-situated, comfortable, and affordable accommodation. (But if you’ve got pesos to burn the Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau is stunning, a true apex of European grandeur).
Best of BA: Eating
In Buenos Aires, steak is the star of the show and its best supporting actors are medialunas, empanadas and provoleta.
- Medialunas are Argentina’s take on French croissants, but they’re denser and sweeter. You can eat these for breakfast or merienda (afternoon coffee/tea). Most bakeries and cafes have two types, medialunas de manteca (made with butter) and medialunas de grasa (made with ‘lard’), the former are sweeter and a bit thicker. (Lucio, a cafe in Palermo, has some of the best).
- Every country in South America has its own rendition of empanadas, and Argentina’s are distinct because they’re baked, not fried. However, every region (there are over 20) of Argentina has it’s own style of this traditional meat pie, and we can’t pick a favorite. Try one filled with lamb or ground beef… you are in the carnivore capital of the world, after all.
- Ordering a wheel of grilled provolone cheese as your appetizer at a restaurant in Argentina is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged. Provoleta is sprinkled with oregano and you eat it with a knife and fork. Its melty, salty deliciousness still haunts our dreams.
- Saving the best for last, we arrive at the steaks. Many parrilladas will have an entire page in their menu dedicated to meats. Some savory specialties are Bife de Chorizo (sirloin steak, nothing to do with sausage); Ojo de Bife (classic ribeye); Vacio (flank); Bife Angosto (porterhouse or striploin); Entraña (skirt steak); Bife de Costilla (T-bone); and Bife de lomo (tenderloin).
Best restaurants if you’re into…
- La Cabrera
- La Carniceria
- Don Julio (a bit touristy, but oh so good)
- Gran Dabbang (Southeast Asian/Latin fusion)
- BA has a thriving Italian culinary scene and Marcelo (Puerto Madero) and Il Ballo del Mattone (Palermo) have it figured out.
A cup of tea or coffee:
- Have afternoon tea at Alvear Palace (it’s a thing)
- Oui Oui (Palermo)
- Cafe Tortoni (Plaza de Mayo)
- Farinelli (two locations in Palermo and Recoleta)
Cocktails with an ambiance:
- Isabel Bar & Restaurant (Palermo)
- Elena in the Four Seasons (Retiro)
- Park Hyatt’s absolutely stunning Palacio Duhau Hotel (Retiro)
- Omakase (upscale sushi), Floreria Atlantico (the lovechild of the city’s top mixologist and most famed restaurateur – pictured below) and Ocho7Ocho are speakeasy-style restaurants part of the growing Buenos Aires underground eatery movement. All are located behind secret doors in wine or flower shops. (Read more on BA’s best-kept secrets here.
- In San Telmo there’s a pizza place rumored to be the best in the world. It’s a hole in the wall with an unassuming name (literally translated as “the pizza place,” or something) and it’s so hard to find that we haven’t come across it yet. Do us a favor, will you? Ask a local, and please report back.
Best of BA: Art
- The city is a canvas for street artists. Go on a graffiti walking tour ($33 USD/person).
- Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a stunning building housing a large selection of European and Latin classical art (entry is free). If modern is more your thing, check out the MALBA (entry is around $7 USD).
- Museo Amalia Fortabat is a museum boasting an impressive collection of Argentine and international art (entry is around $6 USD).
Best of BA: Sights
- The Floralis Generica is a huge silver flower sculpture situated in a park. A cool photo op if you’re in La Recoleta.
- Smell the roses at the El Rosedal rose garden (November is the best time of year) or the Japanese Garden in Palermo (entry is $6 USD).
- San Telmo is the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires; its cobblestone streets are peppered with old cafes, antique shops, rogue dancers and artists.
- Plaza de Mayo is the main square of Buenos Aires. Here you’ll find elegant cathedrals and government, and also the emblematic Casa Rosada, the presidential palace whose balcony was made famous by Eva Peron (and served as the setting for “Don’t cry for me Argentina”).
- Pay your respects to Evita by visiting her tomb in La Recoleta cemetery, it’s a very beautiful albeit eerie place to stroll through. Stop in the Church of Pilar, too (free entry to both).
Best of BA: Shop
- Weekend street markets: On Saturdays and Sundays there are local crafts/flea markets in San Telmo (start off at Plaza Dorrego) and a smaller one outside of La Recoleta cemetery. In the former you’ll find hippie fare and oddball antiques, in the latter, trendy jewelry and crafts.
- Leather goods: Argentina’s are top-notch. The neighborhoods of Villa Crespo and Palermo are good spots for leather hunting, and friends of the blog recommend a shop called Las Pepas for ladies jackets and Guido Lopez for shoes. In San Telmo, @DiegosDaughter snagged an amazing leather moto jacket (and one for @Cobraescobar, too) from a shop on 845 Defensa street with no name. The establishment is run by two blonde ladies, it has a decent collection of coats but don’t try and bargain.
- Snag some world-class wine at local prices to smuggle home with you. (@DiegosDaughter’s bodega picks are Luigi Bosca, Navarro Correas and Catena Zapata, all hailing from the acclaimed wine region of Mendoza)
- With the most bookshops per capita (25 for every 100,000 inhabitants) than any other city in the world, BA is a bibliophile’s dream. El Ateneo is a stunning old-theatre-turned-bookshop dating back to 1919. It’s 100% worth a visit even if you’re not a bookworm. Saunter down Avenida Corrientes if you’re looking for bookshops of the second-hand variety. For antique books, the San Telmo market is your best bet.
Best of BA: Tango
- At La Viruta you will not only catch a tango show but you’ll also probably get dragged up on stage and given a lesson.
- Glorieta in Barrancas de Belgrano is a plaza that transforms into a stage for some of the best tango dancing couples in the city. Here you’ll find the most authentic “dancing in the moonlight” type of experience, Argentinian-tango style, and you can even get an impromptu lesson. (Starts at 8PM on weekends)
- For a more extravagant dinner show experience go to Tango Porteño, Piazzolla Tango, La Ventana or Señor Tango.
Best of BA: The outskirts
- Catch a Boca Juniors or River soccer game at La Bombonera (in the La Boca district, to which you shouldn’t go at night). Peep the 2017 game schedule here.
- Visit an estancia (a friend of the blog recommended Santa Susanna, but there are plenty).
- Take the ferry across Rio de la Plata to Colonia, Uruguay. The historic town is a stunning UNESCO world heritage site. You’ll need 6-8 hours for this little getaway, which allows for a 2.5-4 hour ferry ride (depending on which you take) and a couple hours walking around the old town (more info on the ferry service here).
Don’t cry for us Argentina… the truth is it’s time to say adios!
Thoughts? Questions? Additional Buenos Aires recommendations? Drop us a note below. Let’s be amigos.
Fabulous makes me want to visit again! Well done!!!
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Wow a great organized overview of so many activities and locations. We will come back to your advises in one month. we are looking forward to see B.A. in “real” life. Thank you. Agnes&Franz