With a population of almost 3 million people, Buenos Aires is a huge city. There is so much to do in the capital of Argentina, it is not a question of what to do, its more how do you do it all?
Ciarán and I landed in Buenos Aires on the 1st June. The perfect introduction to South America. Steak, wine, infamous street art, tango and of course Dulce de leche: What more could we ask for?
With only 5 days we had to prioritise what we wanted to see and do. We lost some valuable time googling, not ideal. To save some time for the future traveller, this article will give an itinerary. More time exploring less time wasting trying to find Wi-Fi!
First thing’s first, where to stay in Buenos Aires?
After reading on line forums, Trip Advisor, and seeking recommendations from the Girl Loves Travel® Facebook page, the neighbourhoods most highly recommended were Palermo, Recoleta and San Telmo. Each neighbourhood offered completely different vibes. Palermo was documented as being the eclectic area of the city, offering quirky restaurants and chic cocktail bars in the middle of infamous street painting. It sounded perfect and… it was! We chose to stay at the Art factory hostel in the area but there is a range of accommodation suiting all budgets. To ensure we did not miss out on the other locations, we made it a priority to immerse ourselves in all of them. San Telmo offered Tango dancers on the street, antique shops, and was most definitely more “bohemian”. Recoleta is an area of great interest with lavish architecture and classy boutiques, the area exuded wealth and is affluent in nature. Whatever you are looking for in Buenos Aires, you will find it in one of these three neighbourhoods.
What to eat?
Eat steak, obviously!
As major foodies, we ate in A LOT of different restaurants while we were in Buenos Aires. Gaining 5lbs in a week is an obvious sign of the good food here.
The Argentine Experience, is one restaurant not to be missed. My good friend Roisín had highly recommended this restaurant. Roisín is straight talking and highly regarded so I knew she wouldn’t lead us too far astray. I read some reviews in advance and noted it had been described as “a gastronomical experience”. Tall words.. surely not? After four hours of eating and drinking, I can easily say that it is, in fact, culinary genius. Fun sweet wine cocktails, interactive games between the dinner guests (perfect for the solo traveller) and a divine juicy steak, which was nothing short of delectable. It was all perfection! Top Tip: Upgrade to the bigger steak, it was the BEST steak I have ever had. You won’t regret it.
The Argentine Experience may not be within everyone’s budget. So another restaurant equally deserving of its rave reviews is Parrilla Las Horas, located in Paraguay street, Palermo. Ciarán and I ordered the Argentine BBQ. It comprised of steak, ribs, liver, kidney, black pudding, chorizo……heavenly. Eduardo, our waiter, was kind and offered impeccable service. TIP: Be hungry going here because you will be eating half a cow (almost literally) if you order the Argentine BBQ.
Buenos Aires has a raft of American food chains scattered throughout the city. Ciarán and I fell into this trap and immediately regretted it. Learn from our mistake. Please avoid this, eat local. Their food is too good to be missed.
What to do?
Get lost in the beauty of Buenos Aires on walking tours
Try different walking tours around the city. Originating in Europe, walking tours are now found in most major cities and offer the same premise. The tour guides will go above and beyond with their impressive knowledge and enthusiasm about the tour subject in return for tips. You will be guaranteed a memorable tour.
The street art tour in Palermo with Happy Walkers tours was delightful. Roma, our tour guide was fun, well-informed, and passionate about street art. She introduced us to the work of Martin Ron and Triangulo Dorado, all whilst giving us a greater understanding of the embedded history of street art in Palermo. Street art here is adored, admired and respected. Tip: Wear comfortable shoes, you will thank me later!
Recoleta cemetery is another walking tour which is not to be missed. The cemetery itself is free to enter and walk around but to get a true understanding and appreciation of its history, a tour is advised. After the yellow fever epidemic during the 1870’s, high-class families moved to Recoleta, thus becoming the final resting place for the most prestigious people in Buenos Aires. It sounds eerie, but the impressive art within is to be venerated. In 1946, Recoleta cemetery was declared a national historic museum but is still an active cemetery so respect is key. We did our tour with Buenos Aires Free Walks. Victoria, a history major, was our tour guide. She was a delight and told us well informed stories relating to the cemetery and the deceased buried there, including that of the world famous former first lady of Argentina Eva Peron “Evita”. Adorned with beautiful flowers, it was definitely the most visited crypt in the cemetery. We had been to the Evita museum on our first day but didn’t get a full understanding of the importance she held for the nation until we did this tour. Tip: Research the political history of Argentina before visiting.
Stroll through the San Telmo Sunday Fair
The Feria de San Telmo is burrowed in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires. Running every Sunday from 10am to 6pm, it is full of trinkets and tango which is not to be missed. The fair was established in 1971 with only 270 stalls. Today it stretches down 13 blocks and attracts almost 12,000 people weekly. Stalls offer everything from ancient antiques, funky clothing, delicious deserts and homebrewed Mate. Enjoy the buskers, participate in the tango, and get caught up in the whimsical atmosphere. Why not stop off and get a spot of lunch in Amici Miei restaurant which offers a panoramic view of the entire fair. Walk the full length of the fair and end up at some of the most historical sites of Buenos Aires, including Plaza da Mayo and Rosada, the pink Presidential Palace from where Eva Peron addressed her eager supporters in their millions. Continue onto Plaza de la Repúblicia and see the Obelisco de Buenos Aires (Obelisk of Buenos Aires), the iconic image you will see on every postcard of the city.
Wonder around La Boca during the day
La Boca is a working class area with a range of attractions, including its beautifully coloured houses, and La Bombonera, the home ground of Boca Juniors football team. To be perfectly honest, I was a little nervous walking around. The colourful walls peppered throughout La Boca had filled my social media accounts for weeks in advance but, I had also read that it doesn’t have the best reputation. It didn’t help either when two local people warned us of putting away our phones when we had them out for directions. Of course we looked like the typical country bumpkins, so much so that we stood out a mile, and I took off my purple rain jacket in an attempt to blend in more. Basically……I didn’t take any pictures. When we arrived, the neighbourhood was vibrant, alive and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. Nowadays you will meet a lot of tourists in the area but it is best to stick to the main streets around Caminito in the middle of the day and you will get the true La Boca experience.
Fall in love with the flowers
Enter the eutopia of the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden located in the Palermo neighbourhood. It is a place to relax and discover a range of fauna from around the globe. The plants are grouped into different regions, so if feeling a little homesick, entering the Europa district of the park may give you some solace. It covers an area of 7 hectares, so hours can be spent looking at the natural, and sculptured beauty within. If on a budget, have a little picnic in the park but be sure to bring your rubbish away with you so not to spoil the little sanctuary.
In summary Buenos Aires…. I love you!
Buenos Aires was most definitely the perfect location to start off our trip. The people and culture of the city was very European in nature so we didn’t feel completely out of our comfort zone, making it a soft-landing to begin our 6-month journey. Public transport was a dream so we had no issues getting around the city. The only word of warning I would offer to people reading my blog is to be sure to bring cash with you to convert to Argentine Peso. The maximum amount permitted to be taken from an ATM in a 24-hour period is 4,000 pesos (approx. €135). This is of course a sufficient amount but with majority of accommodation and tours only accepting cash, we found some days we had to pull back from chowing down on Dulce de leche and ice-cream which of course was my worst nightmare. All in all, laugh, eat, dance and fall in love with the city of Buenos Aires, you won’t regret it!