Welcome to my hometown, San Antonio de Areco. If you want to get to know a bit about Argentina’s history and traditions, this is it. This small and picturesque town is located less than 120 km away from the City of Buenos Aires, in the heart of ‘Argentina’, and it’s perfect for a weekend getaway. ‘Areco’ (like we locals call it) was founded in 1730 and you can still see 18th-century architecture and even run into a couple ‘gauchos’ on your way to the main square. Here’s a quick guide to help you get started.
How to get there?
It’s easy to get there from Buenos Aires.
There are coaches leaving every day, every hour or two from the Retiro Bus Station (Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro – If you have a debit/credit card, you can buy your ticket in http://www.centraldepasajes.com.ar/ just to make sure you have your spot, otherwise there are plenty of places around the city to buy tickets, or just go directly to the station and wait for the next one). Watch out, Retiro can get really crowded. Make sure you are paying attention to the screens to see if your bus is there, they may not announce it and you might miss it.
Option #2, you can take bus line 57 (PilarExpress – leaves every 10-15 minutes) at La Rural (Av. Sarmiento and Av. Santa Fe) towards the Pilar Bus Station, the stop is just outside the station. Once there, you need to take bus line 501 inside the station towards San Antonio de Areco (leaves every hour at around half past.) You can ask bus drivers to let you know exactly where you need to get off. Although this option may be a bit cheaper, I do not recommend it unless you are local, there is usually a lot of people in the area and, if you manage to not get lost between buses, you probably won’t get a seat and will need to travel standing up. But if you’re an adventurer, go ahead!
If you happen to be somewhere else in Argentina, you should check if there are coaches that take you to Areco. Depending on where you leave from, you may have to go to Buenos Aires first and then take another coach to Areco.
Okay, so you arrive at Areco. Next step.
Where to stay?
There are plenty of options regarding accommodation. If you’re looking for something cheap, there are a couple of hostels you may be interested in. I recommend El Puesto Hostel, it has a good vibe and is close to the main square. There is also a campsite in Club Atletico River Plate just 1 km from town. If money is not a problem or you just want to relax, you can go with Hotel and Spa San Carlos, or something more traditional like Estancia la Cinacina, an equestrian ranch with country-style suites.
Let’s not forget Argentina has the best asado (Argentinian style barbeque, in case you don’t know the term.) Yes, people are right when they say Argentinians are proud, particularly when it comes to grilled meat. So,
Where to eat?
Honestly, any restaurant will serve you great food. If you want to eat some asado, any ‘parrilla’ will do, but I recommend La Calandria, it has a more traditional atmosphere. Otherwise, if you’d rather have something else, you should go to other restaurants like Zarza or Ramos Generales. In case you feel like having a pizza, I highly recommend La Cerveceria and its excellent craft beer.
What to do?
If you are interested in museums, I recommend visiting Museum Las Lilas to see some of the work of artist Florencio Molina Campos, paintings that portray de ‘gaucho’ life and criollo ‘tradition’. You can also visit the Draghi Museum, where you can admire the great silversmithing of the Draghi Family. If you would like to get to know the origins of the gaucho and some of their history and culture, you should stop by the Ricardo Guiraldes Museum.
But if museums are not your thing, you can just stroll across town on the cobblestones streets and sit on a bench on the Arellano Square, while admiring the San Antonio de Padua Church (you don’t have to be religious to be awed by its amazing architecture) or even just sit in the park in front of the Areco River.
You definitely need to stop by La Olla de Cobre, this is a Must for tourists. It’s a small family-owned chocolate factory and they sell the best handmade chocolate and ‘alfajores’ in the country, you can’t miss it.
Well, given that it’s a small town, you won’t find many clubs. But people do love to go out, so if you feel like dancing you can go to Indio Disco or Mamba (have in mind everything in Argentina starts late, so expect people to arrive at 3-4 am.) There are a few bars you can go to, one of my personal favorites is Cuatro de Copas, a small but chill bar with a great and unique vibe. On Saturday or Sunday evening you can head to El Boliche de Bessonart (one of my other favorites, if I may say.) It used to be an old stop for gauchos, it’s a place that seems untouched by time and once you step in you immediately go back a couple centuries.
Best time to visit
I recommend you visit Areco during Spring or Summer, mainly because there’s more movement and the weather is mostly sunny. If you want the chance to experience the full gaucho tradition, you should come in November for the Fiesta de la Tradicion, an annual festivity where we celebrate criollo tradition. There you can enjoy the gaucho parade through town, a showcase of different gaucho skills in the Parque Criollo and more. This year it’s programmed to be held on November 11th and 12th, but for some reason it rains every year (I guess the rain is part of the tradition, as weird as that sounds) so if you are planning to come particularly for the event, you should check beforehand in case it gets postponed.
You should take into account there is a lot of tourism in Areco, so if you decide to come for a long weekend or for a special event, make sure you make reservations at hotels and restaurants, some weekends the town can get very crowded.
In case you may read more about our town or want to see different options regarding where to stay or eat or what to do, you can always check out the town’s official site http://www.sanantoniodeareco.com/.
Enjoy your time in Areco!!