A Local's Travel Guide to Buenos Aires, Argentina
December 5, 2018
by Catalina RG
As soon as you get off the plane you will perceive the vibrant energy of Buenos Aires, Argentina, that will defy all your senses. Taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. From the airport to the city you will get into the noisy traffic, see the firsts contrasts of the city, modern – old, humble – luxurious, unmaintained – perfectly clean… listen to music and noise, arguments, exclamations, horns… and, of course, get the smell of food, more specifically, of meat being grilled that will make you realize you are ready for a bite… in one word get ready to SENSE.
Welcome to Buenos Aires!
Here, my five cents for you to enjoy the city as much as I do.
Top 10 recommendations as a Local
As you get more familiar with the hurly-burly of Buenos Aires, you’ll find out there are thousands of things to do every day. Below my top ten recommendations for when approaching this city with all your senses.
Get to Know as Many Neighborhoods as Possible
Each “barrio” in town has its own folklore. My top 5: San Telmo (the oldest one), Downtown, Puerto Madero ( the newest), Palermo for its nightlife and Soho style, Abasto for a more underground experience. And let’s not forget about La Boca, not only for football fans but also for some art history such as Tango and Gardel.
You will notice that meat is all over the place… Argentinians eat 118 kg of meat per capita per year, a lot, I know, maybe too much. However, it’s an experience worth having. As you stroll the streets of Buenos Aires, you will smell of barbecue quite often. Not only in restaurants and homes but also in the street by a construction, where its workers will be grilling some meat. Quite amazing, huh? Some very good options here are La Cabrera or Don Julio in Palermo, La Brigada in San Telmo, Cabaña Las Lilas in Puerto Madero.
Go Wine Tasting
And I’m not meaning like go into a wine tasting excursion where you drink a little bit of each wine. Implement wine tasting along the trip. Try to enjoy a different Argentinian wine each meal, explore each region, wines from Mendoza, the typical wine region, more floral and rich in taste… wines from Salta, the northern region, less floral and more wood in mouth… or even with from Patagonia, a fairly newer wine region but it’s worth the chance.
Get Into a Tango Show and a Tango Lesson
You have so many to choose from. I’d say Tango lessons at “La Manzana de las Luces” for an outdoor option at a historic building plan, or La Catedral for more like an underground it-will-blow-your-mind experience. I must insist on taking a lesson, it will make you feel the dance, the music and the culture from Argentina in a unique way.
Check the Public Agenda
There is a public agenda by the government, buenosaires.gov.ar which includes always free stuff to go to, like concerts, art shows, free Tango lessons, etc. Buenos Aires is a very very artistic city, with so many options for all.
Go to a Football Match
Please be cautious here. However, don’t miss it, you can feel the passion, the rivalry, the adrenaline in the air.
Have Pizza at Calle Corrientes
Calle Corrientes is our “times square” for the theatre offer and for its lights all day, and also it’s very famous for the best pizza in town. Try “Guerrin” or “El Palacio de la Pizza” The kitchen in Argentina has great influence from Italy, only that we add extra cheese to everything!
Stop for a Coffee or Several
Coffee places or “confiterias” are a classic in Buenos Aires. Everything is discussed over a coffee. There is even a circuit called “Cafes notables” where you can visit the top historic cafes in the city. I’d say make sure you include “Café Tortoni” in your list where if you are lucky you will have a Tango show as well.
Go for Drinks
Speakeasies, rooftops, you name them. You have uncountable options. I would say Victoria Brown in Palermo, La Floreria close to Retiro (train station), Harrison if you are looking for a more speakeasy type. Crystal Bar in Puerto Madero for a rooftop with a beautiful view of Buenos Aires. And so many many beer places all around.
Walk, Walk and Walk
You can get into the hop on hop off bus, which I think it’s a very good starting point. But then, walk as much as possible, you’ll feel it more intensely.
Places to visit
Going back to the point of the neighborhoods, I’ll highlight a few things to do in some of the “barrios porteños”
In Boca go to “El Caminito”. Even though is quite touristy, it’s worth the visit. It was painted in vivid colors after a very well known Argentinian artist, Quinquela Martin, that used to paint colorful buildings. Also, you can get into a “conventillo” which was the typical building where several families lived… nowadays we associate “conventillo” with chaotic situations where shouting is the rule. Tango is also everywhere here.
Here a must go is the fleas market o “Mercado de Pulgas”, amazing! You will notice that in Argentina we recycle and reuse EVERYTHING, and I’m not kidding. Go to that amazing building in San Telmo, and tell me about it. Each store has it’s a proud owner who sells part of his life in every object you get. In addition to this, at Plaza Dorrego, every Sunday find a milonga as shown in the picture above, where people gather to show their dance skills.
Downtown Buenos Aires
In Downtown get into the regular visits of La Casa Rosada, the government house. Here we have the particularity that no one lives there, the president travels there every day from its residency to work. Don’t miss the Congress and the Teatro Colón, check also for guided visits, they are definitely worth it… also, stroll down Calle Florida on a weekday to get first hand the pulse of the city.
I’d say the train station is worth a visit. You will experience its magnificent style and, once more, huge contrasts with the surroundings. You only have to be careful and enjoy one of the places Seven Years in Tibet was shot.
In Palermo, go out, eat, drink and enjoy the youth all over the place. Also, you can find very nice parks here, such as the “Rosedal” or “Bosques de Palermo”
One of the most stylish neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, the buildings have a quite french style. While in Recoleta, you’ll be easily transported to Europe. Here I recommend going into the cemetery, where all famous Argentina politicians and influential families are buried, Eva Peron’s tomb is a must.