We flew from El Calafate to Buenos Aires’ domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbury. We stayed in an apartment in the Palermo Hollywood district (remise/taxi from the airport was $ARS160 and took about 15 minutes) which is filled with cafés and boutique stores. I’m glad we chose Palermo as there was plenty to do in our own neighbourhood and the subway brought us to the centre of town in no time. As Buenos Aires is so big I’m going to divide this post into more manageable bites, which I hope make more sense.
The centre or microcentro of BA has a few sights but we didn’t find there was too much to hold our interest for more than a few hours. The most suitable subte/metro stop from our apartment was Catedral just off the lovely Plaza de Mayo, which is overlooked by the equally lovely Casa Rosada or office of the president. We wandered around here a few times and the plaza is quite a nice spot to people watch. It’s an easy walk from here to the San Telmo area but I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Probably the most famous tourist street in the city is Calle Florida, which I think they should rename Calle Cambio as touts shout Cambio! Cambio! at you here from every direction (we actually did change $USD with Lumax Cambio, just to the left of the El Ateneo Bookshop on Calle Florida. Don’t worry, they’ll approach you). There’s a beautiful shopping centre (Can I describe a shopping centre as beautiful? Yes!) here called Galerías Pacifico which has the prettiest vaulted, frescoed ceiling – well worth admiring. There’s a pretty good selection of stores here too! On an awfully sad note we found a very lonely looking Harrods store around here – open it up again BA! A bookshop with a difference, El Ateneo Gran Splendid (Address: Avenida Santa 1860) is housed in an old theatre. There’s a lovely vibe in here, a bit of art dotted around, a café to chill out in and a whole load of tourists snapping shots. Don’t miss it though. It’s worth walking to see the Obelisco in Plaza de la Republica, a 67.5m tall concrete and white stone obelisk built back in 1936 in just 31 days! It stands at the cross-section of Avenida Corrientes and Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world. Cool! We wandered from here to the Retiro neighbourhood to check out Plaza San Martín, a lovely green space (which used to be a bullring) to chill out with the locals…and Sheraton guests.
Walking down Calle Defensa from Plaza de Mayo brings you to the antique store laden neighbourhood of San Telmo. Be sure to stop to have your photo taken with the beloved Argentinian comic book character, Mafalda (at the corner of Defensa and Chile streets). There are a few buildings which have been converted to little markets selling old records, crockery, glassware, posters and the like around here – you just have to look in every door! The San Telmo Mercado is worth exploring; here you can find antiques, art, fruit and veg and have your dinner in a café or an espresso in Coffee Town. Continuing down Defensa you’ll find leafy Plaza Dorrego, apparently awash with an awesome antiques market every Sunday but we unfortunately missed this. We visited on a Saturday and there were quite a few stalls around though.
The neighbourhood of Montserrat is just next to San Telmo (technically the Casa Rosada is in Montserrat) and it’s well worth ambling through its cobblestoned streets. Buenos Aires’ oldest café, Café Tortoni (Address: Avenida de Mayo 825) is here and still has tango shows every night (you have to book in advance but I believe you can do it on the day in the café).
We spent the majority of our time in BA around the Palermo area which is roughly broken down into numerous smaller areas but we spent most of our time in Palermo Viejo or Old Palermo and Palermo Nuevo. Palermo Viejo is further divided into Palermo Hollywood and Palermo SoHo. Palermo Hollywood (where our AirBnB apartment was located) is called so because lots of TV and radio producers set up shop here back in the 1990s. Palermo Hollywood’s leafy lined streets are brimming with cafés, bars and restaurants. Our favourite coffee spot here was LAB Tostadores de Café on Humboldt street and the best brunch award would have to go to the very pretty Oui Oui. There’s a brand new outlet shopping centre on Avenida Juan B. Justo (very close to the Palermo subte stop) called Distrito Arcos. It doesn’t have lots of very well known brands but Lacoste, Adidas and Levi’s are here and Vitamina (Olivia Palermo models for them) seems to be opening soon. You could easily spend a couple hours pottering about the stores here. The famous Argentinian ice-cream brand, Freddos is here, along with a pretty cool looking modular shaped building housing a Starbucks; Le Pain Quotidien makes an appearance too for foodies. Palermo SoHo’s epicentre is Plaza Serrano, most exciting at weekends when there’s an arts and crafts market but honestly I thought it was more of a blink and you’ll miss it spot! There are cafés, restaurants and boutiques around a playground with a few benches; it probably doesn’t deserve the plaza title but it’s a nice spot for a meander . The coffee spot you’ll need to look out for here is LATTEnTE (Address: Thames 1891). Palermo Neuvo holds the triangular shaped Carlos Thays Botanic Garden (Plaza Italia subte stop), just next to the zoo, is a lovely spot to wander around and take a break from the city heat. Although not the most peaceful spot in the world, there are lovely fountains, statues and a stunning greenhouse to potter around. Thays’ mansion still stands in the grounds and there’s some artwork and mini models to check out in here. It’s free to enter the gardens.
We really enjoyed the Jardín Japonés or Japanese Gardens (Scalabrini Ortiz subte but a good walk from here), built within the expansive Parque Tres de Febrero (entrance is $ARS50). It was built in 1967 so has had plenty of time to mature into the beauty that it is today. There’s a huge lake in the middle of the garden filled with gigantic carp and criss-crossed by a number of bridges. There’s obviously also plenty of Japanese greenery and some bonsai trees to admire. So cute! The Rosedal or Rose Garden is also situated in the Parque Tres de Febrero and is absolutely gorgeous (free entry). It has been around over 100 years and is kept perfectly. There’s a lake here you can rent pedal boats too.
We took a taxi to La Boca from outside the San Telmo mercado ($ARS40, ten minutes) as we’d heard that La Boca was quite dodgy. La Boca’s most famous street is called the Caminito, a street lined with colourful tin ramshackle houses – it’s basically a tourist trap but I’m glad we went to check it out. There’s a lot of stalls lining the streets and quite a few souvenir shops and restaurants too. We went to the Havanna café (they’re EVERYWHERE in Argentina) for a submarino – the tastiest hot chocolate where you get hot milk and a bar of chocolate so you can make it to your liking – delicious (I’m thinking lately I should just have had a photo blog on hot chocolate drinking sessions…) we caught the bus back to Palermo from here for just $ARS5.
We actually ended up in Recoleta twice during our stay in BA. On our first visit we checked out one of Buenos Aires’ most famous attractions; it’s odd to say attraction as it’s Recoleta Cemetery but there you go! Recoleta is quite a well to do neighbourhood and they haven’t shied away from spending money in this labyrinth of a cemetery. Honestly though there’s a definite beauty to this place, it’s full of impeccably (for the most part) kept stone and marble tombs, some the size of a Manhattan studio! Evita is buried here (just follow the crowds of people. She’s in a tomb under her maiden name, Duarte), along with quite a few presidents and other notable Argentinian residents. It’s an eerie but fascinating place, well worth a visit. Just next door is the Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a lovely white church with an ornate gold main alter and beautiful tiles along the floors and up the walls. You can visit a museum within the church too ($ARS15). I wouldn’t miss this church if you’re just next door in the cemetery. On the weekends there’s an arts and crafts market with over 100 stalls on Plaza Francia, just outside the church. It’s worth a walk around if you’re looking for souvenirs. Just bear in mind that BA is not an early city – some people only set up about 2pm! There’s a much talked about store/centre here too called Buenos Aires Design which is pretty much a group of furniture stores. Maybe it’s loved by many but I honestly thought it was a bit of a hyped up IKEA. We checked out the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes just around the corner from here (free entry) one afternoon. It was a quick visit to be honest, but they have a nice collection of art (including Henry Moore, Jackson Pollock, Picasso and Rodin) and a nice museum shop. Just next to the museum is the Plaza Naciones Unidas which is host to the Floris Genérica, a huge flower sculpture which is supposed to open and close with the sun although it’s currently undergoing some repairs.
Getting to Uruguay: We organised our ferry crossing to Colonia in Uruguay with Colonia Express in the microcentro (Address: Avenida Córdoba 753). They were the cheapest provider (by far). Seacat Colonia are just across the road from here but they won’t let foreigners pay with Argentinian Pesos. Thank but no thanks 😊.
Next stop: Colonia, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Uruguay