Buenos Aires: I love you. For four years, I call this lively city my second home. Not only because it’s a megacity (with 13 million inhabitants), but mainly because of its diversity with people coming there together from different backgrounds and cultures. In its very own South American way, it’s an incredible city that never sleeps. But how to manage and get through such a big city in 24 hours – and still enjoy it? Here are my ultimate must-sees for the so called “Paris of South America”.
What to see?
Since it is such a big city, you need a structured plan to see as much as possible. The easiest way to get around is by taxi. Just make sure you take one that has a “Radio Taxi” sign on the roof.
Start the day by walking around Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood to observe all the small houses, the beautiful small cafes and the liveliness of creative, young people. Walk towards the Jardin Japones and pass the famous Palermo Polo Fields (two huge Polo fields in the middle of the city, where the best event of the year takes place, read about it in my article here). Make sure to plan in some time and walk around the Jardin Japonese, enjoy the small lakes and the funny dogwalkers lying around in the parc sipping the national drink Mate.
From the Jardin Japanese it’s best you take a cab and drive to the famous cemetery “Cementerio de Recoleta“, where Eva Peron is buried. It is such a cool and mystical place. Walk around and take in the impressive mausoleums and little streets inbetween the graves. It is a magical place. I have never seen such an impressive cemetry – not even the famous Père Lachaise cemetary in Paris can keep up with this one!
Afterwards you should really visit the Teatro de Colon! It’s a stunning opera house, that somehow has some resemblance to the one in Vienna. When you have a little more time in the city than 24 hours, you should see a performance there. Once I was there to see a ballet and was fascinated by the beauty of this building. But you should rather hurry up to see every treasure of Buenos Aires. So I suggest you drive downtown afterwards, to visit the Pink House (House of Government) and the Parliament which are right on the opposite side of each other.
From there take a taxi and drive to the famous, artsy area La Boca. Kindly ask the Taxi driver to wait for you and walk along the beautiful painted houses and take as many photos as you can. Stay in the main street of La Boca and try to avoid the little dodgy streets – they can sometimes be a bit dangerous. This will take you not longer than 15 minutes.
Also try to visit the new harbour area called Puerto Madero. It is at the river Rio de la Plata of Buenos Aires. It is the widest river in the world and at some days, if the weather is very good, you can even see Uruguay at the horizon. It is a very modern area with some nice shops and cafes to stroll around. But it’s definitely a huge contrast to the old and colourful – and still very poor – area of La Boca.
If you are in Buenos Aires on a Sunday or a public holiday, make sure to visit San Telmo market. It is only open on these days. It is a very local market with amazing antique stores. I personally love this market and sometimes just go there to look around and eat Tostados (ham and cheese sandwich) on the Piazza of the market place and watch the locals walking around.
If you are interested in art, you should definitely go to Malba. They always have great exhibitions and show a lot of Latin American artists like Frida Kahlo. It is a very cool museum where many young people go. They also have a really nice little cafe to enjoy a delicious ‘Media Luna‘ (very sweet croissant) and a hot coffee.
What to eat?
Argentina has a few specialities that you need to try. First of all meat! You can’t go to Buenos Aires and miss eating at a traditional “Parilla” place. My personal favorite is Las Cholas – my perfect spot to have lunch. It is right next to the Palermo Polo Fields. So during your tour, stop there and have lunch. My personal recommendation: Have a delicious Chorizo (the Argentine sausages) as a starter and then a juicy meat ‘Bife de Chorizo’ with french fries on the side. You will love it.
Also it is very important that you try some Empanadas! I personally could live from them. They are like little Argentine Calzones, filled with different ingredients like meat, ham and cheese, onions and many more. You can get them at any street corner, restaurant or bakery. They are absolutely delicious.
And don’t forget: Ice cream! Ice cream! Ice cream! In Argentina they have the best ones. My favorite ice cream place is “Freddo”. It is a food chain and you will find it everywhere. My favorite flavor? Banana Split and Dulce de Leche.
Where to stay?
My favorite Hotel in in Buenos Aires is “Jardin Escondido by Coppola” (about which I wrote here already). It is a small Boutique Hotel which is located in the heart of Palermo Soho. The famous American film director Francis Ford Coppola lived there for two years while writting and later filming Tetro. There are only seven uniquely decorated rooms which makes it the perfect hide away in such a big and lively city.
What to do in the evening?
Your hotel should organize you a table at Cafe Tortoni to watch a Tango show. It is the oldest Coffeehouse in Buenos Aires and it reminds me of a typical Viennese coffeehouse. After the show, I would recommend the restaurant Campo Bravo in Las Canitas. It is a very local and rustic parilla restaurant where many Argentines go to have delicious steak. Also it is not so far away from the “Jardin Escondido by Coppola” Hotel.
Still motivated to go out?
Who is up for more? Want to see where the young people go? So first you need to understand that everything in Buenos Aires starts a bit later. Don’t even think about hitting a night club before 2 am. There are two bars I would recommend visiting bevor going clubbing. First the famous bar “Floreria Atlantico”, which is normally a flower shop but turns into a bar at night, I also wrote about it in a recent article here. However, if you want to do some bar hopping go to Plaza Serano. It is a square where all young people hang out and move from from bar to bar. It is a very cool and hip area. Afterwards go to the night club Tequila, it is a real classic in Buenos Aires.
What would I do with a 25th hour? – go back and have banana split ice cream. 🙂
Photo credit: Getty Images, Jez Timms, Olia Gozha, Floreria Atlantico, Jardin Escondido by Coppola.