Buenos Aires is an amazing city with a great energy and culture about it. Founded in the early 1500s, the city has a deep Spanish history and long tradition of immigrants from all over Europe, making it the “melting pot” of South America.
I arrived in BA from Ushuaia in the early afternoon on a Friday and spent an entire week in that great city. The districts are so varied and each have their own little culture and style. It’s a very walkable city, though the metro and bus systems are so cheap and easy to navigate it’s hard not to use them! Since I spent a while here I’ll split it into chunks to make it easier to read (and write!).
- Buenos Aires has a number of free walking tours that are excellent. I did two with the same company and had a great time on both. The morning tour went through the Recoleta district, while the second focused on the centre and the classic sites.
- The Recoleta Cemetery is a large and gorgeous cemetery in the fancy Recoleta district. The mausoleums are all for the rich and famous, including the former president’s wife Eva Peron. This is probably the #1 thing to see in BA. I spent a good amount of time looking at the large graves (and inside the ones that were cracked open!).
- Buenos Aires has the largest number of bookstores per capita in the world. It’s easy o spend a day popping into the many used bookstores around the city. My favorite was El Ateno Grand Splendid, which is housed in an old theatre!
- Plaza de Mayo and the nearby area has a lot of the main attractions of the city, such as the Jesuit church and the cathedral. I managed to accidentally attend the beginning of a mass in the church when trying to see the inside (but the Pope used to live here, so that’s cool).
- The La Boca neighborhood is the colorful part of the city always shown in postcards. What they don’t show, however, is how disgustingly touristy the whole area is. I didn’t particularly care for it, but unfortunately the surrounding area is so dangerous it’s not possibly to explore the less traveled parts to get a true feel for the district.
- If you need to change US Dollars to Pesos, Florida Street is the place to go. Just talk to the least sketchy person yelling “cambio, cambio” and they’ll take you into a little kiosk to change money. At the time of writing the Dolar Blue rate was 15.86 to $1, which is way better than the official 9.33 to $1.
- The hipster Palermo district is the place to be if you’re looking for good food and bars in Buenos Aires. The old part of the city is really nice with its quirky cafes and cobblestone streets. I spent an afternoon walking around the district and it was a nice way to spend a relaxing day. There are a large series of parks that connect Palermo and Recoleta that are great to wander about for an afternoon. The Japanese Garden is especially nice. There’s also a park with a metal sculpture shaped as a flower which supposedly opens/closes during day/night.
- The National History Museum in San Telmo (in Spanish only) was nice for killing a bit of time in the neighborhood. I went on a Wednesday and it was free, though the 20 peso entry fee isn’t too bad for the days it isn’t.
- The San Telmo district, like Palermo, is also really nice to wander around. There are lots of antique shops around, and every Sunday there is a huge weekend market where you can buy anything old and vintage.
- For a piece of BA history, spend some time in Cafe Tortoni, the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires. The submarino there was excellent, and they have free wifi! I wouldn’t recommend having lunch there, but it’s great for a hot drink and a dessert.
- If you want a cheap and excellent Argentine steakhouse, you must go to Las Cabras in Palermo. I went twice, first alone and then with friends. The first time I had the “Gran Bife Las Cabras” which was a steak with all sorts of sides like pumpkin, rice, and fries. The second time, I came with a friend I met in Puerto Varas, the German guys I saw everywhere, and an American girl from my hostel. Three of us split the parrillada completo, which had a number of steaks, chicken, sausages, blood sausage, intestines, liver, and a side of fries. While I wasn’t a fan of the innards, the rest was amazing and totally worth ordering.
- Burger Joint in Palermo has amazing burgers for a really great price (60 pesos for a burger or 90 for a meal). The goat cheese and arugula burger was amazing, as was the Jamaican.
I didn’t do anything particularly touristy in Buenos Aires, and visited almost none of the famous museums, buildings, or theatres, but I had an amazing time. I could very easily see myself living in this city at some point. Unfortunately I’m at the end of my trip, so I have to say goodbye and head to my 25th country, Uruguay!