I had heard different opinions about Buenos Aires (BA) before going there. The majority of people said that it was very beautiful in its day, but now it is falling apart and gives a somewhat sad impression. However, the mountains of great meat, rivers of Malbec and passionate tango everywhere are as true as they say. Let me share some of my personal observations about Buenos Aires with you.
- European city
It is unexpected to see a completely European city in Latin America. The city is a mix between Paris and Barcelona, but I believe that its resemblance to Barcelona prevails. The rich architecture, wonderful manicured parks and European looking people could lead you to believe that you were in Europe.
- Italian flair
If you haven’t been to BA and would like to know what it is like, just think about Barcelona full of Italians. People use a lot of gestures, speak Spanish with a Napolitano accent and know how to make excellent coffee and delicious pizza.
- Dulce de leche
In both Chile and Argentina dulce de leche was so good, that we could not stop eating alfajores (cookies with dulce de leche) every day for breakfast. Also, in Buenos Aires you have to try media lunas and facturas (weirdly it actually means `bill` in Spanish). They are special types of croissants with a different texture, denser and just bliss while eaten with real Italian coffee.
- Good coffee
You can read about my struggles with coffee in Mexico here, so you will understand how I felt when I got a beautiful cup of coffee at a San Telmo Market near our hotel in BA. It was a revelation – a balanced, tart, creamy, perfect beverage that just blew my mind and gave me that happy feeling that you only get after a really good coffee.
It is too trivial to rave about Argentinian meat, everybody already knows that it is miraculous. Our trip ended up giving us an injection of cholesterol because we ate steak as much as we could – for breakfast lunch and dinner. I should say that one of the best steaks that we ate was on the street – Parilla Tomate el Palo. On the other hand, I can recommend the fancy restaurant Elena for an exceptional dry-aged steak.
Argentinians say it is their invention, Chileans are proud of their empanadas as well, so it is hard to track the origin and perhaps unnecessary. Empanadas are an art in Argentina, they even have a chart explaining the different types of empanadas, so you are never disappointed by an unwanted filling. Yummy yummy yummy and a must try.
I had heard stories from some tourists from the States about friends who were robbed at knife point. Is it that Americans are excessively cautious and tend to exaggerate the level of danger or is it that Russians are obliviously brave? I don’t know, but I live in Mexico and I can say that BA felt safe. Be careful about pickpockets and don’t carry all your money, other than that you will be fine. Barcelona is more dangerous in that respect – I was robbed there which is pretty typical.
- Diversity of Barrios
We spent the whole trip walking around the city and consciously decided not to visit any museums, because we had only 4 days and we wanted to delve into the Argentinian culture and observe it from a social point of view. What is better than walking? You stumble upon things that you won`t find in any guide and more importantly, have a chance to watch people and interact with them.
The diversity of barrios (districts) of Buenos Aires is really impressive:
- The bohemian San Telmo district is full of antiquarian shops, restaurants and “milongas” (places where locals dance tango)
- The colorful La Boca with the once most dangerous street, Caminito, is thriving now with touristic attractions
- The chic Palermo, Palermo Soho and Recoleta have their fantastic parks and wonderful restaurants
- The fresh and modern Puerto Madero is a nice residential area on the river side full of trendy restaurants and bars overlooking the water
You can enjoy some tango on the streets in La Boca or better, visit a “milonga” or “tangueria”. If you want to partake in an aesthetic pleasure book a tango show, there are plenty of them, just ask reception of your hotel to help you with it. But if you want to live tango with Argentinians try a “milonga”/”tangueria” and there you will be surrounded by elegant couples of all ages celebrating the passion of life with their polished steps. To fully immerse yourself you may like to take a tango class.
Argentinians are addicted to mate maybe even more than Italians are to expresso.
You can see people with their thermoses in parks, on bikes or in the business district. You are supposed to sip this drink made of mate tea from a straw with a filter, so that you don’t drink the leaves and when the water finishes you add more from your thermos. It is bitter, but quite refreshing and helps you focus like coffee. Our Argentinian friends told us that in their office a cup with mate goes around non-stop all day and everybody shares the same one. It is a strange idea to me that you would share a drink from the same cup with your colleagues continuously.
Conclusion: Buenos Aires is very big, but it is well organized and has everything needed to be considered a good place to live.
Hotel: Maison Vitraux Boutique Hotel – a very nice hotel in San Telmo with a heated pool on the roof and delicious media lunas for breakfast.
Elena – an upscale restaurant to enjoy your perfect steak
Chila – an amazing world class restaurant with a degustation menu in Puerto Madero
Street food – Parilla Tomate el Palo a small parilla (barbecue) on the street in san Telmo with cheap incredible steaks and chorizo
San Telmo market – the best coffee in the city and many stalls selling antiques, crafts and food.
Argentinean experience – a nice dinner experience with some cooking and cultural insights involved