We finally made it to Buenos Aires! And it has NOT disappoint!
Chris claims to have dreamt about visiting Argentina for his entire life, so I’m not sure why it has taken him/us so long to get here, but alas, we arrived on October 16, 2018 for our 10 day stay in the city!
How to Get Around
For those of you who know us well, you likely know that we are not huge fans of public transportation…I mean we will do it when we have to, but in an age of Uber, and no car payments for us, we generally opt for personalized transportation. Unfortunately, we discovered upon disembarking from our flight (and in general, throughout the course of our trip), that Uber is not totally reliable in BA. It’s available, but sometimes a bit patchy and just generally not as used as it is elsewhere.
Taxi’s are readily available, BUT, be prepared with cash to pay. Actually, just in general, be prepared to pay in cash pretty much everywhere in Argentina.
I understand there is a very expansive bus and metro system in BA; however, we did not have the pleasure of experiencing that during our stay in the city.
Where to Stay
When we asked around, people seemed pretty intent that there were two front-runner neighborhoods for first time visitors: Palermo Soho and Recoleta. As with majority of our stays, we took to Airbnb to discover that our preferred apartments (with a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a gym, and in walking distance to some good eats) were primarily located in Palermo.
Palermo reminded us a lot of the streets of New York City, but with a Latin/European flair. It is vibrant, full of trendy stores, cool people, bars, restaurants, discos, and lots of places to Tango (if you go to Argentina and don’t Tango, what are you evening doing with your life??). We also felt super safe wandering around this neighborhood (day or night), were super impressed by all the incredible street art, and easily found grocery stores, pharmacies, ATM’s, etc. We did walk to Recoleta to visit the cemetery where Evita is buried, and found that it was much more formal (albeit housing a few more tourist attractions), so a little less our speed in terms of posting up.
Our Airbnb was a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment hosted by a fabulous owner (who lives in South Africa), and managed by Elizabeth: an ex-professional volleyball player who also spent some time in the States. Both the host and Elizabeth spoke perfect English, and the building security was great! The building itself also had a well equipped gym, men and women’s sauna, a pool, an area where several parties were hosted over the course of our stay, and a fabulous top floor work/lounge space that was absolutely stunning (see photo above for the view).
The internet wasn’t great, but we quickly learned that internet in Argentina in general is just not as awesome as elsewhere. Make sure your video content is downloaded before you arrive, and definitely make sure you are prepared for a longer wait time if you need to use the internet for much more than social media browsing while you are visiting.
Where To Eat
If eating out is not on your agenda, you will miss out on a huge part of the Argentinian culture! Generally, when we post up in a location, we opt for a couple of meals out, and cook for ourselves majority of the time. This just didn’t happen in Buenos Aires because the food was just SO good and SO cheap (we had some dinners that were less than $30 total, including salads, main dishes, and wine!). Also, the parrilla…on the food plan, delicious, and way more convenient than cooking ourselves!
Argentinian’s are known for eating and staying out late! This was a big transition for us as we generally try to eat our big meal early, then only have a snack for dinner. But alas, new locations sometimes call for new habits, so we adjusted to eating dinner around 8/9pm (which is still incredibly early for most locals, but almost always guaranteed us a good table at restaurants). These were some of our favorites:
- Las Horas: We happened upon this incredible Parrilla place as it was just around the corner from our apartment, but it was HANDS down the best place we ate in the entire city. We ordered salads to start, had chicken AND steak from the parrilla, accompanied with bread (bread comes with every meal, but is luckily, unsalted, so much less tempting than other bread baskets!), veggies, papa frites and plenty of wine for under $30 USD…TOTAL! This was place was too good and too cheap for us not to return here several times over the course of our stay!
- 1810 Cocina Regional: Our good friend and travel guru, Elina, recommended this gem, and it was nothing short of fantastic. With more traditional Argentinian dishes (empanadas, soups and stews), this meal was delicious and incredibly inexpensive. We visited the Palermo location.
- Don Julio: This is a very well known Steak House in Palermo – after some Trip Advisor research (Yelp is really only used by American tourists in BA), we anticipated not having a shot of even getting in (make a reservation ahead of time if you want to eat here!), but managed to convince the hostess we needed to try it out! She told us to come back just before they opened at 8:00 p.m., and if there was room after reservations, they would get us in. Well, when we arrived, the line was already around the building! Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long (although we heard they fill waiting guests with champagne and empanadas on the house, so maybe that wouldn’t have been terrible!). The parrilla here was also amazing. Make sure you try the fried goat cheese too – DELICIOSO.
- La Cabrera: I think we must have had 5 or 6 people recommend this restaurant to us, and frankly, we opted for another parrilla meal at Las Horas instead of trekking over to this. Definitely on our list to visit next time!
We also really enjoyed just catching an afternoon coffee/tea and empanadas at a local cafe. Other great must eat/drink snacks/bevvies to try are:
- Wine. Argentina is known for Malbec, but we were blown away by the quality of a lot of their other wines as well!
- Mate Tea. This is the national drink of Argentina, and definitely something you should try while you are visiting – it is a caffeinated tea that boosts some pretty incredible health and brain benefits. We were told most Argentinians spend all day drinking Mate Tea, and preparing their stomachs for a giant dinner! Also, there is a special way to drink Mate Tea like a local…
- Alfajores. Macaroon like cookies with a softer cookie, but with dulce de leche filling (Be careful trying these, you may not be able to stop and they are literally available on every street corner)
- Sandwich de Miga. These are so simple, and yet, so incredible…and an Argentinian version of what we have found in so many other European cities (Prague, Florence, Paris). Think white bread sandwich with the crust cut off – great for a snack while exploring the city.
- Milanesa. Anyone who knows Chris knows that he LOVES fried chicken…we laughed that Milanesa is the Argentinian version of this. Flattened out chicken (or pork or beef), that is breaded and baked/fried.
- Empanadas. Every region of Argentina has a different style of empanada, and if you ask an Argentinian, their home region hosts the BEST empanadas. These can come baked, fried, with meat, with cheese, with egg, round, and/or in numerous different shapes/sizes. An absolute must eat while you are visiting, but as with the Alfajores, tough to discontinue eating once your taste buds have experienced them.
- Parrilla (pronounced “pa-ree-sha”). Even for non-meat eaters, the asado grill is one unique to Argentina and one that can’t be missed. The flavor of whatever is cooked on this grill (meat, seafood, veggies), is absolutely incredible
What To Do:
Argentina has a SUPER rich history, and the people are so incredibly friendly, exploring the city was super fun and easy. Here were some of our favorite activities which we highly recommend:
- San Telmo Sunday Market: A street of thousands of street vendors selling crafts, leather, antiques that happens every Sunday from about 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. San Telmo is one of the oldest areas of Buenos Aires, and has some incredible sights as well. Definitely worth the visit on a Sunday to see the market, and if you can stay for dinner, you can watch live Tango in the streets!
- Take yourself on a walking tour of Palermo and see all the incredible street art; not just graffiti (although there is a lot of that as well), but actual beautiful art adorns MANY of the side streets!
- Tango Dancing: Buenos Aires is the birthplace of Tango, so this was an experience we couldn’t miss…and one I wish we had captured more video/photos of, but we were too busy living in the moment! We figured an Airbnb Experience for Tango was our best bet, and it did NOT fall short of anything amazing. We were greeted by Jessica, another american visitor and a Portuguese couple for a quick Tango lesson before being escorted to a neighborhood Milongo (a bar where communities get together to Tango). There was live music, incredible dancers, and just an amazing ambience of togetherness with the patrons who clearly come to the Milongo several nights a week. Aside from improving our own dancing skills, we were also super impressed with how open and accepting this Milonga was: women dancing with women, men dancing with men, just a group of people experience music, dance, and of course wine all together!
- Empanada Making Class: If ever there were an Airbnb Experience that we will never forget, it was this one: “Con las Manos en la Mesa.” We were invited over to our host, Adrian’s apartment, where he and his sister, Annie, hosted us for an evening of wine, piccata (Argentinian charcuterie), traditional Argentinian Empanadas and dulce de leche filled dessert! We felt right at home with Adrian and Annie…talking and laughing like old friends, covering topics like politics, social and economic issues that both Argentina and the US faces, and learning how to create empanadas along the way!
- Parrilla: we ate parrilla nearly every night! We highly recommend you do the same.
- Recoleta Cemetery: normally a cemetery wouldn’t be high on our list of must see and do’s, but this is no ordinary cemetery. Home to the burial sites of the rich and famous, including Eva Peron, “Evita,” the breadth and beauty in this cemetery is something you must experience in person. Mausoleum upon mausoleum is every kind of style, size, shape and color…admission is free, but you will definitely want to grab a map when you enter so you can find yourself in this location.
- Puerto Madero: This is one of the more modern neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, right along the water, with every street named after a woman! Great views for an enjoyable afternoon stroll.
- Become a Gaucho for a Day: We ran out of time (and were a tad too busy with work) during our visit to BA to venture outside the city and explore the mountains by horse for a day…unfortunate, really, since I have been singing “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Gauchos, Gauchos” in homage to my alma mater for many moons. BUT, we heard from one of our Airbnb Experience hosts that this was the Experience to do if you have the time.