We spent about 10 days total in Buenos Aires and still feel like we didn’t even come close to seeing the entire city. There are so many cool neighborhoods and places to see the city will definitely keep you busy. The first half of our visit was spent in the Recoleta neighborhood and the second half was in Palermo. We would definitely recommend the Palermo neighborhood over Recoleta because there are a lot more restaurants nearby and it seems like the happening place to be. Recoleta was nice because it was near some of the main sites and really close to a subway line.
At first we weren’t so sure about Buenos Aires because it seemed that too many things were going wrong. First Kristin’s checked bag was lost but was eventually delivered at 11:30pm that same night. Second we were majorly scammed for the first time on our trip. We needed to change money on a Sunday and had been reading that the street exchange rate is a lot better than the exchange rate that a bank will give you so we headed to Florida street where it was recommended by our host to exchange some USD to Argentinian pesos. As you are walking down Florida street you pass people offering you to change money. We ended up selecting a pair of seedy looking dudes to exchange money with. We then walked away from the main street and gave them $200 USD and we got our Argentinian pesos. After Dan and I walked away we had a bad feeling about the transaction and lo and behold when we tried to use the money the cashier took one look at it and new it was fake. We basically bought Xeroxed copies of pesos!! YEA! At first we thought about throwing the fake money away or maybe lighting it on fire but decided against it and will be bringing it home as a souvenir and maybe figuring out some way to use it.
After getting over the initial ass kicking that Buenos Aires provided we ended up having a pretty good time. Buenos Aires is famous for their Parrillas which are restaurants that serve all kinds of cuts of grilled beef, lamb, sausages, and chicken. They usually have an open kitchen where you can watch the meat being grilled. These places are everywhere so we ended up eating at a few different ones during our stay. You really can’t go wrong with some delicious grilled meat, salad, and a bottle of Malbec.
Our two favorites were the Parrilla Pena and Don Julio. Parrilla Pena was a really affordable option near our place in Recoleta. Don Julio was a little bit more expensive but so worth it. This was probably the best steak I have ever had and was perfectly cooked. I had the tenderloin and Dan got a ribeye. Dan also had a Morcilla which is a blood sausage that he said was out of this world.
Oh and I forgot to mention the grilled meat is always served with Chimichurri. I love Chimichurri. The Argentinian chimichurri is a lot different than what we are used to. Instead of fresh herbs it is usually made with dried herbs, is less garlicy, and sweeter from the addition of roasted peppers. Each parrilla had its own version so it was fun to try different types.
Buenos Aires is also famous for the Tango and a Tango show is a must see while in the city. We decided on Tango Porteno which was near Recoleto and was more modern than the traditional shows. We really enjoyed it.
A good way to see Recoleta is to participate in the free walking tour on the neighborhood. We did this one morning and got a good introduction to the city, some history, and overview of the great and differing architecture. Our guide was really fun and played the guitar/sang during different sections of the tour. During the tour we walked by a protest (we saw more than a few during our stay) and the guide proceeded to tell us that there is always a protest in BA and you never know what they are protesting about. The tour ended at the Cemetary Recoleta which is gorgeous to walk through and you can see Eva Perron’s grave (aka Evita).
Another neighborhood worth checking out is the San Telmo neighborhood. It is more hippie than Recoleta and Palermo. The streets are lined with cool antique shops and boutiques. We explored the neighborhood on Sunday when there was a huge outdoor market. People were selling antiques, handicrafts, art, and all kinds of random stuff. The market ended at the Plaza de Mayo where more protests are held and the famous Casa Rosada stands where Evita spoke from the balcony to the Argentinian citizens. Near the plaza is Café Tortoni probably the most famous café in BA. We stopped here to grab some churros and chocolate but they were out of churros!! We ended up settling for the more authentic coffee and medialunas (aka sweet croissants).
There was a cool Jazz bar, Notorious, that we stumbled upon while we were exploring the Recoleta neighborhood. We stopped by one night for dinner and a show. They musicians were paying a tribute to Miles Davis. Definitely worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood.
When we got back from Uruguay we stayed in the super hipster trendy neighborhood of Palermo. We fell in love with this neighborhood. There are tons of cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops that you can walk to and the sidewalks are full of locals milling about. We ended up finding a super cool coffee shop that was only a few blocks from our apartment and ended up heading here every day. It was so great to have a great light roast Aeropress or Chemex coffee (Yea I know. We are coffee snobs.) One day at the shop this guy on a bike showed up serving handmade New York bagels with cream cheese and lox. And he was a Jew from New York living in BA. It is amazing the people you meet while traveling.
On one of our last days in BA we headed to the La Boca neighborhood which is totally worth the trip. The neighborhood is home to the Bocas Juniors soccer team stadium and Caminito a row of buildings painted bright colors where tons of artists hang out. We took a tour of the stadium and were impressed that they don’t let anyone in wearing another teams jersey. The stadium is pretty run down but you can tell that the locals love the Bocas Juniors because people are sporting their colors all over the city. Caminito was fun to tour around and look at what the locals are creating. There were also stands slinging fresh squeezed OJ!
Top 5 things to do in Buenos Aires:
- Eat a perfectly cooked steak at Don Julio
- See a tango show
- Visit La Boca and wander Caminito
- Sip a hipster coffee in Palermo
- Take a walking tour of Recoleta and end with a café and medialuna at Café Tortoni