Dan and I spent 5 days in Buenos Aires (“BA”) as part of our Argentinian holiday in November 2014 – just in time for the gorgeous, purple Jacaranda flowers (seen above)! Beautiful!
Dan had really wanted to visit BA for a long time. I think its because he studied Spanish, some of his remote family immigrated to Argentina after Elis Island closed and BA is well-known to be cheap and super fun. His desire to visit BA spurred our trip. I, on the other hand, was much more iffy. I never had a desire to visit BA, even though they call it the “Paris of South America.” Other South American cities, sure. But not BA, and I’m not sure why. Maybe its because there is no “bucket list” site to see. Maybe its because I know there is no substitute for Paris. Well, we went because it is a huge player in South American tourism, and I really enjoyed it. More-so than i thought. BA is very Western, and not totally unlike being in a European capital. (It, however, is no Paris). It was also extremely cheap when we went (12.5 AR to 1 US blue rate), which made for a great vacation. We lived like kings! Also, there are a lot of world class destinations a short plane ride away (i.e. Iguazu Falls, see upcoming post!)
In total, we were in BA for five days. We could have spent much longer. BA is huge and consists of a number of different neighborhoods, each with their own personality. For tourist purposes, the most popular neighborhoods are Recoleta, Palermo, San Telmo, Microcentro, La Boca, Puerto Madero and Retiro. I found it easiest to tackle the city neighborhood by neighborhood, and my favorites were San Telmo, where we stayed, and Recoleta.
San Telmo is an old part of town. As with a lot of neighborhoods in big cities, it used to be upscale, then the wealthy relocated and the area went down hill, and now its coming back with a lot of hipsters. A Brooklyn story. I found San Telmo to be a little gritty on its face, but full of character, history, and great restaurants and bars. A more lengthy post will follow, as I loved San Telmo!
Recoleta is THE upscale neighborhood. This area is really beautiful and is very reminiscent of a European capital. Maybe even Paris. Just maybe. A separate posts will follow on Recoleta as well!
As I mentioned, there is no big monument to see in BA. I think a lot of people have a hard time with this. Where do I take my picture? What postcard to I send? The closest big monument in BA is the Casa Rosada, the pink government house a/k/a the pink building Madonna sang from in Evita!. We saw Casa Rosada as part of a tour with BA Free Tour. The tour was free (tip expected) and went though Microcentro in about 3 hours and covered the main sites, giving interesting history along the way. The sites included the exterior of Congresso, Plaza de Mayo, Obeilisco (a big monument for Argentinians, not so much for others (pic w/Dan above)), Calle Florida, Av. 9 de Julio, Palacio Barolo, Cafe Tortoni, the Pope’s soccer club and Catedral (among others). A one-stop-shop!
(OK, BA may be a little bit Paris)
We also got to see some sweet (and somewhat scary-looking) Peruvian protestors… Contrary to their masks and large sticks, they were pretty well-behaved. Note – there are many protests in BA. Don’t let them worry you.
I enjoyed Microcentro, but I wouldn’t recommend staying here. It closes down at night and can be a little scary. However, it is great to see the main sites during the day!
I also wanted to visit the neighborhood of La Boca, rumored as a “must see,” but also known to be quite dangerous. Some online posts would have you think you were entering a war zone. Ultimately, we ended up taking a taxi to La Boca from San Telmo mid-afternoon on a Wednesday. It was inexpensive, safe and dropped us off right at El Caminito, the main tourist area. No problem.
El Caminito consists of a few colorful blocks of buildings containing restaurants and shops just off the riverfront. El Caminito was crowded with tourists and Porteños selling trinkets to eager tourists. While El Caminito was safe enough, I found it to be extremely touristy and fake, and I wouldn’t return or recommend it. I would only go back if I was with someone who was a fan of La Boca football and wanted to visit the stadium.
After walking around El Caminito for about 20 minutes, we stopped into Fundación Proa – La Boca’s modern art museum with rotating exhibits. Unfortunately, they were between exhibits when we visited, but we did grab drinks and snacks on the rooftop, which has very pretty views. The Proa is right at the beginning of El Caminito, is safe and has free, clean restrooms.
Pictures from the Proa – very nice space in an otherwise touristy area.
NOTE – while we found El Caminito to be fine, some of the areas we drove through appeared desolate, shady and some downright dangerous. Make sure you stay in El Caminito. And watch your belongings. There is a real risk of pickpocketing here.
In the end, I did like BA and I am glad that we visited!! It had a lot of charm, was easy to navigate and the food and wine were delicious. It is a great introduction to South America and not dangerous at all. Any regrets? We did not get to spend enough time in Palermo. I would like to return and spend a few days in Palermo, and check out more of BA’s museums.
Have you been to BA? What did you love about it?
STEAL OUR TRIP:
Fundación Proa : Av. Pedro de Mendoza 1929, C1169AAD, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tel. [54-11] 4104-1000