An Insider’s Guide to Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, most commonly referred to as the “Paris of South America” is a city of greatly diverse culture. With every division offering something different, you’ll be sure to find something new to explore in each neighborhood that you visit.
How to Get Around
The international airport in Buenos Aires is located right on the water on the East coast of Argentina. From here you’re only about a 15-20 minute drive into the heart of the city. There is fabulous public transportation in Buenos Aires, giving you the option to take the subway, bus, or rent a bike if you’d rather not pay for a taxi.
There is also Uber in Buenos Aires which makes it very easy to get around. That way you don’t have to have as much cash on you at all times as opposed to a taxi. You also won’t have to worry about haggling taxi prices when the meter is off, there will be a set price on Uber that you’ll see before requesting.
The cost of the Uber from the airport to Palermo cost about $11. In the city, from one neighborhood to another can range from $7-$15 for a one-way, which is usually a lot cheaper than cab fare.
The subway system in Buenos Aires is the cheapest, and sometimes quickest way to get around. Once underground in the station, you can buy a card and pay for a number of rides to load onto your rider card. Depending on how long you’ll be in the city, it’s best to buy somewhere between 5-10 rides at a time so you can easily swipe for access.
I had certain assumptions before I started planning my trip that proved me right to always do my own research before making judgments. I had been informed for years that when you’re traveling to Argentina, you best prep your body with greens beforehand because you’ll have a slim number of options other than meat; wrong.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, don’t be fooled by the movies or food blogs of the “best food in Argentina” being that of meat, cheese and bread – there are other plenty of other options other than meat. In fact, there were TONS of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, cafes, and natural health food markets.
I personally eat meat, but having the option of other types of cuisine, and perhaps, a well-prepared salad every once in a while was a delightful surprise that I discovered once arriving to Palermo, aka the bohemian district of Buenos Aires.
When looking at a map, you’ll see that the city of Buenos Aires (being the capital of Argentina) is pretty huge. There are a few more popular districts that all have their little niche. Palermo is known to be the “nicer” and most safe area of the city due to its high volume of tourists where there are more police patrolling the area.
This is the neighborhood I chose to stay in simply because of the ability to walk to cafes, parks and restaurants and feeling safe if I happened to make a wrong turn. The neighborhood has much to offer; tree-lined cobblestone streets, jazz clubs tucked off the side streets, boutique shops sprinkled between new and old restaurants and bars.
A few to mention…
Casa Munay – vegetarian/vegan café & bakery; breakfast/lunch/dinner – I could have eaten every meal at Munay. The restaurant has a beautiful ambience to escape the hustle of the city and invites to stay for a few hours. A delicious veggie island in the ocean of carne.
Calden del SoHo – traditional, authentic, 5-star Argentinian cuisine. This parrilla has every type of steak you can imagine, empanadas, salads, sausages, and a wine list to go with it all.
Nola – New Orleans style eggs Benedict, fried egg and biscuit sandwiches; traditional Southern comfort fare.
La Fabrica del Taco Comida – a taste of SoCal in Palermo; tacos, burritos, salad bowls, nachos, traditional Mexican in the heart of Buenos Aires.
Al Arabe – “cheap eats” Mediterranean to-go or dine-in foods with options of falafel, lamb, tabouleh, hummus
Burger Joint – the most simple yet delicious menu, 6 rotating burgers (1 vegan/vegetarian), fries, beers
Antares Palermo – the best brewery in Palermo in my opinion, 15 rotating taps with house-brewed beers of all types; low alcohol to double IPA’s and ciders. Plan accordingly, this place gets packed on a weekend night.
Palermo will not disappoint in terms of the food and drink scene; from wine bars to craft breweries to taco shops to burger joints to an Arabic hole-in-the-wall – you won’t go hungry wandering the streets. There are also a number of speakeasies in the area which I found to be a unique feature. Underground and tucked away unless you know where to find it, there’s something very romantic about being in a dark, cavernous-like bar- almost as if you discovered a place less traveled.
This isn’t it say that other areas of Buenos Aires are not “nice”, in fact, in many cases, the very grit of a neighborhood is usually what makes it more interesting. The neighboring district to see is Recoleta.
You’ll want to map out some sort of itinerary so you can plan when to see the sights of the city in the most economical fashion. During the day, taking the subway is the easiest and most affordable way to get around. Uber is not too expensive, but I recommend to take the subway during the day as much as possible, and save Uber trips for nighttime when it’s dark and you don’t want the hassle of the train.
If you’re staying in Palermo, Recoleta is about 15 minutes away with a few major highlights to see.
El Ataneo Grand Splendid Bookstore – a theatre-turned-bookstore/café, this is truly the most “splendid” bookstore I have ever seen. From the elegant stairways to the breathtaking view from the balcony down onto the stage of the theatre to the thousands of books lining the walls, I could spend hours getting lost in this store.
El Ataneo also features a café for breakfast and lunch where you’re seated on the stage of the theatre looking out into what would have once been the audience; such a unique and picturesque experience!
Recoleta Cemetery – One of the World’s most famous cemetery’s. Explore thousands of years of Argentinian history wandering through the many corridors of eloquent gravestones, including “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” singer Eva Peron’s grave.
Florería Atlántico – Buenos Aires’ most famous cocktail bar, with a flower shop serving as the false front. This bar is described as being a tribute to the multiethnic history of the city’s population. The menu is divided by national influence, with sections dedicated to Spain (sherry drinks), Poland (vodka) and England (gin, Scotch), however, the bar’s signature drink is, naturally, a Negroni variation.
Los Galgos – Pop into one of the city’s most historical bars for lunch or catch some live music up on the rooftop. What was once a 1930s café has been restored into an iconic piece of Buenos Aires history with its remaining tarnished mirror and wood paneling. If you fancy a cocktail, be sure to try the Negroni on tap.
San Telmo is famous for being the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Its cobblestone streets and colonial buildings used to be the quarters of dockland workers and it was one of the city’s first industrial areas. This is also home to Casa Rosada where you can see the official residence of the President of Argentina. The building also houses a museum, which contains objects relating to former presidents of Argentina. It has been declared a National Historic Monument of Argentina.
Take a Tango Lesson – Offered all over the city, but here is where you’ll find many group/private lessons hosted in private studios, homes, or parks. Escuela Mariposita is one of the best for starting with the basic steps or even for those with previous experience in tango. Run from an old mansion in San Telmo, it has tango classes for all levels, regular workshops and even intensive, week-long classes of tango. These lessons range from $20 – $40 per person, offering a 90 minute class and, depending which you choose, unlimited wine and cheese… the best kind of post-dancing snack!
If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a free live performance on the street. Often filled with dancers, Buenos Aires’ second oldest square, Plaza Dorrego, is a San Telmo highlight. Particularly on Sunday evenings, but more regularly during the summer months.
See the Underground Tunnels – Manzana de las Luces, or “Block of the Lights,” housed the activities of the early Jesuit missionaries in Buenos Aires. The first documented report of an uncovered tunnel came in 1865, and interest in the tunnel network reappeared during a project to drain the neighborhood of San Telmo, when engineers discovered more tunnels. The tunnels range in size, and some lead to large, vaulted chambers. Many tunnels remain undiscovered, however, and may remain to serve secret purposes.
Although full of history, the tunnels were closed when I took the tour, and may be closed for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, a very inexpensive $3 way to spend an hour learning about the history of the city.
Some Other Things To Do
Go to a Live Jazz Show
Jazz is huge in Buenos Aires. If you’re not seeing a tango show, go to a jazz concert; or better yet, see both! You can make both experiences as budget-friendly or as luxurious as you wish based on the venue you’re choosing, and if you’d like to enjoy dinner and drinks as you enjoy the show.
Virasoro Bar offered 2 nightly shows in their intimate, lively venue playing big band New Orleans style jazz. The theatre holds only about 25 people, so it’s necessary to make a reservation beforehand. The tickets cost $20 a person to sit at your own table where you can have drink and food service offered.
See a Tango Performance
Or better yet, try for yourself! Many performances that you’ll find tickets for offer a 30 minute practice before the show to teach you the basics of the dance.
Piazzolla Tango cost $30 a person and include the option of a steak dinner and wine with the show (these packages cost about $75 per person.) The theatrics and beauty of the show are truly amazing; from the authenticity of the costumes to the traditional music and overall performance.
Bar Sur is another location for experiencing a tango show in San Telmo. With only nine tables in the whole bar, it’s a cosy, atmospheric setting for admiring the sensual steps of the tango.
La Bomba de Tiempo
This was the highest rated activity to do in Buenos Aires and it was quite apparent why. Packed on a Monday night with locals and tourists alike all sharing the same passion for music. This show is a group of world-performing percussionists with a fantastic stage presence and light-show. It’s only available to see during the summer months since it is held outside. There is a huge covered bar area and the stage is open air, which is perfect for all the dancing and jumping to ensue.
The show lasts about 90 minutes and is a non-stop performance of all different types of percussion and dancing on stage. Tickets are extremely affordable priced at $10 a person. I recommend buying tickets online beforehand especially on a weekend to avoid the show being sold out.
Spend an Afternoon Living Like Royalty
Experience an afternoon enjoying high tea at L’ Orangerie Alvear Palace; a hotel built in 1932, originally conceived as a luxury hotel to accommodate the growing number of European visitors who arrived in Buenos Aires at that time. Alvear Palace is now a unique place to live a special afternoon and savor our exquisite cakes, mini pâtisserie, fresh fruit tarts, warm scones and other delicacies specially prepared by Chef Pâtissier.
Ser y Tiempo – priced at $30/person you’ll be paired with a flight of six tastings along with a platter of your choice; cheese boards with ripened meats, tapas, exquisite desserts, you name it! An intimate atmosphere and exquisite place to taste different wines.
Attend a Yoga Class
Buena Onda Yoga – lessons in Spanish, English, and even “Spanglish”, these affordable studio classes are in two locations; Palermo and San Telmo. Offering a handful of classes throughout the day at a very reasonable price, pick your type of class; Slow Flow, Restorative, Power Vinyasa, or a meditative Yin.