Argentina is one of those places I’ve always wanted to get to. I love Gotan Project, wine and the outdoors. Its kind of a far cry from London, though, so I needed the perfect opportunity to get me there. Thank you, R., for getting married! Getting us to Brazil for the wedding was most of the work done, so we decided a quick trip down south seemed apropos.
I had originally had grand plans of traveling around the country, getting to Cordoba, Mendoza and even down to Patagonia. Turns out, much like the US, Argentina is absolutely massive. 16 hour bus rides between cities makes for long trips and not much time to actually enjoy a place. So I stayed in Buenos Aires rather than only get a feel of the city for a few days.
I spent six days in the city and found that walking around is the best way to really get a feel for the city, although it is huge– it has a subway system so if you want to see more of the far-flung areas you can get there easily. I just preferred to walk.
My first day I was jet lagged beyond belief. I stayed in Montserrat, which is central, but absolutely dead during the weekends. (To be fair, the entire city is MUCH quieter during the weekend than during the week, with the exception of Palermo Soho, which I’ll get to later.)
I decided to walk through the central part of town to Recoleta Cemetery, which lots of famous Argentinians are buried, such as Evita. Plus, anyone who has read this blog for a long times knows I love my cemeteries.
Recoleta is huge, and really labrynthine. There are maps around to help you navigate, which is nice, much like Montmarte or Pere Lachaise in Paris.
What was a bit different, however, is that you can see the coffins in many of the mausoleums. They’re pretty clearly in plain sight. I couldn’t get any good photos of them (the glass in the doorways made for a wicked reflection in my camera lens!) but definitely go and take a look if you’re in Recoleta! Its quaint, but also kind of creepy.
On Sunday morning, just steps from my hotel is the San Telmo Market. It was originally just an antique market in a large warehouse, but now the streets fill with vendors selling everything from t-shirts to magnets to mate cups and more. Its pretty touristy, so I’d recommend getting up early and getting to the market around 10:30am. Things are still being set up, but you can beat the crowds.
I made my way to the antique part of the market, it being much more my scene than tourist tat- although I did buy a magnet from a street vendor outside of the warehouse. In addition, it was raining a LOT, so the coverage of the warehouse was much appreciated.
Since I literally had a backpack and carry on, I wasn’t in the market for any big antiques, but the prices were pretty good for lots of amazing things, such as cutlery, lampshades, books, paintings and more. If you have the room in your baggage, you’ll definitely find a few things worth taking home.
After checking out everything the market had to offer, I decided to brave the elements and walk to the other side of town, to the Malba Museum, South America’s premier art museum. The Evita Museum isn’t too far away from the Malba, so I thought I’d hit that up, too.
It was raining so hard, though, that I had to stop to dry off. Although it was that warm bathwater-like rain that I’m used to from home, having a warm drink wasn’t a totally bad idea, either. I stopped at the famous Cafe Tortoni for my fix.
The coffee was a bit more expensive than what you can get from other coffee shops around Buenos Aires, but the ambiance was, as promised in all the guidebooks, very old Europe. Again, I felt more like I was in an old European city than Buenos Aires.
After my coffee, I braved Avenue 9 July, which must set some kind of record for biggest avenue in the world. There’s about 15 lanes for cars and busses, going both ways. I have never seen anything like it in my life. There is also a monument, very similar to the DC monument, in the middle of the avenue…
…and some funny rubbish around the side streets.
About an hour later, my shoes squeaking and soaking wet, I arrived at the Malba.
The Malba is fairly new, and completely dedicated to showing off South American art. I was fascinated by the curators’ take on the region’s art, and all the pieces in the permanent exhibition.
I was most excited to see my first ever Kahlo painting IRL.
The building itself is also quite a work of art!
After the Malba, I walked a little further to find the Evita Museum. The street art on the way was worthy of a gallery exhibition in and of itself, I’d say, especially this gem:
Ever since I was a young girl, Evita has fascinated me. I’m not really sure why. I wasn’t allowed to take photos in the museum, but I guess it was all for the best, so I could really enjoy it. Although it is definitely geared toward Spanish speakers, there are some English translations here and there. I would also recommend going only if you have a good idea of who Evita was and the controversy that surrounded her and her husband, because, it being the museum, you only get a very pro-Peron view.
It was still raining on Monday when I woke up, but I didn’t let that get me down. I slogged through town to explore El Ateneo, which has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores by the Guardian. (You can tell I’m getting old when this is a must-see, but it truly was worth it!) Set in an old opera house, they’ve filled the stage with a coffee shop and the stands with books. I couldn’t find any books in English, so it’s a pretty good place to go to browse for free, without buying much, unless your Spanish is very, very good– in which case, I’m jealous!
After the bookstore, I walked around the Retiro neighborhood. It being a weekday, it was much, much busier. Still, one thing I started to learn about Buenos Aires is that its never really that full, not like New York, London or Paris. There’s always streets and little corners that you can duck down and find yourself alone.
It being a rainy day, and wanting to prepare for S.’s arrival from Cordoba the next morning, I called it an early day and retired to Aldo’s Wine Bar, which was voted one of the best places for wine in Buenos Aires…and it was right next to my hotel, as luck would have it!
One thing I really liked about the wine bars I went to in Buenos Aires is that they sell, in bottles, all the wine they have on offer by the glass. That way, if you try something and really love it, you can take a bottle home with you. You better believe I saved room in my backpack for a few!
I started off with a glass of house red, which was a delicious Malbec from Salta.
Having spent the past few days living off of the hotel’s breakfast and whatever I could scrounge from the local Carrefour (Argentinians don’t seem to go in for the microwave meal, which isn’t ideal when you’re living at a hotel), I splurged and ordered a few nice appetizers, too.
…and burrata with tomatoes and black cherries (an interesting but delicious combo!).
The next day was Valentine’s Day, and S.’s arrival, which was apropos. We spent most of the day walking in the oppressive heat (I had prayed for it to stop raining, but when it did, my goodness was it HOT) from my hotel in Montserrat to our Airbnb in Palermo. After a long shower and nap, we headed out to Palermo Soho.
I had already had a good impression of Buenos Aires, although as I’ve mentioned, it seemed a LOT like Europe. But one thing I didn’t understand was where all the people were in the evenings and weekends. I was also a little taken aback by how old and rundown everything was. I know I like to exaggerate from time to time, but seriously, everything I had seen was in need of a little TLC.
The answer seems to be that the newest and trendiest area, Palermo Soho, is where everyone is in the evening, and is the area that is definitely well kept. We stumbled upon it as it had a wine bar I wanted to try, but we went back a few other nights because it was such a cute little area.
On this particular evening, we went to Pain et Vin, another well-recommended wine bar that offers tastings. We tried wine from all over Argentina. I also picked up a bottle of my favorite, a chilled red from Rio Negro.
After our tasting, we headed to Kentucky, a chain pizza restaurant that we had seen in another location earlier. We ordered a Roquefort pizza and a pitcher of Quilmes, the local beer, and people watched as Palermo Soho filled up.
It being rainy throughout the trip, we made short visits out and about. One day, we walked about five miles to Puerto Madero, a newer part of Buenos Aires right along the water. It was a bit bizarre, walking around and seeing a Starbucks, new builds and half finished skyscraper apartments.
Because Puerto Madero was so far from our Airbnb, we also got to see other parts of the city, including further into the San Telmo neighborhood (where the market was), which has amazing churches and cute little corner shops.
After a few more days in Buenos Aires, we were ready to get in some beach time in Brazil. We loved the city but one can only walk around so much in hot, humid heat. But the amount of time we spent there was perfect. By the time we left, we felt like locals (minus being able to speak only a little bit of Spanish) because we’d started to really recognize the little things that make Buenos Aires the city it is. Everything is in the details, from the wifi available in public parks to the public seating that looks like living room furniture.
I was asked recently what the one thing I’d recommend anyone who is going to Buenos Aires do. While the Malba was amazing, and just walking around the city is a great way to explore it, I’d have to say, get a coffee and medialuna.
These little croissants covered in sugar will seriously change your life. I could down about 12, and not even feel bad because I would walk about seven miles afterward.
But seriously, if you’re in Buenos Aires, pay attention to the little things- the hilarious rubbish on the sidewalks, the public benches, the shoes women wear (which typically have a 6-inch heel). Its like Europe, but its absolutely not. Its the little things that set it apart, and make it very much its own special city. It was a great first experience in Argentina.