Buenos Aires is probably the best city to visit as an introduction to Latin America. That’s why we chose it as our end of year destination, given that Francois’ parents were flying out to meet up with us for Christmas and New Year. The city is full of old, glorious, historical buildings designed based on French architecture, yet the vibe is decidedly Latin. Streets are full of colorful graffiti, and music – often but not only tango – can almost always be heard coming from someone’s apartment, a store, or a passing car.
Our first night was spent staying at the Mansion Dandi Royal Rango Hotel, located in a stunning art nouveau building a mere few blocks away from the San Telmo covered market and a couple of restaurants that came highly recommended. This includes La Brigada (white linen table cloths and prices to match) and our personal favorite, Desnivel.
Then we went to Iguazu for a few days, staying in what was unfortunately not a great AirBnB while we discovered the Iguazu falls, sitting on the border between Argentina and Brazil. The Argentinian side was more about walking around the national park and seeing different “up close” views of the falls, from the Isla San Martin and from the walkway leading to the Garganta del Diablo (all stunning). That’s also where we took a boat to the falls, getting happily drenched in the process. In Brazil (just 20min away by car), buses took us to and from the 15min walking trail that included panoramic views from the ground and from the watchtower. All in all, the experience was fun and another example of how awesome nature is.
Back in Buenos Aires, we moved into a comfortable AirBnB located in the heart of San Telmo. Our days were spent exploring various neighborhoods, taking public transport pretending to be locals (not sure anyone bought it), and walking around to find coffee shops (for my in-laws, always a great excuse to play some UNO) and local “Freddo” ice cream shops (for yours truly, though by day three everyone else was getting ice cream too!).
We did a graffiti walking tour, a great way to spend an afternoon and learn about street art, Argentine history, and social movements all in one. Two other walking tours we enjoyed were the “BA Free Walking Tours” tour of downtown and of the Recoleta Cemetery (though that one had a USD 10 fee per person).
The art in the cemetery can only be surpassed by some of the stories that accompany so many of the tombs and mausoleums. One young girl was unfortunately and unintentionally buried alive; another died shortly after marriage and her dog’s grief was such that he died on the same day (they are buried together); one man was so worried about being buried alive that he designed a system so he could get out if that happened – and he tested it every day on his birthday until he died; and a couple argued so often that their sculptures turn their backs on each other for all of eternity. Last and certainly not least there is Evita Peron’s grave. The infamous icon was and is still both loved and hated by the Argentine people and was recognized very belatedly by her family only to be buried in one of the most nondescript tombs of the cemetery.
Not too far away, we came across my personal favorite discovery of the trip: El Ateneo Bookstore, an architectural marvel and one of the biggest, most beautiful bookstores I have ever seen (and also the spot where I ran into an ex-colleague and friend, priceless).
Boca was also a fun neighborhood to walk around in, even though it has become incredibly touristy. The colorful buildings and tango dancers on almost every street corner make it unique and worth the detour. Speaking of tango, we did do dinner and a show at Esquina Carlos Gardel (but if you book online, go via this website for a sizeable discount!) – a beautiful spot with a live orchestra and a show that balanced classic and modern tango styles in an impressive (and sensual, of course) way.
So, if you’re planning to head to Buenos Aires anytime soon, here are a few of our favorite spots:
Where to stay
- Palermitano Boutique Hotel (Palermo)
- Mansion Dandi Royal Tango Hotel (San Telmo)
- AirBnB in San Telmo
- Desnivel steakhouse (San Telmo) – best steak I’ve ever had
- Bartola (Palermo) – delicious bruschetta and burata
- Artemisia Cocina Natural (Palermo) – vegan spot with great salads and juices
- Benaim (Palermo) – trendy & fun, also has a kitchen with Middle Eastern food and great fries
- Post Street Bar (Palermo) – graffiti everywhere
- Milion (Recoleta) – gorgeous house, trendy spot with good happy hour