Beloved Buenos Aires
I am a lover of all things Argentine since spending my year abroad in Buenos Aires in 2008 (which now feels soooo long ago!). This post has sat in my drafts for months as it is essentially impossible to distil the amazingness that is the city in writing. However, a friend recently posted on Facebook asking for recommendations and so I've finally taken the plunge and hit publish!
Buenos Aires is ELECTRIC. It's my favourite city in the world - a heady mix of the classic steak, tango and football coupled with inventive cocktails, swanky shops, trendy brunch spots and some of the friendliest people on the planet. James and I spent our 'adventurous' honeymoon in Argentina (yes, we had more than one...) in Easter 2016 and it was just as epic 8 years on. Here's a shot at capturing my favourite haunts that my beloved Buenos Aires has to offer:
We stayed at Home Hotel in the Palermo district. It's by far the best area to use as a base as it's where the vast majority of the bars and restaurants are located. Palermo is now divided into Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Norte. They're much of a muchness and all pretty close together.
Home is famed for its breakfasts which are beautifully presented. It also has a small pool and a great bar which has visiting DJs on Friday and Saturday nights. On arrival you're given a Home guide book which has an up to date list of the best places to eat and drink. New places pop up all the time and the hotel really has its finger on the pulse.
Things to do
- San Telmo is incredible on a Sunday when the market is in full swing. But it's great any day of the week. One to mooch around, pop into shops, drink coffee and people watch, catch an informal tango show in the street...essentially everything that's great about life.
- La Boca is touristy but a must do. It used to be a poor immigrant area down by the docks and they painted the corrugated houses all sorts of different, bright colours to liven the place up. The colour is all still there and it's now full of tango dancers and souvenir sellers, as well as the home of Boca Juniors, La Bombonera. If you can get tickets for a match, grab them. Ditch anything valuable and get ready for the hand fireworks and unbeatable atmosphere.
- Palermo shopping: It's stuffed full of independent boutiques, gorgeous Argentinian designers' stores and plenty of bars and cafes to take a break and ponder purchases. Rapsodia is my favourite of the Argentinian shops - Anthropologie style clothes and great jewellery. The best area is the square hemmed in by Av Niceta Vega and Soler running North to South and Malabia to Godoy Cruz East to West.
- Recoleta cemetery: Very much on the tourist trail but really atmospheric, free and a 'must do'. Evita's grave is here (you can't miss it, follow the crowds). Round the corner from the cemetery in the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas is my favourite sculpture in the world - Floralis Genérica - a giant metal flower which opens and closes with the sun.
- Bosques de Palermo: A buzzy park in the centre of the city with a lake, cycles to hire and running paths to help manage the intense calorie intake. At the weekend it's particularly lively. Some cracking choripan sellers (see below) too.
- MALBA: A fab modern art museum (with the obligatory swanky cafe!).
Where to begin?! There is a bit of everything and it is all SO good. My personal favourites are:
- Don Julio in Palermo is 'the place'. It's done out really traditionally and a case of picking your cut of beef, them whacking it on the super hot grill and then deciding how many chips you can manage and what Malbec you'd like to pair it with. It's in all the guide books so pretty full of tourists but still remains popular with locals.
- Las Cabras. A huge, cheap and cheerful restaurant set on a street corner in Palermo. It's constantly rammed as the food is great. They run a waiting list and the Negroni bar opposite is an ideal way to wait for your name to be called. Last time I went we sat down for dinner at 12.30am after far too many Negronis. It wrote off a day but was 100% worth it. One not to miss.
- El Desnivel. This spot down in San Telmo was my favourite place on my year abroad. It's good value, high quality steak served up with chips and chimichuri sauce on plastic tables with white paper tablecloths. The wine comes in penguin carafes and it's just so full of fun and atmosphere. I based our whole Sunday last year around eating there, only to find the shutter down when we arrived. Devastating, but Google assures me it's still open.
- La Cabrera. There are two restaurants and the food is the same in both. You order your steak and then get a heap of different sides in little pots to go with it. Another favourite on my year abroad and slightly higher end than El Desnivel.
- iLatina was all the rage when we visited last year. It's a supper club type set up with a set menu and the restaurant is located in a beautiful townhouse up in Villa Crespo (a posher, residential district above Palermo). It was an incredible meal but, at £75, was a real treat.
It's caught on in Argentina too!
- Olsen in Palermo does a Skandi take on brunch and is still full on a Sunday eight years after I first discovered it.
- Oui Oui in Palermo Viejo. A little cafe that, ten years later, is still the best place for brunch in the city (think buttery pastries, perfectly poached egg, avocado...). They've now opened a second site so you've got a better chance of getting a table. The last time I went there were still no reservations but you can get a coffee and people watch in the street.
A quick Google brings up many more fab looking places but none that I've personally been to. Let me know if you find any particular winners!
- Croque Madame in the Museo de Artes Decorativo. It serves a good variety of yummy French food, with particularly scrummy salads. Ask for a seat on the first floor for lovely views or sit out in the courtyard for some sun.
- The buffet at the Alvear Palace: I am never usually a fan of a buffet but the spread is unreal! I took my best friend here for her 21st birthday after she'd spent four months living in rural Peru. It literally rocked her world and will always hold a very special place in my heart.
- Mark's Deli and Coffee House: Bang in the middle of the best shopping area. A great speedy spot to rest your feet.
- Choripan stalls. Chorizo sausage in a bread roll. It looks dirty, it tastes ridiculous.
The other headings felt unmanageably vast but this has to win the award for being spoilt for choice. Bars are so subject to the changing trends but these were some favourites:
- Frank's (Palermo Hollywood) was brilliant for a late night drink with atmosphere. We went after our dinner at Las Cabras on our last visit. You need a password from the Facebook page but it was worth the slightly cringe entry procedure!
- Ocho7Ocho. Another speakeasy but much more relaxed than Frank's. Entry was very relaxed, it's basically just a bar that's a bit hidden at 878 Thames. A place to enjoy the inventive and delicious cocktail list rather than dance the night away.
- Olsen. The place I mentioned for the Skandi brunch also has a great bar with a whole range of different vodkas and vodka based cocktails. Gorgeous interiors and the DJ is always great.
- Millón in Recoleta is set in a stunning old house. The drinks are a bit overpriced and the staff can be a bit stand offish but it's worth popping in for a drink in beautiful surroundings if you're in the area.
The area around Palermo Soho and Palermo Viejo is chocabloc with bars. Wandering along Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua streets you will find so many winners.
This is huge given the wave of Italian immigration in the 1920s. There are tons of good spots but you can't go to BA and not try Freddo ice cream. Dulce de Leche flavour (basically burnt condensed milk - so bad but so good) is the bomb.