Field Notes: Buenos Aires, Argentina
12/12/2011 § 7 Comments
Field Notes: Buenos Aires
As you may recall, I recently returned from a trip to Buenos Aires and I have been raving about the city to anyone who will listen. The word amazing has definitely been bandied about quite a bit. Simultaneously cosmopolitan and relaxing, the city makes for a perfect destination when the northern hemisphere turns to winter. With the exchange rate currently in my favor (~4.6 pesos to the dollar), it was an affordable escape as well. Of course, I am plotting my return trip as we speak…
I recommend staying in one of the Palermo neighborhoods: Hollywood or Soho. The neighborhoods are named for their resemblance to the American cities with the same name: Soho with its bustling shopping and dining, Hollywood with its concentration of the city’s media companies. I stayed in Palermo Soho and found it to be well located and felt exceptionally safe after dark. It is, however, a bit of a walk to the Subte (subway), but taxis are plentiful and quite affordable. Instead of staying in a hotel, I rented a flat, which is definitely the most cost-effective option. Through Buenos Aires Rents, I found a sparkling clean studio in a brand new building with 24-hour doorman service, laundry, gym and roof deck with a pool, for a little over $60 per night. While renting a flat means you don’t have a concierge on hand at all times, the folks at Buenos Aires Rents were always immediately available for my questions and also offer car service for airport transfers. If you are the type that requires daily room service, take a look at Esplendor Palermo Soho, which was darling and directly around the corner from where I stayed.
Next time, I will definitely stay at the Hotel del Casco, which is actually in San Isidro, a bit north of Buenos Aires proper. An exceptionally beautiful, 1890s neoclassical palazzo that was formerly the summer home of an aristocratic family, the Hotel del Casco has been converted into a gorgeous 20 room hotel that retains much of its original 19th century aesthetic.
Buenos Aires is a city that easily lends itself to cafe lingering and meandering. I spent many lovely, lazy mornings people-watching over coffee and toast topped with dulce de leche in corner cafes. Afternoons were for siestas. Evenings were for late and lengthy dinners of steak and malbec. But should you be more itinerary-minded, there is plenty to do. Visit one of the many art museums, go to the Plaza de Mayo and see the Casa Rosada, shop for antiques in the San Telmo market on Sundays, board the museum ships of Puerto Madero, and visit the massive Recoleta Cemetary (where you can find the tomb of Eva Peron). I especially recommend Graffitimundo, a great tour of Buenos Aires street art and graffiti, for an inside look at a burgeoning art scene and neighborhoods a bit off the normal tourist route. If you go in mid-November as I did, you can catch the Argentine Polo Open, which I quite enjoyed.
As for cuisine, Buenos Aires is widely known for their red meat and red wine. I had fantastic meals at Don Julio (Guatemala 4691 in Palermo Soho) and El Trapiche (Paraguay 5099 in El Centro). I also dined at what is widely considered the best restaurant in town, Cabaña Las Lilas (A.M. de Justo 516 in Puerto Madero). While Cabaña Las Lilas was quite good and takes full advantage of their picturesque setting, I definitely preferred the atmosphere of Don Julio and El Trapiche, both of which felt more locally authentic and less touristy. It is also worth noting that most of my dinners — with multiple courses and wine — tended to run between $25 and $40 per person. Also, make sure not to miss Cafe Tortoni (Avenida De Mayo 825), the oldest coffee shop in all of Argentina, founded in 1858.
Parting notes: WiFi is plentiful in the city so no need to run up massive roaming data charges. // Bring the plug adapter for Australia and not the one marked “South America.” For some reason, Argentina uses slanted prongs unlike the rest of the continent. // You won’t need a visa, but upon arrival you will have to pay a fee equal to the amount the US charges Argentines for US visas. Currently that amount is $140, but it will also cover any other entries over the next ten years.
You can see the rest of my photos from Buenos Aires here.