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Between almacéns y alfajores, parrillas and tangos: what I learned in my last visit to Buenos Aires was that there are lots of calories to be consumed, but also a lot of walking to burn them off.
Three days, 45 kilometers, about 1800 calories torched: the capital city of Argentina is larger than it appears to be on a tourist map, and hiking was the method of transportation that worked best. If you like to walk, I recommend this turisport: a buena hike in the Aires.
Day 1 – Palermo: Soho, Hollywood, and the Jardíns
For boutique hotels, good restaurants and bars to have that last cap, the best neighborhood for your accommodation is Palermo. And our first day starts here, at Bonpland, between Paraguay and Guatemala streets.
After a strong coffee and a hearty breakfast, put your sneakers on and perform a quick stretch: we will begin this trip with a walk in the park. The Bosques de Palermo, officially called Parque Tres de Febrero, is almost an escape from the chaos of the city – in fact, in several areas of the woods have streets with car traffic. The area actually consists of a few parks, not only one: the Rosedal, the Japanese Garden, the Botanical Garden, and the extinct zoo (closed to the public since 2016 due to animal neglect. A taxi driver told me that complaints of the place’s bad smell, which disrupted the real estate market of the surrounding buildings, also influenced the decision to end the activities of the zoo).
The Rosedal is the tourists’ main reason for being on the gardens. For free, visitors can see the different beds and colors of roses. It’s cool, but don’t expect something like the tulip fields in Holland.
The Japanese Garden charges a small entrance fee (120 pesos), and I thought it was worth. The site was built in 1967 when the then Prince Akhito, now Emperor of Japan, visited Argentina.
Take Calle Lafinur to feel the residential airs of the region and pass in front of the Evita Museum – the early 20th century mansion features the first lady dresses, shoes and photos, and a bit of her life story. More interesting than the museum itself is perhaps the restaurant, very well guarded and with outdoor tables. Good lunch option for those tired of wondering around the gardens.
While the city seems to have stopped in time, the Arches District is a renewal: old railroad sheds were revitalized and transformed into a premium, outdoor outlet mall. Gourmet food kiosks decorate the free space, while brands of the best local fashions surround them with high-end prices.
UFA! If you followed my script on the same walk, you already walked about 6km. Maybe it’s time to go back to the hotel and get some rest before dinner.
Best dinner in Palermo is at Lo de Jesus, which besides the traditional Argentine grill and its unique flavor, also offers a wonderful wine list at a fair price: the sommelier told us that the price at the restaurant is the same as the wine cellar next door. That is, you can enjoy your Malbec without worrying about being (much) exploited financially. Dinner for two – with one of the most expensive wines on the menu – gave 2,350 pesos (about 200 CAD).
From there, it’s worth taking a look at Plaza Serrano (I had delicious coffee at SANS, but according to Google, the bakery closed) or at Plaza Armenia (I recommend a margarita at Mezcal). Both squares are evening high spots of Palermo Soho during weekends.
If your accommodation is not in Palermo, get there before dinner to walk the streets of Soho – there are lots of cute little decoration shops around, and hundreds of options for drinks and snacks. We ate a choripán (bread with linguine, typical of the Argentinian itinerants) delicious in Chori, a super cool sandwich shop that also sells local beer and delicious cocktails. Attention: cash only, and few tables. But it’s worth it for a snack!
In the part of Palermo Hollywood, the good thing is to walk on Fitz Roy street and have lunch during weekdays and feel like a local in the Miranda or Brandon, restaurants that offer executive menu, or eat empanadas and provoletas in the more simple (but great service) Bakano.
Day 2 – Recoleta and San Telmo, + The Ateneo and Galerias Pacifico
Maybe better than staying in Palermo is choosing one of the hotels in Recoleta. Besides being extra-chic, the region is better centralized. And, as I said, transportation in Buenos Aires is not the easiest to deal with: we used Uber a lot, but while every request said it would take 10 minutes, in reality, the car arrived after about 20. The taxi drivers still protest against the new service. Taxi is twice the price but ends up being the “fastest” option. In quotes, because the traffic in BA is very slow.
Anyway, a walk from Palermo to Recoleta takes 1h. Bike would be the best alternative, but unfortunately Buenos Aires is not one of the most bike friendly cities. Bicycle paths are almost non-existent, and drivers seem to hate those who choose to pedal in traffic.
So best be used to walk: Recoleta is a pretty big neighborhood, and a good idea is to take advantage of proximity and get to know the next neighborhood, San Telmo.
In Recoleta, start at the Recoleta Cemetery and visit the famous tomb of Evita (to find it, just follow the crowd or ask someone – you barely need to finish the phrase before the person points you to the right direction). Cooler than the cemetery is its surroundings: the Plaza Francia, which has a weekend crafts market, and the Recoleta Cultural Center, which always hosts events and creative shows. I also recommend entering the Buenos Aires Design mall, which in addition to decoration stores, also offers a food court with outdoor or closed options.
Bonus tip: do you want to extrapolate and pretend to be rich? Go to Gioia Terrace, which is located in the Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt – the restaurant is set in the garden of the five-star hotel, which is a true palace in the middle of Recoleta.
We continue to San Telmo , a neighborhood similar to the historic center of São Paulo. During the day, executives and government workers – Casa Rosada is also right there – walk around looking busy and great on their suits while, at night, the neighborhood is more deserted. At the corner of Defensa and Chile streets is the famous statue of Mafalda , sitting on the bench that invites tourists to sit for a photo with the famous Argentine character. Actually, the whole neighborhood is adorned with comic figures, a route known as Paseo de la Cartoon . And of course, all this is best if done on a Sunday, to visit the famous and giant Feria de San Telmo , that is open from 10AM to 5PM.
If you still have energy, visit the famous and majestic El Ateneo bookshop and the historic Galerías Pacífico shopping mall.
In the evening, book a table in advance at El Viejo Almacén , the most traditional tango in the city. Today there are numerous different and bigger options, but the old mansion on the corner of Av Independencia and Paseo Colón is the classic, and the show remains wonderful. It can be combined with a dinner at La Brigada , a typical Argentine grill restaurant (football shirts, celebrity photos, these things); or with a drink and snack bar at El Federal Bar, my favorite in the area.
Day 3 – El Caminito, La Bombonera, Puerto Madera
There are two reasons to save almost a full day for El Caminito : 1) It’s far. 2) It is a delight. You can spend several hours enjoying the touristy shops, the bars and restaurants with tables on the sidewalk and the random street tango presentations.
Oh, if you could not eat the choripan at Chori, in Palermo, at El Caminito there are several options. Here is where you’ll find everything you wanted to see in Argentina: souvenirs from Mafalda, Messi and Maradona t-shirts, choripan, BBQ meat, empanadas, tango, Quilmes… and, of course, the famous colorful houses that made El Caminito the most famous landmark in Buenos Aires.
Do not miss El Gran Paraiso – super simple, and you won’t give much when you see the small entrance, but inside it has a great outdoor area, with fun decor, and delicious barbecue air fragrance while everyone goes down enjoy the 1L bottles of Quilmes. Marvelous!
Those crazy about football can take advantage of the Museo de La Pasion Boquense , the museum located in the famous Boca Juniors stadium, La Bombonera .
From there, perhaps go straight to a dinner in Puerto Madero.
I don’t know why I remembered the area to be glamorous, but was a bit disappointed in 2017, ten years after my first visit. It is a beautiful residential area, but the port is giant and tiring to walk looking for something to see or do. The best restaurant option – and most likely I’m wrong – is Siga La Vaca . It is a churrascaria with several locations throughout the city, but after my long peregrination at the area, I concluded it was the coolest one.
Dios Mio! I thought I did not have much to say about Buenos Aires, but this post ended up long and tiring. Although tired I actually was after walking through the Argentine capital – at the end of the three days, my FitBit added 45km. And look, I also got Ubers, taxis, and cycled. At least I burned all the calories consumed in alfajores, meats, empanadas, choripans, Quilmes and, of course, Malbecs.
PS: I stayed at the wonderful Palo Santo hotel in Palermo Hollywood. More than a bedroom, the apartment had living room and dining area, king size bed with wonderful mattress, balcony and complimentary coffee machine (and bikes). Super recommend it!