If you think that New York is the city that never sleeps…you’ve never been to Bueno Aires! This city is so lively, I couldn’t believe it. I was actually trying to figure out when the Argentines sleep, or for how long. At 1AM they were walking their dogs or casually meeting their friend for a drink or something to eat. Most restaurants would open at 8 or 9 PM and 11 PM was the peak hour for them. I don’t think they’ve heard of circadian rhythms :)
We’ve stayed in the Palermo Soho area and it was the best choice. If you ever want to visit Buenos Aires, stay there, you won’t regret it. It is full of cafes, restaurants, bars, boutique shops, and safe to wander on the streets at any time of the day or night.
I love bookshops, in fact, I could happily live in a library or a bookshop. So, when I got to El Ateneo Grand Splendid, I was in books' heaven. It opened in 1919 as a theatre and became a bookshop 81 years later. Apart from books (obviously), you can find a great selection of Argentine music (aka tango), so it a perfect place to buy yourself a nice musical souvenir. There is also a café at the back where you can read your favourite book and enjoy the magic of this stunning bookstore.
We have also visited La Boca which is a neighbourhood known thanks to its famous football team. If you’re a football fan and keen to visit the stadium, you might get disappointed as the area is rough and not well maintained. Close to the stadium is El Caminito which is a famous tourist attraction due to its colourful shanty houses and its tango history. This is a great spot to witness the traditional Argentine dance being performed while you eat or drink in the restaurant.
An experience not to be missed is to attend an opera play at Teatro Colón which is world-renowned venue for opera and ballet. We went to see Rossini's L'Italiana in Algheri and the acoustic was amazing. I fact, this opera house is renowned for its acoustics and for its architecture, the building itself is a work of art.
One thing we had trouble with was taking money out from ATM’s. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that we’ve been to 10 ATMs and we couldn’t get money out as there were no money! Luckily, most shops, cafes, restaurants accept credit or debit cards (though you have to ask which type of cards as some of them accept only Visa) and if you have the Uber app installed on your phone, you’re sorted. Talking about Uber, when using it, make sure you sit in front, next to the driver, otherwise the Uber driver might get in trouble with taxi drivers. Using Uber, we’ve met lots of immigrants mainly from Venezuela and Colombia with some impressive stories. It was very humbling to hear the struggles some people go through and their life stories…it was another reminder to be grateful for what we have and to realise that we have absolutely nothing to complain or moan about.
We had the amazing opportunity to have dinner with beautiful local people and this is how we’ve learned about the generosity of this country. If you wish to settle in Argentina it is very easy, in 3 months you get all the papers you need; the education system is free of charge even for foreigners so if you wish to get a degree there it’s free; same with the health system. I mean - that is impressive!
One of the reasons we went there was to taste the Argentine cuisine and we were not disappointed. The food was DIVINE. Argentina is famous for its beef and you will find many European influences in their cuisine from Italian pizzas to French pastries.
Argentine cattle are grass fed mainly in the humid Pamapas which makes the meat texture tender, the taste amazing, plus it is easier to digest it. Though I am not used to eating meat every day and I had my digestive enzymes with me (just in case) I did not need to use them. My favourite cuts of meat were bife de lomo (sirloin) – a very lean cut and bife de chorizo (strip loin steak) – fattier than the bife de lomo, but juicier. I liked the fact that you could choose to have either salads or grilled veggies with the meat as that’s the best food combination.
If you have a sweet tooth you have to be careful as you will find lots of places with cakes, pasties, their famous dulce de leche, and ice cream. In fact, ice cream is a serious matter in Buenos Aires, you can find a heladaria (ice cream parlour) every few blocks. And it is totally usual to order one kilo or even two kilos of ice-cream (OMG)!
When it comes to cafes and restaurants, we didn’t go by recommendations (apart from one option) as we’ve tried to sample as many as possible, so below I have chosen my favourite ones.
My top 3 restaurant recommendations:
1. Calden del Soho – this one is located in Palermo Soho and if you want to eat the best steak, this is the place to go to. The food was top notch.
2. La Parolaccia – the one located in Puerto Madero and you can have a nice lunch or dinner by the water front. If you go for lunch make sure you ask for the ‘menu of the day’. This is an Italian restaurant and even if you’re not in Italy, considering the Italian influences in BA, it’s worth eating in an Italian restaurant. They serve both Italian and Argentine foods.
3. La Colorada – located in Migueletes, this restaurant was recommended by locals and it did not disappoint. There were so many traditional dished to choose from and everything we’ve ordered was delicious. I’m gutted that the lighting in the restaurant wasn’t the best so didn’t take any pictures of the food.
My top 3 cafes’ recommendations:
1. Café Martinez in Palermo Soho – lovely atmosphere and make sure you check the painitngs on the wall.
2. Café Crisol- that’s in Recoleta; if you want a great latte, go there.
3. Ninina: though I found it overpriced, everything that I’ve tried was delicious. They serve lots of nice teas, lemonades and coffees as well as healthy bites. If you go there I recommend you try the Irupe Y Terere which is a traditional Yerba mate infusion – so delicious.
If you want a lively city with unlimited quirky and nice locations to spend an evening either eating, drinking, or dancing then Buenos Aires would be the place to go to!