Buenos Aires was the first stop on our Patagonia trip. For the full trip details, please check this post.
That quote fits quite well and with its diverse neighborhoods, BA offers something for everyone and then some. There is not the one sight you have to see, rather you should experience the different neighborhoods.
We had only 2 days in Buenos Aires, so the goal was to really limit ourselves to the most essential and unique areas.
Day 1: We arrived late morning after a tranfer in Sao Paulo. The advantage of this is that you land at the city airport (Aeropuerto) and can reach your hotel (or in our case hostel) much faster and cheaper.
We took a taxi into the city. Traffic is easy and prices are cheap, you don’t need to arrange in advance or use a bus. But the driver tried to cheat us with fake notes and wrong amounts. Good chance to test the travel Spanish. 😉
We had picked a hostel in an old colonial building for a more intense experience, located directly near Av. 9 Julio. We arrived there around 11, so almost a full day available. I quickly jumped into the shower to freshen up. Unfortunately I managed to crash through the glass door of the shower, breaking it into a thousand pieces. Standing naked in a shower, calling for help (at least I knew the word) and bleeding all over might not have been the perfect start into this vacation. 😉
After they (literally) patched me up, and gave us a new room, we were ready to go. Luckily my face and feet were fine, so we set out and took a cab to our first target: La Boca district.
This quarter is very touristy, but is worth at least a short stop. Just be a bit more careful when you go after dark, as it is not the safest neighborhood. The standard target in La Boca is Caminito street with the famous colorful houses. You will see lots of performers, street artists and beautiful facades. But you will stand among a million other tourists and we actually left quickly after taking this picture. We were too late in the day – go early morning to avoid the crowds. Don’t miss out on the great bike statue that Ai Wei Wei has created. I don’t know it if is a permanent or temporary exghibit, but I really enjoyed it.
After this we took a stroll towards San Telmo, a more artsy and Boheme district with lots of cool record shops and nice old townhouses. You can stop by La Bombonera stadium on the way. We were lucky and a game was scheduled for later, so we met lots of dressed up fans and got some great barbecue on the way.
Also on the way make sure to stop in Parque Lezama. You can find a small market there and get some beautiful views of the park, surrounded by the locals. It was so warm and sunny, you could just sit in a T-Shirt and watch the kids play Soccer.
We spent quite some time in San Telmo, browsing through books and old vinyl and enjoying a coffee. In San Telmo and La Boca you will also see lots of great Street Art.
The afternoon was progressing and we headed for Casada Rosa – the pink house and presidential residence on the Plaza de Mayo. If you are lucky you can catch one of the many events or concerts near the plaza and just listen in. The residence has public (and free) entry only on some days – I believe Sundays and holidays in the morning. We skipped that. Otherwise the plaza is enjoyable in its own right, with a couple of churches and museums around. We enjoy the plaza until sunset was approaching.
For sunset we headed for yet another entirely different area: Puerto Madero – the port. This quarter has been redone and now houses fancy (tourist) restaurants, modern offices and nice walks along the water. And you can visit the popular “woman’s bridge” Puente de la Mujer. Good spot for an evening walk and a contrast to the other districts, just [don’t] dine there like we did (I really wanted a steak). Too pricey and touristy.
It got quite cold in the evening and we went back to hotel after a very packed day.
Our original idea had been to check out BA on day 1 and see if we had enough time to see what we wanted and then decide whether to take a day trip to Uruguay. Unfortunately all tickets were sold out already on the day before. But generally this is a great option: Jump on a speedboat and go on a day tour to Uruguay. Either Montevideo or – probably better for a short visit – “Colonia del Sacramento”. Boats go in the morning around 8am and come back at 5pm (different times available, but that is enough to see everything). Most nationalities do not need a visa and the city is Unesco heritage. Just book in advance, on weekends or holidays the boat tickets sell out quick. A good Operator: https://www.buquebus.com/english/daytour
It was also a very rainy day, so we relaxed all morning and took a very late breakfast. There are many amazing breakfast and brunch locations all over the city, some open quite late though. Since there is no bad weather, just wrong clothing, we put on our rain gear and headed for the number one recommendation in every tourist guide: Recoleta cemetary. We originally had planned to skip it, because taking pictures of graves and coffings is not really my thing. We also did not book a guide to learn about all the famous dead people buried there (Evita Perón for example, she is buried under her family name Duarte), maybe we should have. I personally was not impressed by this location and [don’t] feel it is a must.
The rain continued, so we spent most afternoon in different Cafés until sunset. I wanted to take a sunset skyline picture, but the recommended spot in most guides (Panamericano Hotel) is no longer possible (see below). Instead we took some great shots of the Obelisk on Av. 9 Julio and then headed back to the hotel to dress up for our evening activity: A Tango Show.
Buenos Aires is the city of Tango, so visiting one of these shows is definitely a recommendation. You can imagine the setup a little bit like a musical, but of course the dance performances are top notch. [Don’t] book a dinner with it, just choose the plainest and simplest show-only ticket. They pick you up at your hotel / hostel and bring you back as well. Shows usually run from 21:30 till Midnight. And we were really tired when we got back.
One solid option: Esquina Carlos Gardel
Good Foto Spots:
- Sunset or Nighttime in Puerto Madero to shoot the “Puente de la Mujer”
- [Dont] A Skyline view from the upper floor of the Panamericano Hotel is no longer possible as they let only hotel guests go upstairs
- Av. 9 de Julio at dusk, when you have the sky still lit up and the Obelisk well lighted. (Lots of people doing the same though)
- The streets of San Telmo and the old houses
- Street Art across San Telmo and La Boca
- Bike sculpture by Ai Wei Wei in La Boca (not sure how long it is gonna be there)
Lili wants to write her own post on all restaurants and other food related adventures in Latin America. So that one will be linked here once it is done. 😉
Whats the stuff you should pre-book, reserve or organize in advance:
- Taxis are generally fine, they are metered and not expensive. Cheating with change & fake notes is common.
- UBER works well, although we had a case where the driver couldn’t find the airport entrance. 😀
- Hotel arrangements are easy and even lower price options are okay, no need for complex booking plans.
- If you plan a trip to Uruguay (Montevideo or Colonia) book at least some days in advance! Tickets sell out quick.
- Remember there are two airports in BA and you might land on either of them. Sometimes the connecting flights depart from the other and you have to cross the city. This can take quite long, depending on traffic.
- If you are using a DKB or any other “free” cash withdrawal cards: Yes they work perfectly, but every time there is a high charge by the local banks (like 5€) so local exchange (Cambio) might be better and you can do quite well without too much cash except for taxi.
- Trip timing will be based on other locations, as most people combine this with a Patagonia visit. Going in November is great. Wether is still very comfortable (we had 20°), but gets cooler on some days and in the evenings.
- If you include a trip to Uruguay, add 1 day for Colonia or 2 days for Colonia+Montevideo.
- Latin American airlines (Latam or Aerolineas Argentinias) are quite good and regional flights can be booked even short notice. Try with a VPN and local IP to get better prices if you speak Spanish.
- Don’t expect English will work everywhere. Try to pick up at least some basic Spanish
- Booking dinner with the tango shows, you can get much better food elsewhere
- Hanging out at night in La Boca all by yourself
- Getting cheated by taxi drivers – always check the notes
[Trip Date: 11/2007, 2 days]