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The Inside Word on… Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • Marlo Perry
  • 20 April 2011

With so many destinations in the WHL Group’s ever-expanding network, we have an incredible wealth of local travel information at our fingertips. Through the Inside Word, our past and present local partners – all travel experts – share their top tips on what to do, what to eat, where to party and where to shop in their neck of the woods.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina. Once known as the ‘Paris of South America’ it is a cosmopolitan city that mixes European heritage with Latin American culture.

Situated on the banks of the River Plate, Buenos Aires expanded from the dockside suburbs of San Telmo and La Boca into one of the largest cities in South America. Still true to their origins, locals are known as Porteños, which means “people of the port.”

Buenosaires_casa_rosada

Located on the Plaza de Mayo of Buenos Aires, Argentina, La Casa Rosada is the office of the president. It was also where former first lady Eva Peron waved to her admirers from the balconies.

Day trips

Biking is one of the best ways to see the city. On paved flat streets and odd cobblestone lanes, you can travel at your own pace exploring the iconic sights. The city centre is filled with ornate buildings of grand architectural design, visible signs of the prosperity of Argentina in the early 20th century. You can admire beautiful monuments flanking any main plaza, like Plaza de Mayo, where you can view La Casa Rosada, the Cathedral, Cabildo, the National Bank and the City Government buildings.

You can also take a walking tour of Buenos Aires and follow along Avenida de Mayo past historic cafes such as Café Tortoni, to the widest street in the world, where the city’s emblematic obelisk stands, and up to the City Congress and another immense green plaza dotted with statues and shaded by trees. Visitors can also gain another glimpse of the urban metropolis on a high rises and underground neighbourhoods tour for an up close look at the bustling inner city.

If you would prefer a slightly less active tour, another way to gain an insight into Buenos Aires is to take part in a wine tasting. Argentina produces some of the world’s best wines, but don’t take anyone’s word for it. Sip them for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

buenosaires-cyclists

A bike tour Buenos Aires-style is the perfect way to see and experience the capital of Argentina. Here, cyclists admire the Floris Generica, a large, metal, solar-powered flower sculpture that is becoming a new icon of the city. It opens its petals during daylight hours and closes them at night.

Shopping

Bring some extra change for shopping in Buenos Aires. If you are here on a Sunday and you enjoy markets, then you have many choices as to where to spend the day perusing the stalls and checking out local handicrafts.

One of the most famous street markets is held in San Telmo district every Sunday. Apart from the hundreds of stalls selling everything from antiques to artwork, you will find street entertainment. Buskers, including couples performing tango, musicians and magicians are all vying for your attention and your coins.

Outside Recoleta Cemetery, where famous Argentines like Eva Peron are buried, you can find another weekend market. This is a good place to pick up local handicrafts. In the district of Palermo, which surrounds Plaza Serrano, yet another market appears; this is a more hip area of the city where trendsetters find fashionable clothes and unique accessories at bargain prices.

Along the pedestrian walking street of Florida in the city centre, you can purchase more typical souvenirs, such as Argentina football tops, either in the national colours of blue and white or in favour of one of the famous rival teams: Boca Juniors and River Plate. There are also plenty of shops selling leather goods, wine and tango souvenirs.

buenosaires-argentina-street

The cobblestone streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, like this one near Plaza Dorrego in the San Telmo neighbourhood, are part of the city's charm

Restaurants

If you can only have one meal in Buenos Aires, it must be a steak. You can’t visit and not eat meat. Argentine steak has a reputation as the best in the world. Head to any parilla restaurant in Buenos Aires, sit down and enjoy your cut accompanied by a bottle of Argentine malbec. San Telmo, Palermo and Recoleta are bursting with restaurant choices. Walk down any street after 10pm and make your way into anywhere where the tables are full.

If you are after something quick to nibble as you tour the sights, perhaps try an empanada with filling choices of ham and cheese, chicken or spicy meat. Along the riverfront near the parkland of the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur there are several street stalls selling choripan (sausage in bread) and bondiola (pork shoulder) sandwiches. For a city that isn’t particularly known for its street food, these are very tasty snacks.

Local Treats

A uniquely Argentine drink that you should try while in town is a fernet and Coke. Fernet, of Italian origin, is drunk in Europe in small shot doses. In Argentina, however, it is mixed with a lot of ice and a good measure of Coca-Cola to create a distinctive drink. The aroma and subtle taste of herbs and spices is not to everyone’s liking, but you may be surprised by the unique taste.

buenosaires-wine

Argentina is well known for its wine, so you must take a sip or two during your visit to find one that suits your palate, although many locals say that all wine is good wine in Argentina

Night Out

The most important thing to know about nightlife in Buenos Aires is that it starts very late. A typical Porteño eats dinner starting around 10pm in the evening. For many foreign visitors this is unusual; they often feel lonely eating alone in a restaurant at 8pm.

If you are with a group of friends and intend to make it a late night, you would not think about going to a night club until at least 2am. Showing up at a disco before this time would once again make you feel lonely. It would just be you, a deserted bar and an empty dance floor.

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Marlo Perry

Marlo Perry has been based in South America for over five years. She spent several years working as an overland tour guide before settling in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to work with Vamos Adventure Travel. Her international life and work caught the attention of 'The Working Traveller' (see interviewed in link below). She is neither a River Plate nor Boca Juniors football supporter.
Marlo Perry
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architecture & landmarks, Argentina, cities, festivals & events, food & drink, handicrafts & shopping, inside word, local knowledge, markets, South America,

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