Buenos Aires: Live Like a Local

It takes a while to get your head around the scale and pace of the capital of Argentina — this is a city where you need to immerse yourself.

Empanadas in Buenos Aires. Photo: Gareth Johnson.

I’m not quite sure what I expected to find in Buenos Aires — perhaps some kind of old-world city full of faded glamour and suave, stylish men who lived life full of tango passion.

Buenos Aires is not that. Buenos Aires is a modern, vibrant city that doesn’t have a lot of natural beauty but it has an undeniable rhythm and life that make it a fascinating place in which to spend some time.

From a travel perspective, this isn’t a city to come to in order to tick-off must-see landmarks. This is a city in which you need to immerse yourself — live like a local for a while to get to grips in a place that feels reminiscent of old-world Europe but with a South American latin flair that adds a bit of drama.

Buenos Aires is a surprisingly spread-out city, and it can take a while to get around, so it helps if you plan in advance to know where you want to stay. You’re probably best advised to stay either in either the Recoleta or Palermo neighbourhoods.

My preference is Palermo — this is great for bars and restaurants, and has a laid-back feel that is irresistible. Palermo is characterised by its cobbled streets, restaurants, bars, and a laid back vibe that really helps you understand the pace of this vibrant and liveable city.

To get your bearings on arrival, perhaps spend your first night in a hotel (the Fierro or Legado Mitico are both great options in this neighbourhood) and then move into a private apartment through a site such as Airbnb or MisterB&B.

Travel tips for Buenos Aires

Tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina (image: Pixabay)
  • I had a car booked to collect me from the airport and take me to the hotel. Local knowledge confirmed that this is the easiest way to do it — recommending that you book the taxi or car in advance to avoid any dramas or surprise pricing.
  • I tried to get some Argentine Pesos at Heathrow Airport before departure, but the currency exchanges at Heathrow don’t seem to hold Argentine Pesos. You could bring US dollars into Argentina as it’s probably easier to change, or when you land at the international airport take some local currency out of the cashpoints at the airport. Once you’re into Buenos Aries, cashpoints aren’t readily available and neither are currency exchange options.
  • Uber is a relatively new entrant to the market in Buenos Aires. Predictably local taxi drivers aren’t happy about it. Generally the service seems to work okay if you’re an Uber user, but the local taxis are also easy to use and inexpensive.
  • Chongo is a useful local word — you can describe a sexy guy as a chongo (roughly translates as hunk).

Local recommended experiences

La Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires is the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina. Photo: Gareth Johnson.
  • San Telmo Market on Sundays on Defensa street.
  • Take the ferry to Colonia de Sacramento
  • La Ventana for Tango and music
  • Milonga for music and dance
  • Recoleta cemetery to visit Eva Peron’s tomb
  • The Argentine Experience restaurant to learn how to make empanadas.

Where to eat and drink

Empanadas at El Sanjuanino in Buenos Aires. Photo: Gareth Johnson.
  • La Carniceria in Palermo — for meat, obviously.
  • Don Julio in Palermo
  • La Mar: Cevicheria
  • Floreria Atlantico in Recoleta
  • Los Immortales for pizza
  • El Sanjuanino for empanadas
  • Gran Bar Danzon in Recoleta
  • Nola in Palermo
  • Milion in Recoleta
  • Victoria Brown in Palermo
  • Isabel in Palermo
  • Frank’s in Palermo

Where to stay

Alvear Palace — Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photo: Gareth Johnson.

Alvear Palace in Recoleta

  • If you are looking for a bit of old world glamour and luxury for your stay in Buenos Aires, then it’s hard to imagine anything better than the Alvear Palace.
  • While it is a grand and imposing building, the service throughout the hotel is friendly and welcoming. The lobby is vibrant and full of energy — the lobby bar is clearly a popular spot for locals and visitors to meet. They were advertising a Sunday brunch option that looked spectacular and I was disappointed that my schedule had me leaving too soon to enjoy it.
  • The room was spacious — a one-bedroom suite with a separate sitting room and a study. Wifi was simple to access and was working well. As I was wandering around admiring the room (Hermes toiletries in the bathroom — extra points), a young, enthusiastic girl knocked on my door. She spoke perfect English (which was lucky because my Spanish is non-existent) and explained that she was the butler — offering a complimentary unpacking, pressing, and shoe-shine service. A real delight — there was nothing stuffy or pretentious about it, just fantastic service.
  • This is the Recoleta area of Buenos Aires — one of the best neighbourhoods for shopping, bars, and restaurants. The Alvear Palace puts you right in the heart of the action — the famous La Recoleta Cemetery (where you can visit the grave of Eva Peron) is a short walk away.
  • After a sound night of sleep, I was impressed by the enormous buffet breakfast that was on offer. In my travels around Argentina, most people seem to start the day fairly simply — some coffee and a couple of medialunas (a small, delicious dry-style croissant). However, as you would expect from five-star style, the Alvear Palace gives you the works and you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the opulent dining room or orangerie.
  • This is grown-up, luxury accommodation that everyone can enjoy.

Fierro in Palermo Soho

  • The Palermo Soho neighbourhood has a lot of great restaurants and bars, it’s a pretty cool area to hangout in.
  • Fierro was a modern, stylish hotel in a great location — you can’t as for much more than that.

Legado Mitico in Palermo

  • This is small boutique hotel, a quiet oasis of calm in the heart of the city. Service throughout the hotel was friendly and helpful.
  • The room was well-appointed and comfortable. Easy-to-use wifi that worked.
  • The breakfast buffet in the morning was uncomplicated — simple, Argentinian-style.

Madero in Puerto Madero

  • Modern and stylish, the Madero hotel is a fantastic base from which to explore Buenos Aires.
  • The room was large and comfortable. Service throughout the hotel was friendly and helpful. Breakfast had all the options and was fresh and delicious. There were no dramas with wifi. Bright, expansive lobby. Vibrant and fun bar.
  • It was easy to walk from the hotel into town, alternatively taxis were readily available.
  • The in-house swimming pool, fitness centre, and business centre mean that you can just immerse yourself in a bit of comfort and luxury.
  • The sights, sounds, and experiences of Buenos Aires are on your doorstep with the hotel Madero.

Originally published at wander.media.

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