Don’t cry for me Argentina. I have been to Bueno Aires and back and will shout from the rooftops how fabulous it is to anyone who might hear me! Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital city, second only in size to Sao Paulo, has been called the Paris of South America. I like to think of it as a mini New York City, perhaps only because I prefer NYC over Paris, but that’s just me. Either way you slice it, Buenos Aires is all at once gritty, grand, fashionable, famed, political, poor AND posh.
I my friend Erica was living there in 2002, so I paid her a visit. Being able to see the city with a local optimized my experience and if you have friends in foreign places I recommend you make plans to do the same. By the way, Erica’s husband authored a
book about his experience with the tango in Buenos Aires, which I also highly recommend – “Long After Midnight at the Nino Bien, A Yanqui’s Missteps in Argentina” by Brian Winter. You’ll love it too!
A WORD ON WARDROBE. Much like Paris, you’ll want to bring along your most stylish duds. No sense in looking like you shop at Wal-Mart. You’ll stand out, and I don’t mean in a good way. Porteños are hipster cool and you’d do well to imitate them or look like the gringo you are.
- See a performance at Teatro Colón. The theatre is magnificent. Buenos Aires has the highest concentration of theatres in the world, so best to visit one of them!!
- Go out and dance the tango AND find somewhere to watch it from those who do it best.
- Guido’s Bar on Republica de la India is a fun place for an afternoon cappuccino.
- Check out San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in BA. It has a distinctive bohemian vibe and you’ll find old colonial buildings, cafes, tango parlors and antique shops walking along the cobblestone streets, often filled with artists, dancers and vendors.
- Visit the neighborhood of Recoleta. It’s a cultural hub and the National Fine Arts Museum or Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and National Library of Argentina are there. You’ll also want to see the famous Recoleta Cemetery an outstanding display of 19th and 20th century funerary art and architecture. Many prominent figures in the county’s history are buried here, but perhaps the most popular tomb (sing it with me now) is that of Eva Perón.
- Vegetarians need not apply – you’ll want to try a traditional asado (barbeque) usually consisting of beef, alongside various other meats, cooked on a grill or open fire. Beef is pretty much the national dish in Argentina and it’s really good. Try it with French fried potatoes topped with chopped garlic and parsley. Yum.
- Go shopping for funky clothes, baubles, bags and accessories at Feria Plaza Serrano, a small but lively market on fashionable Plaza Serrano in Palermo Viejo. If you are a lady or just enjoy shopping for ladies’ lingerie, be sure to check out Juana De Arco‘s creations while in the barrio.
- Go to Chabeli for killer leather goods and jewels.
Head south out of the bustling city to see Argentina’s wilder side. Not to be confused with the popular adventure wear company, Argentina’s Patagonia is the southern region of the country, which includes to the west its neighbor Chile’s southernmost region as well. Explore gaucho culture, take in the dramatic landscape and get to the coast to enjoy some of the finest whale watching anywhere. My friend and I visited the town of Puerto Madryn in Chubut in June of 2002. I can’t say I remember well every meal we had, but we ate and drank while enjoying sea views at Restaurante Caccaros, Cantina El Nautico, Taska Beltza. I did a quick internet search and they all still around and getting good reviews. Bueno!
There is a small town, a boat ride away from Argentina’s bustling capital, in a country called Uruguay. It’s not a place you hear a lot about. But, if you have the time to visit Colonia, the oldest city in southwestern Uruguay, please do. You can take one of three ferry boats from Buenos Aires, the Buquebus, Seacat Colonia or Colonia Express.
Colonia is renowned for its historic quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Barrio Histórico, as it is called, is popular among tourists for its charming cobblestone streets built by the Portuguese in the 17th century, lined with textile artisan shops, restaurants and old cars reminiscent of Castro’s Cuba. You’ll want to spend some time wandering the tree-lined Plaza Mayor and perhaps see the City Gate and wooden drawbridge, Lighthouse, the old convents and the 18th century old Portuguese Museum which exhibits Portuguese furnishings, jewelry, uniforms and old maps of their naval expeditions.