Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires:

The European Capital of South America

What is said about Buenos Aires (BsAs) being the European capital of South America is apparent as soon as you get into your first taxi. Porteños (as natives of BsAs like to be called) let you know that their city was colonized by European settlers over 400 years ago. Traces of the different heritages can be found throughout the city – London’s Portabello road is very similar to the Feria de San Telmo, Madrid’s Parque Retiro is like the Bosques de Palermo, the shops of Palermo SOHO are named after the famous neighborhood in New York.

However, our taxi driver was quick to point out that mixed in with the German and English blood, Porteños also have Italian and Spanish ancestry. It is this factor, according to him, that has “kept us from becoming the most sophisticated city in the world”. Being a lazy Nicaraguan myself, I think not having lanes on the world’s largest avenida (9 de Julio) and starting your day at noon (and taking a mid-day break) are actually GOOD things, but I appreciated the quasi-humble nature of our taxi driver’s statement.

Back to our European comparisons. Like Paris, the city is divided into several neighborhoods. Actually, there are more than 50 official neighborhoods, but if you are a very dilligent tourist and, time allows it, you may be able to see the following: El Centro, Recoleta, San Telmo, La Boca, Puerta Madero, Palermo (split into sub neighborhoods called Palermo Chico, Palermo SOHO, Palermo Hollywood), and Retiro.

El Centro

The business district is like most other business disctricts in the world: active during the day and empty in the evenings. Avenida de Florida is a pedestrian street with street performers and shops that go on for miles. People watching is a recognized sport on this street.

Recoleta

A beautiful area of town with lots of architecturally significant homes and embassies. Some of the major art museums are located in this neighborhood, including this art lover’s favorite attraction in BsAs, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba).

San Telmo

San Telmo is the neighborhood that “once was”. During the yellow fever that hit the city over 100 years ago, the upperclass deserted their mansions and moved north. The poor moved in and, for some reason, decided to paint the buildings different colors. Naturally, tourists are drawn to this area because, “hey, they have yellow houses!” This is the Disneyland of Argentina. The painted houses may attract a lot of tourists, but the less-expensive rent has attracted some cutting edge galleries that are worth visiting.

Palermo

The city’s chicest area is divided into three areas: Palermo Chico, Palermo Hollywood and Palermo SOHO. The latter is where we spent most of our time and also where our “home in Argentina” was located. There aren’t a lot of museums and other tourist-related things to waste your time around here. You can concentrate on the important things in life: shopping, going out, eating and being chic. If you stick to this principle, you’ll be fine.

Avenida Florida

 

Walk up and down Florida avenue and check out the beautiful people – its no secret that the Argentines are an attractive breed. There are also some unusual street performers that you won’t see anywhere else in the world like the Chapulin Colorado pictured on the left. You may also spot a weird llama dressed like a clown.

Plaza Serrano

 

This is the epicenter where all nightlife in Palermo begins. It reminded me of Alfonso Martinez in Madrid. Fodor’s review.

Freud & Fahler

 

OMG!!!!! This is one of the best restaurants in the world! Very inventive cuisine. We ate here 3 times. Then, we questioned whether we should try other places. I lost the argument, so lucky for you, we have other restaurant recommendations. We recommend getting EVERYTHING on the menu at Freud & Fahler. I am getting sad writing this review. Fodor’s review.

Bar Uriarte

 

A very chic crowd and nice atmosphere. We recommend getting the fig appetizer. This was my second favorite place to eat (remember, Freud & Fahler is NUMERO 1). Website.

Chueca

This is a gay bar and all gay bars are the same. They had a very funny drag performer lip synching to a voiced-over I Love Lucy episode in Spanish – odd, but hillarious at the same time. Though there were some hotties at the bar, in this city the guys on the street are much hotter. I know, it is sad, but I would rather “date” the bums off the street than the dudes at the bar! But, I digress. The bar is cool and ended up being were we spent most of our nights out. Website.

Te Matare Ramirez

Puppets having sex on stage.
Nothing else needs to be said about this great dinner theatre. Website.

Desde el Alma

A reviewer on Fodor’s restaurant guide says he proposed to his wife here; The great food and lovely atmosphere shows the guy had good taste. This was my 3rd favorite restaurant. Fodor’s review.

Mark’s

 

This is a simple restaurant where chic Porteños go for a quick lunch. It always seems to be packed. As you can see in the photo above, I didn’t appreciate the wait. Fodor’s review.

Ona Saez

Versace meets Paul Smith meets Zara meets BsAs. Ona Saez is considered a high-end store, but you would expect to pay 5 times the price for the quality you are getting. This place was one of the best over all deals. Website.

Bensimon

The J. Crew of BsAs. Take that as you will. Sometimes you can find something cute at J. Crew (though it has been a while for me). I got a long-sleeved teacher featuring the lyrics to the Beatle’s Blackbird. That’s cool, right? And did I mention that the quality is so much better than what you would be getting for the same price in the US? Website.

Antique Denim

Adorable store for men’s clothing. Fodor’s review.

Calma Chicha

I can’t tell you why, but this place reminded me of the Gap. They sell leather products with a modern twist (READ: too much time on their hand). They have somewhat cool stuff that you would expect to see in the capital of the world’s largert beef producer, i.e. any cow product you can imagine. This latin diva did not appreciate the prices though. I was going to ask for a discount but then I decided I did not need the cowhide bib. I am only half recommending this place. If you are vegan, don’t even think about coming here. Website.

Materia Urbana

“Love it!” The lady behind the counter didn’t understand why I kept shouting, “I love it!”. I think it was either a “lost in translation” thing or she realized that I am crazy. I did most of my shopping here. The craftsmanship on the clothing is amazing and very hip. They also have books, art, jewelry, and furniture. All of it is cutting-edge flawless. PRADA PRADA PRADA! Website.

Appetite

 

I loved this place! The Scorpio in me prefers its sister gallery, Tanto Deseo, but for all you art intellectuals who like your art shocking and in-your-face, this is your place. I love my picture with fat Britney. Website.

Tanto Deseo

All of the contemporary art here is about sex. After the Malba, this was my favorite place in BsAs!!!!!!!!! MySpace page.

713 Arte

A great little gallery in San Telmo that is worth the visit. It is next door to Materia Urbana so you get to do two things in one trip. Website.

Mueso Evita

 

A gay man’s pilgrimage. It’s better than you think. I felt like I was visiting the Anne Frank house. Adam cried. Website.

Objeto

Cool clothing store. Website.

Braga Menendez Arte Contemporanea

 

Beautiful space, beautiful art. Plus, you have a reason to go to Palermo Hollywood! Did you know that Francis Ford Coppola has a studio in PH? No, seriously, I think Bjork has a place in PH too and THAT means it is cool. Website.

Elsi del Rio

The owner of this gallery showed us around and could not have been a more pleasent/charming guy. The works are great, but have him tell you his story about his Disney Religious statues showing up on TV. Coincidentally (or not), he supplied the artwork for my #1 restaurant, Freud & Fahler. Website.

Sitges

Another gay bar. We went too early, there was no one there at midnight. Everyone says it is the bomb, but only after 2AM. What can I say? We live in the US and are over 25, we can’t stay out that late. Website.

QARA

A great place to buy leather bags. Yes, you can buy good bags anywhere, but these seem to find a good balance between style, price and quality. Website.

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba)

This is latin america’s answer to the Tate Museum in London, the Hirshorn in Washington, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Menil in Houston, the MOMA in New York, etc. If you like any of those museums, this is the place for you. If you don’t like those places, go to the Museo de Bellas Artes. Website.

Balthazar

The epitome of a fine gentlemen’s boutique. If The Talented Mr. Ripley had been shot in BsAs, Jude Law’s character would have shopped here. Website.

Tips and Recommendations:

Tiping is less than in the US. The waiters and taxis are usually pleasently surprised by how we tip.

Prepare to walk a LOT! This is the 5th largest city in the world. Even with cheap taxis on every corner, you still end up walking a lot.

Bring sunscreen and a light jacket. The temperature seems to change throughout the day.

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