Buenos Aires, the chic capital of Argentina, often called ‘Paris’ of South Amercia. Now more available than ever, with more long distance flights at reasonable prices. Hippi Grace joined the young Norwegian, Vilde Holmboe Mortensen, who has been living and studying in Buenos Aires, for a guided tour to chic SAN TELMO and PALERMO. Be inspired to plan for a visit to Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires is one of the biggest metropolitan areas in South America, and the city offers countless opportunities for the adventure-seeking tourist. Full of interesting history and culture, breathtaking architecture, and affordable nightlife and gastronomy, I promise you that in the streets of Buenos Aires, you will never be bored.
Because of the size of the city, it might be useful to organize your days according to the different neighborhoods. Buenos Aires is divided into 48 distinct and interesting “Barrios” (the Spanish word for neighborhood). In other words, the opportunities are many and it can be hard to choose where to go, and what to see. This guide will attempt to make your decisions easier by taking you through some of the best barrios in Buenos Aires, and give you advices of what to see, where to eat and drink, and where to shop! So, buy your ticket, pack your bags and start your adventure through the streets of pulsating and passionate Buenos Aires.
San Telmo is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Take a walk through the picturesque streets, filled with beautiful old buildings, street art, small shops and countless restaurants and cafés, and find your own favorite spot.
WHAT TO SEE
Start your walk towards San Telmo from Plaza de Mayo, which is officially located in the barrio Montserrat. Here you will have the opportunity to see Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, and be able to see the historic, and still present, meeting place of “Las Madres Plaza de Mayo”, a human rights organization founded during military dictatorship. The organization first had the goal to find the men, women and children that went missing during the years of the dictatorship, and after the democratic transition, making sure that those responsible for the kidnappings were held accountable. Still today, they meet every Thursday at 15:30 to march around plaza the Mayo, to remind us that there still are unanswered questions and individuals not accounted for. You can also see the historic building Cabildo de Buenos Aires, which was used for political purposes during the colonial times.
Continue down the street Defensa, where you will have the view of several amazing buildings and churches on your walk towards San Telmo. For the museum lovers, take left in the street Moreno and you will find the J.B Ambrosetti Ethnographic Museum, located in an elegant house from 1874. Here they have an archeological collection of objects from the north-west and south of Argentina, and a guided tour can give you interesting knowledge about the cultural heritage and the ethnical development in Argentina. If you are not a museum enthusiast, continue down the street Defensa. Although the streets are narrow and walking on the old bricks can be challenging, do not forget to look up. Because if you forget, you will miss the sight of incredible buildings, sculptures, terraces and rooftops. Take some detours as you pass streets that look interesting. It is a lot to see! For example, the small passages San Lorenzo and Doctor Jose Giuffra are quiet streets with colonial buildings and impressive street art.
After a while, you will arrive at Plaza de Dorrego. During the weekends this plaza is always full of life. Here you can sit down for a snack or a beer, take a look at the variety of handcrafts often sold in the stalls, or if you are lucky, sit down to enjoy the view of some seriously talented dancers showing their moves. Yes, you guessed correctly, they will be dancing tango! When you have finished your snack, continue down Defensa. In just a few hundred meters you will pass Pasaje de la Defensa (Defensa 1179), an old historic building worth stopping for. Inside the passage you will find various small shops, selling everything from wine to antiques. Some days, you can also see some tango dancer taking advantage of the space on the second floor. If you still have some energy left, head towards the two well-known art museums of San Telmo, MAMBA (Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires) and MACBA (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Buenos Aires), located next to each other in the street San Juan. If you are more of a history lover than an art enthusiast, continue down Defensa a few blocks more, and you will arrive Museo Histórico Nacional (Defensa 1600). From Wednesday to Friday at 12:00 they have a tour in English. The tour is free, while the entrance is 20 pesos (less than 2 dollars).
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN SAN TELMO
If you want a quick snack, the go-to food of Argentina is empanadas (tasty pastries, filled with meat or other delicious ingredients). You cannot leave the country without trying them! You can find them on every corner; however, I would recommend you to hunt down the really good ones. One of my favorite places is the classic El Gauchito (Independencia 414). Try carne de cuchillo (meat boiled soft in a mix of spices and tomato) or humita (a mix of corn, cheese and sautéed onion). They also have good empanadas in one of the food stalls in Mercado de San Telmo (Bolívar 970). Here you will find many other good options for lunch, such as Je Suis Raclette (Swiss food), Saigon (Vietnamese food) or La Fabrica de Taco (Argentinian styled tacos). You can also try a typical Argentinian Choripan (a chorizo sausage in bread, often accompanied by a tasty spice mix called chimichurri) in the small, but popular Nuestra Parilla.
Mercado de San Telmo: People waiting for their empanadas at one of the food stands inside the market.
If you are eager to try some of the famous Argentinian beef, head for what the Argentinians call a Parrilla. La Brigada (Estados Unidos 465) is known for its quality meat, and is a good option for the ones who search the “spoon-tender” steak. If you want a cheaper option, Desnivel (Defensa 855) is a good alternative. To try the arguably best burger in San Telmo, go to El Banco Rojo (Bolivar 866). This place offers a variation of burgers, tacos and other dishes (also vegetarian), and is very popular among the locals. If you are in mood for something different, try Bar Chin Chin (Estados Unidos 490). They have some of the best craft beer of Buenos Aires, and also a delicious menu. If you are up for classic Argentinian food, such as milanesa (similar to a schnitzel) or pasta, try the picturesque La Poesía (Chile 502). If you want a special eating experience, head to the Italian inspired Napóles (Avenida Caseros 449). The restaurant is located in a stunning building full of beautiful objects and antiques, which can make you feel like you are having your dinner in a museum.
As craft beer has become a huge trend in Argentina, San Telmo is packed with small breweries or bars serving great varieties of craft beer. If you are one of the beer-lovers, head to Bierlife (Humberto primo 670). The bar is often crowded during the happy-hour, and that with good reason. With a selection of dishes based on beer and more than 40 types to try out, you will never be bored. If you want something a bit fancier, but still calm and cozy, head to Café Rivas. They are known for good cocktails, have several good vines to choose from and have a live band or pianist playing on the upper floor at some occasions. If you are not a beer-fan, nor up for the fancy Rivas, do not panic! Just head to the nearest restaurant or bar that seems inviting, and order a bottle of red wine. Argentina’s wine industry did not become famous for no reason, and I promise you that with a glass of brilliant red wine in your hand, it will be hard not to enjoy the evening
WHERE TO SHOP I SAN TELMO
San Telmo does not have any shopping malls or big chain-stores, but instead small, unique boutiques giving the visitor the opportunity to see what Argentinian fashion has to offer. The neighborhood is also famous for its many antiques shops, so if you are searching for a one-of-a-kind souvenir, this is the place to go. On Sundays there is a weekly marked, Feria de San Telmo, when the Defensa street will be filled with shopping stands selling souvenirs, leather products, antiques, fashion, jewelry and other crafts. This is also a great day to experience Argentinian music and dance, as there are street performances on almost every street corner. On the corner of Defensa and Mexico sit down and enjoy a choripan while listening to an Argentinian rock band. Watch an older man sing tango and milonga-classics outside the San Telmo-Market, or sit down to see a couple swing to the rhythms of tango on Plaza de Dorrego. On a Sunday the opportunities are countless. If your still find yourself being in the San Telmo area when the market starts packing down around six o’clock, stick around and watch the San Telmo drummers march the streets. It will be African rhythms, drinking, dancing and general buena onda (the Spanish word for good vibes.)
Palermo is the biggest of the 48 barrios in Buenos Aires, and one of the areas that attract most tourist, with good reason. The area is packed with pretty houses, good restaurants, cool bars, huge parks and unique stores. So, put on your boots and get ready for a whole day in charming Palermo.
Yerba Mate: Do as the Argentinians. Bring your thermos and have some mate in the park!
WHAT TO SEE IN PALERMO
Walking around in Palermo’s streets, full of colors and street art, is in itself a destination. You can probably spend a few hours just trolling around, so make sure to wear good shoes and bring your camera. Walking around in the streets here is great, but it is also worth experiencing some of the great parks Palermo can offer. Head first to Jardin Botánico (Av. Santa Fe 3151). Here you can learn about plants from all over the world, or just enjoy the view of huge trees, colorful flowers, beautiful plants and also many nice sculptures. If you would like to see more parks, make sure not to miss Paseo Rosedal (Av. Infanta Isabel). This is a fantastic garden filled with colorful roses and impressive sculptures. Sit down, take a breath and enjoy the view. If you look around, you will soon realize that all the locals are carrying thermoses and are drinking something through metal straws from round shaped cups. This is the popular mate, a type of tea made from the plant yerba mate. This is more or less the national drink of Argentina, and the locals hardly ever leaves the house without bringing it. If you are curios, why not get in touch with some locals and try it!
Jardín Botánico in Palermo is full of sculptures and fountains
If you want to learn more about Argentinian political history and culture, head to Museo Evita (Lafinur 2988). Order a guided tour so you can learn about Eva Perón, the woman who was born in poverty and ended up as the first lady of Argentina. For many of us, Evita is a familiar character because of the musical Evita, starring Madonna. However, this museum will give you a greater picture of who this character really was, and not what Hollywood made her into. What is great about this museum is that it is not only for the history-interested. The building in itself is worth a visit because of the impressive architecture, and the museum’s impressive collection of Eva’s luxury dresses make it an attractive destination for any fashion-lover. For more museums, stop at MALBA, the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires (Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415). They have a great collection of 20-century Latin American art, which will give you a good impression of what the continent has to offer an art-enthusiast.
Museo de Evita has a beautiful Andalusian patio in the center of the museum building
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN PALERMO
Palermo is packed with good restaurants and bars. If you are looking for a place to sit down for a coffee and something light to eat, enter Paul French Gallery (Gorriti 4865). Here, a beautiful passage full of flowers and plants will bring you to a café and an interior design store, which will make it possible combining the coffee drinking with some shopping. For a steak dinner, head to the parrilla Don Julio (Guatemala 4699), which offers great quality meat and good service. If you want a cheaper alternative, go to either Las Cabras (Fitz Roy 1795) or La Hormiga (Armenia 1680) and order a “Gran Bife” (Grilled chorizo steak with egg, fries, provoleta cheese, mashed pumpkin and grilled peppers). These two restaurants have the same owner, and therefore more or less the same menu and quality. They have a big menu with many options, making them a great choice to avoid arguing within the group when someone wants tacos, while others want something completely different. For brunch, visit Salvaje Bakery ( Av. Dorrego, 1829), which offers some of the better coffee of Buenos Aires, and also a killer brunch. For some juicy burgers, head to Burger Joint (Jorge Luis Borges 1766), which is popular among both tourists and locals.
The colorful passage leading into Paul French Bakery
Palermo, as San Telmo, is also packed with small breweries and bars, which offer a great variety of craft beer. Growlers – Comunidad Cervecera (Gurruchaga 1450) has many varieties of tasty craft beer, and can offer delicious burgers. If you are in mood for some cocktails enter Victoria Brown (Costa Rica 4803), which is a café during daytime while a secret bar at night. Do not hesitate to enter. The bar is as cool on the inside, as it looks like from the outside! For those who are sick of the classic cocktails and want to try something new and exiting, go to BrukBar (Fray Justo Sta. María de Oro 1801). This bar is run by Argentinians who used to work at the Norwegian bar BrukBar in Bergen, and when returning to Buenos Aires, chose to open the same bar here. They offer a good variety of drinks, some Norwegian-inspired food and a lovely mural of Bryggen (Bergen) in their backyard.
The entrance of Victoria Brown
WHERE TO SHOP IN PALERMO
In Palermo it is an uncountable amount of small and big fashion stores, in all price ranges. Just walk around and discover one exiting store after the other. On weekends you can find many temptations in the markets that appear on both Plaza Armenia and Plaza Serrano. For the more serious shopper, a quick look in the outside shopping mall Districto Arcos (Paraguay 4979) might easily result in a heavy loaded return luggage. Here you will find the cool, bohemian-styled Rapsodia, which is my personal favorite. What is great with this shopping mall is that when you and your credit card run out of energy, you can sit down at one of the eating stalls and enjoy some food or an ice cream in the open air.
Three general tips that will help you have the best time in Buenos Aires
Remember, Buenos Aires is a huge city with countless of opportunities. This was just an introduction to what you can do in three of the 48 barrios of Argentina’s capital. So, if you have the time, continue discovering the other areas, and you will find so many more interesting and unique places. This small guide to Buenos Aires will leave you with three additional advises that will help you have a great time in the city:
- Check the official calendar: Buenos Aires is a city where it is always happening something special! Enter the government website https://disfrutemosba.buenosaires.gob.ar/, and check what is happening the days you are visiting the city. There are always many things going on, like festivals, performances, markets or other activities.
- Take care of your belongings: As all other big cities, being a responsible tourist means looking after your stuff. Therefore, do not carry your expensive camera around your neck, and use a purse you easily can control. I like to use Hippi Grace crossover bags, so I feel secure that no one will snatch it. Hippi Grace 3in1 works great when I am just bringing my small camera and wallet, while Madrid is my go-to bag when I am going shopping and need some more space. I just love that I can put on the cross-over strap, making the purses both comfy and more practical for the city, while they still look smashing!
- Eat ice cream: I mean it. Do not forget to stop by a heladería while you stay in Buenos Aires. The tradition of making great ice cream was one of the talents the Italians immigrants brought to Argentina during the immigration flow in the 19 and 20 century. I must say, the ice cream is just wonderful. My favorite heladería is El Fundador, which you will find it three different places in the city. Another famous ice cream spot is Rapanui, which has several stores around in Buenos Aires. In addition to the delicious ice cream, make sure to order Franui, which is gorgeous raspberries, covered first in a layer of white chocolate and then another layer of milk chocolate.
LAST WORDS OF WISDOM
Shop, eat, drink, dance, discover and enjoy Buenos Aires until your feet are tired, your belly full, your wallet empty, and it is hasta la vista!
…..At least until next time!
Vilde Holmboe Mortensen