The Porteños (locals of Buenos Aires) are happy to share their culturally diverse, hot mess of a city with all who enter the threshold. My advice to you would be to try and revert back to 7th grade Beginner (or perhaps even intermediate, and dare I say advanced) Spanish class. Locals appreciate those who at least attempt to speak their language. Take it from Sarah Palin who, when discussing immigrants in the U.S., said that if you’re in America, you should speak American. Well, I don’t know what else you do with that (other than put your head in your hands) but run with it and apply it elsewhere…?
Friend Haley Cohen of The Economist interviewing presidential candidate Daniel Scioli in BsAs
Speaking of politics, Argentina is days away from electing a new President. The country will face a run-off election next month after neither presidential candidate gained enough votes to win the poll last week. With political tensions high amid a definite change in the air, all of my favorite activities, restaurants, and vinos remain the same. Read on for more.
Chances are you and your significant other are landing before the hours of 9am. Customs and Immigration at Ezeiza International Airport can be a bitch, but like anything else, sometimes you get lucky. No lines? Let’s hope so! Get a remise (step up from a taxi) at Ground Transportation and head into Palermo (Soho & Hollywood) to soak up all the action. Try and fight the urge to lay down because napping on Day 1 is a no no. Must.fight.jetlag. BsAs is only an hour ahead of the east coast. Depending on where you reside, jet lag may not be a great excuse for why your eye lids are at half-mast.
Leisurely activities include walking the streets of Palermo and basking it the cafe life for lunch. It’s perfectly acceptable to order a bottle of wine with your bife de lomo (steak). The best seat in city resides at my favorite steak house, Don Julio. And for the love of God, don’t forget the empanadas.
Afterwards, feel free to walk it all off by visiting those who’ve gone before us in the Recoleta Cemetery, a few barrios (neighborhoods) from Palermo. A grave site may not seem high on your list for sightseeing options, but rest assured – a walk through these halls will have you experiencing the lifestyles of the rich and the famous…and remembering your recent vows. ‘Til death do us part, right? Once you’ve had enough, walk through the beautiful streets of Recoleta filled with European architecture and glamour. Head to my favorite boutique for quality Argentine leather and home goods at Arandú.
If you’re still standing, there’s a Friday night pre-party that’ll get you in the Argentine spirit. Viernes Pre at The Clubhouse in Palermo Soho never fails. Try the Basil Baby or one of their many delectable cocktails. Another pre-party option that’ll assure you hang with some locals can be found by downloading an app called Previando. My good friend Fernando Caldi created the app that launched only three months ago and has been connecting young, party-savvy locals and foreigners ever since. Thanks for bringing us all together, Fer!
Puerto Madero is waiting. Situated on the water, this area of town is a ritzy neighborhood somehow seemingly isolated from the rest of the city, at least in my opinion. Dine at fancy restaurants overlooking the port. Top off the afternoon with a massage at the Faena Hotel or a glass(es) of malbec at the bar. Their sultry Tango Show doesn’t disappoint, either. If you’d rather be outdoors, take a lesson in history around Plaza San Martín and la Casa Rosada, the office of the President. Not a history buff? Grab a blanket, a bottle of Torrontés, and bask together in the Bosques (parks) de Palermo.
I’ll tell you right now. You can skip La Boca. The haters will probably come out of the woodworks after reading that, but I found the barrio a bit (read: a lot) underwhelming with all the signs and more of a giant tourist trap. Sure the writing is on the wall – history exists, but so do a lot of scams, pickpocketers, and even ignorant bikers looking for a mochila (backpack) to steal. While we’re on options to be skipped, Calle Florida can be added to the list.
Sunday is my favorite day in Buenos Aires. I immediately feel more at ease as the whole city typically spends the day with family in the campo (ranches in outskirt regions) or doing some alternate leisurely activity. Like Lionel Richie once said, keep it easy like Sunday mornin’. Take in a long brunch at Four Seasons’ Elena Restaurant. Then head to the Fería de San Telmo (fair) full of antiques, art, take-home gifts, and amazing people watching. Bring pesos with you as many stands won’t have credit card machines. San Telmo is the oldest part of the city with cobble stone streets, fading architecture and an all around romantic vibe. Want even more action? Forget taking it easy. If you’re a sports fan and want to be one with the locals, do like the Argentines and attend a fútbol or polo match. Nothing captures the romance quite like the chant “Vamos, vamos Argentina…”
For more on what to do in Buenos Aires, see my full guide here.