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A guide to Buenos Aires: What to do and where

Posted by on December 4, 2011
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It’s not easy to accumulate visitors on a trip that’s all about last-minute planning. Our friends have only a set number of vacation days and have to plan well in advance, but we often don’t know what we’re doing or where we’ll be even a week in advance.

Our seven-week stay in Buenos Aires was different. It was the longest we’d be staying in one place in the forseeable future, and we had an apartment and growing familiarity with the city from which our friends could mooch. And so last Thursday until this past Tuesday, our friend from New York, Shyema, came to visit.

Shyema has an eye for photo ops:


We had such an amazing time playing host and showing Shyema the best of off-the-beaten path Buenos. And in that time, it dawned on me just how much we’ve learned about the city and it also reinforced my love for sharing travel recs with friends.

We may not be experts, but if you find yourself in BsAs at any point, check out this list of our favorite spots.

RESTAURANTS

Steak
Overall… Don Saverio, formerly known as La Rosalia. A warm ambiance, kind waitstaff, great quality steak and the best provoleta (baked slab of cheese; look it up) all at an affordable price.

Makeshift Thanksgiving dinner at Don Saverio with Shyema:


For bife de chorizo… Parilla 22. According to Eaman, it’s the place for this particularly juicy cut.

For ambiance… La Leyenda. Though the steak isn’t as amazing as that found at the other parrillas, the atmosphere is the best, Try to sit inside, which resembles a grungy garage filled with futbol paraphernalia. Oh, and order the beef empanada. You can thank me later.

Italian:
Evita Cafe. Don’t shrug off this companion cafe to the Museo Evita as a bland tourist trap. It serves up some of the best homemade pasta in the city. On a warm night, sit out on the patio.

Pizza:
Pekin. Recommended by one of our taxi drivers, this low-key pizza spot blows the more famous pizzerias in the city out of the water. Their medium-thick crust strikes the perfect balance of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Try a portion, or one slice, of the fugazetta, a porteno pizza staple made of mozzarella and onions. After a night of partying, head back for empanadas…and more pizza.

Sandwiches and Salads:
Baraka. This Middle Eastern-inspired cafe has plenty of fresh food — definitely try the smoothies — to balance out all that indulgent eating. Bonus points for its very Zen menu:


BAKERIES

Pani. In a city of girly coffee shops, no one does it like Pani. It has a romantic design with plenty of pastels, and an amazingly sweet staff to boot. (When we were looking for apartments, they let us use their landline and offered translation help!) The extensive menu offers tons of pastries, coffee and, unlike many places in BsAs, a lot of tea options as well.

Pani:


La Salamandra. A cafe and mozzarella bar that won’t drive the boys away. They don’t do flowers, pink or shabby chic interiors. What it does do is flaky croissants, the best cafe con leche in the city and a refillable spoon of dulce de leche. Like from a squeeze bottle. If you want something heartier, try the banana, dulce de leche and milk smoothie. If you want something healthier (why?), try the caprese sandwich for lunch.


Prospero Velazco. Upon first glance, this place has a neat row of alfajores, muffins, croissants and other pastries in a sleek setting. They’re reason enough to go. But peek into the adjacent room, and you’ll find rows of beautiful cake slices. We actually ordered so much that they gave us a free pastry on our way out. Que bueno!

Pierina. This tea house is like a Pani for a 20-something and her mom. The cafe con leches come in giant bowls with a shot of sparking water in pretty, antique-looking glasses.

Pierina with carrot cake, macarons, cappuccinos, a croissant, an espresso and a Shyema:


NIGHTLIFE (I’m not big on the huge club dance scene, so this is clearly one version of nightlife in BsAs)

Bomba de Tiempo. This live percussion concert will remain one of my favorite travel memories of all time. It takes place every Monday at a funky space on a nondescript street. It’s one big, hot, sweaty, wickedly fun drum circle bash.


La Viruta. The tango show plus dinner combo is the epitome of gauche tourism here. But this club, however, is a gem–and a favorite with locals. Head over on a Friday night for a tango lesson, people-watching and a phenomenal show put on by pros. Stick around until 4:30am and you’ll see patrons switching over from vino to cafes and croissants.

La Cathedral. Another tango spot, but one that has a more classic, older feel. If you want something different, go on Monday at midnight for a tango concert.


Congo. A fun, spacious bar with an outdoor, beergarden-style backyard. It’s where portenos start their night before hitting the clubs at 2 or 3am. I still don’t know where they get their energy.

Post. It’s cheap, decorated with tons of stencil graffiti and features a chill rooftop. Plus, the second floor houses an art gallery if you want some culture with that beer.


ACTIVITIES

Recoleta market. A far cry from the tourist-laden San Telmo market, this huge fair features fashion, food, crafts and darling souvenirs. Spend the day shopping and walking around and then head to the…

Recoleta cemetary. This is one of BsAs’ few tourist sites and the only one worth going to, IMHO. Buried in the tombs are presidents, doctors and, of course, Eva Perron. It’s beautiful, creepy…and free to enter!

El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore. An expansive bookstore housed in a gorgeous old theater. Most of the books are in Spanish, but you’ll be too busy gawking at the beautiful architecture or settling in with your own book at its cute cafe to notice.

A futbol match. Whether it’s a club team, the national team or a match with the famed Boca Juniors, just go. The energy and passion in the stadium is unparalled.


DAY TRIPS

Colonia, Uruguay. Take the one-hour (or three-hour if you want to save money) Buquebus ferry to this old Portugese settlement for a getaway from city life. There isn’t much to see per se, but the relaxation and seaside views are reason enough to go. Tour the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, eat lunch in the downtown area, rent bikes and ride by the shiny blue water.

Let us know if there’s something else you would add to the list!

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6 Responses to A guide to Buenos Aires: What to do and where

  1. Summar

    Haha, I love that I recognize some of these places from some fact-checking I did in a past life (oh, BT) on milongas in BA. Now that I have your thumbs up though, I know it has to be good!

  2. Shy

    You pretty much summed up EVERYTHING!! I still crave so much of the food there!

  3. Natalie T.

    I have heard great things about Bomba de Tiempo. Thanks for the rec!

    • Archana

      Bomba was maybe our favorite memory from Buenos Aires. And maybe my favorite music event ever. Thanks for reading!

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