Buenos Aires is a city that needs little introduction. A dizzying mix of culture, dance, street art and history, a visit to Argentina’s capital is sure to leave you buzzing with excitement and enchanted by its storied streets.
A city bursting with South American flair at every turn, I defy you not to fall in love with this upbeat, friendly and vibrant part of the world. I could wax lyrical all day about the joys of Argentina, in fact I have a whole series planned on this very topic, but first up, here’s my guide to exploring Buenos Aires’ most enchanting neighbourhood.
Where to stay
The prettiest and most popular of all Buenos Aires’ neighbourhoods is undoubtedly Palermo. Situated in the northeast of the city, this hip barrio is split into eight distinct subdivisions, each with their own individual vibe. Most of the action happens in Palermo Soho, a fashionable district boasting a crop of arthouse cafes, designer boutiques and lively bars, where people spill into the streets and the nightlife continues until the early hours. Buenos Aires is famous for its party atmosphere, and you’ll find yourself swaying to its eclectic soundtrack of live beats, friendly chatter and low hum of scooters, beer in hand.
By day, lose yourself in the city’s network of tree-lined streets as you wander past rickety townhouses replete with intricate wrought iron balconies, some of which house luxury boutique hotels. We stayed in the Vain Boutique, a small, charming pad on a quiet street, with a sun-dappled terrace and a Jacuzzi for warmer evenings. Rooms were spacious and clean with many looking out over the pretty courtyard area, and a delicious breakfast was served each morning, with an assortment of pastries, breads and eggs cooked to order.
Where to eat
Argentina is synonymous with steak and red wine, and there’s nowhere better to dine on the country’s most famous export than at Don Julio in the Palermo district. From its elegant green-and-white striped canopy, to its top-notch service, and menu of juicy cuts of meat paired with full-bodied red wines, this upscale parilla is an experience unto itself. While they do take walk-ins it’s worth booking ahead to avoid disappointment, or get there early for the best chance of nabbing a coveted spot on the sidewalk (Argentinian’s tend to eat at 9pm so often restaurants are able to accommodate early birds). Staff are on hand to dole out glasses of sparkling wine and keep you topped up with snacks while you wait, so the time will fly!
Sushi may not be high on your list when it comes to dining out in Buenos Aires, but book a table at upscale Japenese eatery Osaka, and you’ll be very glad you did. Situated on a main road in busy Palermo Soho, step through the bamboo-clad doors of Osaka and you’ll be transported into a slick space with dim lighting and an open kitchen where chefs assemble intricate dishes with hypnotic skill. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you’d been transported to a futuristic Tokyo. Order a platter of your favourite sashimi or nigiri, and watch the experts at work as you sip a chilled glass of Torontes.
A small rooftop cafe-cum-bakery with a friendly atmosphere and a mouthwatering menu of traditional Argentinian eats, this place is something of a well-kept secret. Dotted with ramshackle wooden tables and with vintage-style prints covering the walls, it’s a cosy spot to while away a few hours. Order a refreshing jug of lemonade loaded with fresh mint, and a Milanesa (a huge veal sandwich topped with salad and cheese) and watch the world go by.
DUCA is a trendy coffee shop that wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch – thanks to its plates of avocado on toast, millennial pink interior, and bearded baristas. Nestled in a quiet side street in Palermo Soho, it’s a great place for a caffeine pitstop, a late breakfast to fuel you up for a day of exploring or a cure-all for a red-wine induced hangover.
Where to shop
There are a whole host of designer boutiques in Palermo, from Dolce & Gabbana to Louis Vuitton and Birkenstock to Adidas but import taxes are high, so you won’t have much luck if you’re after a bargain. Your best bet is to hunt for some local treasures instead. There’s a huge outdoor market spanning several blocks in Palermo Soho where you can pick up crafts, clothing and souvenirs, safe in the knowledge that you’re supporting local entrepreneurs.
What to see and do
Aside from eating and drinking your way through the area (which I highly recommend), there are plenty of other attractions to keep you entertained during your stay. I’d advise booking a city tour to get a local’s perspective, and venture into other areas of the city (more on this in a later blog) but if you’re wandering the neighbourhood solo, a fun way to spend your day is at the rose garden and eco parque.
This former zoo is located just steps from the main bus terminal and while it may not be a working zoo anymore, there’s still plenty of wildlife around. Best of all, it’s free to enter. Spot Patagonia hares, peacocks and more as you stroll through the picturesque parkland. A little further through the park sits a beautiful rose garden, bursting with colourful flora and a glistening lake where people gather to sunbathe, picnic or hire a pedalo and explore under their own steam. It’s a lovely spot to while away a few hours, especially if the sun is shining.
For those of you who favour the art landscape, you’ll get your fix of grit with the city’s patchwork of street art adorning every corner. From politically-charged paintings to rainbow-hued mirages, Palermo is peppered with gallery-worthy works of art that are so detailed you can hardly believe they’re created using cans of spray paint. Stop to snap pictures as you pass, just be sure to dodge budding Instagram influencers using the colourful walls as their own personal green screen.
When to go
With the city’s sticky summer season starting in December, my advice is to avoid heatwaves and crowds by visiting in the shoulder seasons – March-May or September-November. If you don’t mind missing out on balmy days, the winter months of July and August are also much cooler and less crowded.
How to get there
British Airways offers direct flights to Buenos Aires from London daily, taking around eleven hours, so it couldn’t be easier to take a trip.