Buenos Aires

Palermo Soho

Palermo Sidewalk

A sidewalk in Palermo Soho

After reading a fair amount about the neighborhoods in Buenos Aires we settled on staying in Palermo Soho (interchangeably called Palermo Viejo). There are a bunch of great boutique hotels that are scattered throughout both Palermo Soho and the neighboring Palermo Hollywood, and after our usual over-extensive Tripadvisor trolling we settled on the Craft Hotel, which we’d highly recommend, with the caveat that you shouldn’t stay at a place like the Craft hotel looking for large and extravagantly furnished rooms and/or a long and very quiet night’s sleep. The upside of the street noise is the awesome location, there are at least four great sidewalk cafes and rooftop bars within a block. Strolling the streets, drinking at the cafes, and eating at the restaurants of Palermo Soho was the highlight of our time in Buenos Aires. Although there are bars, restaurants and shops sprinkled throughout Palermo Soho, the highest density is in the blocks between and around Plaza Serrano and Plaza Palermo Viejo.

Palermo Soho Cafes

Two cafes adjacant to Plaza Palermo Viejo

Craft Hotel

Craft Hotel in Palermo Soho

El Preferido de Palermo

El Preferido de Palermo in Palermo Soho

Palermo Soho Street Sceen

Typical side street in Palermo Soho

Typical Palermo architecture

Typical Architecture in Palermo Soho

Palermo Hollywood

This neighborhood adjacent to Palermo Soho, is just across a set of trains tracks. We only wandered over here once, and it seems as though it shares a similar feel to Soho, and is perhaps more “up and coming.” Unfortunately, the train tracks and the nearby areas in both neighborhoods looked a little rough around the edges, and we didn’t really feel super comfortable walking across the tracks at night so we ended up spending most of our time in Soho.

San Telmo

Defensa in San Telmo

Defensa, one of the central streets in San Telmo

Reading about Buenos Aires it became quickly clear that San Telmo was another neighborhood to check out, so we took the Subte (the subway/metro system in Buenos Aires) over there on our second day in the city. After a bit of wandering around and getting lost we managed to get our bearings and found Defensa, the principle street running through San Telmo which many of the restaurants and businesses are located on. We ate lunch at a nice french place, Brasserie Petanque, then wandered down to Plaza Dorrego. We thought that San Telmo was a pretty interesting neighborhood with some cool architecture and good restaurants. Plaza Dorrego surprised us as being somewhat touristy (more so than anything we ran across in Palermo Soho). Also, although Defensa and the neighboring few blocks were nice, the outlying streets were narrow, treeless, and a maybe a tad bleak. Overall, we thought that San Telmo was a Buenos Aires “must-see” but we were glad that we were staying in Palermo Soho instead.

Balcony in San Telmo

Typical Architecture in San Telmo

Brasserie Petanque

Brasserie Petanque in San Telmo

Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Belén

Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Belén in San Telmo

Recoleta

Recoleta Street Sceen

Typical side street in Recoleta

Another neighborhood on our “to see” list was Recoleta, home to the Cementerio de la Recoleta and seemed like the “Upper East Side” of Buenos Aires. On our third day we took the subway over to wander around. First we went to the Cemetery, which was a fascinating place. The scale and detail of the mausoleums is pretty amazing — there is no doubt that the wealth in Buenos Aires in the 1800 and 1900s was on the scale of New York or Paris. Despite all of this though, our favorite aspect of the Cemetery was the freely roaming cats throughout. This is where we got our amazing idea for the “Cats of Buenos Aires” calendar. Afterwords we stopped at the nearby La Biela cafe for our afternoon drinks and snacks. Similar to Palermo Soho, we found that the streets of Recoleta were quiet and tree lined, and in fact noticeably a bit cleaner and better kept than those in Palermo. Recoleta seems like it would be a pretty good place to stay, especially for those who are less enticed by the youthful energy (and bars) of Palermo.

Recoleta Cementerio

Some of the elaborate mausoleums in the Recoleta Cementerio

Recoleta Cementerio Cat

One of the many cats in the Recoleta Cementerio

La Biela

Afternoon refreshment at La Biela in Recoleta

Practical Stuff

  • We had heard there were limits on ATM withdrawals/problems getting change prior to visiting Argentina. We didn’t really have issues with withdrawing larger amounts and getting change most places, although we tried to break “big” 100 peso bills strategically and the subway had a sign up saying they couldn’t take large bills.
  • The only time we took taxis was to and from the airport. In many guidebooks it seems like the taxis are highlighted as the way to get around, and they were cheap compared to the US; however, we found the Subte (at least during the daylight hours) to be a great choice for getting around. The price was right, 1.10 pesos (around .30 cents) a ride, and traffic wasn’t an issue. The cars aren’t air conditioned, and they got pretty crowded during rush hours, but the Subte system seemed safe and pretty convenient.
  • We generally felt pretty safe when walking around the city. It felt very similar to a European city like Barcelona. As with any big city, there were some areas that were probably better to avoid (we followed what our guidebook suggested on this), but in general the areas we visited seemed comfortably traversable.

Restaurants

We ate at some great restaurants in Buenos Aires. La Cabrera was our first dinner in Buenos Aires and gave us a great first impression of dining in Argentina. Despite being thoroughly “discovered” (we had the pleasure of being seated next to a couple of tables full of stereotypical Long Islanders) it was still one of the best steaks we ate in Argentina. The array of creative small sides dishes that were also included really made this a great meal. The absolute best steaks we had in Argentina were at Lo de Jesus, which is only about four blocks away from La Cabrera. The crowd is mellower, but the prices were a bit higher (though a generous beef tenderloin is still only about $15 USD). Another cool place we ate at in Palermo Soho was El Preferido de Palermo (noted in a recent NYT piece). It’s essentially a neighborhood deli that has been in that location for nearly 60 years.

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Why Argentina?

After seeing article after article about how Buenos Aires was the next great new city — cheap, vibrant, and with a classic European feel — and jointly deciding that seeing penguins would be just darn cool, we ended up on a plane to South American. This seemed like a trip deep into South America and frankly struck both of us as kinda exotic. The novelty of reaching nearly 55 degrees latitude in the southern hemisphere, which is about as far as you can go on a continent without going to Antarctica, was perhaps a bit of a pull as well. After weighing all the possible places to see in Argentina we finally ended up deciding to divide our time between Buenos Aires and Patagonia so our itinerary for the trip was as follows:

December 28th-January 2nd: Buenos Aires
January 2nd-January 5th: El Calafate
January 5th-January 8th: Torres del Paine
January 8th-January 12th: Ushuaia

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