For the 20 or so flights that I was on in 2017, none of them took me over country borders, making it almost two years since I had taken an international vacation. The last trip was to Japan to visit my sister while she was living there and right before I started my new job, so about the middle of last year I began itching to book my next long getaway.
I always lean towards Europe when initially considering a big vacation; it’s just so familiar and easy, with still more things to see. But ever being in the mindset to try new things, I started considering other locations. Argentina and Buenos Aires had been on my list a long time (I decided it needed to be its own trip when booking my trip to Brazil), so when I mentioned it to one of my best friends who I have traveled a lot with, and she said it was on the top of here list and she would go with me, it was on!
Over many glasses of Malbec we did some research and planning and landed on Buenos Aires and Patagonia. The trip was really amazing with each location different and special in its own way that I’ll give a post to each!
So. Buenos Aires…
I had heard mixed reviews – tourists didn’t love it, but my friends who had lived there raved about it. I ended up being somewhere in the middle. It’s big, it’s dirty, and the sidewalks will trip you, but the people are lovely, the architecture and vibe very European and the lifestyle pretty laid back. It was fun being in a city that does the late dinners, is closed Sundays and has a distinctive culture.
We had 4 days in the city before going down to Patagonia, and another two on the tail end of the trip, which ended up being a bit too much time, but it worked out to make our vacation a real vacation. We didn’t have to cram too much into any one day and were able to relax quite a bit. It was so hot (86F) and humid (65%) that we ended up touring in the mornings, stopping for beers with lunch, then returning for a poolside siesta before venturing back out in the evening.
Our first stay was in a cool modern hotel in Palermo, which is vibrant part of town with lots of nightlife and young people. We did some day touring from here and did a cooking class too (awesome experience deserving of its own post), which was great. Definitely had more of a residential vibe during the day, which I quite enjoyed.
The last two nights, we sprung for a 5 start palatial environment named none other than the Alvear Palace. We sat in the lap of luxury, and got to enjoy a second part of town. Even though they didn’t have pool like the first hotel, they did have a rooftop deck for lounging around and getting my summer color in the middle of February.
I loved walking the streets, seeing the different neighborhoods and tasting all the food. We ended up eating early (7:30/8:00pm) because it felt much more normal to us and left us not feeling gross in the morning. In reality this allowed us to enjoy happy hour specials and get into most places before the crowds, so really winning all around.
Below are some of my favorites and must see’s as well as some thoughts on the more traditional stops. The one thing I really wish we had done was go on a tour of some kind. We had fully intended it, but when it came down to days/timing we somehow missed them all.
Also, I know it sounds crazy but this would be a very doable long weekend. Both directions were red-eyes, meaning you could leave the US at 5:45 on a Wednesday night, only take two week days off, and be back to work by 10am on Monday morning, if you get the short layovers. By the time we got to Sunday, we felt like we had seen and done so much, it would be totally worth it!
Ilum Experience Hotel – Great modern hotel in Palermo, complete with a pool and our own little balcony. Close to many restaurants and bars, the neighborhood was very popular on the weekend nights.
Alvear Palace Hotel – This one was old school and very grand in Recoleta. Near the Recoleta Cemetery and easy walking to many things. A tad far from the subway, but I’m pretty sure most people who stay there don’t take the subway. They have a GORGEOUS breakfast area and orangerie for tea, both meals were top notch. We had leisurely breakfasts both days and came back for Sunday tea (which starts at 5pm) before our departing flight at 10pm.
Fervor (Recoleta) – My favorite spot of the trip. They do meat and seafood in this large yet charming restaurant. It also happened to be our first night back after Patagonia and I was just happy to be in a dress, drinking sparkling wine and enjoying the city, but the food and entire experience were supurb we almost went back a second time.
Don Julio (Palermo) – The first Parilla (traditional Argentinian grill/meat restaurant). Recommended by Lonely Planet, so it was popular and the most English we heard the entire trip, but very tasty and worth the hour long wait. Not to mention they have bubbles and chorizo for you to enjoy while you’re waiting!!
La Cabrera (Palermo) – Another Parilla and quite good. More sides and sauces with the meal. Fun Tip: if you go before 7:30 or 8:00 dinner is 40% off! The meals were all really affordable, but made it even more so.
Bares (Cafe’s) Notables – These are a series of old school historic cafe’s in the city. Most serve beer and coffee as well as simple sandwiches and meals. We made it to two, the one in San Telmo being a little older and classic, a fun experience, Cafe la Poesia and one that was a little more French Cafe style, Petit Colon.
Omm – We didn’t partake in Buenos Aires’ out til 6am night life; however, we did end one night with drinks at a bar called Omm in Palermo. I loved it. It was super simple inside, and a chill vibe with an enjoyable DJ, who made me feel like I was at some of my favorite bars in Europe. It’s a welcome small stop in between some larger more modern bars/restaurants that were too crowded and loud to enjoy.
Tierra Negra Cooking Class – As I mentioned above, we did a cooking class that was absolutely a smash hit. I’ll do another post just about this, but it’s run by a chef/sommielier couple, who do a lovely presentation of learning empanada preparation and wine tasting of Argentina. Definitely a highlight.
MALBA – A modern Latin American art museum, that is definitely worth a stop. I liked the space and the art, displaying a wide representation of what Latin American art is.
Botanic Gardens – I don’t know if you need to go out of your way to see this, but it is close to the Palermo Subte stop and we quite enjoyed it. It is free to walk around and offers a nice bit of respite from the surrounding hustle and bustle.
The Different Neighborhoods – Buenos Aires is HUGE. It took us 1.5 hrs to try to get across town, which is why we ended up missing the one walking tour we tried to attend. That being said, it means there is a ton of ground to explore and it was really cool walking from neighborhood to neighborhood and seeing how diverse the city is. Also another reason we liked our hotel choices, because we got to experience a couple of different locations.
Recoleta Cemetery – If you have been to New Orleans you will recognize the above ground mausoleums, the more interesting thing in Recoleta being the mix of old and new. It’s cool and creepy at the same time to see the spaces honoring those who have passed. A recommendation I received before going was to take a walking tour, which I wish would have worked out. Side Note: There is a cool artists market on Sundays in the park outside the cemetery. I liked it better than San Telmo market as the products were more artisanal and varied.
La Boca – this is supposed to be a vibrant/artsy/see-tango-on-the-streets kind of place, but in reality it’s just kind of a tourist trap, just lots of restaurants and kitsch. I wish we had done the walking tour because I think I would have a different interpretation, but really I was not impressed, especially considering how much effort it takes to get there. They did have a great modern art museum, featuring an Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the time, that if you do go, is worth a visit.
Flamenco Show – I mean, don’t skip it, but I just didn’t really LOVE it. I was hoping to see some more of the famed tango in the streets, but that didn’t happen. The shows can be quite expensive, so just do your research to find a show that meets your criteria. We saw a performance on stage, which was nice, but I also kind of wish we had just walked into a bar where it was happening on its own.
Evita Museum – I left this museums still not knowing a whole lot more about Eva Peron. The building was cool and historical, but after talking to some people who lived in Argentina and have mixed views on her, I felt the museum was one sided and abrupt in its presentation of her life. There were many clothes and relics from her life, but overall not super interesting. It is in a different part of Palermo that I quite enjoyed. More sophisticated than the younger part that we stayed in.
Tipping – We were able to use our credit cards most places! But you MUST LEAVE TIPS IN CASH. Always have some with you.
Subway Cards – The Subway was pretty convenient and MUCH cheaper than taking taxi’s across town. It doesn’t go everywhere, but got us close enough most of the time. We made the mistake of trying to buy the Subte Card in the lower level at a station, which is not where you buy them. They can be procured at kioskos above ground (not the news stands, the little shops that are kind of like a little 7-11). I’m not sure that al kioskos have them, but would imagine most around a subway stop do.
Remi from the Airport – A recommendation from many people was to not take taxi’s from the airport, so we didn’t risk it. There are instead Remi stands over by baggage claim. It’s a car service that you tell them where you are going then a driver comes to get you. It’s significantly cheaper than hotel transfers too. We did take a couple of taxis in town which worked out well.
Departing Flight – Most of the departing flights back to the US leave at 10pm or so. We talked to our hotel, which had a spa, and not only did we keep our luggage there while we toured around for the day, they let us got to the spa to rinse off and freshen up before heading to the airport. Definitely worth asking if your hotel has similar facilities.