Argentina – Buenos AiresBack to Story

South America's tango capital

Argentina is a country which I had heard a lot about and some of my well travelled friends rate as a strong favourite. Always hard to live up to expectations when they are set high.

Argentina has fallen on some tough times in recent history with the collapse of the economy at the end of 2001 when the economy collapsed due to an overinflated pesco  and bad financial decisions made by the government of the day. The result was an overnight loss of wealth, increased unemployment and inflationary pressures. You can definitely feel that in Buenos Aires the county’s capital city.

There is a very strong European influence to Argentina, which you particularly see in Buenos Aires.  In fact the Spanish occupied Argentina from 1542 until independence in 1816.  You can see the wealth in the buildings and the obvious link in the architecture of both the Spanish, Italians and the French.  It’s a charming combination and not something I had seen in Peru or Chile.

The other thing you notice is that woven into these majestic buildings is the art and flamboyance of the locals.  There is a special style to the flamenco painting that adds a sense of fun and the exotic to the city.

Recoleta

First stop is to Recoleta, which is a traditional suburb just out of the city centre.  Probably the suburbs biggest claim to fame is the cemetery, which seems like an odd peg to hang your tourist hat on.  Arguably Argentina’s’ most well known  celebrity – Eva Peron is buried here.  It’s fair to say finding her grave site is not that easy but the wander around is interesting in a morbid way.  Just beside the cemetery is an interesting weekend market and a rather large homeware’s store which had a good collection of local art.

A short stroll across the park the Art Gallery (MALBA – Museo de Arte Latino Americano) is also worth taking a look around with an excellent mix of local and European art.  It’s a compact gallery so there is no time to get fatigued with visual overload which is always a relief.  When it rains (and it probably will) this museum is a great indoor activity – for when you’re not dancing in tango halls.

While this was our base for the time – it isn’t particularly lively and you’d probably find yourself jumping in a cab to head for more interesting destinations.  That is not a difficult or expensive option so its definitely an option.  Having spent one night in the middle of the town it’s preferable to be out slightly and feels a lot safer.  Unless you are proficient in Spanish take a card from the hotel so you can find your way home.

Recoleta is a nice peaceful spot to stay with nice tree lined streets. Try the Art Hotel which is obviously written up in some of the French travel guides because it’s full of French tourists.  The hotel is small and atmosphere homely.  Rooms are basic but comfortable and there is Internet access in the lobby for those who need to keep in touch.  Good if you like small hotels.

One of our favourite restaurants was not far away, Sette Bacco. You would never just stumble upon this neighbourhood delight.  The atmosphere is warm and friendly.  It has an old world charm and fantastic food and a good winelist.  When we visited it looked like something out of a godfather movie with a large family (many of whom were in their religious regalia) were enjoying the afternoon.

Palmero

The most interesting suburb was Palmero which is home to both the nightlife and boutiques which you can’t miss.  There are a surprising number of wine bars, cafes and good restaurants on every corner.  Some could be in any trendy suburb in New York, Sydney or London.  The style is not the minimalistic style but a very warm fashion with often shared space for music, coffee, drinks or books.

The centre of town is busy with wide avenues bustling with cabs and people.  Be sure to walk with purpose and don’t linger at night without a destination.  The opera house was under renovation in 2009 but is open again and well worth either a tour or buying a ticket if you want to transport yourself back to the Spanish rule and more prosperous times.

Palmero is home to some of the cities best boutique hotels. Stay at Home or if you need more of a masculine look or spa services on tap then why not consider Vitrum, which will give plenty to see and do right at your doorstep.

The nightlife in Palmero is excellent but be prepared to stay up late in true Latin style.  There is a huge range of bars and clubs to suit everyone.  Electronic tango is available in the music stores so if you get a chance to hear it either in a club or on CD – amazing.  There is a great music store on Honduras St opposite Calma Chica, which is a funky kitsch store.  You can’t go wrong anywhere in the surrounding streets.

As far as eating try La Cabrera is an old fashioned steak house and full of locals and tourists alike. Bar 6 is a great spot tucked away in the middle of the boutiques. It has a great relaxed atmosphere with good food and a lively crowd. If you have pounded the pavements during the day a perfect uber cool spot to rest them is Mott. It has a very urban vibe but a great spot for lunch or casual dinner. If you get tired of eating steak head to Olsen for a more European experience.

Puerto Madero

Very close to the inner city is the old dock area Puerto Madero, which has been converted into bars and restaurants.  Very international and many of the good hotel chains have set up down here.  I would imagine if you’re here for work this would be an easy base but you will have to leave this area or the cultural police will have to hunt you down for being safe and boring.

The most over the top hotel, which you’ve got to go and have a drink at, is the Philip Starke, Faena and Universe Hotel.  It is a trip into fantasyland unless you’ve been born into the international design set.  Each bar and restaurant has a different look and theme and on the weekends there is a cue of well heeled at the door.  Don’t think you can rock up there at 2am for a nightcap because the fashionista at the door will sneer at you.  However it’s well worth at least sitting around the pool with a cocktail and people watching.

San Telmo

For a more traditional experience San Telmo is a very authentic area on the other side of town.  The cobblestone streets lead up to towering two storied mansions that while faded speak to a more glamorous past.  The shops below are typically an eclectic mix of antiques that you will find interesting but may find it difficult to squeeze into the overhead locker.  At least on Sundays the Plaza Dorrego turns into an antique market and has some lively buskers and tango fanatics.

La Bocca

La Bocca is a very poor neighbourhood but during the day it’s well worth walking around the colourful part of this neighbourhood.  Be careful with your possessions and if your experience is anything like ours the locals will warn you when you stray out of the safe zones.  The corrugated iron buildings are painted strictly for tourists these days but when the Italian immigrants first landed they used whatever paint they could to spruce up their digs.  Definitely worth the stroll but be careful and be prepared to drive through some pretty confronting neighbourhoods to get there.

Travel photographs from Argentina\'s capital Buenos Aires. Travel images include La Boca, Palmero, Recoleta and San Telmo. Images of street scenes and art.

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