When you arrive in the capital of Argentina you will be dazzled by its pulsating yet classy atmosphere. Buenos Aires is famed for its beautiful 19th and 20th century architecture, an array of quaint side-walk cafes, a bustling cosmopolitan populace attired in sophisticated garb, exotic Tango dancers that invite appreciative audiences, and of course its world class Parillas (Steak restaurants).
The local currency is the Argentina Peso (AES), however since tourism is a huge part of its culture, people readily accept both US Dollars and Brazilian Real.
R1 = AES 0.92 (exchange rate: August 2016)
How to get there
Unfortunately, South African Airways no longer runs a direct flight to the country; you will have to fly into Sao Paulo. From Sao Paulo daily flights are available via GOL, Latam, Turkish Airlines and Qatar. Expect to pay in the region of about AES 5 500 per person. The one-stop flights are available via Rio de Jinero and are only slightly cheaper than the non-stop flights.
Where to stay
Buenos Aires has ample accommodation options for all budgets and tastes. Some of the more known traveller options are in the areas of Recoleta and Palermo, both upmarket areas with an abundance of fashion boutiques, art galleries, theatres, restaurants and night clubs. However, we chose the quainter San Telmo because of the charming cobble pathways, easy access to diverse locations, lively nightlife, old colonial architecture and the enchanting atmosphere.
Despite its size it is relatively easy to move around as the public transport system has a myriad of buses and an efficient underground commute system. You will have to purchase a card from the visitor centre and load it at the subway station. All you need to obtain a free card is your passport but after you simply top-up the card as needed. AES 20 will be removed on the first load. Several people are allowed to use one card; charges in the city range from around AES 2.5 to AES 6.
Where to eat
There is an abundant number of restaurants, cafes, upscale parillas and buffets to choose from; finding a place to eat is quite easy for every budget. However, several restaurants can be described as tourist traps but the service and quality of food still make it worthwhile.
Here are some recommendations of places to eat in San Telmo for all budgets:
$$$ Gran Parilla del Plata, situated on the corner of Chile and Peru. Expect the food to be amazing. Don’t forget to order a Malbec. Malbec is grown on the region of Mandoza in Argenitina so you will be struggling to say NO to a top up in your glass.
$$ Desnivel is situated on Defensa at the end of Dr. Jose Mododesto Giuffra street. Serves stylish cuisine with a dash of history. Many of these restaurants are located in renovated old buildings.
$ Street Food and buffets are also plentiful. Try out a Choripan, flamed char grilled sausage served with crusty bread and chimichurri (a green salsa) or Empanda (a baked pastry filled with a sweet or savoury filling) for on the go street food.
$$$ – Above AES 250 $$ – Between AES100 – 250 $ – Below 100
What to do
There is no shortage of activities in Buenos Aires but here is my list of things not to be missed:
- Buenos Aires offers opportunities to experience a rich cultural life, including its Sunday San Telmo Ferla which runs from the start of Defensa from the Plaza de Mayo to the bridge at Av. San Juan. There is NO other market quiet like this in the world. Linger around the endless stalls, enjoy the live music, browse through a marvel of antiques, purchase handmade artefacts, or just soak up the unforgettable vibe. Either way you are bound to have a day filled with fun. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy a tasty Choripan with chimichurri and catch a street Tango show.
- Milongas offer informal tango dance classes and dance shows, usually starting at around 7pm. They are a good alternative if you do not wish to splurge on an expensive Tango show. Word has it that there are 15-30 Milongas in Buenos Aires every day of the week. We visited the one in Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo on Sunday night.
- Although the Tango shows are considered expensive and a tourist trap, I could not bear to leave Buenos Aires without catching one of these. We booked a table at El Querandi. I loved the idea of the restaurant being in operation since 1920’s. The authentic setting, coupled with a live band and exceptionally talented dancers taking us through the history of Tango, really spoke to me. Expect to pay in the region of AES 1200 per person for an all-inclusive dinner with drinks. Expect spectacular scrumptious starters, main course and deserts.
- 19th century Casa Rosanda, the iconic balconied presidential palace or otherwise known as the ‘Pink House’ from where Evita Peron addressed the crowds. Casa Rosandra is not just shrouded in history it also represents astounding architecture and engineering. It is only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. The guided tour takes 45 minute Unfortunately the tour is presented in Spanish.
- La Boca is not just famous for football and the Boca Stadium where the legendary Maradonna scored an innumerable number of goals but it is also known as the artistic fragment of Argentina. Stroll along the famed colourful buildings filled with artistic creativity at every corner, you should stop for a coffee or enjoy an open air lunch with live tango shows. Boca certainly calls for a day to be spent here.
- Recoleta cemetery is one of the most grandiose graveyards in the world. The exclusive cemetery houses the remains of some of Argentina’s royalty and Among these extraordinary people lies the remnants of the actress turned first lady Eva Peron (Evita). Free tours are undertaken on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 o’clock in the morning, presented in English and Spanish. Meeting point is at the front gate.
What to buy
Don’t leave without buying choice items that will be the envy of family and friends back home.
- Tango shoes, tango shoes, tango shoes…. How could I leave without the purchase of these??? Shoes range in the region AES 400 – AES 2 500 and I highly recommend a purchase from Comme il Fault. Find them at Arenales 1239, Pureta 3 (upstairs).
- Leather items from jackets, belts, wallets, bags and many other high-end items can be purchased here at relatively cheap prices. The Sunday market is filled with bargains so before you go of shopping in Palermo or Recoleta check out this market first.
- Buenos Aires is the antique capital of the world, so browse to your heart’s content for that special keepsake. Don’t leave without a purchase of something from the 19th century, which can be easily purchased from a number of antique shops situated on Defensa street.