When you visit Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires you’ll see a city buzzing with its own unique energy and vibe. Tango, steak and red wine were the first things that crossed my mind but just like a beautiful latin woman (I should know) this city is much more complex.
Buenos Aires passionate soul is immediately evident in its colorful- tree lined neighborhoods, grand architecture, absorbing museums, dramatic history, bountiful restaurants and spirited people. In just 3 days this dramatic city swept me off my feet.
Room with a view! Located in the exclusive Parisian like Recoleta Neighborhood the Four Seasons Hotel offers the best of modern comfort with classic European glamour. The staff was friendly and helpful. The hotel property is a combination of an early-20th-century mansion and a contemporary high-rise connected by beautifully landscaped gardens and two swimming pools. Our one bedroom suite located in the tower was spacious with separate living and sleeping areas. My favorite were the french doors that opened to views of the mansion, the pools, the city and Avenida 9 de Julio (the world’s largest avenue.) It is the perfect setting to begin the day with a cup of coffee or end it with a glass of wine. To be honest, you won’t be able to resist your inner Evita Perón from singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. As for the kids, all they cared about was the ample speed of the wi-fi connection.
We did find ourselves spending more money on taxis as public transportation is not easily accessible in this neighborhood. However, we were a short walking distance to parks, museums, shops, restaurants and cafes. This hotel was the perfect home-base for our 3 day adventure through Buenos Aires.
Pretty in Pink! This palace like structure has served as the backdrop to countless protests, famous speeches and significant moments in Argentina’s history. Sitting pretty on the edge of Plaza De Mayo, La Casa Rosada is one of the most iconic and most photographed buildings in Buenos Aires. La Casa Rosada (Pink House) is home to the government’s executive branch. It is officially known as Casa de Gobierno or Government House. The President of Argentina works here but lives elsewhere.
There are two legendary stories behind the curios pink color. The first is pure Argentine politics. Dating back to President Domingo Sarmiento’s attempts to make peace between two fighting political parties during his 1868–1874 term. By blending the red of the Federalists with the white of the Unitarians he hoped it would be a symbol of unification. Another legend has it that the paint color came from mixing white paint with bull’s blood which was meant to protect the building from Buenos Aires’s humid climate. Whatever the reason, the building is captivating, especially at night when it is illuminated by pink lights.
The balcony facing Plaza de Mayo is where Eva Perón addressed adoring crowds.
Most Argentines, however, associate the balcony with the announcement of military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri’s war in 1982 against the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands, known here as the Islas Malvinas.
La Casa Rosada is open to the public on weekends, with free tours on the hour Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 6pm. Bring identification and expect to go through security. Yes, You even get to stand on Evita’s balcony and tell Argentina not to cry for you!
La Boca does not have the best reputation. There are plenty of warnings online and from locals that this area is known for not being the safest part of Buenos Aires. I was also warned that it is an obscene tourist trap–overpriced souvenirs shops and a constant harassment of people trying to hand you fliers for their street cafes. The centerpiece is the cobblestone strip, El Caminito, or little walkway.
We took a taxi to La Boca and made sure to know where we could catch another one once we were ready to head back. I would not suggest walking to La Boca as we passed many questionable areas on our way. I was also not about to try taking public transportation. We went around noon to have plenty of daylight hours. It’s best to avoid the entire neighborhood at night, even the Caminito. The police are there to protect the tourists, not the locals, and when the shopkeepers go home, so do they.
La Boca of today is really just a photo opportunity but it was fun for the kids. Yes, there was the constant annoyance of flyers being shoved in my face but I just smiled and said No Gracias. We stayed clear of the shops selling the same souvenirs of Pope Francis, Evita and Soccer God Diego Maradona. We explored the area, watched street performers and took great photos of the colorful buildings. It was a hot summer day so we did end up sitting in a outdoor cafe to cool off and give the kids a break. This is not the place for a fine steak and wine meal but it was great for a nice cold Coke and empanadas. We also enjoyed a street tango performance and we all gave it a try.
Would I go again? No, once was enough. I’m happy to have drawn my own conclusions.
Plaza San Martín, a beautiful park at the base of Calle Florida in the upscale Retiro neighborhood, Is the perfect location to enjoy a little time-out from exploring the city. If you visit in the summer months find a shaded spot under a tall flowering tree and watch the world go by.
On one side of the park are elegant buildings. Florida Street, a popular shopping strip, begins at the other entrance. Plaza San Martín was once the prefered location for the most elite families at the beginning of the 20th century. The square is surrounded on all sides by historic, iconic buildings such as the art deco skyscraper Edificio Kavanagh, once the tallest building in South America and the early 20th century Palacio San Martin and Palacio Paz.
The Torre Monumental (Monumental Tower) occupies the center of the park. The red-and-white structure has a large clock and spire. It was originally called the Torre de los Ingleses (English Tower) as it was a gift from the English community in Buenos Aires in 1810. However, after the Falklands War in 1982, it was renamed.
This cemetery is perhaps one of the most fascinating and eerily beautiful places I have ever experienced. This impressive 14 acre tree-lined city of the dead is located in the Recoleta neighborhood. It is rich in art deco, art nouveau, baroque and neo gothic architectural styles. The cemetery has over 4,600 vaults, all above ground, of which 94 have been declared National Monuments by the Argentine government and are protected by the state. It is opened daily from 8am-6pm with free admission. There are free tours Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am (weather permitting.) Also, make sure to purchase a map at the gate!
I visited on a grey and rainy summer day. I decided to explore on my own. It seemed like I had the place all to myself. In a strange way it was very peaceful walking the sidewalks filled with elaborate marble mausoleums decorated with statues. Many contained the graves of the wealthiest and most important Argentine historical figures such as Eva Perón, past presidents, war heroes and other rich and famous people. Some mausoleums are very well preserved and maintained as wealthy families still use them to bury their loved ones. Others can be found in complete despair with broken glass, exposed dusty coffins and litter.
The iconic tomb of Eva Perón is obviously the most beloved and visited. Most people just come to see Perón’s final resting place but there are others that should not be missed. Another tomb I recommend seeing is that of Rufina Cambaceres, a young woman who was buried alive in the early 1900s. She had perhaps suffered a coma, and a few days after her burial, workers heard screams from the tomb. When it was opened, there were scratches on her face and on the coffin from her attempts to escape. Her mother then built this Art Nouveau masterpiece. Her coffin is a Carrara marble slab, carved with a rose on top, and it sits behind a glass wall, as if her mother wanted to make up for her mistake in burying her and ensure she could see her coffin if she were ever to come back again. The corner of the tomb is adorned by a young girl carved of marble who turns her head to those watching her; she looks as if she is about to break into tears, and her right hand is on the door of her own tomb. Many locals often place delicate sprigs of flowers into her hand.
Sad, sensual, sexy, vilolent and quiet…the Tango is a feeling that is expressed by a dance. A man and a woman begin a dialogue with their bodies, guided by music. It is unspoken communication and can be more profound than language. It is a strong and barely controllable emotion…both fascinating and complex. Tango is passion.
The origins of Tango is just as fascinating as the dance. Tango was born to the early immigrants and social outcasts of 18th century Buenos Aires and Montevideo in Uruguay. It is a multicultural mix of sounds and movements. European immigrants (mostly Italian and Spanish) brought their sounds of the violin, flamenco guitar, and the bandoneon ( an accordion like instrument) along with the polka, waltz and mazurka dances. These were mixed with the African Candombe rhythms from the freed slaves, the Cuban Habanera and Argentine folk music and dance. With very few women around many of the young men looked for excitement and to escape dire situations in the seedy brothel districts of these port cities. Tango became the “mating dance” between prostitutes and their customers. Tango spoke more than just frustrated love. It spoke of destinies engulfed in pain. It was a dance of sorrow. Even though it became a fixture of urban nightlife, Tango was considered sleazy and shunned by the upper and middle classes. Young men would practice the steps with each other in order to become skilled enough to attract the attention of a woman.
Soon, the sons of wealthy families went looking for adventure and excitement in the rougher parts of town and learned the Tango. These wealthy young men would then show off their new “indecent” Tango skills to friends during their travels to Paris which was then the cultural capital of the world. This led to a Tango craze that swept Europe by storm and eventually reached America.
The evolution of Tango took it out of brothels and into better dance halls in the center of Buenos Aires. Today, there are many Tango shows throughout Buenos Aires. We enjoyed an amazing show and dinner at the historic Esquina Homero Manzi. The atmosphere, red wine, live music, singers and dancers made our night unforgettable and filled our hearts with love for this amazing city.
In Buenos Aires steak is life and the parrilla is the temple. This is a carnivores heaven. Argentina has the second largest per-capita meat consumption in the world. Uruguay is number one in case you were wondering! Meat is considered a national treasure.
Parrilla means grill, and it’s an actual open fire pit where meat is cooked. Steak and beef ribs are the staples followed by Chorizo (pork sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), and chinchulines (chitterlings), and many, many more animal parts.
Just like in any temple there is a ritual to enjoying all this meat. Unlike here in the U.S where each person orders individually, dishes are usually brought for the entire table to share. You will begin your meal with a basket of fresh baked breads followed by appetizers such as empanadas, livers, sausages , sardines and cheeses. Then comes big portions of grilled meats only seasoned with salt. Almost all asados will come with Chimichurri sauce (a combination of herbs, garlic and vinegar).
Most Argentinians like their meat well done so if you like your meat rare ask for it “bien Jugoso”. Also, sides such as a simple salad with oil and vinegar or french fries have to be ordered separately. All this is enjoyed with a plethora of Malbec wine! If you manage to have room left for dessert, dulce de leche (a sweet paste-like sauce made from milk usually as a filling for cakes or over ice cream) is another treasure. Oh! Did I mentioned how late you eat? Most restaurants open for dinner at 8:00 p.m. A contender for best parrilla in the city, La Brigada is down-to-earth and family operated. It also happens to be a must for celebrities. Another favorite amongst locals is Parrilla Pena.
The city’s Italian influence is also very notable. Aside from Parrillas there are also many Italian restaurants serving some of the best pastas and pizza I’ve eaten. Piegari Carnes , this high-end Italian restaurant is popular with tourists and specially with me! The food and the service were fantastic. The mushroom risotto is a must.
Don’t worry too much about your waistline. Breakfast is usually just coffee and a small pastry and lunch is light. Besides, you can easily get well over 10,000 steps and burn all this rich delicious food while exploring this fabulous city!