Buenos Aires is a city to live in. Walk the streets. Talk to strangers and ask them for recommendations. Pop into a shop, make a friend. Enjoy a late night in Palermo. Eat, walk, eat, walk, eat, walk.
I really loved Buenos Aires and in my short week there, I felt like I was living in it. I did go on a couple photo walks, but I actually spent most of my time with my camera back at my Airbnb. I was too busy visiting old friends, making new ones, and eating to think about even pulling out my phone sometimes. But while I can’t give you personal photos of all the wonderful restaurants and places I went to, I remember them all very well! Before continuing, close your eyes and imagine: sunny skies, Haussmann-like building blocks, cobblestoned roads, cool trees, and a wonderful aroma flowing from a parrilla….
where to eat
Front and center, this is the most important part of this blog. Despite the talk of steak and beef, these places are vegetarian-friendly!
- Go to Las Cabras for steak (or other vegetarian dishes – they have a wide selection!). Here’s a challenge for you: go to Buenos Aires, find 3 people (on a walking tour, at your hostel, on couchsurfing), and invite them to fill up a table at Las Cabras with you. Sit outside at night, even if you have to wait longer for a table. (That’s no problem – there are plenty of bars across the street.) The lighting is poor, which heightens your other senses. Smell the sizzling Argentine beef plate in front of you, hear the laughs of your new friends, and feel just so light and alive in the magnetic energy of Palermo. You’ll need that, because you’ll probably overeat and feel a bit weighed down. 😂
- Be bougie and luxurious by having afternoon tea at L’Orangerie in the Alvear Palace Hotel in Recoleta. It’s about $20 USD a person for a full service, including a tiered presentation of delicious, delicious, delicious mini-sandwiches and petits fours. To be honest, we needed a meal this light (although can something be light if you still end up having 10 big bites?) after our steak-splurging. Note: you gotta make a reservation! I went shopping after having the tea, but if you needed an excuse to buy a new outfit in Argentina, do it for this! I went with my friend Joanna, and it was wonderful to be silly and fancy.
- Get out of the tourist neighborhoods and enjoy a private, home dinner with Casa Felix. This is creative, local food. For $30 USD, my friends and I took up a section of the backyard at Casa Felix and enjoyed wine and six courses. The food was beyond wonderful, and it was perfectly paired with meeting the chefs and owners, relaxing with other guests, and feeling like you were at your friend’s dinner party rather than a restaurant. We took the bus to the Chacarita neighborhood and got an unofficial vintage row house sight tour. Make your reservations here.
- Act like a porteño by going to the Burger Joint in Palermo. I asked three locals where I should eat, expecting a recommendation for a parrilla (steakhouse). They all recommended the Burger Joint, where you order a burger with delicious melted cheese and thick steak fries. There’s also a pretty good veggie burger (I’ve heard). And all served on a hipster metal tray. This is the go to drunk food place – with free wifi!
- Feel a little out of it at La Panera Rosa. No joke, this place is pink. Joanna and I met Luana, a travel buddy of mine from a few years back in London, here for brunch and sat on the outside terrace. The light shining through the fabric canopy tinted everything pink. The food was sweet and crisp, and I almost wanted to nap after enjoying my drink. It was an out-of-world dreamy experience and captured the hazy feeling that is falling in love with Buenos Aires while your stomach is full.
- Indulge in ice cream and alcohol-filled chocolate bon bons at Rapa Nui. I ate ice cream here in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, in the late late night. Please go to their website and look at the photos. I think this will be the place that has you fly out to Argentina.
- Here is an easy one: Go to any pizza place and eat fainá, a chickpea flatbread I particularly loved with white (no-sauce, heavy cheese) pizza. I had it at multiple places and it never went wrong.
- You also do not need to find “the best” restaurant to get amazing empanadas. I challenge you test your boundaries and eat 5 more empanadas than you are comfortable with. See it on the menu? Get one, get two! In Buenos Aires, you’ll find the classics, the contemporaries, and the culture-mixing in the empanadas.
where to stay
Buenos Aires is pretty walkable, so you can’t go wrong with any neighborhood. It was easy to take the bus, and in times when I was in a rush, it was quick to hail an affordable taxi. I’m likely echoing most travel guides when I recommend you should stay in Palermo. Joanna and I wanted to do a bunch of things all around Buenos Aires, and it was the perfect hub – we could run to the metro, pick up any number of buses, or walk to our destination. We walked back from a few clubs late at night and felt very safe. Plus, there seemed to be a bakery on every corner. Ideal.
Here are three experiences I had in Palermo that made me love it:
- Joanna and I were walking back from a bar late at night, ready to go to sleep. We see a group of people go into an unmarked door. “Is that a speakeasy?!” Joanna exclaimed. We enter, foreigner smiles bright, and they let us in. I’m sorry, but I have no idea what this place was called and don’t recall exactly where it was. It was a home turned into multi-room hangout spot – with music, slam poetry, a couple bars, and a good amount of people. Inside was a courtyard and lots of fairy lights. We laughed and drank with dozens of people. We never saw them again.
- Joanna and I are both shopping addicts, and on a very long walk from Palermo toward Recoleta, we stopped at a handful of boutiques. First of all, let’s establish that everyone loves boutiques. We met a shop owner who sewed her own clothes to sell. She talked to me about her dog and her ideas for her next line. When we bought a few items, she was so proud. I loved knowing that my souvenir from Buenos Aires came from a person passionate about her work, and that I was able to look her in the eye and discuss it with her.
- Our first night in Buenos Aires, Joanna and I went to the first restaurant we found down the street for pizza. It was delicious (Buenos Aires does pizza well!). We’re just enjoying each other’s company when we hear a commotion across the room. A very drunk guy finishes his meal and prances out. “CIAO CHICAS” he screams at us and clicks his tongue. His companion runs out to wrestle his car keys from him. What a welcome to Buenos Aires.
what to do
- Go to a festival. I somehow wandered into an international food festival somewhere downtown. I tried to find a link for you, but “international food festival Buenos Aires 2016” is not coming up with the results I expected. Maybe I dreamt it? I don’t think so – I had my first Bolivian salteña there and took months to chase down a bakery (in Redwood City, CA) that made it, so that desire came from somewhere real. I also ended up at a food and crafts Sunday fair in San Telmo; spend the day there – eat made-on-the-spot crepes, people-watch the handlers of the asado, and buy handmade purses in the shape of medialunas. Find a shortlist of festivals here.
- Tour La Boca. Most of my photos in this blog are from my photowalk in La Boca – fitting for a kind-of-food-blog because it means “the mouth”. Some people write it off as touristy, but it’s fun. Live music is everywhere, and the walk through the neighborhood to the pier is lovely. Also – are you looking for artistic knickknacks to bring home? Get them here.
- Get artsy and vintage-y in San Telmo. Yeah we dropped hella money here. Art prints? Tea canisters? Colorful metal placards? Vintage bags from 1920s? This is a paradise for those who love the unique and colorful.
- Lust after architecture. There are so many museums you can go to and buildings to visit. I went with a couple friends to the Teatro Colón (pictured below) and challenged myself on a Spanish-only tour. I think I know the history, but don’t test me.
- Chill in a park. That’s it. There are so many parks. Lie down and watch dogs.
Are you interested in Buenos Aires yet? I hope so – after writing this, I’m almost ready to throw out my other travel plans for the year and head back!