Buenos Aires 2018 / 2019
Imagine a time machine transporting you back to the nineties. Buenos Aires feels like a mix of Italy, Spain and France in that era. Decades-old cars (meticulously maintained) in the tree-lined streets, no electric cars or other signs of ‘modern’ technology in the cobblestoned streets, dilapidated once-grand buildings, lots of sidewalk cafes and people taking it easy.
Economically and politically, Argentina is bad news. Extreme inflation; even middle class Argentinians cannot travel abroad because of the poor exchange rate and many ‘normal’ people are forced to live in the streets. Some of my local friends try to see the positive side: “the situation stimulates entrepreneurship”, but everybody agrees the situation is very sad indeed. For visitors from abroad there is some good news: everything is extremely cheap in Argentina: accommodation, food, transport, entertainment, etc. And by visiting you also stimulate the economy, have a great experience and meet wonderful people.
This blog is not meant to give insights into the delicate field of politics or economics, but I did want to set some context before I share the tips and experiences of my 5-week-stay in Buenos Aires. This is the third time I visited Argentina. In 2005 I wrote a Dutch blog about my travels in the country, in 2015 I wrote an English blog about my month stay in Buenos Aires. I fell in love with the city, so I came back again.
My main reason to come back was tango. Three years ago I gave myself a challenge to learn the dance and I found a completely new way of being; a lifestyle instead of just some steps.
Many foreigners want to experience the tango feeling and go to a tourist show; either an expensive dinner show or a demonstration in a touristy place such as Plaza Dorrego. Three years ago this was also my first tango experience and I was still impressed. With help of my friend and teacher ***Adrian Luna***, I became more aware of the social tango scene, where people dance to connect, not for the show. I really enjoyed the Milongas (tango dance evenings) for mostly older locals, such as Salon Canning and Club Gricel (one of the most traditional milongas). These gives you a wonderful sense of the tango scene, either to dance or watch. Famous historic tango bar (featured in the movie ‘Fermin’) Los Laureles: you can enjoy a traditional dinner and watch and dance. In La Catedral, an eclectic, almost ‘hippie’ place, there are more foreigners and you can take your first class, but there are also good local dancers.
If you want to dance or watch the locals, this website lists all the milongas for each day.
Want private classes? My teacher Adrian Luna combines tango with coaching (tango as a mirror), resulting in a life changing experience. I also took some classes with Mariana Soler, who has beautiful insights about connection.
Keeping it local
Instead of traveling through the entire country, or trying to visit all the different neighborhoods and attractions of Buenos Aires, I like to ‘keep it small’. I rented an Airbnb in Palermo and mainly stayed within a few blocks of my apartment. This means I get to feel like a ‘local’, getting to know the local shops, restaurants and people in ‘my’ area. So I will not share any main attractions (you can find these online or in any guidebook, but I usually find them overpriced and disappointing), but rather my personal small ‘discoveries’…
The Airbnb I stayed in, wasn’t remarkable enough to mention, but the area I stayed in, is. I love Palermo. Around Plaza Armenia there are a lot of cafes and trendy shops, but I always stay just a few blocks away, so I get the local feel on a daily basis and the trendiness when I want. The area I stayed this time is Thames / Paraguay.
Places to work
Palermo has some really nice co-working spaces, based on the principle ‘pay for the time you stay, not for what you consume’. You pay an hourly rate between 90 and 135 pesos (about €2-3) including all drinks, snacks and sometimes even lunch. Internet is super fast (an exception in the country) and it is an opportunity to meet other coworkers. My favorite local place is Cafe Flor.
I also regularly went to Bar del Pasaje. A lively local book store with a ‘hidden’ cafe tucked in the rear. Daily lunch menu is around 270 pesos (less than €7)
Cafe Registrado is a light modern cafe with great coffee, juices, salads, cakes and a good selection of healthy food. Internet is average, but it is a nice place to catch up on a few emails. I went to their branch on Gurruchaga street, near Plaza Armenia, which is somehow not featured on their website…
Nice touristy things
El Ateneo Grand Splendid book store in an old theatre.
Puerto Madero: High end strolling by the water.
La caminito in Boca: colorful street, a journey back in time when people lived in houses of painted metal in this poor and rough area. Take good care of your belongings. Caminito is very touristy, but great for colorful pictures – and to realize how nice it is to stay in local areas… 🙂
I did not do this myself, but some of my friends like this bike tour of the city with knowledgeable Dutch guides.
Want to do something artistic with locals? Take some watercolor painting classes with the ‘master’ Vladimir Merchensky at Arte Tantatinta.
Local restaurants and vinotecas
- On the corner of my street is your typical ‘friendly neighborhood grill’ Las Horas. The food is OK (you can hardly go wrong with a ‘parrilada’ or grill in Argentina), and the service is the best I’ve had in my entire stay. The mostly Venezuelan waiters were super friendly and treated me as neighbors.
- Malambo, the wine store in my street was surprisingly good. Extremely nice and knowledgeable people and they also sell good cheese and other high-quality snacks for your picnic or happy hour. They also recommended the following neighborhood restaurants, each one a local gem:
Las Pizarras, very nice, always busy, make a reservation.
- Don Julio, very high end, always full, need to reserve well in advance.
- La Carniceria, Anchoita, Uco, Gran dabbang, Proper and La Alacena.
- Talking about wines: Vico wine bar offers a new, ‘modern’ way of wine tasting: you get a ‘credit card’ which enables you to try different wines (also small quantities) displayed throughout the store. Each wine has an explanation and a price and knowledgeable sommeliers are there to give more info and help you choose.
Escape from the city
Just 40 minutes rive from the city is Tigre: the gateway to the Parana delta. Many locals flock here during the weekend for a getaway on the water. Around Tigre it is quite busy and ‘touristy’ (mostly locals); many locals own holiday houses here. Boat-buses are the local form or transport. The further you get away from Tigre, the more quiet it becomes. I went to a resort called La Becasina, in the middle of nature, with only 12 cabanas on stilts above the water. All inclusive, a luxury getaway in an unlikely location. Recommended!