Being the largest city in Argentina, Buenos Aires should not be explored in a rush if you want to get a real taste of it as each barrio (neighbourhood) has its own unique characteristics. I’d definitely recommend adding a few extra nights’ stay to your itinerary if you’re planning a visit.
We enjoyed spending some quality time in the following areas;
Best time to visit San Telmo is on a Sunday where there is a famous antique fair which originally started in the famous Plaza Dorrego but now stretches all the way down Defensa Street to Centro (centre of town). The crowd gets hectic at times but a visit is definitely worth it. A beautiful collection of items ranging from old crystal ware to vintage dresses can also be found along with many colourful people selling their arts and crafts or just making music. I’d suggest finishing off a lovely walk around the market with an afternoon tea/coffee accompanied with fresh medialunas (Ian’s absolute favourite!) at the Bar Plaza Dorrega, oldest bar in the area dating back to the 1930s.
“Caminito” is a short pedestrianized street with colourful houses and is what most tourists come to see in La Boca. Otherwise it’s a rough, unattractive barrio and everyone says “DO NOT wander away from the main touristy areas!” The multi-coloured houses first came about when the poor dock workers salvaged or received old tins of paint from passing ships to paint their houses. Recently it has become a famous tourist attraction which, in our opinion, is over flooded with souvenir shops and hustlers. You can watch the tango performers if you don’t mind eating at ridiculously priced restaurants. It’s such a shame that heavy commercialization in the area really ruined the experience for us.
Palermo is divided in to sub neighbourhoods (Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Viejo). We spent a decent amount of time in Palermo Viejo with its lovely restaurants and shops just a stone’s throw away from our flat. It’s also the greener part of the city. Sunset walks in Parque Tres de Febrero and the pretty Rosedal (Rose Garden) were our special highlights!
We had an unpleasant experience in the area but I’ll come to that in a bit…
Some of the main attractions in the area are Casa Rosada (presidential place where Perons once lived), El Obelisco (national monument) on Av. 9 de Julio (widest avenue in the world!), Teatro Colon (impressive seven storey opera house) and Palacio del Congresso (Congress building).
Right, back to the story of our unlucky event… We had started our walk one afternoon from El Obelisco past the Casa Rosada and along the beautiful tree lined street of Avenida de Mayo and were happily snapping away some pictures, amazed by the grand architectural styles along the way. As soon as we entered the Plaza del Congreso, the park we had to walk through to get to the Congress building, there were 4 young guys standing around a round a large flower garden, 2 on either side. When one of them saw us and my camera he made a call to his mate across the garden. I thought it was weird, shrugged it off and kept walking around to the other side. Ian was walking ahead of me and there was another tourist a bit behind me and also a woman taking pictures with her cell phone. When I stopped and turned to take more pics I noticed one of the guys was coming purposefully around the garden towards me with 2 more coming from around the other side. Ian noticed this too and quickly came to me. We put the camera away and quickly started walking away from the garden and the three guys. As we changed our route, the guy on his own walked past us and realized we saw what was going and he tried to look around and act inconspicuous. A couple seconds later, as we got a bit away from the garden we looked back and saw that he quickly changed his route and targeted the woman behind us, ran up to her, wrestled her to the ground, grabbed her phoned and ran off before anyone could do anything. The scariest thing about it all it happened in broad daylight with other people in and around the park. It was our first real experience of crime in Latin America and hopefully our last…
Puerto Madero & Costanero Sur
We walked along the river front on a cold, windy afternoon on our way to Reserva Ecologica Costenera Sur (Ecological Reserve). Instead of a lazy stroll, we made a quick march along the promenade. I can imagine how the cafés along the dock pack out nicely in the summer but for that day empty restaurants and old cranes were the only scenery.
When we reached the Ecological reserve expecting a nice walk around the lakes and possibly some bird watching, as what the reserve is famous for, we were disappointed to find out that the lakes had dried out and there were no birds in sight. Apparently there is an on-going project to pump water from the Rio del Plato back into the reserve or so we were told. All we could see were the giant cortaderias (foxtail pampas grass) that had grown where the water once was.
Even though we spent a few weeks in the capital, we left with the feeling that there is still so much more to this great city. We can still almost hear her calling us… “Come back again”… We really hope we do one day…