The Bare Minimum Travel Guide to Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, For us, is all about the people, All About the COST, and all about the party
- Landscape - Buenos Aires is a true concrete jungle, with buildings, buildings, buildings, and more buildings. Gray, tan, brown, black and sky for as far as the eye can see. Many of the streets are elegantly tree-lined and there are beautiful parks scattered throughout the city to offer some reprise. You don't come here for the landscape. People call it the "Paris of the south" but that's ridiculous, it's vaguely Paris-y with European architecture, but it's more Madrid or Athens than anything.
- Nightlife - In Sao Paulo, this means 1am-9am, for the record. If you didn't pack your big girl pants, you're going to miss out on seeing how Paulistas (People from Sao Paulo) like to have a good time. And boy do they know how! Be prepared for this, you'll have some of the most fun nights of your life with Paulistas!
- Cost - Buenos Aires is very very cheap, that's probably the #1 reason to come here over some other "European" South-American cities (Like Montevideo, or South-Brazilian cities like Porto Alegre, Curichiba, and Florianopolis). 1 liter beers for $5 USD, bottles of wine at restaurants for $8 USD, great dinner meals for $10 USD. The country of Argentina is effectively bankrupt and the currency has been devalued drastically creating a major black market. The official rate (Jan 2015) is 8 pesos to 1 USD, but on the black market; (known as the blue rate) you can change anywhere between 12-14 pesos to 1 USD. That's a minimum of 50% more buying power, so you MUST change (cambio) money at the blue rate in BA. More on that below.
Here's the skinny;
Where to stay
Palermo Soho (or Palermo Hollywood) - safe, clean, great options for every meal of the day (except breakfast, which doesn't exist in Argentina), and nightlife until 7am. It's a little touristy, many backpackers, lots of expats, but no fanny packs. Easy to get a cab and take it anywhere. Close enough to 2 metro stations (Scalabrini Ortiz and Plaza Italia) if you're into that sort of thing. We stayed on Calle Guatemala between Malabia and Armenia -- it has a really laid back vibe; not yuppy, not hipster, just kinda there...yet cool. It's a shopping, restaurant, nightlife center for the city.
Use Airbnb to book your place to stay, it's way cheaper than a hotel and the hosts are awesome. Contact us to get referred to the amazing place where we stayed.
Things to eat/drink
Speakeasy - Buenos Aires is up and coming in the Speakeasy scene and they are doing a fantastic job at it. SF and NYC have been at it for a long time, but in BA, many locals don't even understand the concept never mind actually knowing about the few hot spots. They are the coolest bars in BA, hands down - trust us, we tried a LOT of bars in 5 weeks.
Floreria Atlantico - One of the best bars in the world. It's located in the fancy, Retiro neighborhood opposite the Sofitel nestled amongst a handful of fine art galleries, underneath a flower shop of the same name. Go at 8:30pm when they open, (reservations are a must if you want to eat dinner here), if you're popping in for drinks, they have a small bar that's worth waiting for a seat. If they have space, they'll let you in a secret door in the side wall of the flower shop, downstairs to the basement bar. You're welcome.
Harrison's Speakeasy -
Victoria Brown -
Parrilla - so this should be the #1 thing to eat in BA, but we weren't that impressed. Most people are head over heals, so here are their recommendations! Classic Argentine grilled meets, veggies, & sides. Simple seasonings, or none - you'll get your classic Argentina fare at any of the below. Go with a group and get a mixed platter so that you can try several meats. You can find cheaper "local" spots as these are all on the more expensive end, but all in all they are cheap compared to American prices, so you will not have sticker shock.
Palermo Hollywood - Las Cabras
Palermo Soho - Don Julio
Palermo Soho - La Cabrera
Palermo Soho - La Choza
Milanesa - Veal or Chicken parmesan more or less. Comes in a variety of styles. Napolitana is the most common - ternera (veal) with ham, cheese, and tomato on top. "Completa" usually means they've added a fried egg on top. Milanesa is commonly served with fries. It's delicious and many places make huge orders, so check the size with hand gestures before ordering 2. You can get all sorts of toppings and you can order this at probably 60% of restaurants in BA. To make it simple, I'll recommend one chain that is solid, and has the most options for toppings.
El club de la Milanesa - it's a chain, locations all around the city.
Other Places to eat
Palermo Soho - Tijuana Restaurant - really awesome Mexican food. Spring for the enchiladas or the ribs.
Palermo Soho - Nonino - Simple, cheap, yummy, great staff, and heavy pours on the mixed drinks.
Palermo Soho - Burger Joint - If you want a good burger, they cater to expats well
Palermo Soho - Sugar Bar - this is "the" expat bar. You'll find everything America-friendly here. They have no local beers, all imports.
Palermo Soho - Sullivan's - Irish bar that deserves to be called much more. The bartenders here are fantastic, they can make any cocktail you want, the right away and they're very proud of it. They all speak English, prices are great and we really loved the staff here.
Palermo Hollywood - Festival - great cocktails, food, and scene.
Palermo Hollywood - Olaya - amazing Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine. A really fantastic meal, but NYC prices. The most expensive place on our list here.
San Telmo - El Refuerzo - Local favorite in San Telmo; the Salmon Salad is great and insanely large. 1 feeds 2.
San Telmo - Gourmet Porteno - Buffet in San Telmo, you can snag basically any classic food here.
Recoleta - Milion - Great "sceney" place to eat dinner and get drinks. Several floors open in this old rehabbed mansion, along with a great back patio.
San Nicolas - Los Inmortales - highly recommended "Porteno style" pizza.
- Go to Speakeasies for world class cocktails
- Eat Parrilla
- Eat milanesa
- Eat any beef (carne) anywhere - Argentinians do beef way better than Americans (at the cost). An insane steak would be $20 here.
- Drink Malbec - Malbec is a French red wine, but flourishes in the Argentina Wine regions, so it's the "local" wine. Torrentes is a great white that's made here too.
- Eat “Choripan” - simple sausage and bread sandwich, every place has their own styles, but generally speaking, they are cheap and delicious. A great street vendor late-night option too.
- Drink Fernet Branca - if you dare. It's a classic "Industry" drink in San Francisco, so we love it. We drink it as a shot with a ginger ale back. They don't have ginger ale in BA so we settle for coca cola. They drink Fernet and Cola as a mixed drink, which I think is terrible. Fernet is a digestif, so it settles your stomach and was traditionally made (in Italy) as an after dinner drink. In SF, it's an after dinner-10-drink.
Places to go / Things to do
- La Boca -
- Dance Tango - La Viruta
- 9 de Julio -
- Recoleta Cemetery - must see, this place is crazy. It's a 100% above ground cemetery, so you walk down winding alleyways of resting aristocrats. The resting places are incredibly beautiful and it's a unique experience as these above ground cemeteries are very uncommon in the world.
- MALBA Museum -
- Kika - The "best nightclub in Buenos Aires" -> awesome music, it's good enough for a great night out.
- PM Open Air -
- Fuerza Bruta - Like Cirque du Soliel, but better. The show takes place in front of you, behind you, one both sides, and on top of you. It's insane and a must see for sure! They tour NYC and around the world, so you can catch different versions of this elsewhere, but they're a Porteno tradition...for like 30 years I think (under different names)
You'll do well to learn some Spanish. Here are some staples to get you started. Note that they speak "Castelano," which is Spain Spanish with flare. Pronunciations and a few words here and there will differ from that of Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico and so on.
Greetings (not perfect spellings, just how you pronounce them)
- Hello - Hola (Oh-la)
- Goodbye - Tchau (Chow)
- Good morning - Buenas Dias (soft S)
- Good afternoon - Buenos Tardes (soft S)
- Goodnight - Buenas Noches (soft S)
- Chicken - Pollo
- Beef - Carne
- Sausage - Chorizo
- Morcilla - Blood sausage (traditional)
- Ham - Jamon
- Cheese - Queso
- Vegtables - Verduras
- Cebolla - Onion
- Bread - Pan
- Parrilla - Grill - (Parrishya). You'll see this 1,000 times, it just means that you get classic grilled meats, veggies, sides. Traditional Argentinian BBQ (without the sauce).
- Water - Agua
- Beer - Cervesa
- Wine - Vino
- Milanesa - Think chicken parm or veal parm. Flattened, breaded, fried meat with various toppings; cheese, ham, tomato, etc. Classic Porteno food. (trust me, you'll see it everywhere and wonder what it is)
- One - Uno
- Two - dos
- Three - tres
- Thank you - Gracias, or upgrade to Muchas Gracias
- Please - por favor
- Check please - Por favor (to get attention) la quenta
- Right (direction) - derecha
- Left (direction) - izquierda
Read our Buenos Aires blog posts for more details and have an amazing trip!! Contact us if you have any questions!