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  • Writer's pictureThe Killorans

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

From the bustling french-style city of Buenos Aires to the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Malbec wine country Mendoza, Argentina has so much to offer. Two weeks was just not long enough to see it all; and, believe us, we plan to come back for more. But first, let us tell you about Buenos Aires.


Our first visit to Argentina was a bit of a culture shock. From the graffiti painted on every single building to the french styling seen throughout with mansard roofs and quatrefoils to the protests living in the streets almost every single day. Buenos Aires is very unique.


Some tidbits of advise before arriving to Argentina:

  • If your Spanish is a bit rusty, it's recommended to brush up on it. Most people, especially at the more local spots, do not speak English and they have a different type of Spanish accent that can be difficult to understand if you are really rusty like us.

  • Uber is definitely a thing here, which helps if your Spanish is truly very rusty. Though, taking Uber from the airport is a bit tricky as the local cab drivers detest Uber drivers. Sometimes it's recommended, when traveling to and from the airport, to have one passenger sit up front with the driver so it doesn't appear you're riding in an Uber.

  • The locals tend to eat dinner quite late. Depending on where you travel to, the local culture do have siestas just after lunch and work much later than you might back home so they won't typically go out to dinner until 10 pm or so. Buenos Aires is definitely a major city, so people are coming and going all the time. But when you travel somewhere outside of the tourist hotspots, this is much more apparent.


Buenos Aires

Since Buenos Aires is the main hub and the largest city where you would fly into, we recommend spending a few days here to help immerse yourself in the Argentinian and Porteño culture. And, depending on how long you stay, there are a great variety of things you will have to check out.

Buenos Aires introduced the "Free Tours" concept to us. Now, every time we visit a new city, we intentionally seek these out to help us get a lay of the land and a cultural synopsis of the country we're in. Here in Buenos Aires, the BA free tour will get you the information you need to start your adventure.

Now that you are starting to feel like a true Porteño (or Port Person, as they refer to it here in Buenos Aires), here are a few things to keep in mind during your stay.

  • San Telmo Market is every Sunday. If shopping is your thing, meander on over to Plaza Dorrego off the main square down rows and rows of antiques and fun purchases that you literally cannot find anywhere else. And believe us, if you see something that really inspires you, don't skip by and not purchase it. Everytime we visit somewhere new, we try to buy something special and unique from that place that we put on our travel wall at home. We fell in love with these old glass seltzer bottles but didn't purchase one. We thought about it and thought about it and tried looking anywhere else to buy one but couldn't find them anywhere. We even asked if we could purchase one from a restaurant we went to and they told us the only place to purchase them was at the Sunday market. Unfortunately, we were never in Buenos Aires on a Sunday again. So, months later, we got one off of Ebay, which cost about 3x the amount it would have been at the market.

  • Protests happen all the time down Ave. Rivadavia toward Casa Rosada, or the "Pink House", Buenos Aires' presidential house. They are non-violent but extremely noisy. We witnessed some our first day on our way to a walking tour and it honestly freaked us out until we learned more about them from the tour guide. Unfortunately, the economic climate is not the most stable and, as a result, certain professions can take immense pay cuts or huge tax increases that don't balance with the cost of living rates (including price for food, gas, water, electricity, rent). Protesters tend to march up Ave. Rivadavia toward the "Pink House" in the middle of the week to distract all of the government officials who work all down that street bringing attention to their issues and cause a change quickly. There are also protests that occur routinely or even permanently. One of which represents a group of veterans who have not received pensions from serving time in the military who camp out in Plaza de Mayo all the time. Another is a group of women known as the "The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo" who march around a statue in the Plaza every Thursday as a symbol of the women who were in search of their children who disappeared between 1976 and 1983 during a military dictatorship. Today, they carry on the tradition but march for other relevant reasons.

  • Public transportation is super easy and quite convenient because the hot spots to visit can be quite a hike apart. The subway is really simple and straightforward. Be sure to get yourself a Sube card before heading to the subway station. These can be picked up at most convenience stores. Just look for the little "Sube" sign at the storefront and get yourself a card.


Food

Gaining an understanding of the local cuisine is one of the best ways to fully understand the culture itself. Food, as well as art, architecture, language, and history, really defines a region. Argentinean food revolves around the concept of asados, or BBQs, where people gather together to enjoy a meal at someone's house. So, needless to say, we ate a LOT of meat. So come hungry!


For you foodies out there, the Parrilla Food Tour in Palermo really gives you a fantastic sampling of the Argentinian food scene. We learned so much about the local cuisine that helps us in our journey to continue exploring more restaurant options around town. And, if you wind up on the tour with some other fun people, you might find yourself spending the rest of the day drinking and eating with them all over the city. We met a few folks from Australia (and believe you me, it was difficult to keep up with them - hah!) and Canada that we bar hopped with until the early hours of the morning.



Some of our favorite restaurants were:

  • iLatina was absolutely fabulous for dinner (one of our first nights). You have to plan ahead and make a reservation well before you get to Buenos Aires. We made our reservation a month or two in advance. The food is absolutely fantastic. It's more of a sampling of Latin American foods/flavors, not solely Argentinian but seriously one of the best meals we've had. It's a 7 course, pre-fixed menu that came with wine pairings (the ceviche was definitely our favorite). Amazing! And photos definitely don't do the food any justice.

  • Steaks by Luis was a really really fun and extremely delicious dinner experience. It's a lot of meat, cheese and wine. It's set up like a traditional asado, which is like a BBQ hosted at someone's house where they cook all cuts of meat on an outdoor grill. You have to book ahead (we did once we got to Buenos Aires, but we were limited on availability, so I'd probably book this ahead as well even before you leave for Argentina). You basically dine family style with several other couples (around 8 max), they serve wine, hors d'oeuvres, mixed greens and then the meats. We were wary at first thinking it would be super touristy but were really thankful we did it. It's just another great opportunity to get to know fellow world travelers and learn their story.

  • Don Julio was another really fantastic steak place. Our flight back home was an overnight flight leaving late on a Sunday, so we essentially spent our entire last day walking around and decided to stop here to have one last meal. It did not disappoint. It's rated really well on all of the foodie websites, including Trip Advisor, and we thought earlier in our trip that it was just a tourist trap, but it was totally worth it! Everything was great!


Mate

Another very cultural thing to experience is tasting Mate with a local. Yerba Mate is a loose leaf tea that is consumed from a Mate cup through a special filtering straw called a bombilla. It's a very social drink that is heated and immediately drank but by taking turns with a group of people. The tea leaves are good for a few refills. There were a few opportunities where we were able to try it but wound up trying it with a staff member from the Miravida. It tastes like a potent green tea and is quite enjoyable. We definitely recommend that you try it.


Other Activities

A fun and cultural activity that is worth pursuing is taking some Argentine Tango lessons. We are definitely not the most coordinated of dancers out there, nor do we tend to go dancing for fun if it's outside of a wedding celebration, but this was a really nice highlight to our visit here. Through some research and investigation on various travel websites, we landed on dance lessons with Lucia & Gerry, a couple who met and fell in love with dance as their connection. After a couple of hours of tango lessons, they take you out to a sexy little tango club to dance to live music and observe professionals dancing the same traditional style but with a modern twist. The Argentine tango is a complicated but emotional dance and entertaining on all levels. We did go to a Tango Show with dinner one of our last evenings in Buenos Aires, which was 100% choreographed around a story line, but it wasn't a highlight for our trip. We recommend something more intimate.


Hotel

We stayed at two different hotels in Buenos Aires, one on the front end of our trip and one the last night in Argentina before we flew home the next morning. Our favorite was the Miravida Soho in the Palermo Soho neighborhood. It's more boutique-like with only 8 or so rooms, a wine bar where you can chat it up with the staff and meet other travelers. It's located in a really nice and hip area in the heart of the city, lots of great restaurants nearby, very walk-able, close to the subway station (small and really easy to use - you have to get a Sube card at a convenience store to load up to use on the public transportation). We would highly recommend any new or returning traveler to Buenos Aires should stay here.


Reflection

Buenos Aires, though typically not a city we would have originally thought to visit, was surprising in so many ways. With it's European influences and French-like architectural styling with massive amounts of graffiti to it's unbalanced political landscape and huge agricultural industry, it truly is a fascinating place to experience.


-#thekilloranstakeargentina

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