Buenos Aires is a huge metropolis comprised of several neighborhoods, or barrios. We didn’t go through all the barrios, but we went through quite a few. Each of the barrios has a different feel and atmosphere to it. A brief description:
1) Centro – where the economic activity and downtown is. The obelisco on Avenida 9 de Julio and the base of the Subte lines are in this area, as was our Spanish school, Ibero.
2) La Boca – this is not known as a safe neighborhood and supposedly you shouldn’t really walk around La Boca after evening hours. But, La Boca is well known for El Caminito – a road of colorful houses that are remnants of the old immigrant style of multi-family housing. While the houses are interesting and beautiful, the area has become completely commercialized and no one actually lives in the houses anymore. Also, there is a museum at the outside of El Caminito called La Proa that had displays of modern art. Some that I liked, some that were just too ‘modern art’ for me. But I really liked the space and the small museum steps away from both El Caminito and the water.
3) San Telmo – this was one of our favorite neighborhoods. The old, historic buildings along cobblestoned roads… each of the buildings had its own bit of character. And of course, there is the beautiful street art (graffiti) covering almost all the walls. There were cute little restaurants, pubs and bars that lined the streets. There was a restaurant we really liked the atmosphere of (La Poesia) – it reminded me of a bohemian coffee shop / restaurant where great minds meet to discuss and debate. The food was okay, but we had our first bottle of Malbec there! San Telmo is known for its Sunday Feria (market) where shopkeepers sell their wares from colorful glass bottles to textiles to crafts.
4) Puerto Madero – This is where many businesses and corporations have their offices. It’s the newest area of BsAs, but it’s kind of cold feeling. It feels like a huge business district, but supposedly they have some good (expensive) restaurants in the area and is also a popular hangout for expats. I thought it was also interesting that many of the streets are named after famous women instead of men and that there is a beautiful modern bridge, Puente de La Mujer, dedicated to women as well. Also, Puerto Madero is the access point for the ecological reserve in the area (see the post “Los Espacios Verdes”).
5) Recoleta – another kind of ritzy area but more affordable than Puerto Madero. Recoleta is also a newer area that developed when people were trying to escape the diseases in central Buenos Aires. There are some cute restaurants and bars in this area as well, but my favorite attraction in Recoleta is Recoleta Cemetary. We spent a couple hours just going around the different gravesites, looking and reading the elaborate tombstones. Many famous Argentine politicians and influential people are buried there, including past Presidents and revolutionaries. Eva Peron, or Evita, is buried there under her maiden name, though I was surprised at how simple her tombstone was. The cemetery is just incredible – I’ve never been to one like it – I feel like it’s one of those things you only see in movies.
6) Barrio Chino – while the “Chinatown” in Buenos Aires is small (in the broader neighborhood of Belgrano) – about 4-5 blocks – it’s worth a mention because the food there was pretty good. We found the food in BsAs to be good but lacking spiciness! Portenos are not a fan of spicy food at all! We couldn’t even find fresh peppers at our local grocery store – we had to go to a special market for them! Chinatown had a few restaurants, and I ordered Kung Pao chicken at one of them. The waiter asked if I wanted it normal spicy or extra spicy so I asked for extra spicy – it had a little kick to it but definitely not “extra” spicy for me! But it was delicious and definitely satiated a craving I had for something different than the normal Argentine food we’d been eating.
7) Palermo – Palermo is the largest barrio in Buenos Aires. Two of the main sub-neighborhoods are Palermo Hollywood (because of the large number of studios that used to be there) and Palermo Soho because of the shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. We lived in Palermo Soho and I enjoyed just walking around the streets and discovering new cafes and restaurants. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really in the market for new clothes (so little room!) so I didn’t do any shopping – though I heard it was either the same or more expensive than in the States!
8) Tigre – Tigre is actually a city outside of Buenos Aires. It’s where many people go on weekends to get out of the bustle of the city. Tigre offers a small town on the delta (river), though the river is a bit dirty. There is also a huge market there and we saw plenty of locals shopping there in bulk or buying other things and taking them back in their cars or on the train. Tigre was about an hour from Palermo by train. We were really amused that the train from Palermo was less than 2 pesos (about 40 cents) – that’s more than the local subway and buses! In Tigre, we took a boat cruise (about 40 pesos) and saw all the little vacation homes or homes by the rivers. After the cruise, we walked around the market and gawked at all the stuff they sold there – and we bought our own mate gourd and bombilla! There is also an amusement park with rides there, but I started to get a headache so we decided to skip it. Overall, Tigre was a good getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and I can see why locals go there as an escape, but as a tourist, it wouldn’t have been a big deal if we had missed it.
Finally, one of things I like about most of the barrios of Buenos Aires is all the cool looking street art – they were all so unique and different!