Seeing the best of Buenos Aires?
November 18, 2016 11:32 AM   Subscribe

My wife, my parents and I will be taking a 6-day trip to Buenos Aires in late November. What should we not miss?

What are the most interesting things to do in Buenos Aires? What should we do to get a sense of Argentine culture, and of the city's history? Are there any restaurants or venues we should definitely plan to go to? For reference, we'll be staying in Recoleta. The only caveats are that my father is fairly sight-impaired and has some trouble with mobility and balance, and that none of us speak Spanish.
posted by Bromius to Travel & Transportation around Buenos Aires, Argentina (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man, Buenos Aires is such a fantastic city, I hope you have a great time. I was there in 2012 so some of my information may not be the most up to date, but I just loved our time there. I don't speak any Spanish beyond very Basic Tourist, and got by just fine.

There is an open top bus that does a loop of the city, and stops in Recoleta (or at least did 4 years ago). Very touristy but I would highly recommend getting tickets on it for your first day there. It is an extremely low stress way of getting a feel for the city, plus it stops in La Boca, which otherwise might be a bit intimidating to get to with someone with mobility challenges. La Boca is well worth getting off the bus to explore. Very colourful, lively, and there is an excellent museum.

I'd also highly recommend the Bellas Artes, which has the largest collection of Latin American Art, and is also on the bus route, but at the other end of the loop.

To get a sense of the history of the city I'd highly recommend El Zanjon, which is in a restored 1830 house in the suburb of San Telmo. The foundations date back to the founding of the city in the 16th century. There are stairs, but from memory most of it was fairly accessible.

La Recoleta Cemetery is worth a visit, and it will be very close by. Beautiful, awesome and bizarre. It rammed home a few truths about the history of the city for me.

We love our food, and ate out at a fair few of what were the hottest restaurants when we were there. Honestly I could tell you almost nothing about those meals. What I remember is a dinner we had in a pop up restaurant in a private home. There were a few that we found through Trip Advisor, including a link to the one we went to as it still looks to be running. Dodgy looking website but it really was a fantastic night, and we met some very interesting people.

There are little restaurants on most street corners. Find one near where you are staying and if it gets a decent rap on Trip Advisor GO THERE. We still rave about Cafe Rivas in San Telmo, and my only regret about the trip was that we didn't go there sooner. They all seem to do lunch specials where you get a main and a glass of wine or coffee for a really good price, nothing fancy but very good. If you are in San Telmo and can find Cafe Rivas GO TO CAFE RIVAS. OMG. I'll stop shouting now.

A few words of warning. They are serious about dinner hour being 10pm or later. Eat earlier and people look at you pityingly. If you are eating at a Parilla (steakhouse) do not eat the bread. It is delicious, but as far as I can work out it is put on the table so that they can laugh at the expression on your face when a steak the size of your head arrives after you have stuffed yourself stupid with bread and empanadas.

I freaking loved Buenos Aires, other people probably have more up to date recommendations. Feel free to MeFi Mail me for more. Have a fantastic trip.
posted by arha at 1:02 PM on November 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

surprised no one has answered this yet. it's been a while since i went, so i can't recommend specific places, but we saw some tango dancing, which i would recommend (basically a bar/restaurant with a stage - maybe we paid cover and bought a bottle of wine), there's a very good modern art museum (seems to have changed its name since we were there - the latin american art museum on figueroa alcorta), and you should try the beef, pizzas, and ice-cream (loads of cafes, including many nice places for a beer and sandwich or set menu for lunch). also, down by the harbour is the traditional touristy place to visit (wasn't so impressed) and there's a whole street selling leather goods at good prices (not on that street particularly, but i have bought boots/shoes when visiting just because they have modern, interesting designs).

on preview: oh, well...
posted by andrewcooke at 1:08 PM on November 18, 2016

just remembered that one day we went an a train to tigre, which was a pleasant place on the outskirts of bbaa. there is a lot of public transport in the city - taxis, buses and metro. we used the metro, which is aging in places and rather busy at peak hours, but quick and reasonably priced. given your father maybe you'd be better with a taxi, in which case talk to someone at your hotel.

arha is absolutely on the money about eating times. you simply won't be able to eat earlier in many places, so you may need to restructure your days around that a little (siesta!). also, of course, try all the wine.
posted by andrewcooke at 1:41 PM on November 18, 2016

Just because I like books and writers seeing Cafe Tortoni and a theatre converted to a bookshop (El Ateneo?) were real treats for me. Not an Argentine thing but I also liked the Jardin Japones since I have never been to Japan nor seen a proper Japanese garden anywhere else in the world.

Seconding the bus tour, sounds touristy but I do it any big city I go, just for how great it is at orienting you to the different districts of a city and how different the architecture looks.

I also enjoyed Teatro Colom (sp?) which had a doors open day the one time I visited and it looked very swanky and refined. And the ice cream! Never had a bad ice cream anywhere I went. Was 2003 when I went but with nostalgia it feels like yesterday. You are in for a treat, enjoy!
posted by AuroraSky at 1:56 PM on November 18, 2016

While I was in Buenos Aires this spring I caught a performance of Don Giovanni at Teatro Colon and it was a memorable experience. It was also ridiculously affordable if you can tolerate a standing-only section in an upper balcony -- a proper seat will cost you a bit more but is still pretty reasonable for a world-class performance in a world-renowned venue. I suggest you check their schedule to see if they will have any performance you are interested in while you are there.

For me, at least, it was a much better value than the tango show I attended -- which I knew would be touristy but was too much so for my taste (but I had gone with a friend who really wanted to go and who clearly enjoyed it, so just a matter of taste, I suppose.)

Actually, the quality of music I ran across in Buenos Aires was generally excellent -- even the street musicians and Subte buskers I ran across were really good. If I were going back I'd certainly make an effort to catch more live music performances.

Restaurant-wise, my friends and I had a great time and a quite nice meal at Las Cabras, a parilla restaurant in the Palermo neighborhood.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:41 PM on November 18, 2016

I was in BA about a month ago.

Yes most porteƱos eat at ten pm, but we didn't care. We liked showing up early at 7pm and not needing a reservation. My favorite parilla was Don Julio, best steak, best chimmichurri, best wine. La Choza was good too, as was Calden Soho. Oh be sure to try bondiola, choripan, and of course! Empanadas!

Walking about El Cementario de Recoleta was actually more interesting than I thought it would be. MALBA is a must see, it had Yoko Ono and some other feminist art when I went. Bella Artes is good too, and free! I highly recommend a walking tour with a company called Graffitimundo. They will walk and drive you to all the best street art in Buenos Aires. I felt like I learned a lot and I regret not buying a print to take home.

I'd skip El Ateneo, the flea market in San Telmo, and the bus tours. I thought the Mercado de la Pulgas in Colegiales was more interesting, slightly. Couldn't buy anything because it was mostly furniture though.

We walked everywhere. From our hotel in Palermo Soho to San Telmo was an hour and a half walk and a good way to justify eating more steak. Walking is also a good way to see the architecture, the graffiti, the little small shops you might not otherwise visit... just be careful, there's dog poop on every sidewalk.
posted by chispie at 11:41 PM on November 19, 2016

Also apparently Anthony Bordain went to BA for Parts Unknown very recently. Check that out if you're interested in good food.
posted by chispie at 8:09 PM on November 20, 2016

I was in Buenos Aires a month ago, also staying in Recoleta. For food in the area I recommend Rodi Bar, which is a block to the east of the cemetery on Vincente Lopez; it's open all day, which is a plus if you're having problems adjusting to the Argentinian dining hours. I also liked the lunchtime set menu at Parilla "La Coqueta" on Uriburu; there may be better cheap lunchtime parilla in the area, but that was the one I tried first and I enjoyed it enough not to bother shopping around. There's a large craft market in Recoleta at the weekends, very close to the main entrance to the cemetery.

If you do take the train to Tigre for a day-trip, you should include a boat trip along the waterways. There are various ticket booths at the wharf, and I bought my boat ticket from the one for the "Gato Blanco" restaurant. It's about an hour by launch to the restaurant, and the location and food were great - and the prices very reasonable considering they have a captive clientele. It was a lovely day out.

The redeveloped docklands of Puerto Madero are pleasant to wander around, with a good art museum, several museum ships, parks, and many restaurants. It's also close to the many sights of the centre, such as the Casa Rosada. In this central area I recommend the small "Museo de la Ciudad", which is dedicated to domestic life. When I was there, they had a free exhibition of electrical appliances from the 1950s onwards, and the range was fascinating. There's also a bicentennial museum behind the Casa Rosada which I hear gives an excellent overview of the history of the city.

Argentina has quite a large Syrian/Lebanese population, and Recoleta has a Syrian/Lebanese club with a restaurant on Ayacucho, a couple of blocks south of Rodi Bar. I've only been there once, ten years ago, but the food and atmosphere were excellent, the building fascinating, and I was really sorry that I didn't get to go again on the recent trip.

The ice-cream is fantastic. You might find yourself planning your days around visits to ice-cream parlours.

A restaurant tip: when you order a steak, they generally won't ask how you want it cooked, and if you don't leap in and specify, it will come well-done. If you need it rarer, ask for "jugoso" (juicy, or medium-rare) or "a punto" (in theory, medium, but it always came out too well done for me). Also: the terms for different cuts of meat are quite specialised and may be the most baffling part of the menu; even if they do have an English version of the menu, the translations may not be helpful, so you might want to print out a guide like this for reference.
posted by kelper at 6:05 AM on November 21, 2016

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