This post about Buenos Aires is part three in our series Destination South America, you will find the first two parts by clicking on the links below:
- Destination South America – Flights, Transits and Arriving in a New Country >>
- Destination South America – Montevideo, Uruguay and the First Steps in South America >>
Buenos Aires – Expectations and First Impressions
That city that is located so far away, the one with such a magical cling to it. For as long as I can remember, I have dreamt about visiting the Argentine capital. The city with the benevolent winds that is so famous for its tango, rooftops, cupolas, cafes, Evita, and rioplatense Spanish has always seemed quite mysterious to me. Jesper was not as excited about the city as I was, but I’m happy that he agreed to go there with me, When planning our trips, we thought that three whole days in the capital would be enough. We also wanted to a couple of day trips, and there were a few different places that made it to our list. Rosario was one of the cities that we would have liked to visit, La Plata was another. When reading guide books (both online and old-fashioned hard copies), seeing the river delta appeared on our list of things to do. One thing was sure, Buenos Aires is a huge city and there are plenty of activities and sights that need to be crossed off the list.
Day 3 – Getting to Buenos Aires
We decided to go to Buenos Aires by boat from Colonia de Sacramento. After getting off at the ferry terminal at the port (which is huge), we took a wrong turn and found ourselves in the outskirts of La Boca. In fact, la Boca might not be the first place you want to see. We made it to the world’s widest avenue, Avenida 9 de julio and tried to catch the metro. Unfortunately we weren’t able to because a) we did not have any local money (we were not able to exchange it abroad), b) we were not able to pay by card, and c) we couldn’t find an ATM. It didn’t start too well, in other words. Our hotel was located near Avenida 9 de julio, but on the other side of San Telmo and San Nicolás, near Retiro. So, we walked all the way to the hotel. And seeing Buenos Aires like that, in the evening, bustling with people and cars and lights – it was amazing!
Day 4 – Walking in Buenos Aires
After a good night’s sleep, we decided to dedicate our first full day in the capital to walking. At the end of the day we counted that we had walked a total of 13,3 kilometres. Our first stop was El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a beautiful bookstore located in Barrio Norte at 1860 Santa Fe Avenue. What makes this bookstore so spectacular is that it used to be a theatre. This is a must-place for book lovers. A word of warning, though: you might spend the whole day looking for treasures if you’re not careful, the place is huge! The rest of you might like it as well – the coffee was good!
From Barrio Norte we continued our walk to the legendary Casa Rosada and the world-famous square Plaza de mayo. After everything we had read about Plaza de mayo, I was expecting complete chaos. Well, I was wrong. There was no chaos, just a lot of people and a lot of noise. We enjoyed a stroll and a delicious lunch in charming San Telmo before heading to the area around Puerto Madero.
Buenos Aires (at least the central parts) is a friendly place for pedestrians. It is a huge city but some areas really surprised us with their silence. The cobblestoned streets of picturesque San Telmo were quiet during our visit. The only place that I don’t feel any need to return to is Calle Florida, the shopping street in downtown Buenos Aires. It may be pedestrian, but the chaos was too much.
During our first full day we learnt how to use the ATM (it was not a simple affair!). We also learnt that the smart thing to do is exchange money (USD or euro) instead of using the ATM. The Argentine currency is a mess. What struck me the most was the similarity to Europe – not once did I get the feeling that we had travelled to the other side of the world. We did also find out that Argentine wine really is tasty. iViva Argentina!
Day 5 – Recoleta, Palermo, Jardín Botánico & the Zoo
As it turned out, the location of our hotel was great. The city centre was not far, but neither were the green and lushy neighbourhoods of Recoleta and Palermo. Recoleta felt very fancy with its elegant buildings and the Recoleta cemetery. Among all the affluence the building of the National Library of Argentina almost felt like a joke. I do realize that architecture is used as an expression of time and context, but come on, libraries should be beautiful and inviting!
Our walk through Recoleta and Palermo finally took us to the Botanical Garden (Jardín Botánico), a quiet oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. The triangularly shaped garden is bounded by Santa Fe Avenue, Las Heras Avenue and República Árabe Siria Street. The garden is not very big, but it’s well-maintained and it’s a good place to sit down and relax for a while.Right next to the Botanical Garden one finds the zoo. The park is old-fashioned, with a playground-like air and it’s easy to feel the breeze of times long gone. The most interesting animal at the zoo (in my opinion) was the Patagonian mara. The Patagonian mara is a fairly large rodent that looks like something between a rabbit and a deer. In the zoo the maras were walking freely among schoolchildren and us.
During our walk we noticed that the best way to get a feeling for the barrios of Buenos Aires is to take the side streets and to go without a fixed plan. It seems like every street, and every barrio, makes up a tiny world in itself.
We walked approximately 14 kilometres on our second day in Buenos Aires and were quite happy when we reached our hotel in the evening. By now it was time to think about day trips that would take us out of Buenos Aires, and the evening was spent with a bottle of wine and a map in the hotel room.
More information about Buenos Aires
Here we have collected a few links to websites with more information about the places and objects mentioned in this post. Click on the links to read more!