I wanted it to be love at first sight. I had my heart wide open to Buenos Aires and wanted to fall madly in love as so many others have. But I didn’t. I established a nice relationship, but the sparks were missing. Don’t know if it was the record heat or tiredness of travelling for months or something else. Buenos Aires was good, but maybe timing wasn’t right? What I most liked about Baires was its many parks.
Tango, steaks, wine, shopping and football. Those were what I expected of the city. Plenty of excellent steaks and wine, some football and shopping, but no tango. What?? We seriously walked around the city searching for tango a whole weeks. One day we spotted a tango museum, which was closed. Another a tango dance school, which was closed. On our last day we spotted a corner bar in San Telmo that was going to have live tango music that night. Where were all the dancers from the streets?
Were they all too tired after some festivities they had just had and which closed everything down for a couple of days. Or was it the heat?
Parks for everyone
As I mentioned, there was record heat just when we were in Buenos Aires in Feb 2017. It was so hot, humid, sticky and tiring that you felt exhausted after wlking just a few blocks. We still walked around every day, more than 10 000 steps. One thing that was the most annoying when walking on the streets in the heat was dog poop. Some streets were like mine fields with a disgusting smell. Imagine tons of stray dogs and the smell of poo together with trash bins being overloaded and not emptied for days in that heat due to national holidays? Our smell experience of the city went past tolerable.
As for many local residents to us too were parks a nice escape. They were mostly an escape of the bad smells too. Originally we had planned on visiting only one particular park but turned out visiting quite many. And as with any other city or countryside, we knew we were visiting their playgrounds. Those travelling with kids know what I mean, especially with boys abt 7-8 years old… Sometimes I just wish I had the same energy levels!?!
One “park” I knew we had to visit was the famous Recoleta cemetary. Others for recommendation are the city zoo and Japanese garden along with centro’s administrative parks. Every city district has some kind of a park for residents to relax, breath, socialize, play or excercise in. Those came in as good saviours for the sticky hot weather. Many parks have some kind of a playground or an exercice area among gardens and chairs.
Recoleta Cemetary: Famous Recoleta cemetery, where beloved Evita Peron and her husband both have been buried in the Peron family grave, is an attraction nowadays. It’s definitely worth a visit as it is the most beautiful and mysterious feeling graveyard I’ve ever visited. Unlike most graveyards this one has graves reaching high above ground and many many mtres below too. Graves above ground are like little chapels, each trying to be more impressive that the one right next to. Stroll around on its narrow alleys and see if you can find famous people in it.
Zoologica: Another great escape to nature is the city zoo, dating back to 1888! This one has even more to it than “just” animals: it’s profounding idea was to intergrate architecture into diverse animal living conditions. Besides having a great variety of animals from all over the world, it also seemed to lack some of the security feeling that zoos in my opinion should have. I for example approached a brown bear’s cage just walking close by and the bear kept walking fast along its cage looking like it could jump over the fence and “safety deep” any time he wanted. When I asked about it from one of the caretakers, she said: ” its ok, bears don’t eat humans.”
Botanical and Japanese gardens: Botanical garden just next to the zoo in Palermo (near Plaza Italia) is truly an escape from the city streets. A large green fenced park with stunninly beautiful flora and statues, fountains and benches to find your inner peace. Those favorable of Japanese gardens should visit one here. Excellent fens shui to find that peace and admire decorative plants, water figures and music. There’s a Japanese restaurant in the garden area to indulge yourself in tastes too.
Diverse city districts for every taste
Locals wonder in the city like fish in the sea: they shop in one part of the city (though every city district seemed to have a shopping mall…), work in another, work in third and dine in yet another. One is particularly known to go for a mid-meal, a meal between lunch and dinner. For tourists and travellers most common are those areas around the Centro: Recoleta and San Telmo, though La Boca and Palermo have become favorites for many foreigners too. Some parts of the city are best for tourists to keep away too, as they may be a bit dangerous. As we left our hotel in Recoleta with a taxi towards the airport, the taxi driver immediately locked up and said with bad English “dangerous area”.
Centro is the heart and governmental heart of the city. The Pink Palace where president resides is by Rio de la Plata, overlooking Puerto Madero and with Plaza de Mayo on the inland side. Ave. 9 de Julio cuts horizontally with great monumental buildings and park areas. Vertically at the other end of Avenida de Mayo is an impressive governmental house with administrative buildings around. Great street with restaurants and stores, check into corridors and little back alleys too.
Recoleta has the cemetary, obviously, but many university faculties, very nice restaurants and residential streets too. Just next to the cemetary is the cultural center for exhibitions. Behind it is Plaza Francis facing the Art museum. Great Evita Peron memorial around too. Parque Las Heras is a great and big corner park for all ages to enjoy, workout, meet with friends at a cafe or just picnic and enjoy the playground.
Palermo with Plaza Italia and streets around is filled with shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Particularly around Plaza Serrano in south of Plaza Italia is a place for boutiques and restaurants. That’s where locals go for their mid-meal. Just next to Plaza Italia are the Botanical Gardens and the Zoo. There are enormous park areas behind those for some serious excercising and spending time. Lakes, Planetarium, hippodrome and golf course available too.
San Telmo is a student part of town. You see a lot of students with many faculties in Recoleta too, but this area is particularly common for students. This area is very relaxed with old buildings such as old mercado hall and restaurants around it. Many pubs and bars have live performances at night so definitely a place for going out.
La Boca is the rustic part of the city, a football mecca for those interested. In these streets Maradona himself learned how to play and a match in the stadium must be an experience. There are little narrow alleys for hangin out, eating out and shopping; however, you might want to take a taxi there or back since the metro line doesn’t reach it and corners around to get there not too comfortable. We felt unsafe walking around in bright day light. I guess we make an easy target for mugging: tourists with a child talking loud in a weird language. We had been warned in our hotel that we should not go there after 6pm, but still in bright daylight the unconfortable feeling made us turn around and walk away.
Metro or the Subte is convenient and cheap to explore the city. With 4 lines you reach pretty many areas, but still, there’s a lot of walking guaranteed too. Taxi is not very expensive, and buses run often and on many many routes. But on foot you get to see details.
Another chance, another time
I will give Buenos Aires another try some other time. I want to feel the sparks. I will definitely sign up for a tango lesson and visit a club. I will also book at least a day trip to a farm outside BA to experience some real gaucho farm culture. I will try mate and take my husband to a football game in La Boca. And have some real good juicy steaks with the softest red wine. Yup, those I will definitely do when I give Buenos Aires a second change. I know it’s possible, but we both need to want it and be ready for it. Maybe dog poop won’t be that smelly either.