Buenos Aires City Guide

Buenos Aires City Guide

Sexy, passionate and sophisticated, Buenos Aires is one of South America’s most alluring cities and the perfect place for Globe Trekker newcomer Judith Jones to find her feet…or should we say Tango heels!

Made up of distinct districts known as barrios, Buenos Aires offers something for everyone and, with the help of the oldest metro system in South America, Judith sets out to explore as many sides to this city as possible. From the grand, Parisian style city centre to the multi coloured tenements of the historic Boca district and just about everything in between, Judith uncovers a breathtakingly beautiful city with a rich and multi-faceted culture.

Judith gets the Argentine take on Evita outside the Casa Rosada, enjoys a sultry tango lesson at her hotel and explores the overflowing antique markets of the bohemian barrio of San Telmo.

She learns the secrets of Buenos Aires high society at Recoleta Cemetery and takes in the sites, sounds and smells of the countryside at the Gaucho street fair in the cities meat packing district. But nothing compares to her night on the tiles at one of Buenos Aires’ trendiest Tango clubs where the cities sense of style and passion shine.

But Judith’s adventure doesn’t stop there. On two day excursions from the city Judith takes a ferry across the Rio del la Plata to the picturesque Uruguayan village of Colonia and flies west to the region of Mendoza, famous for its wine and breath taking mountain scenery.

Malbec

Background

La-Boca-Buenos-Aires

Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America. The city is divided into 48 districts called barrios. Buenos Aires is the largest city in Argentina and its capital. Founded by the Spanish in 1536, the city was developed by European immigrants, but really began progressing after it gained independence from Spain in the 19th century.

By the early 20th century, it was the richest city in South America. With an increase of currency, the architects of Buenos Aires worked to create a European-style city that could rival even Paris. Today, it is regarded as the most cosmopolitan metropolis in all of South America. The inhabitants of Buenos Aires are called Porteños because of the city’s importance as a port.

Each barrio in Buenos Aires has its own distinct personality, such as Barrio San Telmo with its Bohemian cafés, antique shops and street performers. Though Barrio San Telmo is one of the more wealthy barrios, just south lies a barrio called La Balco, one of the poorest barrios in Buenos Aires. Between 1880 and 1930, some six million immigrants poured into Buenos Aires in search of work and a better life.

Many were Italians from port cities like Genoa, and they decided to settle next to the old dockyards of La Boca. However, whatever La Boca lacks in wealth, it gains in character, for it is one of the most lively and entertaining barrios in Buenos Aires. All the immigrants from Italy and Spain brought their instruments and their music, and once blended together, the Tango was born. The Tango is the city’s most beloved dance and one of the most famous in the world. La Boca has also produced some of the most accomplished football players in history. Their world-renowned soccer team, Boca Juniors, now claims fans from across the globe, and its stadium has become an international tourist attraction.

Home to some of the widest boulevards in the world, top class hotels, theatres and public spaces, the central barrios of Monserrat and San Nicolas exude sophistication on a grand scale. One of the most important squares in the city centre is the Plaza de Mayo.

Named after the 25th of May 1810, the date Buenos Aires declared independence from Spain, the plaza is where anyone with a political grievance comes to protest. It is the home to the most important government building in the country, the Casa Rosada, where the seat of presidential power has been since the late 1800s.

Must See and Do

  • Visit and tour the historic Recoleta Cemetery.
  • Visit the colourful district of La Boca – especially El Caminito. But be careful – don’t wander too far from the touristy area, this is one of Buenos Aires’ least safe neighbourhoods. The police are in abundance for a reason.
  • Read about Argentina’s dirty war & visit the newly open to the public building of ESMA
  • Visit the Plaza de Mayo on a Thursday at 3.30pm and see the Madres de Plaza de Mayo marching in front of the Casa Rosada to mark their protest against the Dirty War and the ensure people remember the people who are still ‘disappeared’.
  • Visit the Mercado de Antiquedades in San Telmo on a Sunday.
  • Take a bit of time to head to the Feria de Mataderos where you will experience traditional Argentinean life as a gaucho and dance the night away.
  • Take a few days and fly to Mendoza. Relaxing amid the scenery & wine will make it worth your while.
  • Take a trip to nearby Uruguay on the ferry. Visit either Colonia or Montevideo in a day from Buenos Aires – or spend a bit more time there.
  • Dance/ watch the tango
  • Have a coffee & watch the world go by in trendy Palermo (Soho/Hollywood or Viejo)

Essentials

Climate: December to March are the hottest, but most humid months. It has four distinct seasons and an annual average temperature of 17.7 °C (63.9 °F). Most days see temperatures in the 28 to 31 °C (82 to 88 °F) with nights between 16 to 21 °C (61 to 70 °F). The warmest month is January, with a daily average of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F). heat waves have the tendency to come through from Brazil pushing the temperature up to near 29°C, and cold fronts that come from Antartica pushing it down to 3 or 8°C. Humidity is moderately high (64–70%). It also experience frequent strong thunderstorms during the spring and fall.

Dress: Fashion is everything to Portenos (people who live in the city of Buenos Aires). It is a big cosmopolitan city within South America and the fashion is as European as Europe. Slightly airy clothes for the summer months of January and February. During June, July, and August it is preffered to wear something a little more snug, for the temperatures are around 12-14°C.

Health: Dengue Fever is common to Latin America and travellers should take precaution to prevent against mosquitoes. Mosquito repellent and suitable clothing is the best way to avoid being bitten and possibly acquiring Dengue Fever.

Visas: You must hold a valid passport to enter Argentina. Please contact your local Argentinian embassy for information on Visa’s for entering the country.

Population: According to a 2010 census, the population of Buenos Aires totalled to around 2.8 million. The racial makeup of the city is 88.9% White, 7% Mestizo, 2% Asian, and 1% Black. The majority of Portenos are of European origin, with Italian and Spanish descent being the most common. Other origins include Polish, Arab, German, French, Irish, Dutch, Greek, Portuguese, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Croatian, and British. In the 1990s there was a small wave of immigration from Romania and Ukraine. Most inhabitants are Roman Catholic, though studies in recent decades found that fewer than 20% are practicing. Buenos Aires is the seat of a Roman Catholic archibishop, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. There are Protestant, Orthodox Christia,n Jewish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormon. The city is also home to the largest mosque in South America.

Currency: When traveling to Buenos Aires, you will need to exchange your currency for the Argentine Peso. You may exchange your money at most Buenos Aires banks or at specialized stores called Foreign Exchange Bureaus. Signs that say Bureau De Change, Geld Wechseln or Cambio are the best places to exchange currency while in Buenos Aires. You may be able to exchange your money at the Buenos Aires airport, but exchange rates may not be the best. It is always best to exchange before going to your place of destination.

  •  €1 = 5.653 Argentine Peso ($)
  • £1 = 7.186 Argentine Peso ($)
  • $1 = 4.598 Argentine Peso ($)

Language:

The language of Bunoes Aires is Spanish. The form of Spanish is typically known as Rioplatense Spanish. In the early 20th century, Argentina brought in millions of immigrants, many of them Italians. The adoption of the Spanish language was gradual and created many Italian dilects and even a whole new form of Spanish called cocoliche. This term decilined in the 1950’s. Many of the Spanish immigrants were from Galicia, and Spaniards are still referred to as gallegos in Argentina.

Globe Trekker Itinerary

Starting in the centre of the city, Judith Jones explores seven Barrios and takes two trips out of the city; one across the river to the historic town of Colonia in Uruguay and another westward to Argentina’s mountainous wine region, Mendoza. The first place she visits is Barrio San Telmo with its Bohemian cafés, antique shops and street performers is one of the more wealthy barrios. Here, Judith talks with a market stallholder and Porteños, name given to the people of Buenos Aires, who introduces her to a variety of arts and crafts common to the barrio.

Judith then heads just south of Barrio San Telmo to a barrio called La Balco. Out of the millions of immigrants that flocked to Buenos Aires, many of them were Italian and landed in La Balco, almost completely taking over the barrio. There at La Balco, Judith meets Hernan, a local of Italian decent, who tells her a little bit about the history of La Balco from the main square.

Buenos Aires is internationally known for a particular dance that has reached every corner of the Earth: The Tango. Buenos Aires has loads of places to dance the tango called milongas, and Judith checks out one of the trendiest, La Catedral.  Judith then tries out the Buenos Aires metro system, what the Porteños call the Subte. After a quick ride, she finds herself at one of the most important squares in the city centre, the Plaza de Mayo. Judith then meets Santiago, a local guide with a passion for politics, who tells her about the square and some history about Buenos Aires politics.

She then heads just 45 kilometres across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay and the historic town of Colonia.  A native of Colonia, Maria del Carmen, takes Judith on a tour of the town, where she learnes about the silver, streets, and history of Colonia. 

After her brief stay in Colonia, Judith heads back to Buenos Aires to explore one of the city’s most fashionable barrios, Recoleta. Though the streets are filled with its parisian-style  architecture and chic shops, one of the popular tourist attractions is the Recoleta cemetery. Robert is a guide enthralled by the many stories the cemetery can tell, and takes Judith through the cemetery to learn the history of some of the various famous people buried there. Judith then leaves the the city again, this time by plane, and heading west to Argentina’s famous wine producing region, Mendoza. She learns of the unique vineyard and wine making in this part of South America. She also treks to the mines to learn of the full-scale mining operations for gold and silver back in the 17th century.

Judith then heads back to Buenos Aires, this time to head, yet again, beyond the reach of the subte system and to the city’s South-western edge for a celebration of country life in the barrio of Mataderos. Judith experiences the weekend event of the Porteños and cattle ranchers from across the country converge at the barrio to celebrate the food, dancing, and culture of Argentina’s Gaucho Heartland. She also gets to taste one of Argentina’s most prized barbeque favorties: Steak!

For Judith’s final day, she visits Soho, one of the trendiest subdivisions of the barrio of Palmero. She goes to experience one of the more the artsy, modern metropolitan areas of Buenos Aires. She visits restraunts, art galleries, and other places that are full of Buenos Aires’ modern-esque style, showing the diverse beauty this South American city has to offer.

Accomodation

We stayed in some fantastic hotels during our shoot in Buenos Aires.  Each one of the below was a truly wonderful experience and comes highly recommended by the crew.

  • CHEAPER HOTELS

ETOILE HOTEL, RECOLETA
http://www.etoile.com.ar/

“Etoile Hotel is waiting for you in the most traditional, elegant, and safe area of Buenos Aires. The Recoleta neighborhood is surrounded by museums, historical buildings and magnificent parks, the best restaurants, shopping areas, and it is near the main convention centers.”

HOTEL MAISON DANDI ROYAL
http://www.mansiondandiroyal.com/inicio.php

“The Mansion Dandi Royal Boutique Hotel is a themed hotel-oriented Tango in San Telmo, home of the characteristic dance of Buenos Aires, Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.”

HOTEL INTERCONTINENTAL – MENDOZA
http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/intercontinental/en/gb/locations/mdzha?cm_mmc=mdpr-_-GoogleMapsAR-_-ic-_-mdzha

“Our guests, both then and now, have always had a passion for travel. And our hotels have always embraced and celebrated their local cultures. These common values have shaped the spirit of InterContinental over the years. And today our brand and our staff around the world embody this heritage.”

THE MODERN HOTEL – MENDOZA
http://www.the-mod.com/en

If your style is more fit to the modern-esque taste, visit the Modern Hotel – Mendoza for that posh and luxurious feel that has been taking off in Buenos Aires.

HOME BUENOS AIRES
http://www.homebuenosaires.com/

If you are looking for a very green environment and all the warmth of a friendly home, check out Home Buenos Aires!

Eat & Drink

No-Feria-is-complete-without-the-Asado!

STEAK!

Argentina has a worldwide reputation for incredible steak, probably more so than any other nation on Earth. Various cuts of beef are on offer, particular to Argentina:

Bife de lomo: This is your filet equivalent; the highest priced steak, and the most tender. However, it’s pretty lean.

– Bife de chorizo: Often comes with a rib bone inside the cut, like a rib-eye steak in the US. For the money this is the best cut of steak in Argentina. Not nearly as tender as the lomo, however far more flavourful. Typically the bife de chorizo and lomo are the two most popular steaks and the two you’ll see the most often. The name bife de chorizo is a mystery – there’s no sausage involved here.

– Bife de costilla: A T-bone steak. Usually this thing is gigantic.

– Vacio: Vacio is a very fatty cut. A flank steak (bottom of the porterhouse). You really have to work for your meat on this one. But it’s also the juiciest steak. Typically one of the cheapest cuts available.

PARILLA                             

A parrilla is a simple iron grill barbecue and they’re everywhere in Buenos Aires.  It is considered the National Dish, after all. Good parrillas will also have an asador, or the long vertical skewer which rotates above the coals to slow-cook lamb and pork.  Traditionally at a parrilla you will find these items: steak in its variations, chicken, morcilla (blood sausage/black pudding), chorizo (sausage), mollejas (sweetbreads), rinones (kidneys), and chinchulines (intestines).

MATE

Mate (pronounce ma-tay) is like an herb tea, and everywhere — from the shade of a tree in the park to sitting rooms to the back seats of cars — friends slow down and share mate. This is as much a social experience as it is a way to quench a thirst.   Oh, and there are rules. Mate is shared from the same cup, using the same straw, person to person. Why?  Sharing mate with a buddy or a stranger is all about friendships. Never stir the straw (bombilla)!  It’s an insult to the brewer, suggesting it was not prepared correctly.

Mate was first brewed by the Guaranies Indians.  They learned long ago that it was a great pick-me-up, and that when they were hungry, it satisfied hunger. Studies suggest it does not have caffeine, but rather what Argentineans called “matine.”

When the Spanish first came to Argentina in the 1500s, Jesuit priests studied its use and not only found it was indeed a stimulant, but also a superb way to keep people from drinking alcohol. The priests promoted its use and it’s been a staple here since.

MALBEC

Malbec has found both fame and glory in the sun-drenched climate of Argentina. This is Argentina’s signature grape and it is quickly making a new name for itself with red wine lovers.  Malbec was originally one of the minor blending varieties of red Bordeaux, where it now accounts for a tiny proportion of local production. But its home now is well and truly in Argentina, where after more than 100 years of nurturing it has come into its own both as a pure varietal, and blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

Useful Websites

ENTE TURISMO BUENOS AIRES CIUDAD
http://www.bue.gov.ar/

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