I’ve been surprised by the number of inquiries I’ve received regarding my family’s choice to visit Argentina — many of them assuming we must have family there. Even though it is an international tourist destination and possesses one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, is it still not on the average American’s travel radar?? It absolutely should be, especially given the FANTASTIC exchange rate as of late!
We spent 10 days over the kid’s spring break in this diverse country: two days in the rain forest surrounding Iguazu Falls; two days in Patagonia in order to hike a glacier; and concluding in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, which is often described as “the Paris of South America” — I completely concur with that delineation.
Our days were mostly spent leisurely exploring the unique neighborhoods surrounding our hotel — Four Seasons Buenos Aires — in the central Retiro bario. You can read my review on this gorgeous hotel here. We also hired a driver one day to explore two towns north of the city — San Antonio de Areco, which is a sleepy town inhabited by local gauchos (cowboys) and surrounded by open fields and estancias (ranches); and Tigre, which is a charming summer/weekend destination-town situated along a river, with lots of lovely weekend bungalows built on the myriad of tiny islands surrounding the town.
Buenos Aires Neighborhood Guide
This upscale neighborhood — adjacent to Retiro and Palermo — holds many worthwhile sights such as the beautiful cemetery which holds the grave of the country’s beloved Eva Peron. Remember Madonna portraying this Argentinean first lady in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Evita? — 🎵 Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina! 🎶 There are also several noteworthy museums, restaurants, shops, and parks for locals and tourists alike. On weekends you can find a fantastic artisan market located just outside of the cemetery — Feria de Artesanos de Plaza Francia.
Recoleta Cemetery — My family wasn’t sure about visiting a cemetery, but it is totally worth a walk through as it is unlike the typical graveyard — this one is literally a city for the dead. And cats! — there are about 90 friendly feral cats who also live within these walls. FYI — they are fed by volunteers at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if you want to see them all at once. No admission fee here, but donations gladly accepted.
Feria de Artesanos de Plaza Francia — weekend artisan market next to the cemetery.
Museo Nacional de Belles Artes — Argentina’s fine art museum.
Floralis Generica — The giant steel flower sculpture which has become synonymous with Buenos Aires. Designed by Eduardo Catalano and constructed by Lockheed Martin, the mechanical structure opens it’s petals each morning, and closes them each night as a sign of the hope each day brings for rebirth.
Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo — A gorgeous museum within a mansion which displays historic household furniture and decorative arts.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid — prettiest bookstore I’ve ever seen! It’s housed within a historic theater. A must visit!!
Croque Madame — lovely small bistro, perfect for lunch, in front of the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo. Best seats are in the garden when weather cooperates.
Persicco — Yummy ice cream shop with indoor and outdoor seating.
**more suggestions in nearby Retiro neighborhood below…
Another upscale neighborhood — right next to Recoleta. Similar in feel, though fewer museums and businesses. We stayed here at the Four Seasons — I found the location quite central for everything we visited. All the restaurants I list are inside the hotel, or within a couple blocks, so please note that these are all easily doable when exploring neighboring Recoleta.
Elena — The fancier restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel, but still a relative bargain at the exchange rate we experienced in March 2016. I would describe the cuisine as modern farm-to-table.
Pony Line — Lobby bar at the Four Seasons. We enjoyed the innovative cocktails in this gorgeous lounge almost every evening. They are served alongside homemade (and quite addictive) potato chips with spicy barbaque-y sauce. The food is fantastic here as well — especially the burger (best in the city!), chorizo sliders, and empandas.
El Marisol — Excellent white-tablecloth steakhouse across the street from the Four Seasons.
Piegari — Italian restaurant across from the Four Seasons. There are two related Piegari’s on the same street — one is the steakhouse, and the other is more Italian-focused. Both are considered very good, but we only tried the Italian one. Servings are huge, fyi!
Floreria Atlantico — Super cool basement speakeasy which is entered through a refrigerator door inside a lovely flower shop. Great cocktails and tapas — the Bloody Mary is a must-order.
848 — Small wine bar next door to Floreria Atlantico. We enjoyed a glass of wine here while waiting for F.A. to open. I liked the vibe, friendly staff, & pretty design of the place. Didn’t try the food but it does well on yelp.
Trendy neighborhood great for strolling with lots of fantastic restaurants, bars, boutiques, parks and museums.
Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires — well-regarded contemporary museum.
Evita Peron Museum — museum dedicated to Evita; it is situated in a beautiful old mansion which Eva Peron commisioned in 1948 as a temporary shelter for women and children without housing resources.
Japanese Gardens — largest gardens of this type outside of Japan.
Bosques de Palermo — largest park in Buenos Aires, and includes a museum, planetarium, huge rose garden, carousel, and even a Starbucks!
Don Julio — Possibly the most famous of the many steakhouses in B.A. and listed in the 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America. Great food. Love the vintage decor, the hand-painted tiles, and the walls lined with empty wine bottles signed by their owners. Book well in advance via email — don’t pay attention to those on Trip Advisor or Yelp who say the restaurant does not take reservations!!
Olsen — Gorgeous Scandinavian restaurant which is perfect for lunch or brunch. Food not as good as the restaurant design in my opinion BUT I would still happily enjoy a leisurely hour in the garden with family or friends, Bloody Mary in hand.
UCO — Hip restaurant inside the boutique-style Fierro Hotel with excellent food and a lovely garden.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, with lots of cobblestone streets and a bohemian vibe. Plenty of handicraft and antique stores to browse — we somehow ended up with a $40 deer-skin rug which now graces our ski house. Be sure to wander through the interesting San Telmo Market which houses food, handicraft, and vintage vendors. This is a neighborhood to stroll, but it is best to do so on a Sunday when it hosts a weekly antiques fair and flea market on Calle Defensa — you might also catch some tango and other street performances here as well.
La Brigada — classic white-tablecloth steakhouse with walls lined with soccer memorabilia. Recommended to us by the Four Seasons concierge, and quite de-lish.
Bar El Federal — old cafe/bar near the San Telmo Market. It has been in existence since 1864 when it opened as a pulperia (general store.) Check out it’s unique history on the website. Best for a light meal or perhaps just a beer or coffee, but definitely worth a stop.
This is the neighborhood known for it’s brightly colored old buildings. It is touristy, but fun. I’ve heard and read to visit only during the day — after dark it is more prone to street-crime.
We enjoyed a quick wander through the streets, and a cold beer while we watched a tango show at La Vieja Rotiseria. I would not recommend eating here, but do stop by for a beverage — I loved the singer and the beautiful dancers fulfilled my desire to see some tango. I would have liked to have seen a proper tango show, but the rest of my party was not so keen so I took what I could get!
This is the beautiful historical center where most of the government buildings reside.
Casa Rosado — Instead of The White House, Argentina has The Pink House! The balconies of this government building are where Eva Peron gave her famous speeches to the public.
Palacio Barolo — Gorgeous building which pays homage to Dante’s Divine Comedy. It has fantastic views of the city; it was the tallest building in South America when it was built back in the 1920’s.
Cafe Tortoni — One of the city’s oldest cafes — first opened in 1858. It has a long history of supporting writers and artists and is also well-known for it’s nightly tango shows. We stopped here to enjoy the beautiful historial space while we sipped coffee and dipped churros in hot chocolate. Yum!
If you’ve been to Buenos Aires, please list your favorite spots in the comments below!