If you’ve ever flirted with the idea of escaping to exotic, culturally-rich South America, learning the local language, mastering the Tango, and perhaps staying a little longer than you really ought to – be warned. Buenos Aires will steal your heart.
This is a city that is nothing if not alive. Vividly coloured neighbourhoods, infectious street music, fantastic nightlife and culinary scene to-die-for are just some of the reasons why visitors return to Buenos Aires again and again. With the Argentinean capital so easy to get to from Australia – Air New Zealand flies up to five services per week via Auckland – there’s no reason to wait if you’ve always longed to explore this charismatic city.
So, where to start? Let’s start with breakfast. In fact, let’s make that food in general.
A taste of food in Buenos Aires
You can’t go to Buenos Aires without trying the asado, or barbecue. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can’t go to Buenos Aires without someone trying to talk you out of that commitment. (What goes on tour stays on tour? No one’s judging here.) Yes, the Portenos (residents of Buenos Aires) love their perfectly cooked meat. Asado (sometimes called parrilla) can be found almost anywhere you look because beef is the backbone of Argentina’s diet. At an asado you’ll be able to sample some of the most deliciously grilled beef you’ve ever tasted. Mouthwatering doesn’t even come close.
Argentina’s favourite street food is the empanada: stuffed pastry pockets similar to the empanadilla in Puerto Rico or the Cornish pasty. Empanadas come baked or friend and can be vegetarian or filled with tasty meat. The most popular fillings include chicken cheese and ham, corn, caprese or blue cheese. Beef is always a big hit (we’re in Argentina remember) although seasoning such as cuming, spring onion, boiled egg or potato depends on the province of origin.
Wake up to a Latin-meets-Parisian breakfast in Buenos Aires with the simple yet satisfying medialuna and coffee. A medialuna is an Argentine-style croissant, and most Portenos pair a couple of these fresh and flaky treats with a hot milky coffee. Try your medialuna plain and sweet, savoury, stuffed with ham and cheese, or spread with Argentina’s ubiquitous dulce de leche (very much like condensed milk!).
Buenos Aires by day
Toward the southern side of the city of Buenos Aires you’ll find the world-famous street of El Caminito in La Boca, a magnet for visitors and pure Instagram gold. Here, the neighbourhood’s typical tenement shacks are covered in corrugated iron and painted in dazzlingly bright rainbow colours. Originally the homes were brushed with left-over paint by Genoese port workers. Then, in 1955, La Boca’s famous artist Benito Quinquela Martin helped create the area that is today recognised all around the world. Make sure you take a few extra pesos with you when you visit, because the custom is for visitors to give a little donation for the privilege of posing with tango dancers or some of the elaborate props.
One of the top things to do in Buenos Aires is put yourself in the middle of a passionate, Latino football crowd on game day. Seeing the Boca Juniors play at La Bombonera is a spectator experience that you won’t forget in a hurry. You’ll have to book ahead to get tickets, so the more organised you can be with your planning, the better. If you don’t get the chance to get amongst the singing, shouting, jumping crowd, you can always take a tour of the stadium via the stadium’s museum, Museo de la Pasion Boquenese, which is open daily from 10am to 6pm.
A visit to Buenos Aires wouldn’t be complete without an Eva-appreciation moment. Every city has its heroes and for Buenos Aires, that person is former First Lady Eva Peron. Make your way to the Casa Rosada (Pink House) on the eastern side of the Palaza de Mayo, and you’ll see the balcony from which Eva Peron famously addressed hordes of devoted fans before her untimely death from cancer at the age of 33.
Buenos Aires by night
In a word, tango. Whether you want to sit back and watch the experts carve up the dancefloor with their impassioned moves, or you want to get out there and try this classic dance for yourself, this is the city to experience tango. For beginners and those just passing through, there are numerous casual places to pick up a few tango lessons – usually in any one of the many neighbourhood bars where the mood is relaxed and the crowd is low-key. If taking in a tango performance is more your style, head to the Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso, one of BA’s best-loved live-music venues with top-name tango music performances.
Whether you like moody jazz bars with low lighting, swanky cocktail lounges, wine bars and tasting rooms, nightclubs, live music venues or traditional-style pubs, there is no shortage of nightlife in Buenos Aires. What’s even better is that every night of the week is big for a different reason, particularly in areas like Palermo, Recoleta and San Telmo. What’s even more alluring are the secret bars – New York style speakeasy bars, very much underground like during prohibition in the United States. You’ll have to ask the locals about these. We could tell you where they are but then... you’ve got it. They wouldn’t be secret.