|The Obelisk of Buenos Aires, built in 1936, is in the center of the Plaza de la República, a gathering place, particulary for football fans celebrating a win.|
Where to Stay
1555 Malabia House is a gem of a boutique hotel in the recently dubbed “Palermo Soho” area, full of funky shops and galleries. Malabia House was formerly a convent, and everything’s a blend of modern convenience and old-school charm. There’s a small but airy atrium in the back of the townhouse with floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal little gardens in outdoor courtyards. Rooms have molding and French doors but also flat-screen TVs and minibars.
Land in Buenos Aires; head to Alto Palermo Mall (Avenida Coronel Díaz 2098, Palermo). This may not be what you had in mind when you decided to travel to Argentina, but take a look around: there are a lot more locals here than at some staged tango show in the streets. Most likely you’re not completely up-to-date on Argentine style, so this is your chance to pick up some local threads from brands like Bensimon for guys or Yagmour for girls. You can also find good bargains on international brands, from Levi’s to Yves Saint Laurent.
You might have heard that Porteños, or Buenos Aires locals, don’t eat until quite late. You might not know that their secret is an early-evening snack. Cutesy Parisian-style cafe Oui Oui (Nicaragua 6068, Palermo Viejo), in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood, serves delicious morsels (think arugula salad with hummus and Brie toast) to tie you over. The cafe’s décor is endearing in a shabby way, with rickety pink table sets and scribbled chalkboard specials. Linger for an hour and check out the literary-looking crowd while you sip coffee, tea or yerba mate, an herbal stimulant drink.
Now fortified, wander around the bohemian Palermo neighborhood window-shopping and peeking into galleries. A lot of the best stuff is on calle Honduras, like the Salsipuedes (Honduras 4814, Palermo Viejo), which, when translated, means “leave if you can.” The boutique sells the latest collections from local designers. If you are in the area on the last Friday of the month, you’ll be treated to Gallery Night, where art spaces open their doors and serve drinks, while musical groups play in the streets.
Time for meat and Malbec. Miranda (Costa Rica 5602, Palermo Hollywood) looks like a trendy place you’d find in New York or San Francisco, but the cuisine is distinctly Argentine. Despite high ceilings, big windows, and a mezzanine for people-watching, this loft-style restaurant still feels cozy. Cooks work the parrilla (grill) in an open kitchen while friendly and bilingual waiters help you pick out a bottle of wine in the busy dining area. The stars are the meats: pork loin cooked with yams and apples, Patagonian lamb and asado especial (special grilled beef). Charred protein will be accompanied on your plate with French fries, salad and grilled vegetables of your choice.
Don’t skip the deluxe breakfast at 1555 Malabia House. You’ll find a buffet of hot coffee, fresh fruit salad and an assortment of breads, pastries, cold cuts and cheeses served in an intimate dining room with elegant plates and silverware. The lady from the front desk might even cook you some eggs in the adjacent kitchen. While eating, check out the weather report on the bulletin board.
After spending your first day consuming, you might want to do some actual sightseeing. The Cementerio de la Recoleta (Junin 1760, Recoleta) is probably the city’s most well-known and important cultural attraction. A veritable who’s who of Argentine history is buried in this labyrinthine necropolis, including numerous Argentine presidents and the unforgettable Eva Peron. Extravagant tombs of marble, bronze and granite ensure that their inhabitants won’t be forgotten. The cemetery has a certain creepy and faded grandeur, with stray cats roaming its paths and cracked statues overgrown with weeds.
The Puerto Madero waterfront area is one of those classic neighborhood gentrification success stories. Formerly one of the most rundown and dangerous sections of Buenos Aires, Puerto Madero’s red brick dock buildings were transformed into a seemingly endless row of fancy restaurants and offices in the 1990s. The inevitable high-rise condo buildings followed, and it’s now a hotbed for modern architecture and one of the most desirable places in the city to live for the young and the trendy. Stroll along the Rio de la Plata waterfront and admire the Santiago Calatrava-designed bridge as you choose somewhere for lunch. You’ll have plenty of restaurant options, from the aptly named Sushi Club (Alicia M. de Justo 286, Puerto Madero) to snazzy Italian at Campo dei Fiori (Alicia M. de Justo 1760, Puerto Madero).
With great Italian heritage, you can be sure Porteños take their coffee and gelato as seriously as their beef and red wine. Head to any one of the many Un’Altra Volta (Santa Fe 1826, Libertador 3060) cafes around town for some transcendental dulce de leche gelato, which has an ultra-rich salty caramel flavor and a thick, velvety texture that’s perfect for washing down with a double espresso. Alongside your espresso you’ll find a small glass of sparkling water and a few little cookies on the side, a nice touch.