Buenos Aires does live up to it’s “Paris of South America” reputation. It almost feels like Europe sometimes when you walk the streets. Now if only I could shake the unsafe feeling everyone keeps polluting my mind with so that I could just enjoy it. Yep, there we go. There is a good air about this place.
Getting in and where I stayed
The first time at least, we arrived bright and early on a Sunday after riding the night bus from Iguaçu Falls. I think I slept well after a little wine in Cama class. The 18 hour bus ride wasn’t so bad except for the repeated police checks. We were stopped three times in the night for police to check IDs and look for contraband. They were polite but couldn’t someone tell the other guys we’d been checked?
From Buenos Aires Retiro station (bus, train and ferry) we took a public bus towards our hostel as per their instructions. They don’t accept cash on the buses and everywhere I went required the Sube card system. The bus driver kindly let us on despite us not having a card.
We stayed at Sabatico Traveller’s Hostel (AR160+30 tax for dorms on the corner of San Jose and Mexico in Montserrat) which had a nice lobby, breakfast and outside area. The only issue we had was dealing with the mislabeled prices on Hostel World. They strip out the tax and don’t clearly tell you about it in Argentina apparently.
When I came back from Bariloche, I used Hostel Bookers instead and didn’t have the same issue. I also stayed at a different hostel called 06 Central Hostel (AR130+no tax), but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you just want to stay on the cheap and not shower. The staff were awesome, but there was no hot water and grotty showers are just well…gross. Worse than at Mt Bromo!
Getting some of that good Air
San Telmo Market
Sunday morning was the best time for San Telmo Market so we headed straight there. Outside there were heaps of flea market type stalls gathered around a square. You could find all sorts of old watches, cameras, glasses and antiques. Too bad I can’t carry any more stuff.
Inside one of the arcades there was a great little shop selling two empandas and a coffee for 60 pesos. We split a few but in the end I had eaten three combos.
There were also a bunch of other shops inside, but it had a nice feel to it. It didn’t feel so tacky like Paddy’s Markets in Sydney. There was a lot of real stuff here for sale and some of it probably considered junk by thousands of passers by until the right person came along.
What we hadn’t realised is that there was about another kilometre of markets to go. I assume this was Sunday’s doing, but markets went all the way along Defensa to the Plaza de Mayo. I’d never seen so many market stalls and without as much duplication as you’d expect.
Buenos Aires is famous for Tango. So where could be better to go see some? While we were walking around San Telmo Markets we saw this sweet old couple dancing in the square.
Since I didn’t have the skills myself I thought it might be silly to go to a Tango Bar in Palermo. So I decided to go and see a show and I did the most worst thing a traveller can do. I was lazy and looked on Trip Advisor for a recommendation – a sin punishable by death! They must pay Google royally because they always clog up my search results. But whilst their recommendations are always tacky and touristy at least this one was close by and seemed to have a bit of history to it.
Cafe Tortoni was originally opened by a French guy and it didn’t seem like the cafe itself even understood how it became famous for Tango shows. It’s known for Parisian style grandeur inside, not for its food or coffee though and I can confirm their mediocrity.
The show was AR320 so a bit pricey, but I was happy enough. A good mix of singing, tango and some jolly old chaps making up the jazz band.
After getting back from Bariloche, I headed down to the Puerto Madero waterfront to check out it’s “London style” revamp. The old waterfront buildings and cranes looked well maintained and were full of restaurants and bars. Not a bad place at all, but mostly on the expensive side of course.
The Free City Tour
The next day I took the 10.30am Free City Tour, but I didn’t have time for the 3.30pm afternoon one. The tour was pretty informative and explained why there was such a mix of European styles throughout the city. The guide was very helpful and left us at the enormous fig tree near the Recoleta Saturday Markets and Cemetery.
Cementario de la Recoleta
It might seem a bit strange traipsing around a cemetery, but Cementario de la Recoleta is known for its elaborate mausoleums. Being a rich area everyone used to try and outdo each other and so what we’re left with a really interesting maze.
I always find cemeteries peaceful, not creepy, and what’s left behind is meant to show that the people who lie here meant something to someone and might tell you a bit of a story. I think I also just like when inanimate things show their age like living things.
Of all the places in Buenos Aires that I was told were unsafe, this is probably the only one that really lived up to it’s reputation. Both hostels strictly said stick to the tourist areas and don’t wander the streets and I can see why. Catching the #29 bus through the barrio did feel pretty dodgy. A guy I met even said people were running from their houses to tell him to get away before he got mugged.
The touristy area was fairly relaxed though so you can take the time to explore the colourfully tacky streets in the old Italian district. It is amusing and a bit different so I’d recommend going to see it. You don’t need to stay long, just get back on the #29 bus to get back to centro.
Argentinians or in this case, porteños, aren’t really known for being vegetarians, so I asked my hostel for a recommendation on where to get a good Argentinian steak.
So I found myself enjoying some at Capataz near Lavalle Subte Station (or “Lavashe” as they say in the Argentine accent). Served up with some chilli, an acidic salsa and a glass of Malbec from Mendoza for just AR230. Great for a hungry backpacker!
I wouldn’t really call La Boca street art, but if you want to find some just look…. anywhere. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.