I had always heard that Buenos Aires has a very European feel, and after visiting, I would agree. Most Argentines are of European descent. Wide boulevards, plazas, fountains, grand monuments and many parks make Buenos Aires a beautiful city. I have been there in both the fall (March) and spring (September). Those months are great times to visit. Please note that although there is no official visa required for Argentina, U.S. citizens are required to pay a fee upon entry to the country, payable in cash (exact change required) or by credit card. The fee went up to $140 in August 2010. The entry permit is valid for 10 years.
I have stayed in the NH Jousten hotel, a decent business hotel in a central location (on Av. Corrientes) near the Av 9 de Julio (central boulevard in Buenos Aires). I have also stayed at the Hilton in Puerto Madero, which is a trendy mix of modern construction and renovated old warehouses. The Hilton hotel is relatively new with a huge atrium and many amenities.
Puerto Madero has many restaurants (although fairly expensive by most standards: $25-50 per person), shops, marinas and a couple of old sailing ships from the late 1800’s that can be visited. There is also a ferry terminal nearby for trips to Uruguay (see my travel blog on Uruguay).
As might be expected, the beef is excellent and we found very good Italian food also. Prices drop dramatically by going just a little ways out from the central district. Four of us ate at an excellent fondue restaurant (La Rosadita) in the Palermo neighborhood for less than $55, including drinks. Argentineans eat late by U.S. standards-typically around 9 or 10 pm.
It is easy to arrange a day tour of Buenos Aires either through your hotel or through a transportation service directly. The main sights can be covered in ½ day. The areas usually covered are: La Boca (the old port and immigrant area), the historical center of Casa Rosada and Plaza de Mayo, and Recoleta (home of many embassies, and the famous La Recoleta Cemetery).
La Boca and Caminito Street. This area reminded us a little bit of New Orleans.
Musicians, street performers, costumed tango dancers and many little shopping booths are found in this colorful area. A number of houses are made of brightly painted corrugated metal siding, which was an inexpensive building material for new immigrants. Be sure to explore the little alleyways behind the street facades-a lot of shops and interesting sights are hidden behind the street fronts.
Casa Rosada (the Pink House-below). This is the historic residence of the President of Argentina. It houses a museum which we did not take the time to visit. The Plaza de Mayo is located by the Casa Rosada and is a gathering spot for demonstrations, tourists and great people watching. Nearby is Florida Street, a long pedestrian-only shopping street.
Tango Shows. No visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without taking in a tango show. Our hotel recommended the Carlos Gardel show, whose name is synonymous with tango. Options include dinner and the show, or just the show, which is what we did. The cost for the show only (booked through the hotel) was $150 for two. The theater was packed on Saturday night, and the dining area was full (and tight!). For viewing the show only, we sat at a bar stool area overlooking the dining space, and had a great view of the stage. The show was very enjoyable-a mix of dance numbers and orchestra music.
Recoleta. This is a highly fashionable area with many beautiful buildings and monuments. Many buildings have a classical French design, including of course the French Embassy. The Church of Nuestra Señora de Pilar was built in 1732, and is the oldest Church in Buenos Aires.
Next to the Church is La Recoleta Cemetery which is like a miniature city, with little streets lined with grand mausoleums which are beautifully decorated. Eva Perón, the beloved First Lady and political leader of the 1940’s and 50’s is interred here along with many other famous Argentineans.
Parana River Delta (above). If time permits, it is also worthwhile to get outside the city. We visited Tigre and the Parana River Delta, and took a boat ride through the Delta. It is just about 18 miles from the heart of Buenos Aires, and many people have weekend homes in this area where they sail, swim, ski, relax and camp. These homes could have been anywhere and the area reminded me a little bit of the bayou country in Louisiana. There are some good shopping stalls in Tigre, I got some nice leather gifts at great prices.
From Buenos Aires, we also took a day trip across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia, Uruguay. See our short blog on Uruguay.
On a future trip we hope to explore the countryside of Argentina.