Buenos Aires! For a long time I have been looking forward to get here. Various friends kept on telling me how wonderful and magical this city is and almost everyone I know ended up staying longer than planned. It seems to be hard to leave this place ones you get sucked in and I am very excited and ready to experience it full on. Guidebooks suggest that it is a mix of Paris and New York City and apparently the most metropolitan city of the continent, diverse enough to satisfy everyone’s needs and wants. All these books, blogs and stories make people want to go but warn at the same time that it is going to be a rough ride on a rollercoaster – what an awesome way to describe a city…!
Over a period of one month, I end up going to Buenos Aires four times, staying in three various types of accommodation (hostels, hotels and couchsurfing) in three different neighbourhoods and catching up with five good friends (Lorena, Marcus, Lucas, Al and Sami).
2 – 5 October
During my first visit, I get a very basic idea about the city and its diverse neighbourhoods. Being based in the city center I explore the main plazas including the congress and the national theater – impressive buildings that easily keep up with what can be found in Paris, the “Obelisco” – Buenos Aires’ landmark, the main shopping strip and vibrant avenue Corrientes which reminds me of New York’s Times Square with its countless of theaters, cinemas, luminous advertising and restaurants. This part of the city is loud, big, vibrant, hectic and very busy. It properly feels like a massive city in every way, including a modern subway system, a lot of traffic even though some of the main roads feature up the eight lanes (in each direction) and people from all parts of the world and all forms of life: suits, bums, tourists, students, expats, artists, vendors…
Since Lorena is in town for two days I get a bit of guidance in these first couple of days so I am not completely lost right away. She briefly introduces me to three other neighbourhoods that all very much differ from one another: Puerto Madero, San Telmo and La Boca. While our quick stroll through Puerto Madero and San Telmo is just a little teaser and makes me want to go back there to explore these neighbourhoods in more depth, we do spend some more time in La Boca. La Boca, located south of the city center, used to be the immigrant’s quarter where many Italians and Spanish lived in basic metal huts/houses once they arrived in Buenos Aires after crossing the Atlantic. It is a very colourful part of the city as the metal huts are painted in the craziest colours next to a lot of graffiti and street art that can be found all over La Boca. Nowadays, the main address for tourists is Caminito, two blocks filled with restaurants with pricy menus and tango shows, souvenir shops, art galeries and street vendors selling handicrafts. Although it is insanely touristy, the atmosphere is lovely, colourful, vibrant and definitley worth coming back for.
Next to its immigrants and tourists La Boca is home of Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires’ most important soccer club. Unfortunately, I do not manage to attend one of their matches as it is basically impossible to get tickets if you are not a club member, due to security reasons. How strange that all teams (nationwide) may only be supported by their fans when playing in their own stadium as this is the only one the fans are allowed to enter.
9 – 10 October
My second visit to Buenos Aires is very short, in fact just one afternoon, on my way from La Plata to Rosario. However, this afternoon is an important one as one of the main roads turns into a massive BBQ festival – probably the biggest one I have ever experienced. BBQs, or “asados” how the locals call them, are as important for Argentineans as “mate” (the famous herbal tea) and red wine. It is a great passion and a culture of theirs to have frequent asados with friends and family so on this afternoon the streets are packed with asado fans from all over the country and the air is full of BBQ smoke.
16 – 21 October
After visiting Rosario I return to Buenos Aires together with Marcus whose birthday is coming up. We stay with and “surf” on Marcelo’s couch for a few days. Together with his mum and his brother he lives in a residential neighbourhood without any tourists around. On the first night they provide a warm dinner while Marcus and I take care of the red wine supply. It is a clear night so we can sit outside and sip our wine in their little garden waiting for Marcus’ birthday to start.
We welcome the day with a delicious breakfast before taking off to explore more of the city. On today’s agenda is Palermo, a neighbourhood known for its vibrant nightlife, boutique shopping facilities and trendy cafes, bars and restaurants. On our way to Palermo we take a look at Cementerio de la Chacarita, a massive cemetery with very diverse types of graves ranging from private high-end options to giant underground constructions with several levels for the masses. In a way, it very much reminds me of luxury villas for wealthy families versus ugly apartment blocks for the poor. It seems that even after we die the inequality between rich and poor keeps on existing.
We find out that Palermo is a nice and trendy neighbourhood that invites to simply wander around during the day and to hop from bar to bar at night. We return to Palermo later on that night to enjoy an open-air percussion concert of highly energetic beats and in the next few days I also keep on coming back with Marcus and Lucas (who comes up from La Plata) for some drinks, a game of pool and for another one of Marcus’ stand-up comedy shows.
This time, I also get to know Puerto Madero a little better. It used to be an industrial port-area until it was redesigned a few years ago. A typical development that can be found in many cities happened here in the past years: an unattractive, industrial area near the city center suddenly turns/is turned into a very trendy and cool neighbourhood, combining modern design with industrial features, a kind of style that I am a big fan of.
26 October – 2 November
My last week in Buenos Aires I spend catching up with Al, who I last hung out with in Chile about a month ago, getting to know the neighbourhood Recoleta and exploring more of San Telmo together with Sami, who drops by for a couple of days.
With its big and quite impressive houses, plenty of restaurants, museums, lush parks and its famous cemetery, Recoleta is one of the most fancy areas in the city. Strolling around this neighbourhood really has a Parisian feel to it.
All parts of the city are nice in a way even though they are so different that none can be compared to another. One of my most favourite neighbourhoods, however, is San Telmo. This old part of town is a bohemian quarter with cobblestone streets, lots of street art, antique shops, handicraft- and second-hand markets, cozy bars, life music and tango shows (in bars as well as in the streets). In these final days in Buenos Aires, Sami and I choose San Telmo as our base and thus get the chance to experience it in its full intensity. For both of us it feels like a little vacation to just dive into these chill San Telmo vibes and I cannot think of any better way to round off my time in Buenos Aires.
After having spent one month here I can summarize that Buenos Aires is a very fascinating city. I am sure I could easily hang around here for another month without getting bored and I officially announce that I will be back one day!
For now, it is time to say goodbye to Argentina though and to continue my way east. I have had many great experiences in this wonderful country, caught up with some amazing friends and made various new ones in these past two months. Thank you Argentina and see you again soon…