We have told you that Buenos Aires was our favorite destination in 2012, and shared all the things we think you shouldn’t miss when you go there, but what exactly is it that made us fall for Argentina’s capital? We’ve covered it in the Buenos Aires edition of our Things We Love series.
1 The tree-lined streets
This city is an ice cream lover’s paradise. The minimum size is a cone with two big scoops, which is all we ever got, but people everywhere order 1/2 kilo or even a kilo of ice cream (that is 2.2 pounds of ice cream, for those of you who don’t do metric). The main chains are Freddo and Volta, and we also found this little cafe called Dieci on Avenida Santa Fe that had two heaping scoops for $3.
Because it is not only NOT illegal but also socially acceptable, artists in BA have been able to create an outdoor museum of incredible street art, which we raved about here.
4 The dog walkers
The Argentine people love their dogs, but living in condos and apartments is tough on their canine friends. A law states that dogs must have plenty of time outdoors, so dog-walkers are hired and often have 10 or more dogs on a giant, braided leash together at once. Surprisingly, the dogs adjust well and walk proudly together as a pack. Adorable!
The independent little coffee shops and cafes that sprawl out onto the sidewalks in Palermo are great for coffee lovers, people watchers, digital nomads and sampling Argentine treats like homemade alfajores.
San Telmo’s Sunday market was one of the best flea markets we have ever visited. The street performers, buskers and Brazilian drum groups, tango dancers and packed bars along the long street called La Defensa seems more like a big street party than am outdoor walking market.
7 The architecture
For the first few days before we went on our Free BA tour, we were constantly marveling over how European everything looked. We found out on the tour that ships in the 19th century brought agricultural goods to Europe and rather than return empty, they were weighed down with building materials for the Argentine elite.
The pizza in Buenos Aires is incredible, you know how we feel about that!
Unlike lost traditional dances of other countries, the Tango is still very much alive in the city. From the the Sunday market in San Telmo and tourist restaurants of La Boca to local milongas (tango bars), tango is everywhere in BA.
10 The accent
Never in a million years did we think we’d fall for the distinct Argentine accent where ‘playa’ (beach) becomes ‘plaisha’ and ‘yo’ (I) become ‘sho’. In fact, when, on the first day we moved in to our Wimdu vacation rental, the porter asked if he could carry my backpack by saying ‘sho la shevo?’ I giggled at how funny it sounded and it took a long time to get used to hearing expats speaking the distinct dialect. Cut to six weeks later and it wasn’t just the accent that was so endearing, but also the rolling Italian rhythm and exaggerated hand gestures to match.
11 The smell of the flower stalls in every street
There are flower vendors in almost every street in Buenos Aires, and sometimes you can smell them before you even see them, conveniently masking the smell of garbage often piled up on the streets (hey, we didn’t say BA was perfect). We love that you can just pick up flowers anywhere!
12 Porteños working out
What with all the pizza, steak and smoking as if the world were ending tomorrow (see ‘feeling like the city could fall apart at any moment’ below), you might get the impression that Porteños are an unhealthy bunch, but it’s quite the opposite. Gyms are everywhere and all morning ladies walk around with yoga mats under their arms (I loved BuenaOnda Yoga), and popular outdoor workouts include running along Puerto Madero and doing boot camp or other exercises in the park (that’s me cooling down in the pic below).
13 The balance of old and new throughout the city
San Telmo is filled with antique shops and breezy squares, Palermo Hollywood has restaurants with glass store fronts and celebrity chefs. You can have an all-organic vegan lunch and spend the afternoon in an old school cafe with waiters dressed in black and white carrying big trays filled with espressos and medialunas, harking back to times before diets and low-fat butter. Monday to Friday people in suits and ties are glued to their smartphones, but weekends are reserved for taking it slow, with long drawn out asados (barbecues), late nights and lazy days in park.
These flaky, sugary croissants are a popular breakfast dish in Argentina, not only in the capital, but there is just something so special about the deals in every cafe in town for Cafe con Leche (coffee with milk) and three medialunas in Buenos Aires.
Crossing this monster avenue with a total of 16 lanes takes between two and three traffic light cycles, but we love it for its shops, restaurants, hotels, the iconic obelisk and the grand opera house, Teatro Colon.
We loved watching the sunset over Puerto Madero, a newly regenerated former port area of the city.
There are over 30 protests every week in Buenos Aires. Our second day in the city, we were on a city tour, and our guide Ana pointed out several ‘buses escolares’ (school buses) on the side of the road. “Uh oh,” she said almost indifferently, “there’s a protest.” Sure enough, down the road, hundreds of protestors were gathered on the 9th of July Avenue (none were school children; protestors just come into the city center on school buses). When we asked her why, she said, “Who knows, who cares.” One night, over one million protestors gathered in BA and several hundred thousand in cities around Argentina. We were having pizza not a mile away in a packed restaurant where no one seemed the least bit bothered. How people can so passionately take to the streets yet so casually block out the chants of others is a confusing element of Buenos Aires life.
The Argentine capital is overflowing with expats, thanks to very relaxed visa regulations and moderately enforced start-up rules. The expat community is fascinating, very in-the-know and fun to hang out with while in town.
19 Romantic local moments
The world’s middle and upper classes are so homogenous nowadays, so we loved how, on morning walks, we would often pass men and women in small, local cafes reading their newspapers and drinking coffee as if it were a century ago and everyone wasn’t in a race against the clock.
What a green city! Like any other major capital city, sprawling cement covers much of Buenos Aires, but there are massive parks all throughout the center, some of which qualify as little forests. We spent many afternoons reading in the green spaces here.
Parisian style architecture lines this pristine neighborhood, most visitors to the city will pass through here at some point as it is home to the Recoleta cemetery where Evita Peron’s body is now buried.
Protestors, chaos, lack of any level of faith in the government and increasingly suffocating inflation, Buenos Aires feels like a Latin powder keg ready to pop, and although you would think you should be scared of these elements coming to a head, instead the city feels electric, daring, and like you better live it up now before it all falls apart.
23 The strong guys who carry the buildings
Dani took loads of pictures of these guys holding up the city’s most beautiful buildings.
Spanish and Italian influence is obvious, but there is a large Jewish, Polish, English and Arab influence in the city, too.
25 The attitude toward LGBT rights
Argentina was the first South American country to pass full on marriage equality laws, and the LGBT community is completely integrated with very little homophobia in wider society – despite being a Latino and heavily Catholic country.
Mate is a stimulant herbal drink, and the people of BA are addicted to it! People drink mate in the park, at work, in cafes and we often saw people refilling from their Thermoses right on the street.
Massive above-ground mausoleums line what are like mini city streets in both of the major cemeteries in Buenos Aires. While most tourists visit the Recoleta, mentioned above, hardly anyone makes it out to the much bigger and more beautiful Chacarita cemetery that Dani visited a few days before we left town.
Much like the Metro station signs in Paris, the beautifully ornate green billboard holders in Buenos Aires are just one of those little, even subconscious, details that make BA such a romantic place.
What was once a grand theater is now the grandest of bookstores, and bibliophiles can devour literature while sipping coffee right on the theater’s stage.
Meat, pizza, meat, meat, pizza. That was all we heard about BA before arriving, but it turns out that the people have a healthy attitude towards meatless meals!
Entire stores are dedicated to this popular German chocolate, and after months of bad chocolate choices, Dani was in absolute heaven being able to get back to her absolute favorite sugary vice!
Sure, the buses might not stop all the way before you jump on, and getting change can be difficult at time. The Subte might not run very late and petty theft might be common, but using the city’s interactive online map, we were able to get around the city by bus (50 cents a ride) and subway ($1.25 a ride) super easily day and night.
33 The cats in the Botanical Gardens
Dozens of them all over the place, licking and cuddling all day long. Obviously Dani’s favorite place in BA, she even chose to spent a part of her birthday afternoon here!
Have you been to Buenos Aires? What are the things you love about the city?