Feature photo by lrargerich
During a recent trip to Argentina, I explored many diverse sections of Buenos Aires both in the main city area, known as “Capital Federal,” and in some of the gorgeous, very peaceful suburbs—highly recommended if you want a bit of repose from the urban chaos. As a city of about 14 million that boasts both the widest river (Rio de la Plata) and widest avenue (Avenida 9 de Julio) in the world, Buenos Aires is a wonderful mezcla of chillaxed people, flavorful cuisine and good vibes that will grab you and never let you go.
Here are just a few reasons that should get you drooling to make Buenos Aires your next major travel destination:
Cheap public transport.
Since the government subsidizes transport within the city, exploring the city via metro, bus or city train will cost you no more than 2 pesos one way—that’s 50 cents! The best possible city-wide tour you can ever get of Buenos Aires is to sit in the back of the bus by an open window, and let the river breeze flutter through your hair as the city whizzes by, faster than you can say “fernet y cola!”
Which leads us to the next point of interest: Fernet.
A couple porteños (the name for the people of Buenos Aires) told me that the only reason they buy Coke is to mix it with their fernet. This herbalicious liquor might taste like a strong minty toothpaste at first, but splash in bit more Coke, drink up, and you’ll be partying past dawn.
Yet another staple beverage is mate (excellent after a night of too much fernet y cola), which also has its basis in herbs known as yerba. This social ritual, hot drink is sipped through a metal straw (bombilla) from, usually, a small pumpkin gourd. This tradition is all about sharing, so you if you sip and forget to pass the mate to the next person, you’ll be called out for bogarting the mate: “Che, no es un microfono.”
No matter what, during your time in Argentina, you’ve got to make someone invite you to a proper traditional Argentine asado. Sorry to say it, but a backyard BBQ just can’t beat this incredible feast of arguably the best meat in the world. Make sure you throw on some homemade chimichurri sauce, and grab a divine slice of grilled and seasoned provoleta cheese.
The enormous mechanical flower!
You’ve just got to see the Floralis Generica up close. Head to Plaza de las Naciones Unidas, and see for yourself this overwhelming work of art and machinery that opens up its gleaming metal petals in the morning and closes them back up the evening. This is the sturdiest flower you’ll ever see—it was actually made out of the same material used to construct commercial aircraft.
Did you know that you can get to Uruguay from Buenos Aires in under 60 minutes? Take a ferry from Puerto Madero and you’ll find yourself in the little town of Colonia in Uruguay, a charming place for a day trip and a fascinating historical adventure. Just don’t forget your passport!
Trendy local designers have set up shop in cute little boutiques that line the streets of this extremely hip barrio. And the vast maze of street markets are the absolute best spots to shop for funky, hand-crafted souvenirs. Palermo also happens to be very popular with expats—hence the large amount of overpriced expat-friendly bars and cafes you’ll find on every corner. It’s recommended to stay away from these spots and hold out for the real deal in local cuisine. Which leads me to the next point…
There are literally thousands of casas de empanadas in Buenos Aires. For 4 pesos ($1), you can have yourself a piping hot empanada. These scrumptious and friendly finger foods come in such a wide variety of fillings, it will be hard to come to a quick decision. But once you’ve made your selection from a menu of 20 to 30 tempting fillings (like onion and cheese, spicy beef, sweet corn and bechamel, caprese), be prepared to do a bit of studying. The cute little paper that comes with your order actually illustrates the distinct and intricate designs pressed into the dough of each empanada to indicate the various fillings. Even the food is artsy cool here!
The city makes a determined effort to frequently provide free concerts in various and sometimes unlikely venues. So if you visit the gorgeous, lush grounds of the Botanical Gardens, check out the latest exhibition at the main branch of the city library or just hang around the streets of Palermo long enough and don’t be surprised when a whole lot of groovy music and dancing breaks out! You can also stop by any of the Centros culturales (such as San Martin, Recoleta, Borges, Rojas) for excellent exhibitions and concerts. And, if it’s tango you’re looking for, don’t worry—it’s not so difficult to stumble upon spontaneous, free-for-all street tango around the city (and I’m not talking about the mini Disneyland of tango, La Boca).
One last note: For US tourists arriving into Argentina via the Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, you now have to pay a reciprocity fee of $140 for an instant visa. But at least the visa is good for 10 years, so you won’t have to pay again for your visits to Argentina until 2021!
And, trust me, you’ll be back!