Our trip to South America was sparked by my friend Lauren’s year-long stint in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her boyfriend, Marcelo, is from Buenos Aires and has been applying to grad schools in the states; she moved there while he finished the process before returning to the states (his first time to live there) together. He was recently accepted to Duke and he and Lauren will move to Durham in short order! In the meantime, we had to get to South America so we could do as the locals do.
Johnny and I first traveled to Punta del Este, Uruguay, which you can read about here, and returned to Buenos Aires on Good Friday to spend the majority of our trip (five days and four nights in BA). I’ve broken my posts up into two, one about sights and one about the food we ate, beginning here with the sights. Details about meals and some of the bars we visited are intentionally omitted and will be included in the second post.
Again, I stress that we wanted to do as the locals do, so museum tours and such were not high on our list. We did of course see some of the highlights, such as the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral (the National Cathedral) and La Recoleta Cemetery. The city is stunning and very much resembles the architecture and feel of Paris. Pastry shops and small markets dot each neighborhood, along with pizzerias and cafes with windows filled with hot empanadas. Trees, parks and monumental statues line the streets, and the city is filled with buildings with unique personality, sandwiched together between high rises and apartments.
Lauren and Marce live in Hollywood, one of the two areas in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood, which got its name from the Argentine films studios that were first drawn to the empty warehouses for filming. SoHo is Hollywood’s neighbor in Palermo Viejo, with bustling restaurants, bars and boutiques. Hollywood has equally nice restaurants but is known to be slightly quieter than SoHo. Young professional locals and expats alike call the broader neighborhood home, in the northwest corner of the city. After arriving into the city and heading to lunch, we spent Friday late afternoon catching up with Lauren and Marce over a bottle of wine, and enjoying the view from their patio.
Markets, or “fairs” in Argentina, are a popular weekend attraction in Buenos Aires. Saturday and Sunday were primarily consumed by visiting a few in various neighborhoods. Saturday was spent at La Recoleta Market in Plaza Francia, to lounge on the grass and picnic in the park. It’s one of the better known markets and features art, leather goods, scarves, handmade mate cups (mate is a traditional tea that residents in various regions in South America sip on regularly) and cutting boards, among other unique or handmade items.
On Sunday Lauren and Marce wanted to visit Feria de Mataderos, a market that they hadn’t yet explored, with a stronger focus on meat and other food items, and a more local crowd. (Mataderos literally translates to slaughterhouses.) In an older neighborhood in the western part of the city, the market is only held on Sundays and features traditions of the area, including Gaucho-style dancing and music. Compared to Recoleta, the market was smaller but included more homemade sweets, jams, pickled items, breads and meats. Later in the afternoon Johnny and I stopped by Feria de San Telmo (also Sundays only), the third market of our visit, with booths primarily showcasing antiques and other cultural items, such as antique seltzer bottles (which Johnny purchased here). We also enjoyed a band playing tango music outside of the cathedral, with their accordions and strings, lighting up the air with dramatic tones.
Monday we walked through Parque Tres de Febrero (February 3 park), the sprawling park in Palermo, as we ventured to our lunch spot in Recoleta. Lauren then took us through the cathedral, Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and the attached cemetery, La Recoleta Cemetery. Every turn takes you to a new aboveground vault more ornate than the one before it. Notable historic figures such as presidents and generals are buried here, including the country’s beloved Eva Perón, better known as Evita.
From the cemetery we walked to the nearby mall for a purchase I was excited about – an Argentine leather bag. Argentina consumes more beef per capita than any other nation and leather is a by-product of the industry. Originally, it was the other way around and the reputation for high-quality leather goods still remains today. Lauren had previously mentioned her favorite Argentine brand, Prüne, and I was anxious to see if I could find something. To no one’s surprise, I didn’t have any trouble. I definitely recommend checking this brand out, as the quality is high and the price (for American standards) is more than reasonable for a nice leather bag.
Tuesday was our final day in BA, before flying out late that night. We took the subte (subway) to Plaza de Mayo (May Square), the main square in central BA, featuring some of the city’s famous landmarks. We visited the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral (the National Cathedral) where we were lucky enough to catch the changing of the guards over a famous general’s tomb, and saw the Cabildo (the city council during the colonial era) and Casa Rosada (“Pink House,” or home of the executive branch, similar to our White House with the exception that the president no longer lives in it). Next we visited Teatro Colón, ranked the third best opera house in the world by National Geographic. You can tour it, but we opted to view it from the outside and the hallway for ticket purchases. On our walk to the opera house, we saw the famous painting of Evita on the social development ministry and the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, among the busy streets.
In all, the sights in each neighborhood showcase a diverse city rich in history, with warm people who are passionate about both their past and future. Read about the food we ate in an upcoming (and hopefully slightly more brief) post!