Buenos Aires had been on the top of my travel wish list for a really long time—since long before I was old enough to even think about what kind of career I wanted to have (and when I still thought it was pronounced “Buenos Air-ees”). In November, it was finally my turn to go, when I was invited to spend a week in Argentina and Uruguay experiencing four different hotels and three very different landscapes in the two countries. With so much to squeeze in over several days, my stay in Buenos Aires was tragically short, but I was excited to squeeze in as much of what the city has to offer as was possible. My future travel plans will and do include a return trip to Buenos Aires to explore it beyond its obvious draws, but in the mean time, here are a few highlights if you’re heading to BA for the first time. Starting, of course, with where to stay.
Back in 2014, when my husband and I were considering a belated honeymoon in Argentina, Algodon Mansion kept coming up in my search for Buenos Aires’s best hotels. And now I know why. I spent my first three nights in the city at the posh boutique hotel, which is tucked away on pretty, tree-lined Montevideo Street in the city’s upscale Recoleta neighborhood. Algodon has just 10 suites, which might make you feel like you’re staying in a (very wealthy) friend’s row house rather than a hotel. I stayed in the first-floor Ambassadeur Suite, which is the only one in the hotel with a private terrace, a great spot to kick back with a bottle of wine and stare up into the brilliant-blue Buenos Aires sky. Algodon has a chic little wine bar in its lobby, which is great for people watching and a leisurely glass of wine before heading out on the town. Order a Chardonnay Sour at some point during your stay, and try a few glasses of wine from Algodon’s own private collection, which is produced at its sister property, Algodon Wine Estates, in Mendoza. The hotel’s restaurant is good, so if you arrive late in the evening and feel too tired to head out on the town for dinner, rest assured your meal here will be a good one—especially if you order the empanadas. (If you didn’t already know, Porteños eat dinner very late, around 10 or 10:30 p.m.) There’s also a rooftop spa and pool deck, the latter of which is a fun spot for a private wine tasting. From its amenities to its attentive service, there’s so much to love about this hotel.
Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada, & Metropolitan Cathedral
Many iconic images of Buenos Aires originated in Plaza de Mayo, a square that’s a common spot for political rallies and other public events. It’s flanked on one side by Casa Rosada (Pink House in English), which houses Argentina’s presidential office and is where President and First Lady Eva Peron addressed crowds of onlookers, and, on the other side, the Metropolitan Cathedral, best known to many foreigners as the home church of Pope Francis. Visitors can tour both properties, and if you plan to take a peek inside the cathedral, try to align your visit with a changing of the guards who stand outside the tomb of San Martin. It’s a quick and silent ceremony, but a nice bonus if you can manage it.
Putting a cemetery on your to-see list sounds a little morbid, but Recoleta Cemetery isn’t your average burial site. The maze-like cemetery is famous for the giant mausoleums that fill it, tombs of some of the city’s most wealthy and luminary figures—Eva Peron among them. The weather was bad for most of my stay in Buenos Aires, with gray skies and chilly rain. We arrived at Recoleta Cemetery just as the skies opened up, so our visit to the cemetery was cut short just as our walk around it was getting under way. The mausoleums are staggering in size and detail, and there’s a certain reverence about the place despite the crowds of tourists that keep it busy and full.
This colorful little working-class corner of Buenos Aires is situated near the Riachuelo River and was built up by immigrants, largely from Genoa, Italy. It’s gritty, but it’s colorful and worth walking through in the daytime. La Boca is also home to the Boca Juniors soccer team and its home stadium, La Bombonera, where you can take in a game. (Matches against the Juniors’ rival team, River Plate, are said to be insane.)
In contrast to La Boca, San Telmo embraces a certain joie de vivre. It’s a good spot to catch a tango demonstration and shop for antiques, but you can also go pub- and cafe-hopping, and, on weekends, shop at a lively and very crowded outdoor market. Its square, Plaza Dorrego, is lined with restaurants and pubs, and it’s filled with umbrella-shaded tables, perfect for watching the world go by. (Which I’ll do on my next visit, when the sun is actually shining.)
Buenos Aires is famous for a few things, chief among them steak, wine, and tango. The city is home to dozens of tango venues, where you can have dinner and wine while enjoying a show. It’s a fun experience, but one best taken with a grain of salt—while the shows are a good introduction to Tango dance and culture, the food and service aren’t necessarily of the same caliber you’ll get at the city’s better restaurants and bars. (When one of my travel companions decided to switch from red wine to white during dinner, our server poured white wine into the red wine glass she’d already been using. I’m by no means a wine snob, but even I know that’s a big no-no. The food was also “meh” at best.)
A Few Extras
While in Buenos Aires, I had two particularly good meals. One was lunch at Fervor, an elegant steakhouse with a throwback vibe. Its main floor has a marble-topped bar and tufted leather sofa, and a few steps down in its dining room, aproned waiters flitted between tables filled with businessmen and women lingering over long lunches. Of course, steaks are popular, but the whole fish was prepared simply and thoughtfully, with little more than some light olive oil and a generous handful of lemon wedges for squeezing. We covered our tabletop entirely with sides of roasted veggies, bean spreads, and just about everything else on the menu, including wine.
Siamo Nel Forno
Happily, Buenos Aires is also known for its wealth of excellent pizza places, and I’m pretty sure we ate one of them, Siamo Nel Forno, nearly out of business. In my book, as a pizza purist, nothing beats a simple margherita pizza, and the one I devoured all by myself at this spot was one of the best I’ve had. The pizzeria is tucked away in the city’s Palermo Hollywood neighborhood, a popular destination for dining and drinking. The best part? There wasn’t another tourist in sight, as all the tiny tables were filled with locals enjoying late-night pies. The pictures are bad, but God almighty was the pizza good.