High tea in Buenos Aires? Absolutely! Buenos Aires is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, hustling-bustling port city of 4 million, reminiscent of the great European capitals. It just happens to be in Argentina, South America. In fact, it has earned the nickname Paris of the South because of its resemblance to the original with its fabulous architecture. On a recent trip over New Years, we had to find out for ourselves.
The History and The Music
This sprawling city is divided into barrios each with its own distinctive vibe and identity. But vibrant street art and graffiti is a common feature that unifies the city and plays a major role everywhere you go. And you can’t go anywhere in Buenos Aires without seeing some visual of someone dancing the tango or offering to teach you to tango, the most sensual of all dances.
It is said that tango was born in Argentina and tango music was born in Caminito, La Boca. The most famous Argentinian artist, Quinquela Martin, rescued bits and pieces of the original immigrant conventillos and used them to create a concentrated conventillo community. It is essentially an uninhabited open-air art and history exhibit, and officially the world’s first outdoor pedestrian museum. The vibrant colors reflect the energy of Buenos Aires and provide for some fabulous photographs.
Recoleta is the more manicured area of Buenos Aires and is home to upscale retail shops, high end restaurants and five star hotels such as the grande Alvear Palace Hotel where we enjoyed our afternoon tea. A must: walking through the Recoleta Cemetery where almost all who’s-who of Buenos Aires are buried. Eva Peron’s grave is in the ornate Duarte family tomb.
Plaza de Mayo, built by Juan de Garay in the late 16th century, where you will find the La Casa Rosada, “The Pink House”, is the historical city center. This is the palace where the President of Argentina works, but does not live. You may know this as the place Eva Peron famously stood to speak to her people. Standing in the center of the Plaza, you can’t miss the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, erected to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city.
Hip and Trendy: Palermo
Visiting Palermo is experiencing trendy and hip at its best! Thriving with the energy of local young residents and tourists all enjoying the street art, local boutiques, bars, sidewalk cafés and upscale restaurants on beautiful tree lined boulevards. Check out the great market on the weekends where local artists sell their products. And like other European-type cities there are lots of parks and gardens to enjoy. The Buenos Aires Botanical Garden is a short walk from Palermo. We enjoyed strolling through the 5,000 species of different trees and plants. There are plenty of benches to take a break and just enjoy the warmth of Argentina! It is a sanctuary of solitude amidst the cacophony of the surrounding city.
All the locals insisted we visit the El Ateneo, a visually stunning bookstore, named the most beautiful bookstore in the world in 2019 by National Geographic. Constructed as a theatre for tango dancers, it has been refurbished leaving the ornate gold leaf balconies and theatre boxes intact. Sit a spell and read books before you purchase, or enjoy a meal on the stage, which is now a café.
Bonus: Side Trip To Montevideo
If you have extra time take advantage of the some of the great day trips. The Buquebus, a first class hydrofoil ferry, across the Rio de la Plata, the widest river in the world, gets you to the shabby chic town of Montevideo. Just two and a half hours and you are in Uruguay and take in another country. While there, we enjoyed a wonderful day of wine tasting outside Montevideo. You know if there are vineyards, it must be pretty. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Colonia del Sacramento, a port city from the 17th century, is also a must-see. Montevideo is a very romantic getaway!
No trip to Buenos Aires would be complete without taking a tango lesson or attending a tango show. While we didn’t take a lesson, we rang in the New Year at an amazing tango show! And it was truly a show! The acting and dancing were first rate, and topped off by fantastic food.
You can take in all that Buenos Aires has to offer and still have money for another trip. The US dollar is incredibly strong. The people were so friendly and the food was over the top – the steaks! The gelato! The provoleta! We spent an amazing week in and around Buenos Aires and loved all that we could squeeze in. Let us know when you are ready to go – you would love it, too! Talk to us about visiting South America in 2021.