Buenos Aires is an exciting city. For starters, it’s home to the sultry tango. Its buildings seem to have been splashed with all colors of the rainbow and turned into open canvases for some of the world’s best graffiti art. There’s a whisper of European flavor to the city, with strong Italian and Spanish roots that have produced great things, among them top notch helado. Plus the city is packed with steakhouses and everywhere you turn are steaming empanadas. Here you can watch a tango show in the park over cold cervezas, shop in street markets for hidden gems, stay out till dawn in the city’s many hopping nightclubs, and just wander about enjoying the relaxed vibe.
My Favorite Buenos Aires Neighborhood: Palermo Soho
In a city this big, it’s good to know where to start. Buenos Aires is divided into lots of barrios, and each neighborhood is completely different. As a result, the neighborhood you choose as your home base tends to 100% set the tone of your experience. I started out my stay in the up and coming antique-filled district of San Telmo, with its old cobblestone streets, and historic flavor. But it was the trendy, vibrant, and upscale district of Palermo Soho that won my heart with its artistic energy, and beautiful shops and cafes.
Hotel Pick: Coppola Jardin Escondido
Jardin Escondido is Spanish for hidden garden, and that is exactly what you’ll find at Francis Ford Coppola’s Buenos Aires house—a secret oasis tucked away in the heart of the city. Coppola stays here from time to time when he writes, but the rest of the time his house serves as an exclusive 7-room boutique hotel that can be rented out by the room or in its entirety.
The experience here is intimate, like you are staying at a good friend’s home—if that friend had a sumptuous luxury villa right in the middle of the trendiest part of Buenos Aires, that is. The house is filled with quirky South American touches like woven Argentinian fabrics and exotic wooden animal heads on the walls. A big picture window showcases the lush, tropical gardens and a deep blue plunge pool.
The living room is set up for lounging, filled with books stacked on every surface ranging from Argentinian picture books to unexpected surprises like an Annie Leibovitz photography book inscribed with a private message to Sofia Coppola from Leibovitz herself.
You can lounge at all hours in the living room, stroll into the kitchen for a midnight snack, watch Coppola’s collection of movies, and enjoy his hand-picked wines. There’s even an on-call sommelier and Sunday asados (Argentinian BBQs) cooked right in the garden parrilla. Best of all, breakfast—or brunch if you prefer—has no time limit here. In addition to dulce de leche filled macaroons, homemade banana bread, fresh tropical fruit, and all the full breakfast trimmings, the friendly staff will also cook you up hot dishes on request.
Sightseeing Highlights in Palermo
A stroll through Palermo Soho will introduce you to plenty of trendy shops and cafes, abundant design boutiques, chic restaurants, and local craft markets. After taking in your fill of shopping, a stop at Tufic Heladería for ice cream is mandatory. Try the Super Dulce de Leche, filled with rich chunks of caramel and chocolate, or perhaps a refreshing fruit flavor like kiwi or sandia (watermelon).
Soak in some modern art at MALBA, Buenos Aires’ contemporary art museum which houses a collection of modern art by South American artists including Frida Kahlo and Fernando Botero.
Palermo has a lot of parks, and the nearby Japanese Gardens are perfect for a peaceful stroll through manicured landscapes punctuated with Japanese classics like a red moon bridge. The gardens are a true oasis of calm amid the surrounding skyscrapers.
More Top Buenos Aires Sights in Recoleta, San Telmo, and Microcentro
There are three additional neighborhoods that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Buenos Aires: Recoleta, San Telmo, and Microcentro.
In Recoleta you can stroll along the rows and rows of iconic mausoleums in picturesque Recoleta Cemetery (free entrance). Visitors swarm around the cemetery’s most famous tomb of all: Eva Perón’s (aka Evita, the first lady of Argentina from 1946-52). Step away from Evita’s tomb, and things are mostly quiet again, giving you the chance to contemplate all the beautiful sculptural work and details that abound.
A short walk away is Buenos Aires’ top art museum: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which houses a collection of European art that includes the likes of Goya, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, and more.
San Telmo is another great neighborhood where you can get to know Argentine culture. This historic barrio is home to loads of iconic antique shops brimming with treasures that evoke an art nouveau, almost Parisian spirit. There’s a big outdoor Sunday Market along Defensa Street that is filled with crafts and antiques. Plaza Dorrego, in the heart of San Telmo, is always a great place to watch some tango dancing.
Additionally, there is one more classic Buenos Aires sight that shouldn’t be missed: Casa Rosada. Perhaps Buenos Aires’ most famous sight, it’s from the balcony of this salmon-pink presidential residence in Plaza de Mayo that politicians, including Juan and Eva Perón (and Madonna in the movie Evita), have preached to the Argentine masses.
Beyond Buenos Aires
With a little extra time, take a day trip by boat to nearby Uruguay. Just about an hour away by hydrofoil lies the colonial city of Colonia del Sacramento, and a bit further out is Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo. Alternatively, if Gauchos are your thing, head out of the city to a traditional ranch, or estancia, to enjoy a day of horseback riding and an essential Argentine asado (barbecue).
Buenos Aires is a great place to begin or end a journey to Argentina. But it’s only a part of the big picture, which is composed of rugged wilderness and large-scale natural wonders. A trip south to the windswept landscapes of Patagonia will take your breath away. Highlights in the north include tropical Iguazú Falls on the border with Brazil, or the desert landscapes of Salta near the Bolivian border. For wine lovers, Mendoza is the place to be. Buenos Aires is the perfect place to live it up in the city before or after heading out to the stunning and wild landscapes beyond.