Buenos Aires, man. It's a dirty, smelly, aggressive city. It's also a passionate, soulful, rich, and genuine city. Which is to say - Buenos Aires is the real deal and everyone should go immediately.
A volcano erupted 3 times in Calbuco, Chile across the span of 3 days in April 2015. My flight to Buenos Aires was due to go out on the 2nd day (welp). Several delays later, I landed safely in the city thanks to Delta. I had BIG hopes and dreams for a truly romantic South American city experience. Instead, I was greeted by the realities of the city, which lead to an experience I'll never forget.
Here's the thing: I wasn't staying in the truly romantic part of Buenos Aires. I didn't realize this until I checked in, laced up my New Balances, and took the area by foot. I took some solace in Buenos Aires feeling similar to NYC (where I'd just spent the last 7 years of my life). And I held onto that feeling while waiting for friends in an effort to fight the impending disappointment.
It is a city. And it's not always glamorous. And that's important to recognize before you hop on a flight. I suppose that's part of the problem with Americans traveling anywhere. We romanticize everything because it's very rare that we see the realities of life in areas we chose to vacation. Approaching this trip with an open mind allowed the experience to evolve over time.
El Viejo Almacen
Dinner and tango was a beautiful way to take in the performers of Buenos Aires within my first night there. I was enthralled with the people, wondering more about their lives. With each entanglement of arms and legs through the tango, sub-cultures revealed themselves through pops of colors and tassels and fringe and cheers. Performances were raw and open, shining a light on themselves, their traditions, their music, their passions. They take center stage to a very big world that you're not used to seeing, or embracing. And regardless of how terrible your Spanish is, you understand every word, motion, and facial expression. And you clap as you're transported miles away from your seat, that's actually firmly planted in Buenos Aires.
When traveling to Argentina, wines must be at the top of your list. But don't stop at Malbec. Let the wine tastings (with pairings) guide you through sparkling, whites, reds, and more while you nibble on the pairings. What was initially intended to be a pre-dinner nosh turned into a roll-us-home we're stuffed experience. Two large tables outfit the space for a community feel as you'll be sitting with travelers from all over. Do yourself a favor and do the following: talk to everyone, enjoy every sip of wine, pick the instructor's brain, take copious notes, and order some bottles to be sent home as a lovely reminder of your beautiful experience when they arrive several months later.
If you find yourself in Buenos Aires and you don't go to Casa Saltshaker for dinner, you've ruined your entire experience and will need to go back. I like to pretend I'm being dramatic, but I'm not. Do it. Saltshaker is owned by charming partners. Chef Dan's chops are unparalleled, an advanced sommelier and award-winning chef that once worked with Top Chef's Tom Colicchio, the food and wine pairings are unrivaled. Henry hosts alongside Dan - originally from Peru, he brings more color to the experience with his sweet disposition. Plus, if you're anything like me, you'll be DYING to get inside someone's home and this is a perfect opportunity to see how some of the locals live. On our night dining at Saltshaker, we met 4 other Americans with whom we partied the night away, stumbling out of da club at sunrise. Couldn't tell you what club we went to, but I can tell you the bass was bumpin' and the drinks were flowin'.
If you're seeking the romance I was, you should stay in Palermo. It's a huge city with many sub-neighborhoods, all of which are incredibly interesting. If you can't stay there ($$$$), then make sure you visit multiple times. Schedule brunch and a massage at Home Hotel, then sit outside in the back patio and enjoy the sunshine with a glass of white (or red). Go on a coffee house tour, sampling some of the best, most hipster options in the search for the greatest cortado and people watching. Eventually, you'll find yourself drinking champagne in the fanciest alley as a passthrough to Paul French Gallery (my favorite) - don't miss the upstairs... I guess what I'm trying to say is there are many places to get lost in Palermo and you should let the city take advantage of your lack of knowledge as much as possible.
Holy hell. I hope you're an adventurous eater. If you're not, you'll still get onboard with this experiential culinary moment (I work in marketing, I can't help myself with the terminology). Recommended by a friend, my group and I spent HOURS here raving about the unusual foods paired with incredible wines in a restaurant all to ourselves. Initially, we wished it were full since atmosphere is everything, but realized quickly during our meal it was probably best for the sake of everyone else as we exclaimed wholeheartedly with every plate put in front of us ("ohmigodohmigodohmigod!"). Post-meal, we stumbled out onto the sidewalk, food coma in full effect.
Street art is overwhelming in Buenos Aires (you truly can't avoid it) and the kids at Graffitimundo offer amazing walking and biking tours. Conducted in English, the tour offers a look at the government dealings in Argentina, and some of the hardships faced by the people. You'll get an inside look into some of the largest (and smallest) street art, all of which offers some incredible detail about the history of the city. I found myself compelled towards activism, in tears for the mothers of Plaza de Mayo, contemplating how I could contract a piece on the side of my condo, and was wholly fascinated by the talent. The tour culminates in a bar for brews and more conversation.
Sal Telmo Market
Make sure you've got one full Sunday to explore the Sel Telmo Market. It was a perfect culmination of our experience, offering a little bit of each of our experiences into one central area. Amazing shopping, tango and live music in the streets, beautiful artwork (street or otherwise) to gaze at, and food options in abundance. The most disappointing thing about the market is not being able to fit everything you love in your suitcase for the long trip home.
Planning a trip to Buenos Aires? I'd love to hear about it! xx