Travel Tale by Holly Glessner, Sky Ambassador at Natural Habitat Adventures
I’ve heard the phrase, “The Paris of South America” used to describe Buenos Aires, and I wanted to see for myself if this was indeed true. While planning a recent visit to Antarctica, I decided to build in 3 nights in Buenos Aires before flying home. Most Antarctica trips, as well as Natural Habitat’s own Patagonia adventure, require a connecting flight via Buenos Aires, so it makes a perfect stopover.
I figured I would need to thaw out after spending 2 weeks in the cold and ice, and boy was I right. I visited Buenos Aires in March, which is technically the start of their fall. I found this a very pleasant time to visit–not too hot, but warm enough that I was able to trade in my many layers of warmth for Capri pants and flip flops. Their average temperature in March ranges in the high 70’s.
I stayed at the Art Hotel in the Recoleta district. This neighborhood is definitely high-end, with lots of upscale shopping, quaint cafes, and the famous Cementerio de Recoleta, where Evita is buried. The Art Hotel, now known as the A Hotel, is a boutique hotel featuring just 34 rooms. Nothing fancy, but clean, basic accommodations with a nice continental breakfast, great location and very friendly staff. I was in walking distance of the Cementerio de Recoleta and the happening square and park area outside of the cemetery, where I spent several hours at a weekend artisan’s market. The market featured gorgeous leather work, lots of unique jewelry, paintings, pottery and more.
On the first full day of my visit I had arranged a ½ day city tour with one of Nat Hab’s local suppliers. They picked me up by car and I proceeded to spend the rest of the morning visiting the local barrios. The first visit was the Recoleta neighborhood where I was staying. This district definitely displays signs of Paris, with beautiful wrought iron balconies and trim work, tree lined avenues, outdoor cafes and beautiful green parks.
This was also my chance to visit the cemetery. The paths were lined with mausoleums, each one more grand then the one before it. It reminded me of a mini-city, and you could wander in there for hours. It’s full of historical figures and, of course, the grave of Evita is located there.
The next part of the tour took to me to La Boca, which is known for El Caminito Street. The cobblestone street is lined with street artists, musicians and outdoor cafes with mysterious couples dancing the Tango. La Boca is also famous for its brightly painted houses and businesses, a way for the original immigrant barrio to spruce up their neighborhood.
Following La Boca was San Telmo, which definitely gave me the feel of Paris. Cobblestone streets lined with colonial mansions, a beautiful center square with more outdoor cafes and artisans displaying their wares. This stop was brief but definitely worth a lot more time. When I return to Buenos Aires in the future it will be at the top of my list.
The next stop on the tour was The Centro, where the Plaza de Mayo is at the center of it all. The plaza is known for being the location of some of the cities’ most notorious protests, which can still be seen today. Surrounding the plaza is the Catedral Metropolitana, which was the home of Pope Francis, Casa Rosada, where Juan and Eva Peron preached to the masses, and the Calildo or government building which now houses a museum.
The end of the tour included a quick drive through Puerto Madero. This is the newest of all the barrios and is made up of trendy lofts and businesses developed form old brick warehouses surrounding several dikes. It has a wonderful pedestrian area and is home to several of Buenos Aires’ 5 star hotels.
The rest of my time in Buenos Aires included a visit to the Reserva Ecologica Constanera Sur for some shopping, dining, and just walking the beautiful tree lined streets.
The city has so much more to offer–beautiful theatres, history museums, art museums, soccer matches, Tango shows, visits to wineries and haciendas in the surrounding countryside, and day trips by ferry to nearby Uruguay. After my brief visit to Buenos Aires, two things are clear to me: 1) the nickname “The Paris of South America” rings true and 2) I must go back!