A Week in Buenos Aires
I flew out to Buenos Aires to meet David on his sabbatical trip, and we spent an entire week there, which is pretty atypical when we travel. The lengthier than normal stay gave us the opportunity to experience a bit of everything BA had to offer.
Any seasoned traveler will tell you that the best way to explore is by walking, and that’s no exception in Buenos Aires. We rarely took cabs, and when we did, they were for the nights when I wanted to wear heels to dinner. Girls gotta play dress up when she travels, you know? It’s the easiest excuse to splurge on Revolve.
From historic San Telmo to trendy Palermo and upscale Recoleta, there is a neighborhood for everyone in Buenos Aires, all influenced by a modern melting pot of immigrants. The streets are filled with vibrant graffiti art and stunning architecture, food is at the heart and center of everyone’s smiling faces, and an overwhelming café culture spills out on every sidewalk
I hope you enjoy some of my favorite memories from the trip and have a chance to explore what the “Paris of South America” has to offer yourself!
The Fierro Hotel, located in the center of Palermo Hollywood, includes a gorgeous patio garden, a heated rooftop pool (it’s tiny but a nice little getaway), turndown service, which I always appreciate, and staff who went above and beyond to make our stay memorable. I’d easily stay here again.
For under $250 a night, the amount of value we received was fantastic. Our room was modern, clean and spacious and we were able to walk to shops, restaurants, and sights all around the city.
The most amazing part of staying at the Fierro Hotel was what their award-winning restaurant, UCO, had to offer guests. Complimentary breakfast was included each morning, and the restaurant’s patio garden provided a serene way to start off the day. Not only was the atmosphere wonderful, but the food was delicious. Everything is prepared daily in-house, like cured bacon and freshly baked bread. I started my mornings off with a cup of coffee, fresh juice of the day, indulgent bread basket and egg dish. I have vivid memories of feeling present and grateful during these meals. I sat there without a care in the world, enjoying good food and the company of my latest read, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.
Connected directly adjacent to the hotel is Cava UCO, the restaurant’s wine tasting room. Guests were given a complimentary wine tasting, and when nobody else showed up, we ended up with a private tasting from their sommelier in training. I wish I could remember her name. She was the kindest soul, witty, very intelligent about the varietals of wine, and told us stories of her family back home in Venezuela. With this new addition to the restaurant, comes an amazing selection of wine, with over 300 of Argentina’s finest available to both taste and buy.
Before heading to the Recoleta Cemetary, we stopped into La Biela for a light breakfast and people-watching. La Biela is a historic cafe overlooking the plaza, and if you snag a seat outside, you’ll be able to eat under the shade of the oldest tree in Buenos Aires, better known as Gomero de la Recoleta. It’s a 200+-year-old gum tree, planted in the late 18th century, and held up by metal poles as well as a statue representing Atlas.
Now back to La Biela. The food was nothing to write home about, but the years of history sure made things taste better. It’s popular with both locals and tourists, and I highly recommend stopping in for a cup of coffee, pastry and photo opp.
We stumbled upon Ninia for breakfast one morning, and it did not disappoint. If you’re looking for picture-perfect aesthetics, delicious coffee, and beautifully displayed pastries, cakes, and pies, look no further than Ninia. Located in Palermo Soho, this hotspot is filled from floor to ceiling with polished blonde wood, white marble, copper light fixtures, and delicate floral.
The highlight for me was the Madame Chantilly Cake, embellished with the freshest strawberries I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Another cafe’ we frequented due to location was Pani Nicaragua. It’s charmingly decorated and extremely tempting, with a glass case full of beautifully adorned gluten - cakes, muffins, macaroons, you name it. Although we enjoyed a takeaway coffee and sweet treat here one morning, when we came back for lunch later in the week, the disappointment set in. The service was pretty poor, and food, just not impressive.
Moving on to the good stuff. Parrillas. Parilla means grill, and actually refers to the open-fire hearth and grates where meat is cooked. It also translates to a steakhouse, and you’ll find many of them in Buenos Aires.
La Cabrera was highly recommended by just about everyone and everywhere we researched. To be honest, we weren’t that impressed. The vibe was great, but the food didn’t hit the spot quite like some of our other meals did.
Although La Cabrera is one of Buenos Aires’ most revered parrillas in town, I’d recommend Don Julio over it any day. You will enjoy a good meal here, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re looking for a once in a lifetime steak experience, save it for somewhere else.
The star of the show was Don Julio. We didn’t have a reservation locked in, and had to wait for close to two hours, but this family-run parrilla is what you look forward to when incessantly googling “where to eat steak in Buenos Aires.” We were given glasses of champagne to sip outside while thirty or so people waited in the streets for their table, smoking cigarettes and enjoying conversation with one another. We popped into a bar nearby, met the owner, tried some (what was this called), and had a great start to the evening.
We started the meal off with a waiter-recommended bottle of local Malbec and their signature sweetbreads. Sweetbreads aren’t what they sound like but do yourself a favor, and don’t google it. Just order them and fit in with the locals. I’m not a steak-connoisseur, but it took one meal at Don Julio to understand why meat holds such a special place in so many Argentine hearts.
From the open kitchen grilling to the impeccable service and mouth-watering food, this is one of my favorite restaurant experiences of all time.
Our big splurge on this trip was indulging in iLatina’s 7-course tasting menu. David had just spent a week in Colombia before meeting me and was excited to try Chef Santiago’s Colombian/Carribean-infused restaurant, which was inspired by his childhood years spent in Cartagena.
The restaurant is set in a beautiful French-style house, in the Villa Crespo neighborhood. Upon entering, you’re met with dimly-lit tables, an open kitchen concept, and lively Latin music.
Multiple course meals are typically intimidating to me, and I feel as if I’ll never get through all of the dishes. That being said, iLatina does an incredible job of pacing out the meal, balancing flavors with a new drink for each dish, and providing perfect portion sizes. From what I remember, the octopus and fish ceviche was incredible. Their bread basket was addicting too. Those details matter. It’s the sort of thing I remember.
Reservations are required, so plan ahead to book a table. If you’re lucky, they’ll invite you back to the kitchen for a photo and insider look at the magic you just experienced.
Sunae Asian Cantina
David and I started a tradition of finding the best Asian food in town (no matter where we are in the world) a few years back, so Sunae Asian Cantina was our go-to this trip. Even though we were in South America, the once-private supper club, now brick-and-mortar, hit the spot.
Christina Sunae used to serve dishes out of her home but now runs a fully-functioning restaurant, with inspiration from family recipes she grew up loving. The restaurant is bustling with locals and tourists and provides a nice relief from the days worth of steak digesting in your belly.
I hate to say that we weren’t that impressed with the highly recommended, Burget Joint. Chicagoans are burger-connoisseurs of sorts, so we had high expectations going in. It’s a perfect spot for a quick bite and craft beer, and they have a great assortment of homemade sauces to add as you please. I also loved the graffiti scrawled across the walls and patio seating, but wouldn’t recommend it as a show stopper.
La Mar was located near our hotel, and at just about any time of day or night, it was filled with people. We weren’t able to snag a reservation last minute but grabbed a seat at the patio bar before dinner one night. For fruits of the sea lovers out there, this place is for you. We tried their ceviche trio appetizer, and it was outstanding. Pair that with a bartender-recommended Pisco-based drink, you can’t go wrong.
Cosi Mi Piace
Cosi Mi Piace offers Roman-style pizza and outstanding burrata. It’s a quaint neighborhood spot, where you feel like a regular. If you’re looking for another break from steak and empanadas, I’d highly recommend stopping by for some thin-crust pizza and an Argentine bottle of wine.
M Salumeria looked promising from the outside, but I wouldn’t go back. It’s a dainty little wine shop but proved to be a bit overpriced and the service was underwhelming. In addition, the charcuterie board was unimpressive. Trust me, I’m a cheese and meat connoisseur, so I know what’s up. If you’re in the area and looking for a quick glass of wine, I’d say go for it. Other than that, don’t waste your time or money.
Uptown is one of the most raved about bars in Buenos Aires, and for good reason. We had an easy time getting in early that evening but heard that it gets much harder as the night goes on. It’s located next to Lar Mar in Palermo (see above), so it serves as the perfect place to grab a drink before dinner or have a nightcap prior to heading home.
Uptown recreates a less audible and grimy, but convincing, version of the New York subway. Head down the stairs and through the turnstile to enter the subway doors that take you to the bar. You’ll want to snap some photos sitting in the train car, surrounded by transit signage before hitting the green button which opens the doors to Uptown’s beautiful bar. To keep with the theme, there’s a huge sign letting you know what time the Chicago Express or line from Memphis is set to arrive, and hints of graffiti murals and advertising art fill the walls.
“Go for the experience. Stay for the delicious cocktails.”
Go for the experience. Stay for the delicious cocktails. And if you have a reservation, we heard the food is pretty stellar too. Dress code is required here, so no jeans and flip flops, which should be a crime in themselves.
San Telmo Food Tour
When traveling, we prioritize food tours where it makes sense, and the Parrilla Tour in the Las Cañitas area of Palermo was one to remember.
To start, the company’s customer service was great. We were originally scheduled to go on a tour in San Telmo earlier in the week, but due to some protests in the city, and a recommendation from our hotel concierge to avoid that area, we requested to cancel. Without question, they refunded us, and when another spot became available in a tour later on in the week, they reached back out to us and we latched on.
David and I had already been in Buenos Aires for almost a week at this point, and naively, I thought we had already crossed off the classic Argentinian dishes and hit the best restaurants in town. I was proven wrong.
Our guide, Nico, brought us, and some fellow explorers from Canada, London, and Nepal, to an unassuming, local favorite (sadly, I don’t remember the name), for Choripán, served with the most delicious chimichurri we had to date. From there, we walked a few blocks for empanadas paired with a crisp white wine. Our third and most impressive stop was at Las Cholas, which was a classic parrilla restaurant, filled with bright red chairs, plants and buzzing conversation from locals having their mid-day steak fix. To this day, I have no idea how these people function in the afternoon after eating so rich on a weekday. We were served a huge, family-style meal, complete with two different cuts of steak, an abundance of fresh bread and butter, salad, pumpkin, grilled vegetables, rice, roasted peppers, thick-cut fries, and more Malbec than you could imagine. There was more... We rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and walked a few blocks to make enough room in our stomachs for heladas at Veikko, which was delicious, but sadly, has since closed.
Airbnb Experiences Water Boat Trip
We taxi’d to Tigre for a boat trip through the Paraná delta, which is about 45 minutes outside of Central Buenos Aires, and a popular weekend getaway for locals. A small speedboat picked us up, and lucky for us, we were the only ones who showed up for the trip that day. Our guides were so lovely, and really gave us space to just enjoy the sunshine together while laying on the front deck of the boat, surrounded by latte-colored, but somehow still seemingly beautiful, water. The real allure of the boat ride happened around the delta’s narrow waterways, where we were surrounded by huge trees, birds and experienced a surprisingly quiet ambiance with every turn.
Halfway through our ride, we pulled up to a modest restaurant that the chef opened just for us two. He made us a special flatbread, that changed in flavor from one side to the other, and included his favorite ingredients ranging from a classic tomato and mozz on one end to hard-boiled egg and oregano and olive and mushroom on the far side. It was delicious. Even better, we spent lunch playing with an adorable kitten who cozied up by our feet and lived in the building. The meal felt personal. As if we were in someone’s home. It was incredibly memorable and something that we could have never come across on our own.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Buenos Aires is the Recoleta Cemetery. As mentioned above, we grabbed a light bite at La Biela beforehand and were able to find an English translator once we walked in, which was worth every penny. She leisurely guided us through the narrow streets of tombs, designed more like an art museum than a cemetery. I almost felt like I was in a miniature city, with boulevards and avenues, all surrounded by abundant vegetation. The rich and famous of Argentina rest for eternity in style. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
The most famous tomb, that you’ll certainly want to find is of actress-turned-First Lady, Eva Perón, better known as Evita. Her tomb was one of the few, adorned with beautiful flowers and a slew of people taking pictures.
Plan to spend a few hours here and bring a camera. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll turn into an amateur photographer trying to capture the beauty of this unique sight.
Rojo Tango at Faena Hotel
I spent entirely too much time researching where to see tango in the city, and I don’t think that you can go wrong anywhere you choose. That being said, we decided to splurge, and went with the boujee option in town, Rojo Tango. If it’s within your budget, I highly recommend making a reservation. This was by far, one of the highlights of our trip.
“one of the highlights of our trip”
We started by having a few drinks at both the Library Lounge and Poolbar, located in the Faena Hotel, which were both stunning. Upon entering the cabaret, you’ll immediately notice the intimacy of the venue, filled with plush red leather banquettes, red drapes, dim lighting and a live band.
We opted out, but you can pay extra to have a meal there before the performance, or just enjoy drinks like we did. This show makes you feel like you’re a part of the action rather than being tucked away in a huge auditorium. Dancers spill out among the tables, and we sat directly next to the band, which allowed us to not only hear, but feel every note. The show airs on the side of sensual, so it’s perfect for a romantic date or cheeky, girls night out.
DO NEXT TIME
Unfortunately, the speakeasy Airbnb Experience we went on is no longer an option (and honestly, I don’t remember the name of any of the places we went to ...), but if we ever have the chance to visit again, I’ll be prioritizing the cocktail culture that Buenos Aires is known for. Some top places that are on my list are The Harrisson and Florería Atlántico.