We were big fans of Buenos Aires. Compared to our time in Rio or Sao Paolo, it was a more comfortable environment with a more diverse range of entertainment. You can read more about what we did on a day-to-day basis in the diary.
As always, we were looking to keep costs down. This meant no extortionate tango-shows, only the *one* elaborate steak-and-wine dinner out (although plenty of steak and wine consumed anyway) and very little time spent near any shopping districts (we see you, Palermo).
Instead, basing ourselves in the old-town of San Telmo, we found plenty to do without breaking the bank. Some of our favourites:
1. Visit the San Telmo market on a Sunday. Street markets are always a fan favourite, but this is a particularly good one in a particular cool barrio of the city. The market extends a long way down the main cobblestone Defensa street, just off another Main Street, Avenida de Mayo to the Plaza Dorrego. It gets very busy, very quickly so try to head there in the early morning before 11/12 to beat the crowds! You can also grab a pint of freshly squeezed orange juice for about 80 pesos or an empanada on the street as you’re walking around.
2. Take the free ‘political and historical’ walking tour. Argentina has a pretty interesting recent history. We will happily plead ignorance as to most of the details, but this particular walking tour helps to provide a locals perspective on the violence and protests that happened not long ago. It also helped us to make sense of Argentina’s particularly vexing financial woes. Our tour guide, Martin, was a sociology student and had some strongly held opinions on the political sphere in Argentina. It was really interesting to learn more about “a country of contradictions” from someone close to our age who had lived through it all. He shared how he had been 10 years old in a supermarket just grabbing things off the shelves with his mum during the time of rampant inflation. As they were in the supermarket, the staff were announcing over the tannoy how prices were increasing every couple of minutes and they just took everything they could carry!
Oh, and the sights are pretty good too!
3. Visit the Ecological Reserve. To the east of BA are some parks, leading to a vast gated ecological reserve. On weekends, you’ll find this area packed with tourists and locals alike who have come for a picnic amongst the lakes and trees. It’s a nice spot for a run or cycle, leading all the way down to the coast. Entry is free, but be aware that the park gates begin to close at 6pm!
4. Find Tango on the streets of La Boca. This famous barrio itself is unfortunately overrun by tourists (yes, tourists scathing touristy areas, hypocrites much) but is still worth a visit for the colourful houses and a glimpse of Tango without the associated costs. There are walking tours to the area but we decided not to get one. Instead, we got an Uber (80 pesos) which took around 15 minutes and wandered around the 2/3 blocks ourselves. Received wisdom is that you’ll be more or less fine around these main blocks (where the colour is, basically) but ought not to venture too far outside alone.
*On the Uber note, the drivers like passengers to sit in the front where possible so they don’t look like an Uber. The service is legal in BA but taxi drivers hate it as per most major cities and if they see an Uber, they can get a bit irate with their driving…
5. Buy a ‘litro’ of beer at La Bomba de Tiempo on a Monday night. Beer is better value by the litre, who knew. La Bomba de Tiempo is a famous 17-piece improvisational percussion group (or large group of people with drums) who perform at the Ciudad Cultural Konex every Monday night. It’s a really cool warehouse and outdoor venue near Palermo. The doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm. You can buy tickets online in advance (170 pesos) but ask your hostel to do this for you as you need an Argentinian ID number. You can also buy them at the door for 220 pesos. Even if the website says they’re sold out, they’re probably not so it’s worth going down around 6.30pm and getting tickets there. Definitely, 100% get an Uber there though. You can get the Metro or a bus there, but some of the surrounding streets are dangerous.
It’s definitely the place to be on a Monday night and was packed with a mixture of tourists and locals starting their night out. There’s also a club night afterwards nearby but… Monday Night Football: we went to find a bar to watch the Titans play and encountered more of the “Pay this person on the door, order your drinks here but pick them up over there. Oh and we only accept one type of card. There’s a bank down the street. Oh wait, only one of the six ATMs has cash in it and there’s a £6 charge to withdraw any”.
At least the Titans won.