🇦🇷 Buenos Aires, Argentina 🇦🇷
What an enchanting city! I had no idea how beautiful – and big – Buenos Aires really was!
My first impression? It’s incredibly crowded and seasonably muggy. It’s also one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.
I completely fell in love with Buenos Aires. It was one of those captivating cities that just never leave your memory – colorful murals, vibrant street markets, and giving, wonderful people. It was such a special place. I could only stay in Argentina for a few days, which wasn’t nearly long enough.
I learned so much while visiting this Argentinian capital city, everything from where to go, what to do, where the most colorful markets are and everything in between.
Here are the top 15 things I learned while visiting Buenos Aires, Argentina!
1. Solo doesn’t mean alone In BA
I traveled solo, even though I was rarely alone – tours and kind hosts kept me plenty occupied. I took tours, met new friends and enjoyed the company of locals. I LOVED my AirBNB host. Yes, I felt safe here as a woman traveling by myself. (I’m from Chicago.)
2. Not enough public transit
There is not enough public transit for the GAZILLION people that live in Buenos Aires. The line for the airport bus had at least 75 people in it. And I was last in line.
The first bus filled up quickly, as it could only hold about 50 people. I waited and waited. Another bus came half an hour later. I sat in the very front seat. The bus driver told the mom with three screaming children that they had to sit at least 3 seats back in order to not distract the driver. I felt bad for the mom, but I was relieved, considering that the driver had to drive 45 minutes in a GIANT bus with a zillion people in it.
The fewer distractions, the better!
3. Amazing Hospitality
When I arrived at my Airbnb, the building was a suuuuper nice – and had the most beautiful front door! My host came down and gave me giant hug, “Welcome to your home away from home!” She was in her 60’s, although you’d never know it. She owned the apartment on the top floor.
The room was $35/night, and it had AC, which was a godsend with the 90 degree heat plus humidity. I even had my own bathroom! The room looked out at the skyline with a fantastic view of the Buenos Aires Capitol Building.
Also, MY HOST HAD FIVE PUPPIES!!!!!!! A mommy doggie and daddy doggie and three babies. I wanted them ALL!!!! One was a bit needy, but that’s to be expected with puppies.
They all jumped on my bed as soon as I opened the bedroom door, much to the dismay of my host, Elina. She put her face in her hands and apologized profusely. I was thinking, they can stay forever. That’s fine. 😂
Then they peed on my floor. (Okay, they can go now lol) She scuttled them out, but over the course of 3 days, we had sooooo many puppy snuggles! It was the best!
My generous host took me on a 1.5 mile walk to a local pub to meet her friend, who was also a language teacher. We were both very hesitant to speak the tiny bits of each other’s language that we knew, but it was fun to make connections nonetheless, even though we could only come up with pleasantries. We ate french fries, had beers and enjoyed the cool breeze that came with the evening sunset.
We had to watch our footing as we padded along the cobblestone streets. It reminded me so much of Portugal. There were murals, a lot of colorful clothes, and all kinds of detailed architecture. Incredibly nice people and, even though my Spanish consisted of “gracias” and “para” and “huevos,” it was still easy to connect with the locals.
A smile is the same in every country!
4. Buenos Aires has a little of something for everyone
I had such fun! I walked around the old town streets with Elina and her fiend, and saw all the murals, cafes and decorative store fronts. Beautiful flowers cascaded down the gutters from the upper levels onto the tops of brightly painted doors. There was always something glittery and colorful in the windows.
Elina brought me to a shop that sold solely dulce de leche products. (OMG YUM!) I tried three different samples, and brought home three mini pots of the original dolce de leche, which were suitable for airplane transport. (Granted, only two made it to the airplane. The other pot might have ended up in my tummy before I left.)
Then, we found these adorable statues right next to a bench. They were small little characters, presumably from a comic or TV show. Naturally, we had a photo shoot. Even Elina wanted her picture taken. 😂
Elina also showed me the skinniest house in Buenos Aires – maybe 4’ wide. It was adorable – but also occupied, so we couldn’t stay too long.
We went into Mercado San Telmo, where they were selling big lumps of cheese, different types of veggies, berry smoothies, coffee and to go meals. It smelled delicious and looked scrumptious. I was so hungry I could have eaten everything in the building, including all 21 kinds of empanadas in the first stall.
We passed a man selling brooms made from feathers, which looked alarmingly like he was wearing a giant feathery tutu from far away.
What an incredible and overwhelming night.
5. Don’t miss The Free Walking Tours
In the morning, puppy snuggles were had, and then I began my free walking tour of Buenos Aires.
In Buenos Aires, all the buildings looked like what I imagine Europe looked like before the war – massive, expensive and ornate. Wow!!! The guide took us by large cathedrals, expansive gardens and fancy houses, where I presumed only royalty could possibly live. He said that was not the case. They just have some really amazing architecture here.
I especially enjoyed the random art on the streets. Besides the incredible murals found all over Buenos Aires, the city hired artists to create statues to use as braces to hold up their trees. I loved the cool metal dude supporting a tree near Recoleta Cemetery. That was SO neat.
6. Currency and exchange rates are a tricky situation
We stopped in front of a money exchange places, where our guide explained the situation with Argentinian currency. Basically, only Western Union will give you the fair exchange rate, and credit cards/debit cards will only give you around 60% of what the currency is actually worth. They’re not outright cheating the tourists, though. It’s more complicated than that.
Our guide explained that the credit cards and debit cards follow the market price on all the exchange websites, but the actual websites are somehow incorrect. To be honest, I was a little confused, but to me, the exchange rate was such a good value anyway, that I didn’t mind spending $5 versus $4. But people there are furious – and rightly so.
We stopped for some empanadas and local juices halfway through, and then we headed to the Recoleta Cemetery.
7. The Recoleta Cemetery: STUNNING!
Easily one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, the Recoleta Cemetery has an incredible amount of mausoleums! Big, small – some with actual spires coming out of the top of them! They were all different colors. These tiny houses for the dead were absolutely incredible – and there were hundreds of them.
I can see how easy it would be to get lost in there for days. There was no map, and the cemetery was easily 3-4 blocks long without a clear path in any direction.
I met a nice gal from Austria on the tour, another solo traveler gal like me. We had a great time on the tour, and I practiced speaking German (even though I spoke it every day while living in Germany, language skills fade SO fast if you’re not using them every day). She was incredibly nice, so impressive with her effortless English!
8. The buildings downtown are tall, fancy, expensive – & extremely photogenic.
The buildings in Argentina are so big! It’s like Europe 2.0! They are mainly apartments. These large, modern buildings loom over the narrow streets downtown. The picture above is where I stayed (on the top floor, no less!) for $35/night. That balcony had an amazing view.
I went into an adorable paper supplies store and found all these colorful posters and paintings. I wanted everything! Buenos Aires is full of artsy fartsy stores. It was great!
9. Theater + books = a standing-ovation-worthy book store
El Ateneo Grand Splendid truly is one of the most beautiful book stores in the world. (In fact, it won National Geographic’s 2019 World’s Most Beautiful Book Store Award!) It opened as the Teatro Gran Splendid in 1919, held 1,050 seats and opened for the public to see lively Tango performances. In 1929, it was turned into a theater, and was the first location to show films with sound in all of Argentina.
In 2000, the theater was bought by the owner of El Ateneo Publishing House. It has been one of the world’s most magnificent bookstores ever since.
There were four levels, a fancy cafe, and a beautiful stage. And a million books. They were all in Spanish, so I couldn’t understand anything, but boy, was it pretty!
10. Palermo checklist: camera & appetite
I headed over to the colorful district of BA: Palermo! What an amazing part of town! I almost didn’t go here, but I’m sure glad that I did.
Palermo is the trendy area of Buenos Aires, perfect for foodies and shopaholics. It was so pretty! The main streets of Palermo were extremely colorful, and very busy with shoppers. Lots of people going to and from their offices, and lots of little stores and cafes.
Palermo is also quite large. I walked over to the El Mercado de las Pulgas, a flea market with everything from furniture to old mannequins to rusty swords. It was a fascinating place, but it was clearly more for locals than tourists. I felt a bit out of place there, with my bright clothes and big ol’ camera, when there were quite a few locals just trying to make ends meet.
Granted, the street art was quite a spectacle. There were paintings of Mother Theresa, Harley Quinn, angry cats and colorful designs from gutter to gravel. It was really inspiring, but also somewhere that I didn’t feel the most comfortable by myself.
Also, it was also so hot! I was exhausted. I’d already walked 13,000 steps at this point, and it was only 1pm. #timeforfood
I found a delicious Mexican place. The guacamole was salty and covered in onions and lemons, and the chicken tacos were scrumptious. The food was sOoOoOooo good, and the drinks were awesome, but there was no wifi and no fan, so I left fairly quick. As did most of the money in my wallet, as this place didn’t have prices that the locals would have been thrilled about.
I went back to downtown to my rooftop room to cool off and cuddle with the puppies.
11. Take a day trip to Uruguay
The next day, I took the ferry over the Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay. I spent 7 hours roaming the old cobblestone streets, relaxing by the incredible beach views and eating next to adorable fluffy local doggies.
12. El Caminito is a must-see!
When I came back from Colonia, I walked from the pier to the colorful district of El Caminito. I wanted to go the day before, but I had already walked over 10 miles. Lucky for me, after I returned from Uruguay, I had time to go visit this super cool district.
Walking there was not necessarily the safest situation I’ve ever been in, but the end result was worth it. There were a lot of seedy characters and empty streets, but I never felt personally threatened – just more cautious.
I also saw three policemen in 4 blocks. But that seemed to be just as a precaution. There were far too many children and miniature dogs running around for me to get super worried. 😂
El Caminito is famous for its massive colorful buildings, festive atmosphere, boisterous crowds and Instagram-perfect photo spots! 🇦🇷 There were giant murals on the sides of every building, lots of young people outside and the most amazing doorways.
The Pope was a massive influence in El Caminito’s culture, as there were life size statues of him in front of multiple stores, little Pope souvenirs and even street art with the Pope riding an alpaca. Lollll
There were little old men who matched their restaurants, paintings of alpacas everywhere, and fluffy little cats hiding in the courtyards. Everything was full of life and color.
There was a little grandma poking her head out of the window as I walked down the street. Argentinian TV for grandmas haha.
I took an Uber back to my apartment, and it took 45 minutes. It cost $3.14, including tip. 😱👍🏻🇦🇷 The guy was very nice and a great driver, but texted me the next day, saying I should stay with him next time I was in town. 🙄
13. Plan more time than you think you’ll need
Buenos Aires is one of those cities that requires more time than expected. Everything is about 45 minutes apart (by car – taking a bus? Plan for hours. Seriously.). I felt quite rushed here and wished I had more time. I’d actually tried to stay another day, but flights are not always the most flexible.
Saying goodbye to the puppies was heartbreaking, but we took an adorable picture so that I can remember their sweet faces.
14. Pack light
I was taking one of those cheap airlines to my next city, so I shoved and stuffed and grunted and sweated and got my preggers belly ready in preparation for getting on the plane.
I should preface this last highlight with: I never felt in danger in any of the South American countries that I’ve visited (Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina). I’ve perhaps been more cautious in some neighborhoods, but I was never in fear for my safety or my belongs. (Chicago? All the time, haha.)
15. Prepare to never want to leave
I adored my visits to other South American countries for many reasons, but the place that I felt the most at home would definitely have been in Argentina. The people, the food, the atmosphere, the exchange rate, the colors, the architecture, and of course the puppies haha, made Buenos Aires nearly impossible to leave.
Until we meet again, Argentina!
I hope that this list helps you understand a bit more about this incredible Argentinian city – and maybe help you plan for a post-COVID trip? 🙂
Make sure to put the beautiful Buenos Aires on your MUST SEE list!
Thanks for reading!
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