Buenos Aires Roundup: My Top Picks for Sights & Shops
Buenos Aires has been on my list of places to go for a while so I was beyond thrilled when we decided to go last minute and booked a trip about a week before our departure date. As most of my family and friends know, I LOVE to plan and spend a lot of time researching for trips – it’s really part of the fun and experience for me. So, without the time to do ‘proper’ research, I consulted my go-to sources and selected accommodations (we rented an apartment in Recoleta), booked concert tickets and left the rest to decide upon our arrival. And, though I typically never travel without it, I decided not to bring my laptop (no technology for 2 weeks!) but went armed with a few travel books and plenty of printouts.
Here is my list of favorite things to see, do and buy in Buenos Aires. [All photos were taken by me unless otherwise noted.]
1. Visit the Recoleta Cemetary which is one of the most important cemeteries in the world and the resting place for Eva Perón. It is like a small city and like no other cemetery I’ve seen. Probably the top tourist site in the city.
2. Visit the MALBA, BA’s contemporary art museum and cultural center. Definitely have a lunch or a cocktail at the cafe here, Café des Arts, a lovely space with good food and chic people. Highly recommend the cafe.
3. Shop for leather products! As most people know, Argentina is a great place to find quality leather products and, though it may not be as cheap as several years ago for Americans, it is still relatively inexpensive. There are many boutiques and chains stores of varying quality and price points. These were my favorites:
- Sibyl Vain Hip designs, well-priced shoes and bags. I picked up a pair of heels and almost bought boots as well. Multiple locations throughout BA.
- Divia Small boutique in the trendy area of Palermo Soho. I loved all of the shoes here, picked up pumps and could have swooped up more.
- Lucila Iotti Another small boutique in Palermo Soho. I regret not getting something here – I don’t know what I was thinking because I love the designs in these photos.
- Casa Lopez Excellent quality leather bags, accessories and jackets for men and women. The designs are a bit boring, however. This company could use a re-branding, especially their logo which is not appealing and is embossed on most bags. Could be a good resource for leather jackets though. Multiple locations throughout BA.
- Rossi & Carusso Similar quality to Casa Lopez but a bit more modern feeling – more classic than trendy though. Leather bags in orange are striking – picked up a new ‘briefcase’ which I’ll use to tote my laptop. Multiple locations throughout BA.
- Mi very cool shop in Palermo Soho. Unique and fun designs. Especially loved this convertible bag which I now own in the british tan leather/green suede combo.
- Humawaca offers handbags and accessories in cutting edge designs using the best Argentinian leather. Locations in Palermo and Recoleta.
- Fosca (Gurruchaga 1726, Palermo Soho) Palermo boutique good quality bags and shoes for women. Most designs are pretty classic but I lucked out with a pair of salmon colored low boots that have beautiful hand stitching and a kitten heel.
4. Visit the Xul Museum. Do not miss this gem of a museum that houses Alejandro Xul Solar’s work. I had never heard of this artist but am now a fan. He trained as an architect which is evident in some pieces. His work has been compared to Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. The building design is awesome and the small museum shop sells very high quality prints on hand made paper.
5. Go for a run in the Palermo Parks. If you are a runner, you will love running in these parks. Here is the 5 mile route that I ran most days and highly recommend. The route brings you past the very cool large metal flower Floris Genérica that hovers over a reflecting pool – the petals open and close daily.
6. Walk around Puerto Madero to see the Mujer Bridge designed by the awesome Santiago Calatrava and then go for a cocktail at the Philip Stark designed Faena Hotel & Universe. Be sure to check out the beautifully designed restrooms that feature an over the top hand crafted swan faucet. It’s fabulous!
7. See a Tango show in the city where this beautiful dance was invented. This is a must but keep in mind that the shows are for tourists and many are overpriced or a bit cheesy. I wanted a comparison so we saw two shows: Esquina Carlos Gardel which offers a dinner (we opted for the bar only which I’d recommend) in a beautiful space that evokes the glamour of the 40′s. We also saw a show at the Borges Cultural Center which actually seemed to attract some locals and did not offer dinner as it was in a regular theatre. Both shows were good and I loved the dancing but personally did not care for the singing (Borges had a bit more singing). I think seeing one show on a visit to BA is enough and I’d recommend the one at the Borges Cultural Center because it was about a third of the price and I liked that it didn’t have the dinner which seemed crowded and chaotic. The dancers at Gardel were perhaps a bit more talented but, unless you are a tango aficionado, it shouldn’t matter.
8. Dine at a closed door restaurant (known as puertas cerradas) which is a private home that serves meals with reservations. I really wanted to try Casa Felix since they specialize in vegetarian fare but ironically they were on tour in the US. Here is a link to some others to try.
9. Visit Celedonio. If you like jewelry, do NOT miss this exquisite boutique. The designs are gorgeous! I was lucky to be treated to a lovely amethyst necklace and earrings. The designer was previously an architect and has a wonderful eye. They also carry some light fixtures and traditional woven rugs that are hand crafted in the northern parts of Argentina.
10. Visit the Museo Metropolitano which is adjacent to Celedonio and separated by a lovely courtyard cafe. It is worth a peek inside for the architecture and to check the current exhibit. I didn’t find this in any guidebooks but this building is a gem and the surrounding area (located around the corner from the MALBA) has some of the loveliest architecture in BA.
11. Perfumumbue is a Recoleta shop specializing in fragrance for home and body. They have a beautiful selection of colored glass vessels that can be used as room diffusers. Packaging and displays are well designed. A perfect place to pick up a special gift.
12. Stop by the El Ateneo Grand Splendid a theater turned bookshop on Ave. Santa Fe in Barrio Norte. You can read on the balcony or have a coffee at the cafe on the stage.
13. Shop for a traditional Argentinian woven rug. Elementos Argentinos in Palermo has a great selection of new and vintage pieces, many with brilliant colors.
14. Visit Sope de Principe in Palermo Viejo for soft sewn dolls and accessories for children (boys and girls). Wonderful designs and very unique gifts for little ones.
15. Libros del Pasaje is a bookshop, library and music store across the street from Sope de Principe – it has a very cool vibe and the bar/cafe seems to be a popular spot.
16. Sample the sweets. Buenos Aires is a late city and Porteños, as BA residents are called, do not eat dinner until 10 or 11pm so they will often snack between lunch and dinner – typcially on medialunas (also eaten at breakfast) which are essentially small croissants with a sweet glaze. We were lucky to be staying a few doors down from an excellent bakery called La Nueva Capital at 1242/44 Junin where the medialunas and all pastries were to die for! Some were filled with the sweet goodness of dolce de leche which is similar to caramel. Everything we tried here was fresh and delicious – I’d highly recommend this place.
Another typical sweet to try is an alfajor – I believe there are several versions but it is typcially two cookies sandwaiched together like an oreo with dolce de leche. My favorites were dipped in chocolate and I made the mistake of bringing a box home. They are really good frozen.
17. Visit the National Library not for the brutalist style architecture but for the fantastic panoramic city views from the 5th floor. You’ll need to put your things in a locker before entering and no photos are allowed but it is totally worth it. There was a small cafe on another floor with a few outdoor tables but we didn’t check it out.
18. San Telmo on Sunday for the antiques market and tons of antique stores in the area. Even if you don’t plan to buy, it’s worth a visit for the architecture and people watching.
19. See a performance at the Teatro Colón. One of the highlights of the trip was seeing a concert at the BA’s world famous opera house which just reopened this year after several years of renovations. Unfortunately, an opera was not scheduled during our visit but we were able to see the very talented pianist, Nelson Goerner. It really didn’t matter because the space itself is just incredible and clearly deserves its status of one of the best opera houses in the world. If you do not enjoy opera or classical music, public tours are offered and it is worth checking out just to see the space.
20. Drink Argentinian wines! Nearly every wine we tried was good – both high and low price points. To add to our collection of wines from our travels, we brought back a 2006 Malbec from Miguel Escorihuela Gascon which we hope will age well. Obviously excellent Malbecs and reds but also some nice white wines produced mainly in the north near Salta. The season wasn’t right this time but Salta and Mendoza are definitely on the itinerary for my next visit to Argentina which I hope is soon.
We stayed at a duplex apartment at the Poetry Building in Recoleta, one of the most elegant areas of Buenos Aires which is also centrally located. I highly recommend it and will add the link to my full review on Tripadvisor once it is complete. UPDATE: Here is my complete review of the Poetry apartments on Trip Advisor.