Argentina bleg

While our American friends celebrate Thanksgiving, my Canadian wife and I are headed south, to Argentina, to visit friends. Any suggestions on what we should do? We have two weekends in Buenos Aires (or environs) and the weekdays in between to visit the rest of the country.

Suggestions where to eat in Buenos Aires?

Suggestions where to go for our 4-5 weekdays?

(Note: your comments serve a public good; friends and readers tell me they have used previous comments on this blog to plan their trips.)

Update: One reader, Matt Chesterton, has literally helped write the book on Argentine travel. It is here. He had superb suggestions, and I saw advance chapters. Highly recommended.

34 thoughts on “Argentina bleg

  1. The best empanadas I’ve had anywhere are from a hole in the wall type place. I cannot for the life of me remember its name right now, but I believe its on a street called Pena less than a quarter of a block off a larger street called Pueyrredon. Head down Pueyrredon from de las Heras in the direction of Santa Fe (its one way), make a right on Pena (also one way) and its on your right side. Other than Pena these are all big streets in the Recoleta neighborhood. Odds are you’re staying in downtown, in the Recoleta, or in Puerto Madero, and at worst it will take you 20 minutes by taxi.

    As an added bonus to going to this hole in the wall, walk back to Pueyrredon, turn to the right, and you’ll see a Fredo’s. Its an upscale chain of ice cream stores that makes the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Their dulce de leche and lemon flavors are both amazing.

    Other info about the same neighborhood – the touristy spots from which you can see the Recoleta cemetary aren’t all that good, and they’re kind of over-priced.

    Suerte.

  2. steak in san telmo, choripan in the street, muzza anywhere, wine with every meal etc…
    as for trips, night bus to Mendoza, night bus to Iguazu falls, day trip to colonia del sacramento in Uruguay (by big speedboat), 3 days in Patagonia???

  3. Hi Chris, What a fanatsitc thanksgiving idea.

    Two easy, couple-day trips to take from BA are to Montevideo, Uruguay and to San Antonio de Areco out in the country. Montevideo is a funky old town, with colourful Portugese colonial architecture and some nice restaurants. You can get there in a few hours on the speed boat from BA. It also has this strange post-Soviet feel that should be interesting to any political scientist. Colonia is beautiful as well if you can make it there. UNESCO site. San Antonio de Areco is a quaint old town in which you can buy silver, little glasses of wine and selzer and excellent cheese. I stayed there with a friend for a week and had a terrific, relaxing time. Mendoza and Patagonia are too far and in my opinion not particularly worth it.

    In BA, make sure you check out the cemeterio ricoleta and walk around the downtown banking district. A few years ago, there was still grafiti that said “Ladrones!” on the walls of the banks. As for food, spend some time wandering around “Palermo Hollywood”, really the best stuff is there. Also, bring your own salad greens with you from the US, you won’t have any for two weeks. Finally there’s a funny shabu shabu restaurant in San Telmo with white waitress who have eye make up to look Japanese. That’s kind of great.

  4. I’d fly down to El Calafate to see Perito Moreno (glaciar). Stay at one of the estancias around there (I liked Nibepo Aike). If you don’t mind the trek, but I’d recommend renting a truck and driving across the border to Torres del Paine in Chile.

    Re: restaurants in Buenos Aires, I really like Novecento in Las Cañitas.

  5. Chris,

    First, my condolences on your country’s still not having been able to escape the oppression of the British Empire. Hopefully one day you, too, will be able to celebrate Thanksgiving.

    Second, make sure to stay somewhere in Palermo, and not anywhere else in the city. Palermo is like Soho or Greenwich Village in NYC, and the little hotels, boutiques, and restaurants are fabulous. I am sure there are many new places, so maybe check out TripAdvisor. I can’t tell you how much nicer it is to stay in Palermo than other neighborhoods. I am not even much of a shopper (my wife is!) but I found myself really interested in all the artisanal, low-scale stuff being made and sold there. If you wife is into shoes, you should leave her at home rather than risk taking here there.

    Third, try to avoid hailing a taxi on the street. The norm is for shops or restaurants or anyone you are with to call you a taxi. This is the way to assure you do not get ripped off.

    Fourth, food. In BA, we liked La Cabrera, which I think is worth it at least once. Keep in mind two things: a) the servings are enormous – so only get one main course; b) get reservations. (Address below). I would NOT go to Cabana Las Lilas, which RW Apple rated highly some years ago. Way overpriced and just not worth it.

    Fifth, we went to Mendoza- heart of the wine region – for a few days and loved that, too. Very nice town, low key but decent restaurants. And some of the wineries out there are being taken over by sons and daughters and really upgraded. We visited several and enjoyed it.

    By the way, the $ sign on websites can sometimes mean local currency and sometimes USD. Very confusing. Beware and make sure to verify.

    La Cabrera Restaurant
    Address: JA Cabrera 5099 | Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires C14BGS, Argentina
    Phone: (011) 4831 7002
    Website: http://www.parrillalacabrera.com.ar/default2.html

  6. BA is one of the coolest places to visit for sure!
    They have fantastic museums – MALBA is a must-see. San Telmo is the new cool place to restaurants (it’s an old neighborhood, you have to check the antique and thrift shops around also). Casa Cruz is a good restaurant. You have to check Confiteria Ideal for old-school tango dancers.
    Torcuato Tasso has very good Tango concerts (mainly music – if by any chance Nestor Marconi is playing you’ll be lucky!!)
    Palermo viejo is very trendy area – lots of restaurants, small shops, bars and art galleries. Calle Honduras, Calle Costa Rica, Calle Humboldt
    You have to try the Dulce de Leche Ice cream (I love Freddo ice cream, and they are everywhere)
    One of my favorite restaurants is very hidden in Boca – it’s called El Obrero. Super informal – good good food, not fancy at all. Another good pick in Boca is Il Materello – and do not walk by night around those place.

  7. Restaurants in Buenos Aires :
    – Italian : “Campo Dei Fiori” (Corner Calle Venezuela / Calle San Jose)
    – Meat : “La Brigada” in San telmo or “El Mirasol” anywhere (franchise)

    Music : el Toracto Tasso

    Visits from Buenos Aires: the river delta in Tigre.

    Wine : Terrazas reserva Malbec is a good quality/price ratio

    Enjoy!

  8. The Puerto Madero waterfront area should not be missed. It has amazing restaurants and a great vibe. A restaurant I liked is Cabaña las Lilas : very good steak, bread, and wine.
    You could also look into going to Bariloche or the Lake District.

  9. Oooh – that I do know something about. I knew all that fieldwork would produce some useful insights…

    As for areas: I really dislike Puerto Madero. I think it’s pretentious and makes me uncomfortable – kind of feels like the embodiment of the Menemnato to me. Go briefly for the architecture, but don’t stay around. Second the Cemeterio de Recoleta. Second a daytrip to Tigre, too. Spend some time just walking around in the Parks of Palermo, which are gorgeous.

    Finally, an alternative to the San Telmo Sunday market (which is nice, don’t get me wrong, lots of the younger tango orquestas tipicas play life – check out “Afronte” and “Imperial”) is the
    Feria de Mataderos,
    http://www.feriademataderos.com.ar/
    on the outskirts of BsAs – easy to get to by public transport. Also an artisan fair, it sports horsegames and folklore music and dancing. Lots of fun! Both are on Sunday, unfortunately.

    Food –
    The standard meat places have already been suggested – I’d probably second Cabrera, although it’s not cheap by local standards. Best thing is if you can get some porteño to invite you out for bbc on his/her country (those aren’t limited to the super-rich).

    The best food I’ve had in BsAs (and I went out a LOT) was… French.
    http://www.guiaoleo.com.ar/detail.php?ID=80
    (the site is generally great for Restaurant searches).
    This is the French Veterans club. It’s run by the most charming French chef, who prepares traditional French dishes with lots of attention to ingredients and details. I’ve been there twice and was blown away both times. The buidling is amazing, the service spectacular, the atmosphere unique and the food is truely extraordinary.
    It’s in a seriously shady part of town, though (not far away from the center though). So, while I generally would advise you to forget anything Porteños tell you about security (BsAs is safer than New Haven), you should take a cab there.

    Music –
    Folklore: On TG Saturday, you should, really, really make your way to the Peña La Resentida. It’s only once a month, in an abandoned train station (Estación de los deseos…) amazing live music, dancing (and fun folklore classes if you get there early), very good Northern food, cheap wine… it’s one of the most magical places I’ve been to in BsAs.
    http://www.webfolklore.com.ar/laresentida/index.htm
    The other on is Lo de Roberto:
    http://www.barderoberto.com.ar/
    Go there for the most authentic tango cantado in the city, with true tango lovers hanging around, humming or singing along in a bar that looks like it’s 1930 still.

    Other tango advice: Do positively not go to a tango show. For watching some real tango dancing, go the Plaza Dorrego Sunday evening. After the Sunday market disbands, “El Indio” rolls out the dancefloor for an open air Milonga – good dancers of all ages and a wonderful atmosphere – especially on a warm early summer night! Get there around 9pm.

    Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso, nearby, is the best place to hear some of the bigger names of tango, also a great place.

    If both of you speak good Spanish, BsAs also has great theater.

  10. With respect, many of the restaurants recommended so far in this thread are tourist traps – La Brigada, for example, or the infernally overrated Cabaña de las Lilas. La Cabrera is equally stuffed with gringos, but the meat there is very good, as is the wine list. Peter is right to recommend Tegui and Osaka, but neither offer anything you wouldn’t find in any major first world city.

    For more authentic porteño dining, I recommend the following. You can look up addresses, contact info, websites, Google Maps links, etc., on Guia Oleo (http://www.guiaoleo.com.ar/).

    El Cuartito (classic BA pizza joint)
    Almacén Secreto (empanadas and northern Argentinian)
    Pura Tierra (modern Argentinian)
    Gran Bar Danzón (classic wine bar which also serves great food)
    Don Julio (atmospheric steakhouse, less hectic than La Cabrera)
    Café San Juan (modern porteño meets trad Spanish)
    Bar del Gallego (wonderfully old-school café in a glam barrio)

    As for your mini-break, it’s hard to know where or how to begin – but I’ve lived in, and written about, Argentina for 10 years now, so I can certainly help. Which of the following grabs your fancy the most? Glaciers, waterfalls, vineyards, historical cities, remote ranches, rainforests, flora, fauna, mountains, lakes, trekking, horse riding, beaches, steppe, indigenous culture, immigrant culture, adventure sports, boutique hotels… And there’s plenty more where those came from. Drop me a mail if you like.

  11. My pick for best empanadas in BsAs is a place called like 1893 or 1897 or… well, it’s 1890-something. It’s in Palermo on Julio Alvarez and Honduras, only I think it might be one or two blocks closer to Ortiz now that I think of it. Their empanadas are of outer-argentina style, and are muy rico indeed.

  12. Hi Chris,
    A few suggestions:
    Food:
    Cordoba-
    La Viaje Esquina: Served the best empanadas I have ever tasted (and I am generally a fan).
    BA-
    Las Cholas (Arce 306 – Las Cañitas Teléfono: 4899-0094): Go for the baked lentils and chorizo.
    Xalapa: Incredible Mexican food. The good and true stuff, too.
    El Norte: In the neighborhood of La Ricoleta. Argentina’s version of a greasy-spoon. Go at 11:30pm for an authentic experience.
    Buller’s Brewpub: Across from the Ricoleta cemetery. Go when you are tired of Quilmes.

    Non-Food:
    San Telmo market on Sundays can’t be beat. The one in La Ricoleta is not half-bad, either. Don’t go to La Boca– much too touristy.

    Que tengas un buen viaje!

    Sarah

  13. some 2nd comments on above suggestions – yes, cabrera is touristy, but quite good, nevertheless. I took a visiting chef to both Don Julio and Cabrera and he preferred the latter.
    I think BsAs pizza, including Cuartito, is _way_ overrated by the locals, but judge for yourself.

    Cafe San Juan is great, I agree.
    I loved Osaka (Peruvian Japanese fusion) and I don’t think you’ll easily find something comparable in other places.
    Cabrera and Osaka are terrible to get into, especially during the weekend – I think you can reserve Osaka but if I remember correctly Cabrera only takes very early reservations on weekends. And Osaka books out way in advance.

    Also La Dorita, right – my Argentine friends claim they have the best Chorizos in town – they order them “mariposa”, i.e. cut open before grilled – matter of taste, though.
    If you there for a weekday, La Dorita has a very cheap and good lunch menu. (as do many places).

  14. I was just in Buenos Aires in August and really enjoyed La Vineria as well (http://foodinanutshell.blogspot.com/2009/09/la-vineria-de-gualterio-bolivar-review.html). Also really enjoyed Resto (http://foodinanutshell.blogspot.com/2009/10/buenos-aires-resto-retro-review.html).

    Patagonia is incredibly beautiful – though far from Buenos Aires and expensive to get to/around. I went on a previous visit (when I spent three months in the country) and would unequivocably recommend it if you have the funds to make the trip comfortable – avoiding long bus rides would be key.

  15. Hi Chris,

    A buddy of mine was telling me about a place called El Bolson the other day; he said think Berkeley in the Andes. Check out the wiki article here and then just google image “El Bolson”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Bolson

    Look forward to hearing how the trip goes!
    Robert

    PS- BTW, Dennis, Canada has a Thanksgiving. It just comes earlier and is not such a big deal.

  16. to listen some good tango music live, and avoiding the touristic areas of san telmo and so on: sarmiento, 3501 (neighbourhood of “almagro”). and a couple of nice bars a couple of streets far away are “roberto” and “el conventillo de teodoro”, almost all people are local, and the atmoshpere is really nice (people playing either tango or chacareras in a sponteanous way…). enjoy BAs!

  17. I second Cabrera for at least one dinner…
    Any restaurant in Puerto Madero is a good pick, a bit expensive for local standards but super cheap for US prices… and terrific food

    how about taking a plane and spending one day in santiago and taking one of the wine routes? plane tickets are cheap, but avoid aerolineas argentinas… you can then write a post comparing argentina and chile :-)

    patagonia is a must, you can also go to cordoba or mendoza
    take a city tour that goes to the recoleta in BA
    and do not miss a game in la bombonera… or in any of the most traditional soccer stadiums…

  18. Two trip recommendations: San Antonio de Areco, just an hour or two outside of BA, where they have an annual gaucho fair around this time of year. It’s a hoot. SAA is a tiny town that only gets heavy traffic one time a year, so all the locals end up renting rooms out of their homes. I stayed with a family that played folk music at the evening dance event, which you should absolutely track down if you go (I was the only non-Argentine there, as far as I could tell, so I doubt it was advertised).

    The other would be to fly to Cafayate, a wine-producing region in the northwest corner of the country. You get the best of both worlds this way: the wine and the extremes of the Andes. From there, rent a car and drive all the way up through Salta until you’re close to the Bolivian border. The multi-colored mountains are spectacular. This was hands-down the coolest stuff I saw in Argentina.

    In BA, if you want to avoid the ibanking expat crowd, steer clear of Puerto Madero. San Telmo and the Palermos have plenty of chill spots to keep you busy, including Farmacia and Bar El Federal in the former (where I lived, to explain my bias). The best empanadas I had in the entire city came from a mom-and-pop street food place on Independencia between Defensa and Bolivar, just beneath the tall apartment complex. Guia Oleo (http://guiaoleo.com.ar/) will hook you up with the best restaurants.

    Suerte!

  19. Stay in Palermo. Best value, good restaurants, etc.

    Watch your change with taxi drivers

    Tango

  20. To repeat/reply to previous comments:
    C. Las Lilas is a loathsome tourist trap, and is far too overpriced and snooty. Puerto Madero too is highly overrated.
    The best empanadas you ever had are the last ones you ate. They’re good all over the city.
    There’s a great Italian place on Estados Unidos in San Telmo.
    Recoleta Cemetery is fascinating if you can first brush up on your Argentine history. Hint: look at the bill notes you’re carrying around. The restaurants around there are all overpriced.

    If you want to learn tango, try the Armenian Cultural Center on Wednesday; there’s a lesson and a milonga. Hopefully a brief mention by the NY Times hasn’t filled it with gringos. Oh, and you won’t learn a thing until about five lessons in.

    Neither Montevideo nor Colonia warrant more than one day. There’s an interesting little collection/network of museums in Montevideo that are worth visiting; there are about five and each should take no more than an hour. And eat, of course, at the Mercado del Puerto.

    If you do go to the Falls, there’s no reason to visit the Brazilian side. The Argentine side is superior.

    For a taste of one-sided political history, the Evita Museum was established by Duhalde’s faction and is still very pro-myth. It’s up by the zoo, which JL Borges once said smelled of “roasted peanuts and elephant droppings.”

    I heard a rumor that the Madres stopped their regular march at Plaza de Mayo, which used to be at 3 PM/3:30 PM on Thursdays.

    Buy the maximum allowable bottles of wine to bring back. In fact, leave your clothes behind and bring back wine. The selection of Argentine wines in the States is still nascent.

  21. Pretty much everything has been said. And I should also confess that I’ll keep some of the pointers. But as far as I can tell, I’m the first Argentine, Buenos Aires resident to comment.
    Here’s what I think:
    – Calafate, Iguazú, Salta and Bariloche are the most beatuiful spots in terms of landscape. Natural monuments which we don’t deserve to have, but we do. Pick any one of them randomly and enjoy.
    – In Buenos Aires, try to take buses. You won’t enjoy the ride: it ain’t comfortable nor it is fast (except at night) but it is a very “porteño” experience. Traffic (tráfico) by way of insane, underpaid drivers, at a ridiculously low, subsidised price (which also gives you hands-on experience about our political-economical situation). We’re basically half italian, so we drive like shit and are kind of proud about it.
    – Keep out of “El Alamo”, a very cool pub that is filled with “yanquis” (that’s what we call you, not “gringos” as in the rest of Latin America) and plays monday night football.

    If you want, write me an e-mail and I’ll help you out. I guess, since you’re visiting friends, that they’re either locals or have been living here for a while, so you should be fine.

    Best!

  22. “If you do go to the Falls, there’s no reason to visit the Brazilian side. The Argentine side is superior.”

    Q. How do you hurt an Argentine?
    A. Push him off his ego

  23. Want to experience the real Argentina?
    Go to a soccer match of Boca Juniors or River Plate. Doesn’t matter if you don’t know/like soccer. The experience is in the stadium itself.
    Best.
    F.

  24. Oh, don’t worry, friends… we’re thinking of reserving this one early, as it is FANTASTIC – especially with wine pairings.

  25. La Cabrera is fabulous. We’ve been there several times already and will definitely take Jeannie and Chris over that way. I have to wholeheartedly disagree, however, with your comment about staying in Palermo. After living in Buenos Aires for a year, that is the LAST place in the city I would live to truly experience the vibe of Argentina. It’s lovely for a day trip, but it is, as you say, like being in New York. Why go for more of the same? :-)

    Jeannie and Chris are staying with us on the fabulous Parque Lezama in San Telmo on Avenida Caseros – which is, in my estimation, the best street in the country.

    Cheers!

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