When Dylan and I needed a place to visit in between Peru and Patagonia, Buenos Aires immediately came to my mind. A place with a strong European influence yet Latin charisma and flair, I was intrigued by the mix of cultures along with the modern day cityscape. We wanted to see more of South America, and this was the perfect in between destination we could spend a few days exploring.
After doing some initial research, my brain kept returning to the same detail. Don’t I know someone in Buenos Aires? Doesn’t someone live there? It sounds so familiar..
And then it hit me- my 9th grade biology buddy, Mike.
Mike and I met in high school during 5th period science class. Our last names began with R and S respectively, so we were seated next to each other. We began chatting the first week of school and quickly became friends. We fought over who got the most leg room at our lab desk, told jokes, and helped each other with homework.
Mike was relaxed, funny, and easygoing. He was a great friend to have and we kept in touch until around our junior year, then lost touch. When I realized Mike was the person I knew that lived in Buenos Aires, I was excited at the possibility of getting together. Mike knew Dylan through a mutual friend so it would be a mini high school reunion.
With fingers crossed Mike still lived in Argentina, I sent him a message on Facebook. His response was so filled with excitement it immediately made me realize why we were such good friends all those years ago.
“OMG NO WAY! No one has visited me here because Argentina is so far away. I’d love to be your tour guide! I’m so excited to show you around!”
Even though it had been more than a decade since we last spoke, it was like no time had passed at all. I was thrilled that we’d have a familiar face to see in Argentina – and one that belonged to a good friend!
Mike and his lovely girlfriend Carla took their entire Sunday to show us around some of the touristy and local spots in Buenos Aires. Since they both were working the following days, they gave us recommendations for activities to do on our own time, which were each unique and fun! Mike and Carla even met up with us a second time for a farewell dinner at their favorite parrilla restaurant. Our last night was filled with laughter, drinks, and lots of interesting foods (more on that later!)
From an expat and a BA native, here are some of the best places, both touristy and local, to visit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We saw a lot in four short days and can attest these are excellent spots to see to get a feel for the real BA.
Plaza de Mayo & La Casa Rosada
This is the main city square in Buenos Aires. It has historical significance as being the sight of demonstrations during the Dirty War (1974-1983) as families searched for their missing loved ones.
La Casa Rosada is the official home and mansion of Argentina’s President. It’s interesting than in the US the President lives in the White House, and in Argentina the president lives in The Pink House! This entire town square is exciting to visit, as
Think a cemetery is a weird tourist destination? Think again! This cemetery is popular and filled with incredible grave sites and marble mausoleums. Eva Perón, the former First Lady of Argentina of which the musical Evita is based, is buried here.
The graves are interesting to wander through- some are so ornate and detailed. Apparently you may only be buried here if there is a family grave already present- it’s really packed and they’ve run out of room for more graves.
Museo de Bellas ArtesGo on a Tuesday – it’s free!
This museum was small but packed with famous pieces from at of the greats- Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Renoir, and Degas to name a few. The galleries were enjoyable to walk through on a rainy morning. The variety of classical to modern art, as well as the sculptures and collections of Argentine local culture made for an interesting and enlightening time.
Caminitos & La Boca
While this neighborhood screams tourist central, it’s still worth a visit.
This is the colorful and vibrant area of Buenos Aires known for its decorated buildings. There are statues of Pope Francis, street art, artisans, and musicians. Bars and restaurants have patios out front with live music and tango dancers.
The prices will be higher and it will be filled with souvenir and postcards, but it’s filled with Argentine culture and pride.
Freddo Ice Cream
With tons of flavors and gluten-free options galore, I knew we had to try Freddo for their ice cream. Carla said she loved their flavors and I was eager to see how they were! Pictured above is strawberry, chocolate; and an Argentine classic- dulce de leche. There are multiple Freddo locations so you’ll be able to find one wherever in Buenos Aires you’re staying. All three flavors were delicious and it was reasonably priced too!
This is one of the most interesting malls I’ve seen. It was filled with the typical clothing stores, but also had restaurants, play areas, an arcade, and more! It was more than just a shopping mall. Mike and Carla mentioned they went on their first date in Abasto and after seeing it, I totally get why. You can shop, rest, have a snack, eat dinner, play games, and more.
El Puerto & San Telmo
Buenos Aires is a huge, modern city bustling with life. Situated along the coast, it’s also a port. You can walk along the water and find restaurants and cafes as well as boats of different sizes. We strolled the port area for most of the morning and had a enjoyable walk.
Only open on Sundays, the San Telmo Market is an outdoor street market filled with vendors selling crafts, clothes, and art. You can also find local musicians and street performers, and maybe even some tango dancers. While we didn’t buy anything at the market, the atmosphere was lively and it was packed with people. Argentina had a very social feel and everyone seemed eager to greet each other and make connections. It was a cool local place to see!
Embrace the relaxed lifestyle of Argentina and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the late afternoon. Be prepared- the coffees are small, and like Mike told us, “It’s not a Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks sized coffee!”
While you’re there, you will usually have WiFi and can check in on your phone. Or, choose to stay disconnected and just enjoy the present moment and revel in the atmosphere- that’s also recommended for any travel destination!
You can grab a quick snack like a medialuna pastry, or if you are gluten-free, see if they have any GF options. We stopped at Dorina Cafe where they served me gluten-free toast with marmalade. That along with a cup of tea was a welcome snack as we escaped an afternoon rainstorm.
Paseo el Rosedal
The rose garden in the Palermo neighborhood was absolutely stunning! Surrounded by a public park with statues of Hispanic poets, this garden was gorgeous and filled with tons of different flowers. There were roses in every color of the rainbow!
This was a beautiful way to spend an afternoon!
You have to get asado in Argentina. It’s a must!
During our first outing with Mike and Carla, Mike raved about his favorite parrilla. A parrilla is a grill, and the name refers to the restaurants in Argentina serving up asado – roasted meats. There are tons of these places in Buenos Aires, but like every local, Mike had his preference. We were at a small outdoor cafe in San Telmo, and while the asado was good, it wasn’t up to Mike’s standard.
On our last night in Buenos Aires we had our own experience of the best parrilla in Buenos Aires- a little hole in the wall place called Don Niceto. Mike and Carla met us there for dinner at 9:30 PM- just about dinner time in Argentina.
We walked in and our waiter gave our Mike a hug and a handshake. At that point I knew it was going to be a great night!
This was the type of place where there is no menu. The same guy came over and Mike immediately started listing things for them to bring us. Dylan and I had no idea what was happening, and I speak Spanish!
Carla reiterated to the waiter about the fact that I had celiac disease and he explained it would be non problem at all. The only thing he was unsure of were the chorizo sausages as they are prepared at another facility. Everything else was safe – score!
We had wine and beer and waited for our food. There was a ton of laughter and jokes, plus fun stories to tell and high school memories to share. Then our food came!
And it was delicious. All of it!
We had blood sausages, chorizo, beef, fries with Provençal sauce, pico de Gallo, and more! Our favorite was achuras – intestines!
Yes, you read that correctly. Intestines!
They were absolutely scrumptious. They were crispy, and with a squeeze of lemon on top they were absolutely fantastic. Normally I never would have ordered something like that, but when a local says “You gotta try these!”, it has to be good!
We were the last ones in the restaurant and quickly took a group photo before grabbing an Uber back to our hostel. I didn’t want the night to end but we had an early flight to Patagonia the next morning. With promises of reuniting in Boston, we said goodbye to Mike and Carla and thanked them for showing us their favorite parrilla in BA.
We had such a great few days in Buenos Aires with the help from our friends. They were excellent tour guides and even on the days they couldn’t show us around, they provided tips for the places you see listed here.
If you have the chance to see Argentina, you should definitely make a point to stop in Buenos Aires. It’s filled with excellent public spaces, exciting flair, and wonderful food. A trip anywhere is always better with tips from a local, and ours was definitely improved having guidance from our favorite tour guides Mike and Carla. We hope to see them again real soon! 🇦🇷
¡Gracias por todo Mike y Carla! ¡Un abrazo!