Stylish, peaceful, and full of stunning early 20th century architecture, Buenos Aires feels distinctly more European than any other city in South America. It also feels far more civilised than any other city I’ve visited in South America - it’s the type of place that would be great to live in. For those visiting, where should you go, and more specifically, where should you stay?
For tourists, two full days is plenty to see the major sites and districts of Buenos Aires. Those particularly keen on either art galleries or museums could easily stay for longer, up to a week perhaps. If at all possible, it’s best to visit Buenos Aires at the weekend as the atmosphere is at it’s best with markets springing up all over the city, street music and tango dancing performances in the streets. Sunday is the best day - and San Telmo market the top highlight.
Buenos Aires has various districts that should be visited. Choosing a district in which to stay will depend on personal tastes - the following travel tips might guide you.
San Telmo is often referred to as the antiques district, but don’t let yourself think that it’s therefore just for oldies or antique-lovers. There’s many interesting shops, and restaurants and bars in this atmospheric, Bohemian neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. The district of Puerto Madero (converted old docklands now full of restaurants) is a 5 minute walk away, and Buenos Aires city centre is also walkable too. San Telmo district is good for everything, and anyone, though there’s a lack of upmarket hotels here (you could try the Mansion Dandi Royal though).
Puerto Madero is the old docklands area that has been renovated and made beautiful, and is now a popular restaurant and nightlife district. Everything is spread out and there’s many high quality, expensive restaurants to choose from - it’s an ideal place to stroll along the waterfront and pick one that takes your fancy. There’s not a huge number of hotels, but one is the ultra trendy Faena Hotel, which is extremely expensive, and overpriced. I can see little point in staying in Puerto Madero - it’s more of a district to visit in the evening.
This is a beautiful, very grand district, with fantastic examples of 1920’s architecture. Everything feels grand and impressive, including the various luxury hotels in this part of Buenos Aires. The best of these hotels is the Alvear Palace, though it might be a little too grand for some tastes. Recoleta is a great district to wander through (especially Avenida Alvear) in awe at the huge old buildings. There’s numerous traditionally luxurious hotels, but not quite so many restaurants around here. The city centre is not far away and there’s a range of tourist attractions nearby. All in all, Recoleta is a very well located neighbourhood for exploring Buenos Aires.
Palermo is Buenos Aires most chic, and trendy district. It’s full of pavement cafes and boutique clothes shops. There’s many great bars and restaurants, which are much better value for money than those found in Puerto Madero. There’s also a range for boutique hotels to choose from. Palermo is a good choice of neighbourhood for the younger crowd, however it is a bit of a distance to get to any of the other neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires - 15 minutes by taxi to get anywhere. More advice can be found on the subsequent article on Palermo and it’s hotels.
Choosing a hotel in Buenos Aires city centre means one can get to the other neighbourhoods very easily. There’s a lot of hotels (and many chain hotels) here, but most of the other neighbourhoods are more interesting places to base yourself. Who would stay in El Centro? I’m not sure… there’s much more interesting places to base yourself in Buenos Aires.
The touristy parts of La Boca have wonderfully colourful streets and various street stalls and tango bars (the tango shows here are of a low standard from what we saw, and the places offering them are overpriced tourist traps - but still, it’s cheaper than going to the more famous, full on tango shows where dinner is provided). La Boca is an interesting neighbourhood to visit, but no-one stays in a hotel in this area, and the non-touristy regions are unsafe.
Other districts in Buenos Aires
Retiro is an upmarket area wedged between El Centro, Puerto Madero and Recoleta. The central location is good, and here’s many upmarket hotels here, but Recoleta is a more impressive district in which to base yourself.
Barrio Norte is a pleasant neighbourhood next to Recoleta - it’s a perfectly acceptable region in which to stay, but there’s not so many hotels and restaurants, and you probably wouldn’t visit the area unless you’d booked your hotel here.
Constitucion is a little out of town and far away from places of interest - there’s no point being here.
There you go…. many travellers to Argentina invariably stay in Buenos Aires at least once - if you stay more than once (eg. at the beginning and end of your trip), my advice would be to stay in a different district each time - no point in returning to the same place after all!