When I visited Buenos Aires for the first time, it was love on first sight – it’s a beautiful city with grand avenues, impressive architecture and generous park spaces. There are great museums, amazing restaurants and lots of shops. Add the friendly and vivacious people who love to have a good time and you start to think about staying! Alas, I didn’t return for more than a decade. When I did, Argentina was emerging from years of tough economic times and political times and I was a little anxious how my favorite city in South America would have changed…
Buenos Aires has the layout of a European capital – with the grand avenues cutting through the city, impressive monuments like the Obelisk, visible from far away. The Casa Rosada, the seat of the president facing the Plaza de Mayo, is just as impressive as the Congress building at the other end of the Avenida de Mayo or the Teatro Colon on the Avenida 9 de Julio. And just like in Paris or Vienna, many streets are lined with impressive buildings, whether they might be offices or residences, signs of a long and proud history of this capital city.
If you want to find out more about its history, there are plenty of museums to choose from! Like the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts). It served as a reminder of the prosperous history of the city – one of the leading cities around the beginning of the 20th century, when this museum was founded, with rich exhibits from the middle ages to the 20th century. Or consider the MALBA – Museo de Arte Latinoamericano, with modern art presented in an architecturally stunning building! And just steps from the museums are the parks of Palermo and Recoleta, the fresh, breathing lungs of this huge city, making it easy to retreat for a break. Families take to the parks on weekends, people are jogging or you can even watch (or participate) in aerobics in the park, with Latin music that’s hard to stand still to!
Once you had a day full of activities, you’ve earned your dinner. Just keep in mind that Argentinians, just like Spaniards, take their siesta and have a late lunch, so they don’t get started with dinner till 10pm or 11pm at night. But once they do, you are in for a treat. Argentina is heaven for steak lovers – you’ll find some of the best steaks in the world here and at prices that are still affordable. It’s also a great wine region, so you’ll be able to pair your steak with wonderful red wine. And if you have still energy left after dinner, you can party the night away with the locals. The Teatro Colon is just as impressive from the inside as from the outside and watching a performance there is a treat. And the locals are passionate about music and dancing. You can watch a tango performance or go to a club and dance yourself – it’ll be a fun night out!
All the things I loved about Buenos Aires the first time are still here. Yet, the difficult times have left their mark on the city: Buildings all around town are covered in graffiti, sidewalks are crumbling and the buses and trains appear to be the same as 10, 15 years ago! Even the nice neighborhoods like Palermo or Recoleta have lost some of their shine and show marks of conflict and neglect. While I still felt save walking around town, it was a marked change from my previous visit, leaving me a little sad. And that seems be true for many locals, too: the energy and friendliness felt a little more muted than I remembered!
Buenos Aires is an amazing city and worth a visit. Whether you come for the architecture, art and museums or the shopping and food; whether you enjoy days in the parks or nights in the clubs, there is a lot to explore and to enjoy in Buenos Aires. Despite its European roots, it has a character all its own. And while it carries some scars from tough years, all the things I love about Buenos Aires, I found again. So, if you have never been to South America, add Buenos Aires to your list!