And we’re back! Hope you didn’t miss us to much :-)
After our excursions in Chile, we hopped a few more buses (midway stop in Mendoza, more to come on that later) & arrived mid-morning in Buenos Aires. Luckily for us we had several days planned in B.A. before my family joined us for our big trip to Antarctica, giving us plenty of time to explore & enjoy the city! In the city, we had our own apartment (we thought we booked a B&B but turns out we had our own separate place, I was not complaining) in the Palermo area – “SOHO” to be specific. This newer, “hipsterish” side to B.A. was abundant with restaurants, cafes, bars & shops so we were never bored. Ben figured you could eat somewhere new for each meal daily & still not visit all within a year.
To really get to know a place you need to spend a significant amount of time there, allowing you to feel more like a local & less like a tourist. While we did not spend nearly enough time to feel completely acclimated & there are plenty more activities to do we thought for this post we’d do it a little differently. Below we have compiled our list of suggestions & our top 5 “T”s for Buenos Aires, enjoy!
Tango: Lessons & Shows
The Tango is a beautiful combination of dance & emotional expression. B.A. is well known for the Tango (though originated in Uruguay) & there’s an overabundance of options to enjoy, whether you want to participate or just watch. We figured, hey when in Rome right (or Argentina I suppose anyways) & signed up for our first intro lesson!
Many teaching studios exist but we settled on DNI which came recommend to us by a couple we met in Mendoza. A few of the pluses for us were 1) they provided instructions in both English & Spanish (I’m not sure my brain could have allowed a new dance & test my Spanish knowledge at the same time) & 2) They offer your first intro class free with an online coupon.
Given that the lesson was introductory & free for most it was overly crowded in the studio but we were very impressed with how well the teachers made the space & size work so you received individual attention/tips & move around the room easily (mostly anyways). Our biggest challenge was probably me having to follow 100% as the Tango is led by the man, I do not follow anything well. No one request any special shows from us, we mastered only about 2 steps but hey it was a good time all together & at the end our instructions put on a bit of a show themselves. We’d highly recommend taking advantage if you find yourself in B.A.
Tigre is a special place about a 40 minute train ride north of Buenos Aires. The area is comprised of hundreds of islands formed from the river delta all connected by a series of waterways (no roads around them). Being so closely located to B.A., Tigre is an extremely popular weekend destination to get away & relax. With no roads, Tigre has adapted to continue to provide all public services you would find in a major city, but by boat – taxis, school boats, supermarket boats that stop by your home, and even a boat with a doctor and dentist.
We chose to visit this area by bike through a tour company, Biker Street. Carlos, one of the founders met us in Palermo & off we went to Tigre. As they mostly offer the tour on the weekends, we happened to be the only ones on the tour, which made for great personalized service! After biking around the town & learning about the history, we hopped on a tour boat around all the islands. It is amazing how well the area works with no way to get around except by boat! During the tour, we stopped at one of the islands that had a nice beach & restaurant & where we enjoyed a cool refreshing beer.
Being a weekender spot, the weekday tour proved to be a quieter way to enjoy Tigre – which we appreciated. If you are looking for a more “genuine” experience that a typical Buenos Aires local would experience, opt for the weekend trip.
Tierra Negra (Cooking Classes)
Given how much we love South American food (& wine!) & had several days to do as we please we decided to take advantage of a local cooking class. Again, as with Tango & tours (discussed below) there are a plethora of options to indulge. Through Trip Advisor we selected “Tierra Negra”, a husband & wife team preparing / teaching courses in their home. Verónica & Manuel, tourist guru & chef respectively, do an excellent job of keeping you entertained not only with cooking instructions but wine / a bit of history-info regarding all of Argentina. We participated with a small, intimate group of 5 (2 Brits & 1 American) which made it even more enjoyable with lively conversation & friendly debates. Verónica ensured our wine glasses were always well cared for.
They offered two different styles of cooking, Argentinian street food or traditional empanadas. Our evening, we learned the traditional techniques of preparing empanadas. It was very informative as well as fun, learning the history of the empanada & the different taste & preparation techniques used depending on which part of Argentina you or your family is from. We prepared two types, traditional minced meat with pepper, onions, olives & a vegetarian “caprese” tomato, mozzarella & basil. Both require a different type of “fold” over the edges to help identify which is which (turned out to be very helpful later in our travels). The preparation including creating the dough from scratch - no shortcuts here - mincing & cooking the various fillings, finally topping it up with a bit of butter/egg once assembled to provide the rich golden “cooked” glow. We also learned to prepare a flan & dulce de leche coating (absurdly popular here). Once done we got to enjoy our savory creations, now if we can only continue the practice when we return home!
A city tour is a great way to see and experience the variety of what Buenos Aires offers. Because the city is so expansive, touring allows you to get a feel for all the areas and find out which ones to go back to for more fun. There are three main ways to tour the city: walking, biking, and bus tours.
Walking Tours - These tours are the most economical way to explore the city and most of the time are free! Some are offered through the city and other private companies that came recommended to us like Buenos Aires Free Walks. Keep in mind as you tour that Recoleta Cemetery is not to be missed!
Bike Tours – These are affordable ways to see more of the city in a short amount of time. We recommend Biker Street. Biker Street offers half or full day tours of different parts of the city or the whole city (touring the Tigre is also a full day option) depending on how much time you want to take & also are very affordable! Depending on your group size you can personalize it more to what you are interested in, we were lucky to be the only two for our tour & spent a lovely afternoon discussing varieties of topics about both Argentina & the US.
Bus Tours – A bus tour can be an easy way to see the entire city in a few short hours. While this is the costliest option, it allows you to see the city quickly, avoiding having to do any strenuous exercise & potential weather issues.
Unfortunately for us we were in the city at the wrong time to enjoy the variety of city sports B.A. manages but given the devotion of the city to their local & national activities we would highly recommend taking advantage of some if you can.
First & foremost, of course, is fútbol. Anyone who follows the sport knows how intense Argentinians are about their teams. During the season you can enjoy the local teams around the areas of B.A. or if you are luckier than we were perhaps you could find yourself a ticket to the national team’s home games.
A lesser known (at least to us before we got there) sport that’s increasing in popularity is Polo of all things. Long seen as an “elite class” sport organizations around the city are making a concentrated effort to expand their base & educate all on the sport, tagline being that “Polo for everyone!”. This is one activity I am sorry we missed, not knowing how popular it was becoming before we arrived, so while we cannot give a firsthand recommendation we think it’s worth the chance to see a match.
Overall, Buenos Aires has so much to offer that we could easily find ourselves spending weeks here to appreciate everything. The city is full of life & will never disappoint. There's no way we wont make it back here one day, we do have to keep up those tango skills!