Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Buildings on Avenida de Mayo|
Just take a stroll down Avenida Alvear in Recoleta and you will see the exquisite beauty of European architecture offered to the town’s affluent residents, including the 1920′s French building, the Alvear Palace Hotel. This is just a taste of what’s in store for anyone spending an afternoon in the most posh neighborhood in town. Recoleta is also home to the opulent Cementerio de la Recoleta, one of the world’s finest necropolises where you’ll find Argentine luminaries like Eva Perón and high-profile presidents buried in ornate Italian marble mausoleums (and trust me, Evita gets way more love here than Parisians ever gave to Jim). The decadence of this walled-in graveyard exemplifies the grand elegance this city so unceasingly aspires to.
Then of course there are the people, who also tend to be a part of the beautiful scenery. To walk the streets of Buenos Aires is like ambling down any great promenade of the world’s great cities, except that porteños glide down their avenues in chic dress and a sassy self-possession unequalled in any other. To the sportily dressed sightseer, this may seem daunting, but have no fear. They don’t look so good for no reason; BA has miles and miles of city streets lined with shops that sell great clothing from independent designers to department stores. Abasto, built from an old produce market, is perhaps the most interesting of all the shopping centers. There are also a plethora of other malls located within a few miles of the city center, including Alto Palermo in Barrio Norte and Patio Bullrich in Recoleta, but a great alternative is in Palermo, a trendy new area with over 300 shops, restaurants and bars that is loaded with independent designers. When it comes to dressing and nourishing the city’s à la mode, this area is definitely King.
One might not normally consider dinner a cultural experience. But for many, dining out in Buenos Aires will be like eating a fourth scheduled meal. Most don’t eat dinner before 8:30 and if it is a weekend, change that start time to 9:30. Some of the best steakhouses and Italian eateries abound here, so for westerners eating well will be a true pleasure rather than a challenge in this city. All of the neighborhoods offer fantastic spaces to dine in, with Puerto Madero and Las Cañitas being the most modern and recently built. Most of my favorites were in Barrio Norte and Palermo, but I think wherever you go, you are bound to find your own. And if you are planning on hitting the nightlife afterward, don’t show up before midnight or you will be drinking alone. The peak hours should be between 1:30 and 3:00 a.m. and continue well into the early morning on Friday and Saturday. Palermo Hollywood is home to many of these hip spaces, but so are Montserrat and some others. Going out for late-night revelry is not the only cultural option though. I think most porteños would be quite upset with me for not at least mentioning the energy of the fans at a Boca Juniors soccer match or the intense passion of tango dancers.
Alas, there is no Eiffel Tower here – just a 223 foot pearly-white needle called the Obelisco that towers above the famous 20 lanes of BA’s widest avenue. This is more of a signature or landmark of the city than anything else. But then again, who really likes the Eiffel Tower beyond this same status anyway? Maybe they are right. Maybe B.A. is better.