Buenos Aires has been dubbed “The Paris of South America,” but when it comes to edgy, urban appeal, Argentina’s capital city easily comes out on top.
Unlike Paris, BA breaks up the city’s European-styled streets with a youthful cafe culture, an accepting nightlife that doesn’t require you to dress to impress, and a genuine bohemian subculture whose followers can be seen drinking the national drink mate (a grassy tea), and snacking on empanadas while reggae pumps around the streets.
Palermo Soho is the main district to head to if you want to enjoy late nights out around Plaza Serrano and its surrounding streets, which have bars, clubs, restaurants and shopping. It’s the hip part of BA which contains scenic streets that eventually run into Palermo Viejo and Palermo Hollywood, the latter of which has even more beautiful houses, shops, and restaurants. If Palermo Soho is social, fun, and varied, then Palermo Hollywood is relaxed, slightly more exclusive, and more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Not that Soho isn’t, but Hollywood has that little something extra, although at the expense of a happening nightlife, it’s probably not the best place to stay if you want convenience later in the night – and you will, since Argentinians don’t eat dinner until 11 p.m., and don’t go out until at least midnight (same as Europe).
Recoleta is another area worth visiting. It’s home to a famous cemetery (which you can read about by clicking here), parks, and restaurants. It’s more residential – and therefore quieter than both Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. Being further away from Palermo would make it a small hassle for people looking for more action at night, but a day trip is worth it if for nothing else than the cemetery.
San Telmo is a traditional neighbourhood which is close to the infamous La Boca (which you can read more about by clicking here). The architecture is old, worn, and rustic, while the streets are hilly and made from cobblestones. On Sundays, there is a GIANT market where merchants sell everything from mate cups, t-shirts, bottle holders and souveniers, to meat from street-side barbecues, cds, movies, and leather wallets. The market spreads throughout San Telmo to such an extent that it would take one hours to see everything. Because San Telmo is a traditional neighbourhood, you can find traditional parillas (where you can try grilled steaks cooked in the famous Argentinian way, over hot coals – gas is strictly forbidden). There are great deals for huge steaks and side dishes at lunchtime through set menus ($9 Australian dollars for a massive steak, salad and drink), which is pretty much the thing to do here. Inside many of the parillas, the decor is also traditional, so you really feel like you’ve entered a cultural realm amidst the busy outside streets.
Once you’ve been through BA and feel like a different speed, you can hop on a boat at the docks and make your way across the ocean to Uruguay. If you enter Colonia Del Sacramento – the world UNESCO heritage site, you’ll be pleasantly shocked as you switch from the cosmopolis of BA to the historic port side town.
This is the easiest way to enter Uruguay. Since it’s illegal for Argentinians to trade in their currency for US dollars, many make the boat trip in order to change their money, and then head back. Currency protection is a big deal in Argentina, which has led to a black market money exchange. We were told by our hostel owners that it’s in our best interests to change our Australian dollars at one of these operations, which literally operated at the back of a laundromat downtown. We would receive a better exchange rate than what the banks were offering, but since counterfeit money is such a prevalent issue here, we didn’t want to risk getting fake money for a few extra bucks.