Full disclosure: I’m a bit biased about this port of call since it is the city I grew up in. Still, I left over 20 years ago (wow! Time flies!) and my last visit was 2 years back... A lot has changed. So even if you’ve been to Buenos Aires before and are scheduled to come back soon, you might find this useful.
Walk the Streets
Buenos Aires is often compared to Paris. It is a huge city that mixes historic Colonial-time architecture with ultra-modern buildings. Most streets are lined with huge trees that provide refuge from the heat in the summer and a constant sense of wonder. There are several neighbourhoods worth walking around. Puerto Madero is probably the closest to where your ship will dock. This area was abandoned and scary when I was a child, but now it is hip, trendy, and filled with high-end restaurants. If the weather permits, walk along the river, enjoy the sites, take a photo by the beautiful rotating footbridge by Calatrava, Puente de la Mujer, and maybe stop for an ice cream at Freddo or a drink on a patio by the water.
At the edge of Puerto Madero, you will find yourself in Santelmo, the oldest neighbourhood in the city. It is a picturesque, well-preserved area famous for its antique shops and bars. Walking back towards the docks, you can visit Plaza de Mayo, where all the most important political historical events took place. On one end you will see the Casa Rosada (the house of government) and on the other, el Cabildo, a government building that dates back to the late 1500s. Past these sights, you will hit Florida, a famous pedestrian shopping area. You may also choose to take a small detour, following Avenida de Mayo behind the Cabildo about 5 blocks to Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world. Proship’s Director of Administration, Patrice, still remembers crossing it years back while he visited the city during one of his onboard musician contracts with a cruise line.
Been there, done that? Head to Palermo, a mix of Colonial cobbled streets, paved roads, typical Buenos Aires broken sidewalks, and tall leafy trees. You can lose yourself among the trendy and hip boutiques (ring the bell to be let in), bars, restaurants, cafes, and street vendors. Some shops are worth the visit just for their setting inside modernized old homes called “casa chorizo”, with inner courtyards, high ceilings, and beautiful wooden doors. Palermo also boasts a large green area known as the Bosques de Palermo, if what you are looking for is refuge from the buzzing city.
Another option would be Recoleta, a more high-end area dotted with parks, cultural centres, shops, and the famous cemetery where Evita is buried. This historic site is eerily beautiful, with its towering marble mausoleums rich in art deco, art nouveau, baroque and neo-gothic architectural styles. Once outside, not far from the main gates, go see the oldest tree in the city, believed to be over 200 years old! Its huge and majestic base spans almost 10 meters in diameter and some of its branches are over 30 meters long.
Arts and Culture
Not far from where your cruise will dock, you will find the Teatro Colón, a stunning venue famous since its inauguration in 1908 for its acoustics and architectural beauty. There are daily guided tours available in several languages. Walking toward Santelmo, you may have stumbled upon de Modern Art Museum, housed in an old and newly renovated building.
If you opted for visiting Recoleta, you will be in the vicinity of the National Fine Arts Museum, the Centro Cultural Recoleta—which has tons of cultural and artistic events—and the famous Feria Artesanal Plaza Francia (craft fair). Close to the Bosques de Palermo is my personal favourite, the Malba (museum of Latin American Art).
There are always about 100 events happening in Buenos Aires at any given time so if you want to discover local theatre and music, the possibilities are endless. I can’t even begin to list the cultural venues! I’d say check out what’s happening at the Konex and post a call on your Facebook for friends who may have been recently and can recommend current shows.
Coffee and Food
Argentinians have a reputation for bragging, but seriously, how can we not with our famous asados! Our meat is literally spectacular. We cut it differently, we make it differently. I cannot explain it, you have to try it. Any of the neighbourhoods I mentioned above will have loads of restaurant options. When in doubt, I go to Las Cholas, which is usually well priced and excellent. Other typical foods include provoleta (a kind of cheese, melted to perfection on the bbq), empandas—ham and cheese, meat, humita (corn), and a lot of other mouth-watering flavours—, milanesas (breaded, boneless meat or chicken), pizzas with fainá… Ok, I’m getting hungry. I should mention, though, that lesser-known but also honestly unforgettably yummy is our ice-cream—which you can get delivered!—and our pastries. So don’t leave Buenos Aires without a few extra pounds!
Out of the dozens of visitors to Buenos Aires I’ve spoken to, only one has been robbed. Yet, I feel compelled to warn you to be careful and hang on to your valuables. If possible, even leave them on the ship. Keep your eyes on your purse, phone, wallet, backpack (which you should wear as a front pack), at all times. Don’t trust the back pocket of your jeans to keep your things away from pickpockets and do not put your belongings in purses without zippers. Avoid counting money out on the street and if you are taking photos with your camera or smartphone, be quick, discreet and hold ‘em tight! Now go have fun!
Have you visited Buenos Aires recently? Add your tips below.