Buenos Aires is a bustling metropolis that is often called the “Paris of South America”. Or at least it was before Argentina’s economic crisis. We’ve asked several of our friends that have recently been to Buenos Aires what they thought and they all say the same thing, keep your expectations low. There is homelessness everywhere, garbage in the streets, graffiti and thieves looking for easy marks.
So when we decided to go for the weekend, our expectations of Buenos Aires were set low and we were taken by surprise. Who knows, maybe we have lived in South America too long, but we loved Buenos Aires almost as soon as we arrived. Yes, we saw a little trash here and there and some graffiti, but this city’s glory years are not over, not even close!
Buenos Aires remains a heavily European influenced city, rich in culture and history. It is also a foodie paradise with a lively and trendy nightlife than never sleeps. We only had 48 hours in Buenos Aires and we made the best of it with plans to return soon. What is one to do in this massive city in only 48 hours? Well keep reading and we will tell you!
We arrived in Buenos Aires and checked into the InterContinental Hotel in the historic Monserrat neighborhood. It just so happens that this hotel room was free for us for the weekend as Dale had accrued a lot of hotel reward points. Dale will share with our readers how he earns reward points for airlines and hotels soon, so keep reading our blog!
Daytime view from our hotel room
Our view at night
After checking in head over to Calle Florida (Florida Street) in the Monserrat neighborhood to exchange money. Now don’t freak out, there are men and women working up and down this street that will turn your dollars or reals into pesos for you like magic. It seems shady, looks shady, and actually kind of is shady, but as long as you are not out there with large amounts of cash late at night you should be fine. When we went our exchange rate was 12 pesos to 1 USD. The official rate from the banks or airport runs around 9 pesos to 1 USD. So if you plan on spending money in Buenos Aires, try and get the most bang for your buck and exchange your money on Florida Street.*
*ElizabethandDaleAbroad are not responsible for anything stupid you do on Florida Street with stupid people at stupid times of the night. In plain English, if you do get robbed, it is not our fault! Exercise good common sense and always be aware of your surroundings!
Exchanging our money down an alley with a total stranger made us hungry so we headed to Palermo around 9:00p.m. for dinner and drinks. Dinner in Buenos Aires does not start until around 9:00p.m. We had the best steaks of our lives at a restaurant called Minga in Palermo. We had reservations for Don Julio but the electricity was out so the waiters told us about Minga. It turns out most of the staff at Don Julio love to eat at Minga. We were not disappointed. Be sure and try the empanadas. They were amazing. I also hate to say it, but we liked our steaks at Minga much better than the steak we shared the next night at Don Julio. Sorry Don Julio, you were amazing but our favorite meal was at Minga. This is our own fault because we had different cuts of beef at each restaurant, and we both preferred the cut of beef we had at Minga. When we return we will go back to Don Julio and try a different cut.
Argentine beef is incredible!
We wanted to make the most out of our limited time in Buenos Aires so we decided to take a city tour. The tour lasted a little over 3 hours. It was cheap and a great way to save time and our feet. We also learned a lot about the city that we wouldn’t have learned on our own.
Our first stop on the tour was May Square in the Monserrat neighborhood. We learned about the revolution of 1810 that led to Argentina’s independence as well as more recent events in Argentina’s history. We toured the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires. This cathedral was ornate and interesting to visit. We also saw several famous building such as the Casa Rosada, Secretariat of Intelligence, Hacienda Palace, and the Federal Administration of Public Revenue.
We also drove through the San Telmo neighborhood on our way to La Boca. We saw La Bombonera, the home of the soccer team the Boca Juniors. We stopped in La Boca and walked up and down Caminito. This was a beautiful and colorful street. It was kitschy, with people selling souvenirs and photos with Tango dancers everywhere, but it was fun. We were warned not to venture off the main street because this neighborhood is known for a lot of violence and robberies – even directed towards tourists. We did not see anything in the least bit sketchy while we were there, just a bunch of friendly people trying to make a living. That said, it is always good to have your guard up and be aware of your surroundings.
Dale on the Caminito
Total tourist shot with one of the many “Tango Dancers” around the Caminito
My favorite part of the tour was the drive through the affluent neighborhood of Recoleta. We took a tour of the Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron and many other famous people are buried. The Recoleta Cemetery was listed by CNN in the top 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world. This cemetery is made of elaborate above ground vaults and marble mausoleums. There are statues galore. You can see statues in the style of art deco, art nouveau, baroque, and neo-gothic.
The incredible Recoleta Cemetery
The mausoleums had wonderful details
Eva Peron’s gravesite
Following our tour of the cemetery we visited the Puerto Madero waterfront district. We did not stop in this area but plan to return and visit the next trip as it looked like an amazing neighborhood. This is the most upscale area in Buenos Aires, and has many excellent restaurants.
After our 3-4 hour tour we decided to return to the room for a little R&R before heading out to Florida Street to watch a soccer game and enjoy some empanadas and some Patagonia, a local brew. We watched Argentina play against Chile in the finals of the Copa America. It was a disappointing loss for Argentina and the vibe of the entire city changed after a short 90 minute soccer game! It went from a fun, laidback cheerful vibe to a lot of profanity and shouting in Spanish. I can’t blame them for being angry, Argentina played horribly!
We decided not to allow the mood to affect our night and we wanted to keep the food and buzz going so we headed to Palermo after the game for an amazing steak dinner at Don Julio. The ambiance at Don Julio makes this restaurant a must. Not to mention the fried cheese, empanadas, and steak are magnificent! The restaurant is decorated with wine bottles everywhere. After you finish your bottle of wine, the waiter brings it back out to you with a white label on it and you are allowed to decorate the bottle and the restaurant then puts it on display. It is a pretty cool idea and way to leave something behind. Also, the owner makes it his mission to talk to patrons of his restaurant each night. It was neat meeting him! The individual touches made us feel special and we will absolutely return on our next visit.
“Life is too short to drink bad wines!”
A view of Don Julio’s – our bottle is up there somewhere!
A trip to Buenos Aires is not complete without trying some amazing coffee and alfajores at Café Tortoni. Alfajores are a wonderful sugary treat similar to what we would call a moon pie in the United States. Only Alfajores are so much better! They are made of a few layers of spongy cake, filled with doce de leite and covered in chocolate. Café Tortoni is one of the oldest coffee shop/cafes in Buenos Aires. They opened their doors in 1858. It was a famous coffee drinking locale and frequented by artists, musicians, journalists, writers, etc. They offer more than just alfajores and coffee. The food looked amazing. We saw several families having brunch and champagne mimosas together while we sipped on coffee. They also serve lunch, including steaks.
Enjoying some coffee, croissants, and alfajores at the Café Tortoni
After Café Tortoni, we realized we had not bought any souvenirs this trip so we walked down the street and happily stumbled upon Vera Wines. We decided that wine would make excellent gifts to ourselves and our friends – more to ourselves! The attendant working was helpful and friendly. She helped us pick out several bottles of wine and we bought wine from all three wine regions in Argentina.
Buying some Malbecs – who needs room in the suitcase for clothes?!
It is possible to see and do a lot in Buenos Aires in only 48 hours, yet this short weekend trip left us craving more! We instantly fell in love with this spectacular city and we are already planning to return and visit some more sites that we didn’t have the time to visit this first trip. Please stay tuned to our blog for more about Buenos Aires and Argentina!
You can have just about any hotel arrange a city half day or full day tour for you. The half day tours start at around $24 USD and last between 3-4 hours. If your hotel does not arrange tours you can book a tour on-line easily.
Located in Palermo across from the Plaza Armenia. 4528, Avenida Costa Rica.
Also located in Palermo. 4699, Avenida Guatemala. Be sure and make reservations in advance as it is the only way to ensure a table at this popular internationally known restaurant.
A coffee house dating from 1858 in the Monserrat neighborhood. 825 Avenida de Mayo.
Located one block away from Café Tortoni. 825, Avenida de Mayo.