How is life in Argentina’s capital? Awesome!!!
We lived with my boyfriend in Buenos Aires some 5 months, from October 2015 to February 2016. We both agree that we spent the best time in our lives there.
1. The buzz
Buenos Aires has a great atmosphere. The streets are always filled (during the day rather crowded) with people, until late night (or early morning on the weekends), no matter what time it is. There are coffeeshops and restaurants on every corner and it is simply South America’s city that never sleeps. At the same time I didn’t quite feel there the rush of a big city, as it’s still South America and the people are a lot more chilled out there, or at least to me it didn’t seem that they would be stressing out or rushing anywhere. Tranquillo.
I always describe Buenos Aires as a mix of Europe and South America; since most of the people had migrated there from Italy and Spain and the architecture and the city’s look is similar to European big cities-personally it reminded me of Barcelona the most. But it is still South America, so the nice, neat European style is spiced with the latino joy, loudness and temper.
2. The parks
There are plenty of green spaces in the city. If you happen to live in Palermo and enjoy jogging, rollerskating, cycling, street workout and other outdoor activities (like me), you are lucky. The biggest and nicest parks like Bosques de Palermo, 3 de Febrero, Lago regata are right there. As a big jogging fan I couldn’t be happier. The parks are just beautiful and there is separate jogging and cycling/rollerskating path through most of them. There are also street workout/calisthenics spots on every 500 meters or so, so I didn’t need to go to the gym (which was expensive and ugly btw.). The greatest thing though, is once again the atmosphere-there are always so many people jogging with you, no matter the time, even until the late late night. So you can feel the lets move together spirit there, which gives you a lot of positive energy. Los Porteños (Buenos Aires’ residents) simply love to keep themselves in shape, so you will never be alone while doing sports.
3. Palermo Soho
Palermo Soho is the coolest neighborhood in the world. It’s quite a vast area in the northern part of Palermo. As the core could be considered probably Plaza Armenia, a square packed with restaurants, coffeeshops and a market during the day, and with bars and clubs at night. The streets of Palermo Soho have nice, sometimes colorful, graffiti-like houses and are filled with cool boutiques, cool coffeeshops, cool bistros and restaurants, cool tattoo shops, cool bars and cool clubs. I’ve always considered my hometown as a cool, youth-spirit city, but it’s nothing comparing to this. I’ve never seen SO MANY and SO COOL places (sorry for repeating the word constantly). Every place is unique and stylish. I could literally be wandering in the Palermo Soho’s streets all day and probably every day. Go there at day, go there at night. Go grab a nice lunch in of the bistros or a nice afternoon coffee and a piece of cake, then relax until the late night and go for a dinner and a drink. And a party. Dance like crazy till sunrise and then grab a burger in McDonald’s on Santa Fe on the way home. Oh my.
My recommendations: Bistro Helena, Muu lechería, Biutiful café, Dean’s & Denny’s, La Panera Rosa.
4. The nightlife
You are in South America, so don’t go out for a dinner before 10 pm, unless you enjoy dining on your own in an empty restaurant. And don’t go out for a drink before midnight (for same reasons). And to a club before 2 pm. Yeah, people start to live very late here, but I got used to it quite quickly (after several days of starving while waiting for the late dinner) and I keep this habit till now-the day actually gets a lot longer! Also, it creates the Buenos Aires’ great night atmosphere; no matter how late it is, the streets would be always filled with people enjoying their dinner or chatting with a glass of Argentine red wine. No matter how stereotype this sounds, it really is like that and it’s just so…nice.
My recommendations: Antares (brewery)-the best beer ever, but be prepared for a looong line to get in, Rey de copas (cocktail bar)-this one is a MUST!
5. The daylife
Once again, you are never alone in BA. During the day the city’s busy areas like Palermo, Retiro or Microcentro might get really crowded. If you are planning to go shopping for groceries to a supermarket, don’t do it between 5-8 pm. You will avoid the crowds and won’t have to wait 30 minutes (true story) in the line. But the overall buzz is nice, Argentines clearly like to enjoy themselves, judging from the always-busy restaurants, coffeeshops and ice cream shops (yes, Argentines love ice cream), which is probably why I didn’t feel the rush of a big city there so much. Just sit down, enjoy your cafecito with a peace of pastry or an ice cream and take it easy.
6. The food
I already mentioned the Argentine ice cream and as I worked in a heladería (ice cream shop), I can tell you that it’s really something! There is an ice cream shop basically on every corner and each one of them offers at least 25 flavors (yes!!!). The most popular are strawberry cream (frutilla a la crema), dulce de leche, mint chocolate (menta granizada), chocolate with chestnuts and raisins (chocolate bariloche) and sambayon. Which gets me to dulce de leche and sambayon-typically Argentine all-time favorites. Oh my god. I’m in heaven. I’m in love. Dulce de leche is basically caramel with milk, or a milky-caramel sauce let’s say. You can buy a jar of it and spread it on a bread for your breakfast, there are lot of pastries made with it (try dulce de leche cheesecake in Nucha bakery-it’s heaven in your mouth!!!) and of course the ice cream, to be more specific, like 10 different flavors that contain dulce de leche (with nuts, with merengue, with banana, with coconut, with chocolate, with brownies…). My favourite one was the one with brownies, usually called 3 sensaciones, but you can never go wrong about dulce de leche. Sambayon comes originally from Italy and it’s basically a light, fluffy cream made from sweet wine (usually Marsala). At first you may find the taste a bit odd-or at least I did-since you really taste the alcohol, but once I got used to it, it was a true love. At restaurants they usually offer it with warm berries or nuts on top.Yum.
It’s Argentina, so I can’t forget the meat; this country is all about it. To get a good peace of beef, go to a parilla-restaurants serving typical Argentine food. You choose a meat (try bife de lomo) you want-usually two people can share- and a side dish(es)-potato or pumpkin purée, spanish potatoes, fries, grilled veggies, creamy spinach…and just enjoy the nice, barbecue smokey taste of the finest meat ever…mmm. Let’s be honest-vegetarians are a little bit screwed, another typical meal is a milanesa, a schnitzel (a steak) fried in flour-egg-breadcrumbes mixture. You also have to try the choripan, a sandwich with grilled sausage. Go to Costanera (the coast) to get one; there are many foodstands by the road and all the locals go to eat choripan there, it´s really good and not that expensive as in the historical San Telmo. Besides that you find a lot of pizza and pasta in Argentina and I can’t forget about the empanadas-salty stuffed pastry typical for most South American countries. My favorite one was cheese and creamy corn one.
My recommendations: Nucha bakery, Trapiche, Río Alba (parillas).
7. The transport
Getting around in BA is easy. There is metro that works perfectly and the buses are pretty good, too. Don’t judge them on the first sight-they look quite awful and also there is no schedule, but once you learn which one goes where (download the Como llego app for it!), you find out that the system is actually good and you get wherever you want very easily.
So as you could read, BA is pretty amazing. But to give you the complete picture, lets take a look at its drawbags, or to the “other” stuff.
First off, Argentine economy is…something. When we were there, the former president Christina Kirchner was still in power and thus we experienced all the consequences of the kirchnerismo politics and also of the recent bancrupcies the country has faced.
Lets start with the currency- Argentine pesos. Since the country was short of dollar reserves, people weren’t allowed to exchange the pesos for dollars as they pleased; there were limits and getting the permit to do so required lot of bureaucratic trouble. Therefore, there was a black market, or as the Argentines called it-the blue market, since its existence was well known to everyone and it was somehow tolerated. So whereas you could get some 10 pesos for 1 dollar on the official market, on the black market you got 15. You just had to go the calle Florida (Florida street) talk to some of the many (many!) guys yelling “cambio, cambio, cambio” (exchange, exchange, exchange), go with him inside a suspiciously looking shop, hidden office or a newspaper stand, feel insecure and scared for a couple of minutes and then voilà-just count the bills you got (the highest one is a 100 pesos note, so it’s a nice stack of money especially if you are exchanging 200 $ or more). If you happened to not know about this issue (like us) and didn’t come with any dollars in cash, well, you were screwed. Unless you wanted to withdraw money (from your USD account) converted with the official exchange rate and thus get way less than as if you would exchange your money on Florida for the unofficial rate. I don’t need to tell you that withdraw dollars was (I assume it still is) impossible in Argentina. Luckily, Uruguay is just 1 hour by boat away, so Peter went there and withdrew the dollars there. Oh my. How many times you have to go to withdraw cash to OTHER COUNTRY…?!
Next thing about the country’s distorted economy is that because of some strange effort to make the country as self-sufficient as possible, there were almost no imports. Which is nice, when it comes to food, cause everything you eat is made in Argentina, but less nice when it comes to other things. Clothes, electronics and basically all consumer goods were incredibly expensive. The food was actually pretty expensive too-when converted to USD, most of the goods were basically the same price as in the US, which, quite honestly, you don’t expect in a South American country. Same for the prices in restaurants and coffeeshops-where the prices were often even higher then in the US. Considering the salaries (I worked in Argentina so I know-HOW LOW they are), I really didn’t understand how the people get by. But that’s another story I guess. It was also quite strange when you came to a supermarket and saw Argentine brands only and/therefore (?) didn’t see much things there. Obviously, if you can sell domestic goods only, the variety is not very big. But this is changing now, since the more liberal president, Macri, took power in January 2016.
Don’t take it like I am complaining-I’ve never felt a shortage of anything and was always able to get everything I needed for cooking, snacking, clothing or whatever. So unless you’re a freak that needs his goods from the brand that he’s used to wherever he is, you won’t actually mind this. But it was interesting to me.
In any case, Argentina is a great country, bringing up together European and Latino culture in the best way possible. It is a unique place since it is not like the rest of the latino countries in South America and at the same time not like Europe either. Buenos Aires is a great city. Simple as that. Once again, I spent the best time of my life there and would be happy to come back again one day. Highly recommended to -everyone!
See posts on my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/terinka_d/
See vlogs from Argentina: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLt4DHJ0s1A4hsLlNIIDtWDr0StIr3659U