Thinking back on my foodie experiences through holidays and the places I’ve visited, there’s one city which always springs to mind: Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s been a while since I was there but that time has always stayed with me, probably because it’s the place which cemented my foodie status led me down the path I’m on today.
I flew out there to meet one of my best friends at the time. She’d been travelling around South America and I joined her for the last stretch of her trip. Sadly we’re no longer in touch but I have some incredible memories and think of both her and this time fondly. We had the most amazing trip and I absolutely fell in love with Argentina.
Only got 24 hours? Here’s what you should do:
10 am: Get out early to ensure maximum time for wandering
I’m a firm believer that the best way to see a city is to walk its streets. Buenos Aires is on an impressive scale but the grid system makes it easy to navigate. Eat a big breakfast and head out, starting at Plaza de Mayo with the Casa Rosada (the Argentine equivalent of 10 Downing Street and featuring the balcony from which Evita famously greeted her loyal crowds). From there you can easily lose a couple of hours looking up at the imposing architecture and walking in and out of shops along the busy streets. Do this in the morning before the day hots up.
12 pm: Skip the museums, head to the cemetery
Coming from a history graduate, this sounds like bad advice but honestly… when the time is short, who wants to waste it inside stuffy museums? For something culturally interesting, go to La Recoleta Cemetery. I know it sounds a bit ghoulish but it’s a really peaceful and beautiful place and CNN apparently even listed it in their 2013 list of the world’s 10 most beautiful cemeteries. Buried in thousands of elaborate mausoleums of various styles dating back to the 18th century, are some pretty important people, including Argentinian noble prize winners, actors, presidents and the best known first lady in history; Eva Peron.
1:30 pm: Ride the bus
Not unlike my love of walking the streets to really see a place, I always try and use public transport when I’m travelling. Buenos Aires has a metro system (like the London Underground) but I prefer to ride the bus and watch the world pass by. From the city’s large bus station you can get just about anywhere in Argentina using their network of overnight buses. For this trip, limited to just 24 hours though, I’d recommend catching the bus to Palermo for your afternoon’s activities which include the botanical gardens and dinner).
Oh – before jumping on the bus, grab an empanada or two (like a small, Argentinian Cornish pasty!) from any corner stand or café too, something to keep you going for the next part of your day.
3 pm: Visit the Botanical Garden
Every city has a Botanical Garden and they can be much of a muchness but the one in Buenos Aires is actually pretty nice. It has a magical secret garden feel, with Victorian greenhouses and statues peering out from the overgrown bushes. This is also a nice spot to catch a breeze and some shade because if you’re there at the right time of year, the afternoon sun can be pretty hot in Argentina.
6 pm: Eat steak for dinner
For a foodie, Buenos Aires is a great place to be. As well as steak (the best you’ll ever taste), leave room for street food snacks, empanadas, spicy sausage, chimichurri and for those with a sweet tooth; dulce de leche (toffee caramel sauce). The wine too is excellent and not at all expensive. Aim for an early-ish dinner to make room for the evening ahead. I suggest Las Cholas in Palermo. You’ll already be nearby after visiting the botanical gardens.
You’ll tend to see two words associated with steak and meat – parilla and asado. My understanding is that asado which means ‘barbeque’ is the way in which Argentinians cook their meat, whereas parilla is the name of the place where they serve the meat – e.g. a steakhouse or neighbourhood restaurant. I still have a fridge magnet from Las Cholas, it’s moved with me from house to house. This place is a great bustling, family restaurant in the district of Palermo. We loved it so much we went twice in two weeks! Don’t faff around – order steak, chips and grilled veggies. That’s all you’ll need.
9 pm: Go to La Bomba di Tiempo at Konex
You’ll need to work off that huge dinner somehow and dancing to La Bomba di Tiempo is the best way I can think of. You’ll need to go to Konex, a huge warehouse arts space where La Bomba di Tiempo perform once a week. They are a group of percussionists who perform crazy improvised music to huge crowds, dancing and leaping around in time to the music. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen at home in the UK and however stiff your upper lip is, you can’t help but feel the rhythm and join in the fun!