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Andrea is a contributing writer to The Hudsucker when she’s not rescuing stray cats or working as a graphic designer for an advertising agency way less glamorous than the ones in Mad Men. She loves pizza a lot. Follow her on Twitter as @pizzzaa.

Buenos Aires: Tango Overdose and Bacon Pizza

Ah Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America, the capital of tango and the paradise of red meat. I visited the cool capital of Argentina with my family back in early January and while I’ve been there several times, Buenos Aires remains fresh and always shows me a good time. What’s so great about Buenos Aires is that great mix of European heritage and latino attitude that it has, depending on where you are you might feel like you’re in Paris or in a south American village. This comes from the city’s location right by the busy La Plata river, where waves of European immigrants arrived looking for economic prosperity or escaping from famine, war or persecution. Whether you like art, nightlife, fashion, history or folklore, Buenos Aires doesn’t disappoint.

WHAT TO SEE

Buenos Aires is one of my favorite places in latin America, these are some of the main attractions you just have to see when you’re in town.

La Boca

La Boca is the neighborhood most people think of when they hear of Buenos Aires. Located by the port, this was the place for Italian immigrants to settle in during the 19th century. The main attraction, Caminito street, with its colorful houses, street artists and tango dancers that will teach you tango moves you’ll probably fail to do anyway, is a must for anyone who visits Buenos Aires. The street art is wonderful and the beautiful, striking colors of the houses provide for a great background for your next Facebook profile picture. The place is full of charming little bars and souvenir shops that look so very tempting but you’ll likely be overcharged for everything as this is a hot tourist spot.

After seeing Caminito, do take the opportunity to walk around a little in La Boca. The neighborhood can have its share of pickpockets so take care of your stuff and keep your visits during daytime. I’ve walked around La Boca in the morning by myself and it’s gone perfectly fine and it’s a great chance to see some real “porteños” (“port people”, the name used to call people born and raised in Buenos Aires) in their daily lives. There’s also the stadium of famous soccer team Boca Juniors but I don’t really follow Argentinian soccer so I’ve never visited it. Also they’re the main rivals of the River Plate team, my father’s favorites so visiting the enemy’s stadium would be considered treason.

San Telmo

San Telmo is the most bohemian side of Buenos Aires. Its old buildings, cobblestone streets, antique fairs and street artists give it something of a Montmartre/Paris feel. The main square of San Telmo, Plaza Dorrego is a wonderful place to visit any day of the week, specially on Sundays when the antique fair takes place. Here you can find old books, posters, ornaments, toys, records, stamps, clothing and more at reasonable prices. There’s also tango shows, painters and restaurants around the square, it’s great to sit there with a cold drink and just soak up all the bohemianness going around.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Outside of Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo is a cool place to just walk around and sightseeing. You can find great street art, museums, boutiques and antique shops of the expensive kind, filled with precious jewelry and classy looking vases just waiting for you to trip over and break.

City Center

While San Telmo feels like Paris, the city center of Buenos Aires feels like New York. Not that I’ve ever been to New York but I’ve seen plenty of Seinfeld and Sex and the City episodes. Here you can find the Obelisco, a 67m/220ft tall structure built in 1936, it’s placed in the very busy intersection of avenues Corrientes and 9 de Julio. 9 de Julio avenue is known as the widest avenue of the world, with its 16 lanes it’s a scary ass thing to cross. Stick with the others, pay attention to traffic lights and you should be fine. Don’t try to cross by yourself when the light is about to change. Don’t do it. Really. I say this cause I love you.

Image Credit: Andrea Lozano

Corrientes avenue isn’t as wide and scary and has plenty of theaters so that’s nice. It’s kind of the Buenos Aires version of Broadway street, you have theater after theater offering a varied selection of shows from dramatic plays to raunchy comedies. Walking down Corrientes avenue, after a few blocks you’ll arrive to Florida, a pedestrian street full of clothing stores, shopping malls, tango dancers (they’re everywhere really) and people trying to sell you stuff. It’s a great place to come and spend your money, porteños are a fashionable crowd and you’re sure to find trendy outfits at reasonable prices. Finally, the Argentinean presidential building, la Casa Rosada (The Pink House) makes for a nice quick visit. It’s as pink as the name tells you and kind of looks like a cake.

Image Credit: Tito Macia

Palermo and Recoleta

Palermo and Recoleta are two large, fancy neighborhoods with good places for visiting and shopping. Palermo, for instance, has the areas known as Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. The names are self-explanatory, Palermo Soho is hipster central, filled with boutiques, cafes, bistros, bars and all kinds of places frequented by cool people wearing glasses they don’t need. Palermo Hollywood on the other hand is the area chosen by the hot, eternally-tanned people of the entertainment business, where you’ll find restaurants, clubs and an active nightlife.

For daytime, wholesome fun, in Palermo you can find the Palermo Woods, a huge park great for picnics, biking and practicing sports. Also in Palermo are the Botanical Gardens, a park remarkable if only because it’s full of cats. By full I mean, you find a cat like every 3 steps. There’s a whole colony of stray kittens living in the park and they’re pretty tame and actually look very healthy and well taken care of. If you love cats like me it’s paradise as you can just sit under a tree and pet cats all day.

Image Credit: Flickr/misfitsherry

The Recoleta neighborhood is a place full of historical buildings and art museums. The famous Cementery of Recoleta is a nice place to visit even if you don’t know the historical figures buried there, it’s beautiful and peaceful and if your camera has a black and white filter you can take great creepy pictures. Another place in Recoleta is Plaza Francia, a park I found by chance and absolutely loved. On the weekends there’s a huge artisans market with all kinds of great hand-made stuff, you can find jewelry, clothing, crafts, paintings, all of them lovely and not very expensive. This is THE place to buy souvenirs. Also, there’s often great food stands, musicians, jugglers, people chilling and having picnics and just a cool atmosphere all around.

Image Credit: Eterna Buenos Aires

BEST PIZZA OF THE TRIP

The best pizza I had this last trip was definitely the one I tried at this restaurant called Los Inmortales on Lavalle street. It was a bacon and olives pizza and it was AMAZING. The place itself was really cute, very old school charming and the walls were filled with great old time-y pictures. Also, the waiter served my pizza using two little spoons which I thought was weird and classy.

Image Credit: Andrea Lozano

RANDOM STUFF

Here are some random tips I’ve learned during my trips that might help you understand this beautiful city better:

– Mate is a big deal: Mate is a tea brewed from a plant called yerba and it’s huge in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It’s common in social gatherings for people to bring yerba and a big thermos with hot water and make mate on the spot which they drink out of a small round recipient with an specific metal straw. It’s interesting that everybody will gather around and drink out of the same recipient and straw, passing it around like you would a hookah and really making a bonding experience out of it. It’s such an extended practice in Argentina that during the H5N1 virus crisis, health authorities had to put out ads asking people to stop sharing mate straws.

– Porteños and their complicated talking ways: In my experience, most porteños have a very very dry sense humor where half the time you’re not sure if they’re joking or mocking you. They’re quick witted and sarcastic which can be fun or it can happen that you’re not sure what’s just happened and you just stand there with a big question mark on your face.

– On the subject of swear words: Porteños swear. A lot. All the time. If you don’t speak Spanish you won’t really notice it but if you do, well, just accept it. Another thing they do is use certain swear words as either insults or terms of endearment depending on the context. Take the word “boludo” for example. Boludo means something like jerk or stupid and it’s a perfectly normal word to use in a verbal fight. However, it’s also perfectly normal for a porteño to come up to a friend and be like “Hey what’s up boludo?” in a loving, friendly way. If a Buenos Aires native calls you boludo with a big smile and a pat on the back you should feel happy as he probably thinks you’re cool and considers you a friend. Or he might be insulting you, who knows.

So that’s it! Totally visit Buenos Aires if you have the chance, it’s a great and interesting city with lots to see and great food to eat. See you there boludos.

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