Buenos Aires – cosmopolitan of cities, world capital of tango, bursting with the joie de vivre of dancing egomaniacs who know how to enjoy life to the fullest. And all this despite dictatorship, national bankruptcy, recession and capital flight in recent years! And so it is said that the real attraction of Buenos Aires are the Portenos (inhabitants) with Argentine self-confidence in their blood and unbroken pride. If you have only 48 hours to get involved in the hustle and bustle of this city, it is advisable to choose a hotel that offers moments of tranquility and at the same time reflects the spirit and flair of the metropolis. The ideal starting point is the “Alvear Palace”, a Leading Hotel of the World, in the district of La Recoleta.
Arrival 8.00 at Buenos Aires airport
A half hour cab ride to the hotel gives a first impression of the 13 million city: A wild mixture of all kinds of architectural styles from poor to ostentatious, lots of street noise and hectic activity. And then La Recoleta: a quiet neighborhood with lots of greenery and historic architecture in the Paris Haussmann style. The hotel looks like the South American version of the Parisian Ritz legend
A stroll through the elegant residential and business district of La Recoleta with its chic boutiques, restaurants and cafes, with the destination of the Cementerio de La Recoleta, where Evita Peron and many other celebrities found their last resting place in mostly magnificent mausoleums. Locals and tourists alike still flock to their gravesite. Even our chancellor Angela Merkel recently strolled through Recoleta in a very relaxed manner after the G20 summit, and then dined with her entourage at the “Don Julio” steak restaurant.
Later in the morning we take a cab to Palermo. It is important to choose only licensed drivers. The cab prices are, compared to Europe, very moderate. The way to the hip quarter Palermo Viejo leads along Avenida 9 de Julio, supposedly the widest street in the world with 20! Roadways, passing the famous opera house Teatro Colon. At the Plaza de Republica the Avenidas cross and here rises the landmark of Buenos Aires, an obelisk built by Siemens. The driving style of the Portenos needs getting used to. They race like the devils, ejection seat feeling and gutural curses of the driver included. Crosswalks are as meaningless as the request to slow down a bit. And every path crosses at some point the Plaza de Mayo with the pink-colored presidential palace, where Mauricio Macri currently reigns and just received the participants of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Arriving in Palermo Viejo, which forms a unit with Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho, one feels transported to a charming mixture of New York SoHo and the Parisian Marais district. Low, z.T. colorful colonial-style houses with enchanting, leafy courtyards, original pubs, hip boutiques and designer ateliers dominate the scene. Be sure to sit down in one of the sidewalk cafes and enjoy the atmosphere with a cafe chico (espresso). Dog sitters stroll by, taking out veritable packs of four-legged friends, as well as cheeky young people dressed in avant-garde fashion, who are “rich people’s children” per se. But also elderly musicians with instruments, street painters and neglected looking children mingle in the streetscape.
We follow the recommendation to experience a classical Milonga (Tango event) in “La Confiteria Ideal”. In the lower rooms an old art nouveau cafe with a lot of patina, which radiates a slightly morbid, melancholic charm. A creaking wooden staircase leads up to the ballroom. An Ovulos of the equivalent of four euros and you are right in the middle of a traditional tango event, where people dance devotedly to sobbing sounds. Even with little knowledge of tango: Join in!
It goes without saying that in Buenos Aires an Argentinean “parilla” (steak restaurant) is on the agenda at the latest in the evening. The “El Obrero” is an institution. But you have to dare. The harbor district La Boca, the birthplace of the tango, is very touristy during the day. Colorful corrugated iron houses along the popular El Caminito with bars, stalls and tango shows in the open street are a point of attraction and a colorful picture. The neighborhood is also known for the famous soccer stadium La Bombonera (the candy box), a pilgrimage destination for soccer fans since the days of Diego Maradona. In the evening, however, beware of muggings off the beaten track. It is best to go directly to “El Obrero” to enjoy the brilliant steaks shoulder to shoulder with elite personalities and dock workers.
Day: Late evening
Not yet exhausted? Then, by all means, head to one of Buenos Aires’ wackiest milongas, held in an old abandoned factory with ramshackle industrial charm. A gloomy staircase leads to the dance hall, similar to a church nave. The name of the establishment is fitting: “La Catedral”. Under a string of lights made of red bulbs, as if in a frenzy the staccato of dance couples with visibly advanced skills. On the outskirts, tattered mattresses and old movie theater seats serve as rest areas during music breaks. And above it all floats a large photo and the spirit of Carlos Gardel, the world-famous tango legend.
A must is the Barrio (quarter) San Telmo. Best on Sunday. The center is Plaza Dorrego, which like the sidewalks of the surrounding streets becomes the stage for spontaneous tango shows. The old town flair with restaurants, pubs, antique stores and a thriving creative and art scene radiates joie de vivre and melting pot charm. At the Feria San Telmo (a flea market only on Sunday) you can still discover unusual collectibles. The trendy nightlife also takes place on weekdays.
2. Day: Afternoon and evening:
In order to let the abundance of impressions sink in a little and to process, we let ourselves be spoiled at the noble High Tea ceremony in “Alvear Palace”. We dive into the stylish hotel lobby, a “place to be” for the elite society of Buenos Aires. Seeing and being seen seems to be a social game and with small talk one enjoys scones, sandwiches, petit fours with a glass of champagne. A wonderful relaxing situation to emerge invigorated in the evening and in time for the sunset in Puerto Madero. It’s the Argentinian version of London’s Dock Lands or even Hamburg’s Hafencity. The former port district has become a vibrant entertainment area with countless restaurants, cafes, stores and trendy scene. Here locals and tourists mingle into a symbiotic mix.
After 48 hours of “being Portena,” I’m keeping it with Carlos Gardel: “Mi Buenos Aires querido…”