Just under a year ago I entered the league of travel legends by completing two days of extreme sightseeing in Paris, France. With that success came fame, fortune, celebrity romances and a trip to rehab. I let the success go to my head and took a leave of absence from the sport of extreme sightseeing, but I decided to give it another go, this time in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Here’s the story of how my girlfriend and I crammed as much as we could into a weekend in Buenos Aires (slow travel extremists look away now).
Further reading: Extreme Sightseeing in Paris
Always have an escape route
When doing anything extreme, it’s important to have your escape route sorted in case things go wrong. My escape route was a bus to Santiago, Chile, and eventually a flight all the way back to Asia. We left the hotel and started walking towards the Retiro bus station. Luckily there were plenty of sights along the way; it’s always good to kill two birds with one stone.
The streets of downtown Buenos Aires
While walking to the bus station we passed lots of grand old buildings, laid-back plazas and near deserted streets. It was Saturday morning — I guess most of the locals were recovering from a big night. We quickly visited Plaza de Mayo, the Metropolitan Cathedral and Plaza San Martin; we even spared some to time to rest our tired legs.
Extreme art appreciation
After securing our escape route, we headed towards the park-filled suburb of Recoleta. As well as the parks (where we saw scantily-clad locals sunbathing on the grass) there are also a few museums/art galleries in the area. We spent some time at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (known locally as MNBA). It houses a small collection of paintings by impressionist (and post impressionist) masters such as Monet, Renoir and Guaguin — I’m not really an art guy (which is probably why I failed art history in high school) but I do enjoy this style.
One of the highlights of this weekend in Buenos Aires was visiting the Recoleta Cemetery. It’s like a small town; except the houses lining the narrow streets are for the dead, not the living. OK, so they might not be “houses”, but some of the mausoleums are huge and could easily be lived in (assuming you don’t see dead people like that kid from the 6th Sense). A fellow tourist gave me a great tip — he told me to go to the back wall of the cemetery and climb up the workers’ ladder to see the cemetery from above — it was a great way to grasp the scale this place.
A late lunch of (cheap) Argentinean beef
There are quite a few restaurants lining the streets of Recoleta, particularly near the cemetery. We choose this one because I liked the design — the food was OK, but for 100 pesos (around $7) you can’t expect a good cut of Argentina’s legendary beef. It was a bit chewy but at least there was a lot of it — which is exactly what we needed after a long morning of sightseeing.
Back to downtown
We went back to the centre of Buenos Aires, planning to visit the (apparently) beautiful Colon Theatre. There was a show on so we couldn’t take a look inside, and the line for the ticket counter was huge. We continued on to the massive Obelisk, (which is a big, white, phallic tower thing) and eventually made it back to our hotel for a well earned rest.
Puerto Madero at night
We were a bit too travel wary to go out drinking and partying, but we did head to Puerto Madero in the early evening for a stroll along the scenic waterfront. This place apparently comes alive late at night, but it’s worth checking out even if you’re not planning on partying.
San Telmo Market
If you’re into shopping (and even if you aren’t) you shouldn’t miss this eclectic market, which fills a large swathe of streets in the historic suburb of San Telmo. You’ll find lots of old nick knacks (vintage Coke bottles seem to be popular) and plenty of crafts, jewellery and clothes. We were low on pesos so didn’t end up buying anything, but it was still a great place to wander.
Walking the streets of San Telmo
Buenos Aires’ oldest suburb is home to some of its grandest historic streets. If you like photographing old buildings, this is where you want to be. The market spills over into a lot of these streets and it gets pretty busy during the weekend, but that bustle is actually part of its charm. If you prefer things a bit quieter, visit San Telmo early in the morning, before the stalls are set up. We stayed at Hotel Patios de San Telmo, located just around the corner from the market. Hotel Patios de San Telmo is a perfect mid-range option in Buenos Aires — the rooms are minimalist and comfortable, the buffet breakfast is delicious and the location is perfect. My favourite part of the hotel was the little library where we relaxed for a few hours before taking the night bus to Santiago, Chile.
Further reading: Check out a review of Hotel Patios de San Telmo over at Mismatchedpassports
A weekend in Buenos Aires wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Palermo, one of Buenos Aires’ hippest neighbourhoods. It’s the place to go for your hipster fix of artisanal ice-cream and free-trade coffee. It reminded me a bit of SodoSopa, South Park’s new chic side of town. In truth though, Palermo attracts all sorts of people. Tourists, hip locals, unhip locals and pretty much everyone in between can be seen eating and drinking in outdoor cafes and restaurants. There are also some nice parks in which to relax — Palermo isn’t that interesting in an architectural sense but it’s a nice place to hang out.
Our weekend in Buenos Aires actually turned out to be more relaxing than I’d expected. We had plenty of time to sit in parks, people watch and stroll through quiet streets and plazas. It was a lot less “extreme” than my Paris experience as Buenos Aires doesn’t have the same number of must-see sights. It’s a great city though and the people who live there seem to live well. They sunbathe in parks, drink good wine, eat nice food (if they have plenty of money) and judging by how quiet the streets were on Saturday and Sunday morning, enjoy a good sleep in.
Have you been to Buenos Aires? What is your favourite city in South America? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: We were guests of Hotel Patios de San Telmo during our weekend in Buenos Aires, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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