Life in Buenos Aires is like a game of heads or tails—assuming you find a coin to flip, change is hard to get.
Heads. Beautiful day, blue sky, a stroll in a relaxing barrio like San Telmo or posh Recoleta, a coffee with medialunas, wide, paved streets, a very European feel, culture and art at your fingertips, a relaxing evening out. Tails. Narrow streets jam-packed with cars, buses and taxis, garbage piling up on the sidewalks, rats and cockroaches peeking out of manhole covers, touts promoting tacky tourist attractions at every street corner, police everywhere, nothing works, everything is fuera de servicio, it’s pouring rain and streets are flooded.
Buenos Aires is that place where you can score a four-star hotel for $60, a clean room with crisp, white bedsheets in a convenient location in the microcentro. Buenos Aires is also the place where you can book a hotel with a pompous name, like the Gran Argentino or Gran something, and end up in a dark dusty room with stained carpet, antique elevators, and no water pressure in the shower.
Over the years, we wised up and we learned the fine art of booking hotel rooms in Buenos Aires. However, we have no control over the many annoyances that can occur—the traffic, the chaos, the major or minor idiosyncrasies of the country’s capital.
It’s just part of Buenos Aires. Gotta accept it.
Overall, we were pretty lucky during this three-day stay. Buenos Aires can be a very rewarding city for travellers. There are places to visit, landmarks to enjoy and if you embrace it, you can have fun.
We walked around our favourite barrios—San Telmo for the Sunday Market, La Recoleta for the Cementerio and Evita’s grave, the microcentro for the nightlife along the busy avenue Corriente, Lavalle and Florida streets, Palermo, Puerto Madero … we even walked to Once, a recurring joke because like we said, we would only do it once. It turned out to be an interesting neighbourhood, very diverse and colourful. In front of the train station, there was a small protest and a massive police presence with armoured vehicles, water guns and armed riot-control cops in full gear. I looked at the small gathering—their banner read “work for everyone”—and at the police surrounding them. “Jesus … that’s a bit of an overreaction,” I noted. “Come on, there are like fifty people at most, they aren’t even marching, and half of Buenos Aires police force showed up!”
We crossed Avenida 9 de Julio—the widest in the world—many, many times and stood by the 67-metre-tall obelisk on the oval Plaza de la República. We visited the Museo del Bicentenario, housed within the brick vaults of the old aduana (customs house) and dedicated to Argentina’s tumultuous political history—unlike in Chile, little was said about the Dirty War era. We checked out the Catedral Metropolitana, the Galerías Pacífico, stepped on the Corbeta Uruguay—a 46m-long military ship docked in Puerto Madero—and enjoy the air con at the Mercado de Abasto.
And then, once again, we said goodbye to Buenos Aires.
It was just a stop on the road. Time to take the bus and go somewhere else.