Buenos Aires – San Telmo, La Boca and the city centre

Posted on November 9, 2012


Buenos Aires is a mash up of Paris, New York, Spain and Latin America with it’s big boulevards, varying architecture and sometimes European feel. We spent an afternoon walking through the city and felt like we’d been around the world by crossing a few streets.

The first few days in BA we stayed in a beautiful old apartment in San Telmo that a friend arranged through Academia Buenos Aires, the language school she was studying at. The main area of note in San Telmo is La Plaza Dorrego, a pretty square with restaurants. It’s surrounded by little stalls and on Sunday there is a well known flea market running all along Defensa that’s well worth a post brunch stroll.

Having been in BA for 24 hours I was craving a steak and glass of Malbec so we tried out Bar San Juan. The menu is extensive and portions generous. The rib-eye came with potatoes, peppers and chorizo cooked jugeso (juicy, which would be poco echo Spain) and kept me full for a day. A main course with a glass of wine is around $120.

We also ate at Aldo’s wine bar, recommended by the New York Times, where a local friend recommended the Milanese and the rosti. It’s an upmarket European type bar known for it’s range of wines, which yo can either browse on the iPad or ask for the advice of a slightly snotty, but knowledgeable sommelier.

One day we took a trip to La Boca, as most tourists do. With lives revolving around food, we decided to take a taxi up to the restaurant where we intended to eat lunch and wander from there. El Obrero had been recommended by a few people but what neither they, nor the guide books, said is that it is in an area that should not be walked around, at any time of day. We were notably the only foreigners and a policeman donned in a bullet proof vest and stopped his car to tell us it was muy pelegroso (very dangerous). A few yards up the street they stopped again and suggested we get in the car so they can drive us to a safe area. It was only as they drove, deliberately slowly, under the autopista through an area where we wold have been lucky to get out in one piece, that we realized we need to pay a lot more attention to where we walk.

To calm our slightly frayed nerves we opted for a cerveza on the roof terraced of Fundacion Proa. A beautiful place with comfy sofas and views over La Boca and the harbour. We didn’t stay for lunch but the food looked good and we also heard the collection there is worth checking out on a rainy day.

The tourist part of La Boca is colourful and well, touristy. It’s one of those places that most people feel they have to see but don’t come away from feeling wonderful. Locals resent the tourists and stay out of the small three block radius designated to foreign visitors. Much of the business there is by Argentinians not from the area so mine doesn’t get pumped back into the area.

La Boca is also known for it’s football team, Boca Juniors. You’ll know when they play! There are mixed reports about matches. I’ve heard they are quite an experience but it’s worth ensuring you aren’t with the hard-core fans. They can put the Brits to shame with their over the top passion and rowdiness.

Buenos Aires is a dangerous place and should never be walked around at night on your own. Pay attention to where you go, carry as little as you need and always ensure that your bag is zipped tight and not open to any would be pick pockets. Stay in safe areas. Always. There are some areas are perfectly safe, such as the Puerto Madero but these are often less authentic and can be compared to any other renovated docklands area in the world.

Teatro Colon, just off the enormous Ave 9 Julio (named after Argentinian independence day) is splendid and if you can get to seeing something, anything, don’t hesitate to get tickets. It’s also worth paying a bit more for mid range seats to get a good view of the stage, and the opera house itself. We managed to seethe BA Philharmonic orchestra which was mind blowing.

The other just do, or must eat, is top try Alfajores: cakes filled with dolce de leche. Delicious. Although rich. I only managed half on my first attempt.

Allow some time to get from the airport into the city. It took me three hours from landing to get through passport control (long queue), pick up my bags, go through customs (another long queue) and then get a cab into town (with a lot of traffic, even late morning). From the airport order a taxi from one of the desks as you come out of customs. They are around 200pesos or $43 US dollars. Taxi’s are relatively cheap and work on cross streets, in the same way as New York s before you go anywhere, check out what the nearest corner is.