Thoughts On Buenos Aires

Our family spent the past week in Buenos Aires. I didn't do much in the way of travel blogging this trip but the Gotham Gal did. If you are planning to visit Buenos Aires anytime soon, you should click on that link and read her posts.

This is our second visit to Buenos Aires and we got to explore the city a lot more this time. It's a very big city and there is a lot of ground to cover. It's fun to walk around the various neighborhoods, but getting between them requires transportation. Fortunately Buenos Aires has a very good taxi cab system. We never had an issue getting a cab, be it early in the morning, mid day, or past midnight. We did stick to the "tourist neighborhoods" of La Boca, San Telmo, Puerto Madero, Recoleta, Retiro, Palermo, and downtown. I suspect getting cabs outside of these areas might be more problematic.

Buenos Aires feels like europe in many ways. The architecture and city planning reminds me of Paris, Madrid, and a few other european cities. However, it is a lot less expensive that europe these days. The US dollar gets you almost 4 pesos. Many things like dinner and taxi cabs can cost you the same amount of pesos that it would cost you in dollars in New York City.

We did not travel outside of the city during our visit but most people do. Common day trips include a boat to Uruguay and a visit to the northern suburbs. From what I've heard, both are worthwhile excursions.

We spent our days sightseeing, shopping, eating, drinking, working on our spanish, and soaking up the culture. Here are my top ten highlights of our visit:

1) San Telmo market on sunday. I wrote an entire post on this yesterday. The neighborhood fills up with people selling their wares and tourists and locals buying them. There's also singing, dancing, eating and drinking going on. It's a lot of fun.

2) Empanadas. We ate a lot of them. The best ones we had were at at La Cupertina in Palermo and El Sanjuanino in Recoleta.

3) Malbec. The red wine of choice in Argentina is Malbec and we drank a fair bit of it. We tried a number of different producers and enjoyed all of them.

4) Restaurants. We had some good dinners and some not so great ones. The Gotham Gal's blog has all the details. I loved the fish at Ovieda and the steak at La Cabrera. But the two hour wait at La Cabrera kind of ruined that dinner for us. We heard there are other steak places in Buenos Aires where the beef is just as good and the lines aren't an issue.

5) Ice cream. We hit up Freddo and Volta and slightly preferred Freddo. But both are great. We all found the Dulce De Leche a bit sweet and rich for our taste but you have to try it when you are here.

6) MALBA. This is the modern art museum of Buenos Aires. Kind of like the MOMA in NYC. It's great. I was not familiar with many of the artists in their permanent collection and enjoyed seeing their work. And the Warhol exhibit they have on right now is excellent.

7) Art shopping. There are galleries all over Buenos Aires. We visited galleries in Palermo, Retiro, and Recoleta. We've heard that the San Telmo and La Boca galleries are a bit more cutting edge but we didn't get there this trip. The art in Buenos Aires is excellent and very affordable. The galleries do a good job of curating, filtering, and representing their artists. If you like to collect art, you should visit Buenos Aires. I posted a few images I saw in galleries to my tumblog yesterday.

8) El Ateneo. This is an old theater converted into a bookstore. You can eat in the cafe which is where the stage used to be. It is beautiful and worth a visit.

9) Palermo. This is the northernmost neighborhood that tourists frequent. It's like Williamsburg in NYC or Marais in Paris in that it's been rediscovered in recent years and is full of fun and edgy stuff to do. We ate there most of the time and did most of our shopping and strolling there too. If our hotel was there (it was not), we might not have left.

10) The Park Hyatt. This is where we stayed. We had some issues with our room which put a somewhat negative taste in my mouth. But the hotel is spectacular, particularly the backyard between the old building (the former palace) and the new building. I would often spend my mornings sitting in the backyard reading while everyone else slept. The service is excellent and I would recommend it (just not our specific room).

11) I forgot about one highlight so I'm adding it after posting (and going over my allotted ten highlights). The cemetery in Recoleta is a must see. It like a tightly stitched together city full of above ground tombs. The Gotham Gal told me at one time the plots in this cemetery were the most expensive land in the world. It's hard to describe and pictures don't really do it justice. Go see it if you come to Buenos Aires.

If you've never been to Buenos Aires, I highly recommend it. It's big, bustling, full of culture and energy, and its very affordable as foreign travel goes for americans these days. And you get to work on your spanish which is always fun. My kids really impressed me with theirs. Mine, on the other hand, is awful.

#Blogging On The Road

Comments (Archived):

  1. BmoreWire

    I’ve been thinking about content integrated ad products lately to compete with search ads and I find myself looking at this post with several different ways to integrate relevant ads. A couple things.1. it has to be on demand by the editor or writer2. they need a palate of advertisers that are relevant3. it can’t just be thrown in their automatically4. it has to feel like a puffed up press release to the user (not an ad)the only thing I’ve seen that could parse out a post to apply something like this is Zemanta’s bubbles. You used them before in a post when they came out. Any reason why you don’t still use them? I think it would do a good job of segmenting text buckets out in this email and suggesting advertisers for you to throw in there or link highlight.Anyway, just a thought.

    1. fredwilson

      i didn’t like the way the bubbles cluttered the screen.

      1. Mark Essel

        I removed snapshots for the same reason.

  2. Dave Pinsen

    There are a number of boutique hotels in Buenos Aires — did you guys consider staying in one before you booked the Park Hyatt? When we went, all the interesting boutiques were booked up.Also, did you try any of the wine-flavored ice cream while you were there?

    1. fredwilson

      we went with the big hotel that caters to americans, mostly because the kids like that better. if i go back, i’m staying in a boutique in palermo

    2. fredwilson

      i did not try the wine flavored ice cream. i should have

  3. Andrus

    Sounds like a lot of fun. How did the overall safety(crime level) feel, especially later in the evening?

    1. CJ

      It felt safe when I was there back in March. I was in the tourist areas until 1am or so and in the downtown area until 2am and walked back to the hotel, about 4 blocks IIRC. I never felt scared or got the ‘it’s not safe here’ feeling on the back of my neck. I was cautioned by the hotel to avoid taking my DSLR out if I was going to be alone, but when I spoke to the locals about it they said don’t worry about it.

    2. fredwilson

      we never felt unsafe but we did stay in the “tourist neighborhoods”

      1. markslater

        cant believe you didnt go to the bombanera!

    3. Dave Pinsen

      It seemed pretty safe to me, but then we flew there after a week in Rio de Janeiro, so that heightened the contrast. I still like Rio though.Next time we go to South America I think we’ll hit Buenos Aires first, and then fly to the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. That is supposed to be one of the richest, safest parts of Brazil. It also has Brazil’s surfing capital, and large ethnic Japanese, Italian, and German communities that have been there for over a century. Seems like it would be a fun place to rent a car and drive around.

      1. Andrus

        Santa Catarina sounds like a lot of fun.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Here is the government of that state’s English-language website. It’s a little slow loading, but it’s got photos and descriptions of some of the things I mentioned above.

  4. CJ

    Your San Telmo pictures bring back memories, I was down there earlier this year and visited the markets there, fascinating place. I got all of my souvenirs there, including some nice baby clothes for the little one. It was nice to have something different and handmade that he could wear.Unfortunately, I was on business so I couldn’t hang out as much as I wanted, but I got enough of a taste of the areas that you mention here that I can’t wait to get back, this time in the summer. I can’t wait to take my wife and son to Recoleta, the enormity of that place is both eerie and magnificent. It’s really hard to explain or capture the aura of it in words or pictures, it has to be experienced.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree. the thing i love most is the broad open streets. i’ve never seen city streets so wide, except possibly in madrid

  5. Mark Essel

    I can imagine you writing this post, the bullets flying out of your thoughts effortlessly.Sounds like a wonderful experience for you and the fam! Looking forward to catching up on GG’s take + pics.Travel and vacation cost precious builder hours now, but I look forward to mixing business and pleasure travel in the next few years. I just have to invent reasons to visit friends 🙂

  6. sbarstow

    Thanks for sharing this Fred. Our family has a trip planned there in mid-February and your insights were really helpful in helping us to plan the last details of our trip.How did you find the business climate in Bs As ( if you spent any time taking a look at it )? I know that Chile is an up and coming market, wondering if Argentina is having any of the same promise.

    1. fredwilson

      we didn’t really focus on the business climate. i get the sense that argentina is doing ok, but nothing like what is going on in brazil right now

  7. Greg G

    Fred, great post. Thank you. Question for you: How important do you think a second langauge will be from a professional perpective over the next few decades? Have a good trip back! Best in 2010 to you and yours!

    1. fredwilson

      english is the language of business around the world. that’s good and bad. it’s good in that it makes it easier to do business around the world. it’s bad because english speakers can get away without knowing a second or third language. and we should all try to speak multiple languages.

  8. cpopenoe

    Thanks for sharing Fred. I was in BA over Christmas a couple of years ago and resonate with your thoughts. We stayed at the Four Seasons and I agree a boutique hotel in Palermo is definitely the way we’d go the next time. Thought the spa treatments at the Four Seasons were amazing, and priced at a quarter or so of what I’d pay anywhere else. It was funny being there over Christmas and seeing all the santas and holiday decorations – and having absolutely everything, including almost all the restaurants, closed on Christmas Eve with the wide avenues totally deserted.

  9. daryn

    Sounds great – also, I’ve never been able to get into Malbec – maybe a trip to BA is what I need…

    1. fredwilson

      you won’t have a choice!

  10. kenberger

    When I was there xmas ’97, stayed in the Alvear Palace Hotel. While it was gorgeous and historic, I hated the isolation. Boutique or even a home stay is the way to go.Also, I had just bleached my hair blond. There was a top soccer player at the time named “Palermo” who also had bleached hair, so my friends there and some strangers kept calling me that.(my disqus avatar is taking time to update to that pic, the curious can view here in meantime:

    1. fredwilson

      nice look Ken!

      1. kenberger

        hey it was dot-com boom days for me back then, I lived in Calif, had a tiny bit more hair, and was in a band. So the hair thing seemed to make sense at the time!

  11. pitin

    thanks for your nice words about my city. 🙂 It is Puerto Madero not Madera, “madera”= wood , madero = “also good.. but different..a piece of it”come back! 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      whoa. my bad. i did this on the plane with no wifi so i couldn’t check spelling. it didn’t feel right but i didn’t know why. i’ll fix it asap.

  12. ShanaC

    Sounds like fun. One day I’ll go see these cities.Glad you got to see the hot Lating America art market though. It is extremely extremely in right now…

  13. gorbachev

    What, no football (the one they actually play with feet)?

    1. fredwilson

      it was a holiday week (christmas)

  14. paramendra

    “If our hotel was there (it was not), we might not have left.”:-) LOL

  15. Anthony Silverbrow

    If you go back, I’d strongly recommend trying Persicco ice-cream, much preferred it to Voltaire or Freddo. As for the Park Hyatt, it was beautiful and the grounds are stunning, but we too had a problem with the room, resulting in a blazing row with the manager in the lobby.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks for the tip on Persicco. i had not heard of it before.

  16. Chris To

    I came across the Yelp of Buenos Aires while there: with Google Translate… it certainly beat any concierge recommendations! (Though La Cabrera was worth the wait because of the sides.) Some amazing cuisines you’d never expect to find in Argentina as an uninformed tourist.

  17. tiffanyla

    Buenos Aires has so many things to offer that at first, you will not even know how to start. Well, I would begin with the zoo, the museums in Recoleta, have lunch at those beautiful restaurants in Puerto Madero with the sight of the river, also the Obelisco and some shopping in the well-known stores in Palermo Viejo (fashion neighborhood)Last year I rented an apartment in buenos aires and I felt as if 2 weeks were not enough for this city. I will go back!Tiffany

  18. Mark Essel

    Yeah 4pesos , ouch

  19. Ryan

    Believe it or not the USD is up against the ARS this year (inflation is high in Argentina). Of course, it is not where it should be :-)Current: 3.801152wk range: 3.4450 – 3.8555