Take in the fair winds
Scratch beneath the beautiful Surface of buenos aires, and you discover a destination with an edgy, latin flair
Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is a singular, open, and integrating destination that allows visitors not only to take in astonishing sights, but to also embark on exceptional urban adventures. With architecture that nods towards europe, the city is a marvel just to look at. But scratch beneath the surface and you discover a destination with an edgy, latin flair. A walk along the backstreets of Buenos Aires can be just as rewarding as a stay in one of the city’s many opulent hotels.
the name means ‘fair winds’, or literally ‘good airs’, in spanish. it is one of the largest cities in latin America, with plenty of cultural offerings, and is the point of departure for travelling to the rest of the country. inhabitants of Buenos Aires are called porteños—people from the port— implying that many of the inhabitants are immigrants in some ways or another.
indeed, even the dialect of spanish that porteños speak has its own ring to it. “calle” and “pollo”, for example, are pronounced
differently in Buenos Aires—with the ‘ll’ taking the form of an English ‘sh’ instead of Spanish ‘y’ or ‘h’. The difference in pronunciation probably reflects the influence of Italian traders in the port in the 19th century— many of the words that porteños pronounce differently from the rest of the Spanishspeaking world are pronounced the same as the Italian word for the same thing. If you consider yourself a student of Spanish—and have perhaps had some practice in countries such as Cuba—you’ll find the Argentinian dialect difficult to master, so it’s worth brushing up on how porteños speak.
Regardless, porteños have a reputation for being friendly once you’ve buttered them up with at least an attempt to speak in their own dialect, so you’ll have little trouble when it comes to asking for directions. If you have to revert to English, just try to speak with your best American accent, as anti-british sentiment runs high across all of Argentina. This is useful information, not only because to not communicate with locals would be to miss out on some of the magic of Buenos Aires, but also because there is so much to explore in Buenos Aires that it’s likely you’ll asking for a lot of directions.
One of the first ports of call for any tourist is the La Boca district, famed for its brightly coloured buildings and arts and crafts. In particular, the Caminito pedestrian street has plenty of local craftspeople selling their wares, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else in Latin America.
There is also a charming river cruise that can be taken from La Boca. It’s recommended you take this adventure on as the day comes to an end, when the huge, picturesque metal structure across the river shimmer against the sunset.
La Boca is also famous for its tango scene, meaning you can often catch glimpses of tango dancers practicing in the streets. In addition to tango, La Boca is a famous footballer haunt. Sellers all across the district will encourage you to take a tour of the La Bombonera Stadium, which is surrounded by buildings painted in those famous La Boca bright colours.
Elsewhere, the Palermo Viejo district is well worth a visit. A trendy neighborhood with charming cobblestone streets, bookstores, bars, and boutiques, it’s certainly a more authentic experience than that offered by the touristic San Telmo area.
That said, San Telmo does have its draws. It’s best visited on Sundays, when tourists and locals alike flood in to attend the weekly street fair and flea market, at which there are any number of great deals to be had on South American antiques. And on Sunday nights, there’s a weekly a tango performance in the central plaza, specifically for tourists. For a deeper dive into the world of tango, or if you want to get involved yourself, you can visit one of the many underground tango clubs around the area.
Indeed, Buenos Aires has plenty of rough-and-ready options for culture vultures, even if dancing isn’t your thing. For example, the city has a reputation as one of the street art capitals of the world, with huge murals covering tall buildings. The best street artists in the world come
to Buenos Aires to paint due to the freedom the city offers. Tours are available to see the biggest murals in the city in some of its lesser-known neighborhoods, and they’re often made up of small groups with expert guides.
Or, if you’re more adventurous, it’s worth taking a day to explore a little outside the city by embarking on a gaucho party. These themed events allow visitors to spend a night seeing what it is like to be a real gaucho. Guests live the life of an Argentine cowboy, riding horses, eating traditional gaucho foods, drinking traditional gaucho wines, and dancing into the night. These field trips make for a great way to get out of the city and see another side of Argentine culture.
Of course, any travel guide to Buenos Aires would be flawed if it did not include something about the city’s gastronomy. Book one of the many food tours around different neighborhoods, which take place several times a week. During the tours, participants visit and taste traditional foods at four restaurants, as well as learn about the history and culture around Argentine cuisine. Tours are made up of small groups and very social. And the best thing about them is that you’ll end up eating at establishments that won’t be in the guidebooks.
Finally, spare a little time to lap up some of Argentina’s fabulous wine scene. After all, the country is home to the Mendoza region, which is among the world’s most popular wine-producing regions due to its high altitude, volcanic soils and proximity to the Andes Mountains. The terrain seems to complement the European grape varietals with interesting notes not present when produced in other climates. The best way to experience and understand the selection of Argentine varietals is through a local wine tasting session, offered by any number of companies and bars around Buenos Aires.