Voulme 3: 24 Hours in Buenos Aires
Fiji and Argentina strengthened their alliance in January 2018 with a 90 day visa-free travel agreement for Fijians wanting to explore the cultural capital of South America. Easily accessible via a stop-over in Auckland, maiLife will be taking readers on an exploration of Argentine food, traditions, places, people and landscape in upcoming issues. In volume one, I introduced the different barrios (neighbourhoods) of Argentina’s capital city. Ideally, you would have set aside three to four days to explore Buenos Aires but for those who may be time poor, let’s go on a deep dive into the cultural metropolis with my take on a twentyfour hour itinerary. All you need is a subway card, comfortable walking shoes, an umbrella (just in case) and a camera on hand to capture the beauty of the city! 0800 hours: Rise and shine with a cortado — this is a smaller, sharper, stronger version of a flat white and locals will knock back multiple in the course of a day. A shot of espresso with a dash of milk and small peak of foam, there is no better way to get ready for the adventurous day ahead. There are local cafes on every block in Buenos Aires, but coffee in this city is best served with old school charm — check out the Petit Colon cafe adjacent to Teatro Colon for smooth cortados and an assortment of pastries.
0900 hours: An easy swing around the corner will bring you to the entrance of Teatro Colon, the world’s fifth best opera house overall and the
world’s best opera house for acoustics. Head over to the concierge desk and purchase theatre tour tickets with a guide in English — this option is a lot more affordable than a ticket to watch a show at the opera house. Teatro Colon is a landmark for the Argentines and represents the rich European immigrants who funded the lavish architecture of Buenos Aires. Inside you will find gold banisters, sculpture lined hallways and marble floors with high ceilings covered in impressionist art. The main theatre itself is impressive if you are fortunate enough to visit during theatre season when the stage is set up for a production. Be sure to look towards the bottom panels on the side of the stage —behind the metal bars is where recent widows of more than 100 years ago would watch shows because it was forbidden to be seen in public during the mourning period. On Friday mornings, you can line up to buy tickets for the rehearsals which again is a much cheaper way to experience Teatro Colon.
1100 hours: Across from Teatro Colon you will see the Tribunales building with a plush park filled with dog walkers at this hour. The sight of one dog walker holding ten to twelve dogs on a leash is a common one in Buenos Aires and represents the urban struggle for many Argentines. In a city packed with high rise apartment buildings, dog walking is a thriving industry which allows man’s best friend to be out and about while their owners are at work. At the park at this hour, you will find the Buenos Aires Free Walks tour guides in orange t-shirts. This is a great way to get a two hour orientation of the city with tales from history, politics and high society. Free walking tours are tipsbased so at the end of the tour, simply tip the guide as you see fit.
1300 hours: After two hours on foot, you will be famished! Jump onto the subway and head to Plaza Italia station in the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. A short walk from the station will bring you to a famous local Argentinian BBQ restaurant called Don Julio. This establishment has been around for as long as locals can remember and the long lines sprawling across the street are their seal of approval. I have tried to get a table at Don Julio’s for dinner many times but have never been given a waiting time of less than three hours! Lunch is usually less busy, which means you can take your time enjoying your meal. There are a few dishes you must order at any Argentinian BBQ place, and especially at Don Julio — a cut of steak, chorizo, fried potatoes in garlic and parsley, grilled provoleta cheese with fresh tomatoes and basil. Order a bottle of malbec wine, which will cost less than a tenth of what you would pay for it at home and if you have space for dessert, be sure to try the dulce de leche flan. 1430 hours: Take a leisurely stroll through Palermo, along narrow cobblestone alleyways lined with the most stunning street art. The Argentine government pays local artists to paint the city with beautiful street art representing popular culture
and sometimes rooted in political activism. Over the years, Palermo has become famous for its street art where artists build on each other’s work instead of covering it up.
1530 hours: Jump back onto the subway and head to Recoleta, home to the world-famous Recoleta Cemetery. The huge stone walls covering more than five hectares holds 4691 burial vaults of the most rich, noble and famous families ever to live in Argentina. Here you will find the grave of Eva Peron, fondly known as Evita and often cited as the Princess Diana of Argentina. The burials in the cemetery are works of art with families often commissioning large sculptures and spiritual pieces from Italy and France. You could spend hours getting lost in this cemetery, which resembles an open air museum more than a graveyard. To make the most of your experience, do some research online beforehand and pick out the famous burials to understand the stories behind some of the remarkable plots. There are a number of Airbnb experiences in the city now which will offer private tours and storytelling at Recoleta Cemetery as well as guided tours in English when the weather permits.
1700 hours: The cemetery shuts around this time and Argentines will start flooding the streets for happy hour. This is a good time to wind down with a vermouth and soda, rest your feet and do some people watching. Recoleta is the richest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires so the people here are a stark contrast to those you would have seen during the day — you will see old ladies draped in pearls and Chanel, walking their poodles along the wide avenues. A luxurious old mansion in this neighbourhood is now the Embassy for the Vatican City in Argentina, gifted by one of the richest Argentine women in history. During her lifetime she was the biggest individual donor to the Vatican and left her property in their name when she died.
1900 hours: Ask any Argentine and they will tell you that the easiest way to pick out a tourist is to peek through restaurant windows before 10pm. Locals in this city rest after work before heading out for late dinners so you will typically see restaurants filled to the brim between 10pm and midnight. It is the charm of Buenos Aires, but is also a custom that I have never been able to master. Head over to Pizzeria Guerrin for dinner and join the line which exists at all times of day. Pizzeria Guerrin is a cornerstone establishment in the city and is constantly pumping out pizzas from the moment they open in the morning till well into the hours of the next morning. The history of immigration in the city meant that much of their cuisine finds its roots in Italy and there is no better place to try the ‘muza’ than at Pizzeria Guerrin. Muza is the local name for a mozzarella pizza, however, the way Argentines do pizza is different to any other — a thick, fluffy base topped with a thin layer of tomato paste and a thick layer of cheese. The cheese will be oozing out from all sides and a sprinkle of chilli flakes and herbs is all you need for perfection. Order a drink of moscato and soda to accompany your pizza and enjoy the Guerrin experience of standing at the bench, eating muza and drinking moscato. The local delicacy, empanadas, are also available at Guerrin and done very well. Order a pollo empanada frito (fried chicken empanada) and watch the Guerrin men freshly fry your pastry filled with salsa chicken.
2130 hours: As your day is winding down, the Argentines are just rolling out into town for dinner. Walk past the Obelisco, a 68m historic national monument which stands in the middle of the main avenue before heading home. For those who have any energy left, the night is just starting! Jump again onto the subway and head back to Palermo, the heart of this city’s nightlife. Find your way to Frank’s Bar in Palermo Hollywood — here you will need to present a password to get in and this is where the fun lies. Every week, Frank’s will release a new password through clues on their Facebook page — solve the clue, say the password to the doorman and you will receive your numerical code. Punch the code into the telephone booth which the doorman will point out to you and watch the back wall swing open into the speakeasy bar. Be prepared to pay high dollar for cocktails at Frank’s, but this cosy, moody establishment is well worth the effort and price.