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For 91 Days in Buenos Aires

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We lived in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina and the world’s 7th biggest city, for three months — from February to May, 2011. It was still summer when we arrived, and after a chilly winter in Savannah, GA, we were happy to explore our new temporary home in shorts and sandals. By the time we left, the temperatures had cooled down, but we were still enjoying brisk, sunny fall days.

Buenos Aires

Three months is a long time and, by the time our stay in Buenos Aires came to an end, we had a pretty good handle on the city. Not even a lifetime would be sufficient to see and do everything in this metropolis, but we got out onto the streets often as possible, mixing the touristy sights with more unknown highlights.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of our favorite things in Buenos Aires. For more, check out the comprehensive list of posts — or start at the beginning of our journey and read about the city in the order we experienced it. We hope that our experiences and pictures are of as much interest to tourists planning a trip, as to life-long porteños looking for a new view of their home… and anyone else who’s interested in Buenos Aires: one of the world’s most fascinating cities.


We ate a lot during our time in the city, thanks to an incredible exchange rate (six pesos to the euro). Argentina is known for its steaks, and some of our favorite parrillas (grills) were the hip Desnivel in San Telmo and Las Cholas in Palermo. Pizza is another highlight, and the city is stacked with historic, wonderful pizzerías: El Cuartito, Kentucky Pizza, Banchero and Las Cuartetas. If in doubt at the pizzería: order fugazzeta!! For healthier, more upscale fare, check out Abuela Pan, Pizarras or the incredible Caseros. Don’t dare skip out on the city’s famous ice cream. And if you want to know where our absolute favorite meal was, during our whole three months, that’s easy: La Boca’s El Obrero.

[The full list of restaurants we visited]

The Barrios

Buenos Aires is split into 48 official barrios. We lived in San Telmo, where the city was founded, and which is one of the most popular with tourists. The other main barrios of touristic interest are La Boca, Montserrat, San Nicolás, Retiro, Recoleta and Palermo. Each one offers enough to occupy a couple days, and is worth experiencing in full. But we also made it to some other, less well-known neighborhoods, such as the fascinating Barracas and the elegant Belgrano “R”. We spent a day in the classic, and strangely overlooked barrio of Caballito, and often went to modern, odd Puerto Madero for jogging. During our time here, we made a couple day trips outside the city as well — one to Tigre, an awesome village north of the city on the Paraná Delta, and across the Río de la Plata to Colonia, Uruguay.

Festivals, Sports and Culture

Every weekend, there was something new going on, and we just scratched the surface of the cultural and sporting activities you can see in Buenos Aires. Toward the top of our list was soccer — we had a great time at San Lorenzo, and a frustrating experience at Boca Juniors. We were also introduced to polo, here — the British had a strong influence on the sporting scene of Argentina. We lived right on top of the weekly San Telmo Fair, a wonderful Sunday collection of neat crafts and crazy people, and also made it to the Feria de Mataderos, celebrating Gaucho culture. More out of obligation than anything else, we visited a tango show at El Querandí (and loved it), and also took a tour of the city’s best graffiti. And we were lucky enough to meet a couple local artists: Alfredo Genovese, who specializes in the porteño art of fileteado, and Chancha Via Circuito, an awesome producer whose mixes of cumbia and other Latin American beats have been landing on Best-Of lists throughout the world.

[Here’s the rest of the cultural highlights we hit]

Museums and Buildings

As befits one of the world’s biggest cities, Buenos Aires is bursting at the seams with incredible museums and gorgeous buildings from its golden age at the turn of the century. We absolutely loved the modern art museums of PROA and MALBA, and were pleasantly surprised by both the Carlos Gardel and Evita Museums. The highlight, though, was probably the Isaac Blanco Museum of Latin American Art, set in a stunning neo-colonial palace. The list of stunning buildings in this city is too lengthy to fully detail, but our favorite tours included the Casa Rosada, the palaces of Paz and Barolo, the National Library and, above all, the incredible Teatro Colón.

[Even more buildings and museums]

Parks, Plazas, Pictures and More

There aren’t enough green areas in Buenos Aires, particularly in the inner barrios. But Palermo makes up for it, with its incredible set of parks, including the Bosques and the Botanical Garden. We spent a lot of time there, but even more in the Reserva Ecológica of the Costanera Sur (because we lived closer!) Other favorite areas included the amazing Recoleta Cemetery, the Plaza de Mayo and Palermo Soho’s ultra-cool Plaza Serrano. Jürgen’s camera was a constant companion, and he took innumerable shots of the city, the best of which have been collected into a number of photo-reportages, which offer a singular perspective of the city. Overall, our time here was exciting, surprising and often adventurous — never more so than when riding the crazy buses, or visiting an insane asylum to watch a radio program with an interesting concept.

Everyone’s Buenos Aires experience is bound to be unique. We hope that you enjoy reading our 120+ posts, as much as we enjoyed researching and writing them. Please leave us comments or get in touch with us if you have questions… and make sure to follow our journey to the next location: Bolivia – For 91 Days.

– Accomadation in Buenos Aires: HostelsHotelsApartments

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May 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm Comments (2)

Ciao, Buenos Aires

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Three months. Had it already been three months? I don’t think we’ve ever lived in a place where time seemed to fly past so quickly. It felt as though we had just arrived and yet, there we were with bags packed. After a week-long vacation on the Paraná Delta, we were going to hop on a plane for Bolivia, our next destination.

Bye Bye Buenos Aires

What an incredible city Buenos Aires is! Hectic, loud, intense, packed with culture, drowning in its own history. Before arriving, we knew that we might be overwhelmed: so many museums and buildings to visit, restaurants to fatten ourselves at, neighborhoods to explore. What we didn’t expect was the warmth and hospitality of its people. You hear so much about crime and danger, but we didn’t experience that at all. The porteños we met, almost without exception, have been kind, open and helpful. How many fun conversations did we have with taxi drivers, shop merchants, and regular folks in bars? Too many to count, and far outstripping the very few negative encounters.

But more than anything it’s the size of the city which I’ll never be able to forget. Both its magnitude and density; so much humanity living and working, so much business and commerce. Every block offers something, whether it’s a classic café, a unique store, crazy graffiti, or an incredible bit of history. We were out on the streets every day, but even when just re-traversing routes with which we were already intimately familiar, always uncovered something new. The person who claims to be bored in Buenos Aires must have his eyes closed. The person who claims to know everything about it, a fool.

As we prepared to shut the door on this chapter of our lives, we found ourselves with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it would be a relief to slow down our pace to more human levels. But we would surely miss the invigorating abundance of life and mayhem. So we weren’t sure whether to celebrate or mourn the end of our stay. The only thing that we were sure about, was that we’d never forget our time in Buenos Aires: one of the world’s most extraordinary cities.

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May 7, 2011 at 10:48 am Comments (15)

Bar (Notable) Hopping

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The city tourism board’s initiative to honor a set of sixty bars and cafés as bares notables provided us with a cheat sheet of places to hit up. Buenos Aires has a historically strong café scene, so the competition to end up on the list must have been fierce, and those who won a spot should be the crême de la crême. Every once in awhile, we would just randomly pick out a few and go “bar notable” hopping.

Clásica y Moderna, Recoleta
Clasica y Moderna

Argentinians love reading almost as much as coffee, and the restaurant/bar Clásica y Moderna has decided to capitalize on both. Past the main salon, patrons of the bar can visit a small but well-stocked bookshop. Sounds weird, but somehow it fits perfectly. With its huge glass windows, the book store blends in seamlessly with the rest of the bar’s decor.
Clásica y Moderna
Av. Callao 892
Location on our Buenos Aires Map

La Giralda, San Nicolás
La Giralda

More a chocolatería than a bar, La Giralda is heralded for having the best churros in the city. Found between bookshops on Calle Corrientes, this relaxed, brightly lit café has been a favorite hangout of intellectuals since it opened in 1970. We loved its tiled floors and marble tables, and the fact that six waiters were running around taking care of guests, where one would have done quite nicely. We were on our way to dinner, and weren’t in the mood for churros and chocolate, but we did try one of their heavenly alfajors. A neat place.

La Giralda
Av. Corrientes 1453
Location on our Buenos Aires Map

Bar Oviedo, Mataderos
Bar Oviedo

Of course we were gonna go to Bar Oviedo! After all, we initiated our For 91 Days travel project in Oviedo, Spain. We were there on a rainy Sunday when the Feria de Mataderos had been cancelled, so no one was in the best spirits. I asked the waitress about the connection to the Spanish city. “I don’t know. It’s just the bar’s name”. And when it came time to order, I tried about twenty things on the menu. “Out of that. Sorry. Nope, none of that either”. I settled on a sandwich of dry bread with a single piece of cured ham inside. Oviedo has some charm, but you really have to search for it.

Bar Oviedo
Av. Lisandro de la Torre 2407
Location on our Buenos Aires Map

Cool Gang
Notable Buenos Aires
Book Bar Buenos Aires
Milk Bar Buenos aires
Bar Notable
Sidra Argentina
Bares Notables
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May 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm Comments (0)

The Obelisk and the Avenida 9 de Julio

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Avenida 9 de Julio, which cuts north-south through the city is one of the world’s widest avenues. Where it intersects Calle Corrientes, the city’s most emblematic symbol shoots grandly into the air: the Obelisk of Buenos Aires. The phallus-shaped monument is the perfect symbol for a country that so proudly basks in machismo.

Obelisk Buenos Aires

My, that’s quite an impressive… monument you have there, Argentina! Reaching 67 meters in height, the obelisk was built in 1936 by German engineers to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of Buenos Aires’ founding. Throughout the years, it’s been the scene of protests, vandalism, concerts and speeches. During Isabel Perón’s tyrannical presidency, a banner was hung on the obelisk that read “Silence is Healthy”. Ostensibly a message to keep traffic noise down, it was actually a thinly veiled warning that it might be smart for political opponents to keep their trouble-making mouths shut.

Biggest Street in the World

Crossing the street to get to the obelisk is an exercise in bravery. The Avenida 9 de Julio, at 140 meters of width (460 feet), is insane, with four separate lights to get across the street, and about 20 lanes of traffic. Well, “lanes” is an abstract term, as nobody pays the slightest bit of attention to the lines painted on the pavement. Cars weave in and out, passing perilously close to one another at speeds that make you sick. Velocity is the name of the game for pedestrians, as well: if you want to get across the avenue in one go, you have to jog.

Loud, crowded and stressful, I wouldn’t want to spend a whole day near the avenue, but every time I had to cross it, I became energized. With the obelisk towering high overhead, and cars zooming recklessly by on all sides, it’s tough not to be impressed.

Location of the Obelisk on our BA Map
Hotels, Hostels and Apartments in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Obelisk
Avenida Julio 9
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May 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm Comments (0)

The Palacio Barolo – Inspired by Dante

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One of the best panoramic views in Buenos Aires is from the lighthouse at the top of the Palacio Barolo, on Avenida de Mayo. But as impressive as the view over the Plaza del Congreso and the city might be, expect to be even more amazed by the building itself.

Palacia Barolo

When the Palacio Barolo was completed in 1923, it was the tallest building in South America, with a crowning lighthouse that could be seen from Montevideo, Uruguay. The Italian architect, Mario Palanti, was commissioned to build the palace by an Italian immigrant, Luis Barolo, who had become rich in the fabrics trade. Palanti was a huge fan of Dante, and designed his building to pay tribute to the great author’s Divine Comedy.

The building is precisely 100 meters tall, one meter for each canto in the epic poem. Following Dante’s footsteps, a visitor to Palacio Barolo begins his journey in Hell (the basement and ground floor), moves on through Purgatory (floors 1-14) and ends in Heaven (floors 15-22). The 22 floors equal the number of stanzas of the poem’s verses. Each floor is split into 22 offices. And as in the Divine Comedy, the number nine is repeated throughout the building’s plan. Nine entries to the building represent the nine hierarchies of hell, while nine arches in the central hall stand for hell’s nine circles.

This kind of thing is like crack for me. The palace was inaugurated on Dante’s birthday, and Latin inscriptions throughout the building pay further tribute to the poet. The crowning cupola, inspired by a Hindu temple in India, symbolizes Dante’s union with Beatrice, his perfect woman.

You can join a guided tour, during the afternoon or evening, when the city lights are on. It’s an incredible way to see Buenos Aires from above, and also learn about one of the city’s most unique and amazing buildings.

Palacio Barolo
Avenida de Mayo 1370
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Rough Guide Buenos Aires

Crazy Architecture
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Divine Comedy
Dantes Dragon
Buenos Aires Tour
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Light Tower Buenos Aires
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May 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm Comments (7)

La Morada

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Folklore Songs from Argentina

Serving up cheap eats with quick and friendly service, La Morada is extremely popular with the lunchtime business crowd. Found near the Plaza de Mayo, the restaurant specializes in classic Argentine fare, such as empanadas, locro and tartas.

La Morada

The decoration of the small restaurant is kitsch taken to the nth degree. Glass cases hold hundreds of miniature collectible figures. Posters of old comics and 70s surf records adorn the walls, and a projection TV shows old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. It’s amusing to see suited businessmen, intensely watching a Loopy DeLoop cartoon, while chowing down on empanadas.

Our waiter was friendly, and happy to attend to all our questions. At one point, a poor girl of about 7 years of age entered, trying to sell stickers to customers. Instead of shooing her away, the waiter offered her an empanada, which, to our amazement, she refused. So he handed her a couple pesos instead. Those she snatched away without a word of thanks.

If you’re in the mood for a quick, typically Argentine meal, hunt down La Morada. We really enjoyed it.

Hipólito Yrigoyen 778
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Tel: 4343-3003
Sweet Hostel in Buenos Aires

Kitsch Restaurant
Kitsch Lovers
Esso Restaurant
Buenos Aires Bar
Flaggi River Plate
River Plate
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Tarta Zapallito
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May 5, 2011 at 3:20 pm Comments (0)

The Palacio de Aguas Corrientes

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An intricately detailed, 19th century building spanning the width and length of a block in Balvanera, the Palace of Running Water must be the world’s most impressive clean water pumping facility. I can’t imagine it even has a competitor.


At the time of its construction, Buenos Aires was the only city in Latin America with clean running water, and the jaw-dropping palace was intended as a celebration of the city’s surging wealth modernity. Who cares if it’s just a shell for twelve massive water tanks? Why shouldn’t a shell be beautiful?

They went all out. The French Renaissance style building boasts over 300,000 multi-colored bricks and terracotta tiles, and occupies an entire city block. The rich ornamentation includes columns, turrets, mosaics and sculptures of flowers, fruits, and shields which represent the fourteen Argentine provinces. Almost everything was produced in Europe. The tin roof hails from France, the bricks from Belgium and the gorgeous terracotta tiles were elaborated by London’s Royal Daulton ceramics maker.

The offices of Argentina’s water company are today found inside the building, along with a courtyard and the old tanks. You can take a tour of the premises and visit a small Museum of Water, on weekday mornings.

Palacio de Aguas Corrientes
Riobamba 750
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Tel: 6319-1104
Architecture in Buenos Aires

Sun Argentina Flag
Running Water Buenos Aires
Architecture Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires Blog
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May 4, 2011 at 10:28 pm Comment (1)

Radio La Colifata

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A radio station with an unusual and highly laudable purpose, Radio La Colifata was established in 1991 as the world’s first station run by the inmates of a mental hospital. Twenty years later, the project is still going strong. We decided to check out one of the transmissions.

Radio Colifata

Dr. Alfredo Olivera was still a psychology student when he dreamed up the idea for Radio Colifata. By putting inmates in charge of a radio station and letting them tell their stories, many benefits could be realized at once. The inmates would gain a sense of autonomy, allowed to talk about whatever they wanted with the assurance that people around Buenos Aires would be listening. Those who hear their stories on the radio might come to the realization that not all asylum patients are dangerous lunatics, bolstering the reputation of mental health. And by giving the patients a voice, Radio La Colifata would help restore sense of community which is lost by being locked away.

Attending the broadcast of La Colifata turned out to be an adventure. Upon arriving at the Dr. José T. Borda Neuropsychiatric Hospital in the southern barrio of Barracas, we were a little confused. I don’t know what we expected to find, but this was just an abandoned building. A woman at the corner bar verified it was the correct place, so we ventured inside. Everything inside the hospital was rundown. Stray dogs roamed the hallways along with feral cats. Jürgen hesitated, so I went further indoors on my own. Turning a corner, I almost collided with a man who clearly wasn’t playing with all his marbles. And who had recently peed himself. Confirmation, at the very least, that we were in the right spot, and the only time I’ve ever felt relieved to run into a piss-drenched crazy man.

The hospital was huge, and as we explored, we realized it wasn’t completely desolate. A few staff members and patients wandered the halls, in addition to the animals. Eventually, we found a way into the back courtyard, where the unmistakable sounds of a radio broadcast could be heard. About 30 people were sitting in a semicircle around a desk, and we grabbed a spot toward the back. The doctor acting as the show’s emcee walked around the group, occasionally handing the mic to one of the inmates. The first speaker, a rather young kid with a huge bush of curly hair, complained about the state of the hospital. Another man talked about the negative perception of locos, arguing that, after all, everyone is crazy in some way.

We didn’t stay for a long time, fearful of the microphone being thrust into our hands, but came away with an appreciation for the program. And we learned that the reason for the hospital’s pitiable state, is that Argentina has ordered the closing of all mental hospitals. Their functions will be moved into general hospitals. Just a few weeks ago, the gas in Dr. José T. Borda was shut off.

The first time I’d heard of La Colifata was in Spain. One of the more famous Spanish rock bands, El Canto del Loco, recorded an entire album with members of the station. Check out Quiero Aprender de Ti, one of the band’s best songs, which was taped at La Colifata.

Colifata, by the way, is lunfardo for “amiable crazy person”.

La Colifata’s Website
Location of the Broadcasts

Sad Place
Dr Borda Buenos Aires
Mental Hospital
La Colifata
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May 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm Comments (7)

Kentucky Pizza

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Pizza Stones – Do you really need them?

It took us awhile, but we finally made it to Kentucky Pizza, one of the most famous pizzerias in the city. People seem to either love or hate this place. One acquaintance told us it was absolutely the worst pizza around. Meh, we don’t agree. But the main reason I wanted to go had nothing to do with pizza. My parents live in Kentucky, and I thought it would be funny to get a picture for them.

Kentucky Pizzeria

Kentucky is known for a lot of things: bluegrass music, horse racing, whiskey, tobacco fields. But pizza is not among them. I’m not sure why the founders chose the name “Kentucky” for their restaurant. Possibly, they hailed from the States, or it could have been an attempt to evoke the idea of the USA. Back in 1946 when Kentucky Pizza was established, the US was still the really cool country everyone else wanted to be!

Their logo is a racehorse, but it should be a fat man clutching his heart. Kentucky serves up classic Argentine pizza at its greasiest, cheesiest best. We ordered a fugazza and spinach pizzas, and left happy and full. Kentucky is famous for being open all night long, and is a favorite spot for hungry party kids looking for cheap drunk-food at 4am. But at any hour, if you’re looking for a good porteño-style pizza that’s easy on the wallet, don’t hesitate to go in.

Kentucky Pizza
Santa Fe, Av. 4602
The Art of Making Pizza

Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Tel: 4773-7869

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Pizzeria Buenos Aires
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Kentucky Buenos Aires
Kentucky Pizza
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Kentucky Buenos Aires
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May 3, 2011 at 9:33 pm Comment (1)

La Poesía – A Great Place to Read, Drink and Relax

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Classic: Read some Borges at La Poesía

With its shelves stacked with books, soda bottles and photographs from years past, La Poesía is a bar beautiful enough to truly deserve its name.

La Poesia

The café was originally opened in 1982, to celebrate the end of the military dictatorship and provide a place for Buenos Aires’ intellectuals, authors and poets to congregate and discuss their renascent democracy. It was immediately popular, especially known for its sessions of Poesía Lunfarda, but the bar was closed after just six years. In 2008, the same couple who own Bar Federal restored the Poseía to life and helped reestablish it as a staple of the San Telmo scene.

I was in the place all the time, usually with a book. It has an atmosphere conducive to reading, with tango music playing softly in the background and a good selection of drinks. Unfortunately, the wait staff isn’t always the friendliest. One girl in particular always greeted my arrival with a frown and an attitude; I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I’d done to her. And once, a waitress directed me to a table with a power outlet, watched me set up my computer, provided me with the Wifi code, then took my order. The internet didn’t work and when I pointed that out, she was like, “Yeah. It’s been out all day”. But, couldn’t you tell I wanted to use it? I even asked you for the access key! “Yeah. Well, you never asked me if the internet worked“.

Regardless of the occasionally brusque service, there’s plenty to enjoy at La Poesía. Leave your computer at home, and take a book. A book of poetry, if you must.

La Poesía
Chile 502
Location on our Buenos Aires Map
Coffee Culture

Bar Notable
Books Poesia
Cooking Cook
Facturas Buenos Aires
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Side Eye
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May 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm Comments (2)

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