Buenos Aires. There’s something about this city that gets under your skin. Whether it’s the melancholy of the discordant tango strains, the neglected grandeur of the old buildings or the seductive energy of the porteños and their singsong accents, be sure that Buenos Aires will linger on in your mind’s eye.
Memories of the city have certainly haunted me since I left here five years ago and I’ve been daydreaming about returning ever since. Then I was a 22-year-old student, a little lost in a big city, with a breezy attitude and better stamina for late-night carousing. Now that I’m finally back I find myself ambling along familiar streets but still a little lost – this time in a haze of nostalgia for my former self and my past life here.
Luckily the city hasn’t changed so much, and all my favourite haunts are still here to welcome me. Here are a few places I’ve come to love in the city….
Pillow talk in…Home Hotel
For my first night in Buenos Aires, I treated myself and checked in to this lovely boutique hotel in the trendy Palermo Hollywood barrio. It’s definitely worth the splurge. Decorated in calming neutrals that reflect its green ethos, the hotel has spacious rooms, a spa and restaurant – a popular lunch spot for locals – where guests also have breakfast. The real showpiece though is the patio area, where a cocktail bar and ubiquitous parrilla (the outdoor grill every self-respecting Argentine has in their backyard) look out onto verdant gardens overgrown with giant tropical plants and a gorgeous swimming pool. It’s an oasis of calm that feels far removed from the busy city.
Home Hotel, Honduras 5860, Palermo Hollywood
Seek solace in…Libros del Pasaje
I love the atmosphere of this old-fashioned bookshop, with its high bookshelves stacked with eclectic tomes – reachable by hopping on the rolling ladder. I usually sidestep the erudite browsers and make a beeline for the back of the bookshop where a little café serves homemade cakes and tangy, mint-infused lemonade as well as more substantial meals. Relax into the deep leather armchairs with a book and a glass of Malbec or head out into the light-filled conservatory where customers sit with knitted eyebrows, a coffee and their laptops.
Libros del Pasaje, Thames 1762, Palermo Soho
Stroll in…San Telmo market
It may be touristy, but for me San Telmo’s Sunday fair still conjures up much of the magic and intrigue that I first loved about this city. Makeshift stalls stretch all along Calle Defensa, backed by gently crumbling stone facades. Vendors sell all kinds of knick-knacks; leather wares, handmade jewellery, gaucho paraphernalia and decorative fileteado painted signs. The drama crescendos on Plaza Dorrego where crowds cluster around tango performers and there’s a jumble of stalls offering more authentic antiques. The best time to come is late afternoon, when there are fewer people and you can dine in style…with a choripan (chorizo sandwich) from a street vendor of course.
Feria de San Telmo, Defensa y Humberto
Go green in…Bosques de Palermo
When I want to escape the city grime I head for this park – officially known as Parque Tres de Febrero. Dotted with palms and jacaranda trees, it’s got a beautiful lake where lovers and families take out row boats and pedalos. At the weekend, the park is packed with locals sitting and drinking mate, feeding the often-ferocious swans or circling the park on rollers skates. For a more serene setting, find a bench in the well-manicured rose garden at the heart of the park.
Have a cocktail at…Frank’s
‘Coffee’ I stammer rather unconvincingly to a stern looking doorman. Thankfully he nods and moves a side. A girl in a tight-fitting black number is there to greet me and reveals a code to dial in the phone box as the back of the room. I pick up the phone and punch in the code before pushing the back of wall behind me, as ordered. It leads down a dimly-lit corridor to the famed 1920s-themed speakeasy that is Frank’s. Inside, it’s dark and sultry with tiered chandeliers and beautiful people drinking killer cocktails served by barman in dickie bows and suspenders. Gimmicky? Yes definitely. Verging on the ridiculous? I’d say so. But darn, it’s fun. And don’t those cocktails taste good.
Frank’s, Arévalo 1443 Palermo (ask for the password via the facebook page)
Having mainly eaten my way around the city, wait for my next blog post on eating out recommendations.