I could wax poetic for hours about Buenos Aires, my favorite place in the world. But, you and I don’t have time for that. Here’s the scoop: I lived in Buenos Aires when I was a child, and I have returned regularly over the years since. On my most recent visit this year, I took one of my best friends through my favorite city and we did all of my favorite things. I’ve finally pulled together all my favorite boutiques, coffee shops, and brunch spots that I’ve visited over the years into one handy-dandy guide, below. Enjoy it!
The Sofitel Buenos Aires
We stayed in the Sofitel Buenos Aires Arroyo, located conveniently in the downtown arts and antiques district near La Avenida Independencia. From the moment you walk into the stunning beaux arts hotel, you are transported back to 1920s Buenos Aires. The lobby of the hotel is beautiful marble atrium accented by topiaries and black-and-white decor. There’s a fine dining restaurant and a Bibliotheque bar filled with books from France and Argentina that’s perfect for drinking Malbec or martinis. The hotel comprises two large towers, built in 1929, connected by the aforementioned atrium.
Brunch & Such
b Blue Deli & Natural Bar
This cafe and juice bar is located conveniently in Palermo Soho for you to refuel while shopping. Armenia 1692, Palermo SoHo, Buenos Aires.
These hippie dippie shabby chic café could not have been cuter. It was green and bright and friendly—with cheeky inspirational quotes on the wall and a “we love health food!” enthusiasm. The food was great, though the service could have been better! Look out for my review tomorrow! Avenida Caseros 454, San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Cafe Oui Oui
There’s nothing cuter than Cafe Oui Oui, a cheerful pink patisserie and cafe serving up cappuccinos and coffees, oodles of pastries, and waffles covered with dulce de leche. The delightful café is filled with college kids and intellectuals. It’s a must-do if you’re in the city and love brunch—or a good pastry. Read my review here. Calle Nicaragua 6068, Buenos Aires, Argentina, (0)11 4949 6444.
Cafe La Poesia
Cafe La Poesia is worth a stop for brunch, lunch, or coffee as it was the original café for artists and intellectuals during the turn of the century in Buenos Aires. Read a history of the café here.
Full City Coffee House
One of many coffee shops in Palermo, Full City is respected by the coffee snobs of Buenos Aires. We dropped in for a quick brunch and coffee and were not disappointed! The place was chill, the service laid back, and the food clean and fresh. The lattes were near perfect. Thames 1535, 1414 Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Ninina was heaven in a restaurant. The chic, sleek and modern cafe impressed me with its beautiful decor from the moment I walked in. There’s a beautiful, long Carrera marble counter with baked goods on display and an open prep kitchen with subway tile marble on the walls behind. Sleek copper light fixtures hang from the ceiling and wooden Thonet chairs are the seating of choice. I was taken. Oh, and then there was the food: decadent pastries, green juices, avocado toast with scrambled eggs. It was heaven. Read my review here.
Olsen was the original brunch establishment in Buenos Aires—made famous by beautiful people, a nod from the New York Times and coverage from Bitches, duh. The stylish, open-air spot serves Swedish fare (think lox, blini and champagne) until 8 p.m. and is frequented by the beautiful people of BA. Read my review here. Olsen, Calle Gorriti 5870, Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Pick Market
We did a lot of eating and drinking in Buenos Aires—with late nights at parillas and late mornings at cafes. If you find yourself in need of a light bite but not a full meal, head to the Pick Market, a marketplace conveniently located in Recoleta near the cemetery on your way back into town. We picked up wine, cheese, and freshly toasted loaves of bread to bring back to the hotel for a snack to tide us over until dinner. There are multiple locations of this charming market, which serves sandwiches, salads and also has a great selection off wine, cheese, fruits, vegetables and pastries.
Libertedad 1212 | Riobamba 1173 | Quintana 570 | Ugarteche 3154 | Demaria 4527
I’m on the oh-so-strict Argentine diet from the minute I land back in Buenos Aires: coffee and a media luna con dulce de leech for breakfast, an empanada while on the go at lunch, and a 10 p.m. dinner at a parilla, or Argentine steakhouse.
The order at each parilla is very much the same. You begin by selecting a bottle of Malbec from the thick leather-bound wine list filled with different types of Malbec. The waiter plops a fresh loaf of white bread served with chimichurri and butter, though many steakhouses do get creative with their sauces. Then, you order chorizo and provoleta, an Argentine grilled provolone cheese to share. Served in a skillet, provoleta is the Argentine equivalent of queso fundido but so much better. (I’m biased.) And you also order an order of empanadas if you’re feeling ambitious. You’re probably already full by the time the appetizers have concluded, yet you select a cut of meat from the expansive list of dozens of different cuts of beef. You roll home, drunk off steak, Malbec and pure bliss, around midnight.
I’ve visited quite a few parillas on this trip and others. Here are the few that meat my standards:
La Brigada, Estados Unidos 465, San Telmo
La Carniceria, Palermo
La Cabrera, Cabrera 5083, Palermo Soho
Don Julio, Guatemala 4691, Palermo Soho
Buenos Aires is loaded with casual bars, where people will relax between dinner and heading out to dance all night at a boliche, or night club. We eschewed the night clubs in lieu of a few stylish speakeasies.
Frank’s is a popular, well-known speakeasy, with baroque, Gatsby-style vibes. The two-level bar is lively, with cozy velvet seating around low-lying tables for couples to canoodle as well as plenty of space for groups to dance well into the evening. Arévalo 1443, Palermo Soho
Even more discreet is Nicky Harrison, which lies behind a sushi bar. We had a spectacular meal at the sushi spot, and the entire time I was utterly unaware there was a speakeasy in the same establishment. After dinner, we were led through a narrow corridor and told an entirely fictitious story about Nicky Harrison, a New York expat in the 1920s who created his namesake bar. Then, we walked through a stunning courtyard to the speakeasy, which is housed in a glass atrium with a back-lit bar. The cocktails were spectacular—but pricey—and it was a memorable experience. Malabia 1764, Buenos Aires.
While you should visit San Telmo and La Boca for sightseeing and a bit of shopping, head straight to Palermo SoHo to do serious retail damage. Allot yourself a few hours and grab a shopping map—which list all the boutiques and are on the desks of most stores—at the first boutique you enter. Of the dozens upon dozens of chic shops in Palemo and Palermo Soho, here are a few of my favorites:
Garza Lobos is an expensive, stylish boutique that would fit in well in Miami or Manhattan. It had stunning, simple evening wear as well as knits—I picked up two perfectly drape-y tank tops that I have been wearing constantly since. El Salvador 4736
This leather goods boutique crafts leather and canvas laptop cases, camera bags, wallets, and backpacks that are functional, stylish and androgynous. I snagged a grey and natural leather backpack perfect for bringing my laptop to a coffee shop, while my travel companion picked up the cutest leather mini-backpack. Gurruchaga 1783
This womenswear store is stocked with stylish knits, sweaters and basic pieces—I loaded up on cute little nubby sweaters and grey tees at affordable prices. Armenia 1630
This womenswear boutique is filled with to-the-moment stylish picks for 20-and 30-something Argentines. Find everything from stylish blouses and dresses to leather jackets and tailored trousers. Its suits the fashionista in all of us. El Salvador 4727, Palmero
Bitches Must Do: Buenos Aires has some of the best bakeries and heladeries (ice cream shops) in the world and is absolutely famous for its dulce de leche. When strolling through the city, be sure to pop into one of the many hole-in-the-wall bakeries and purchase a basket of media lunas (croissants) stuffed with dulce de leche for a few pesos. It’s an absolutely blissful experience.
See & Do
No trip to Buenos Aires is complete without a trek across town to the brightly colored streets of La Boca, a neighborhood in this beautiful city. Take a stroll on the cobblestone streets passed the vivid, primary colored buildings and watch the tango dancers. Beware of pick pockets and tourists—this neighborhood is teeming with both. Be sure to pick up some alfajores (Argentine dulce de leche cookies) while you’re there.
Argentina is known for its tango—and the best way to experience tango is most certainly not by taking in an over-priced dinner and a show, which cater to tourists. Instead, visit an authentic milonga, or tango parlor, where locals and ex-pats alike go to learn and practice the sultry dance set to a live band. We tango’ed with the locals at the Milonga Parakultural.
Since I’ve been to Buenos Aires multiple times as an adult, I spent my first evening—before my friend Cara met me—alone in Buenos Aires shopping and then paying a visit to MALBA, the Museum of Modern Latin American Art. The museum itself is stunning—and I was highly impressed with the permanent exhibit, as well as traveling exhibits of photography and pop art.
It’s slightly dark—but absolutely appropriately—that the best known tourist attraction in Buenos Aires is its cemetery. The beautiful, enormous Recoleta cemetery is filled with stunning mausoleums from the 1700s to present day–including several presidents, generals, and the country’s darling, Evita.
San Telmo Antiques & Outdoor Market
Be sure to visit San Telmo, a charming historical neighborhood in Buenos Aires known for its literary cafes, antique shops, and tango dancers. If you’re in the city over a weekend, be sure to plan your time in San Telmo then, as there’s an outdoor craft and antiques market that rivals those in Paris.