Guide to Buenos Aires Neighbourhoods

Guide to Buenos Aires Neighbourhoods

Buenos Aires drew us in and still hasn’t let us go.

We spent ten days there at the very beginning of our indefinite adventure and then six weeks from the end of March to the beginning of May 2013. It’s been almost three months since we left, and I still find myself thinking about our apartment there, the friends we made, and the man at the San Telmo market who recognised me every time I went for my weekly fruit and vegetable shop.

Like many other great cities around the world, Buenos Aires is a city made up of what feels like many, smaller, almost independent cities. Buenos Aires neighbourhoods, while more strictly defined than those of, say, London, do blend from one to another, but have their own distinct charms, sights and feels.

Buenos Aires proper is made up of 48 neighbourhoods (or barrios), but I’ve chosen just a handful; the ones you’re most likely to visit as a tourist in the city.

La Boca

as far as we could tell, the street art was the scariest thing in La Boca

as far as we could tell, the street art was the scariest thing in La Boca

One of the oldest neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires, La Boca also has a reputation of being a bit dangerous. We found it perfectly safe when we visited, which we only did during the day.

Visit for: the stadium of the local football team; the Caminito; Fundación PROA modern art gallery; Museo Quinquela Martín for contemporary Argentinian paintings (this was in fact our favourite art gallery in Buenos Aires).

Read more: Art Galleries of Buenos Aires: Part 2

white on white: even the snacks at La PROA are minimalist

white on white: even the snacks at La PROA are minimalist

If you’re hungry: stop by the café at La PROA for a sweet treat or a salad in white, minimalist surroundings with views over the old port.

Nearest Subte: Constitución, Line C.

Puerto Madero

Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

This very modern area of Buenos Aires reminded us of the Docklands in east London. High rise buildings line the canal and offers a pleasant place to take a walk along the water or stop at a fancy restaurant filled with business people.

Read more: Buenos Aires Surprises

Puente de la Mujer

Puente de la Mujer

Visit for: the modern architecture, especially the Puente de la Mujer; your Starbucks fix.

Nearest Subte: (north to south) Retiro, Line C; Leonardo Alem, Line B; Plaza de Mayo, Line A.

San Telmo

some street art in San Telmo, round the corner from our apartment

some street art in San Telmo, round the corner from our apartment

The historical centre of the city, San Telmo is also claimed to the birthplace of tango. Cobbled streets, antique shops, cool cafés and a slightly alternative vibe can all be easily found here.

Visit for: the San Telmo Sunday market; the weird street art.

antiques and bric-a-brac at the San Telmo Sunday market

antiques and bric-a-brac at the San Telmo Sunday market

If you’re hungry: take advantage of the great lunch menu deals at Naturaleza Sabia; have a coffee and a sandwich at Origen; soak up the gay over a snack at Pride Café.

Read more: Food Porn Friday: Naturaleza Sabia, Buenos Aires

Nearest Subte: Independencia, Lines C and E (in the west); Bolivar/Peru/Catedral, Lines E, A and D (in the north).

Microcentro

El Obelisco, Buenos Aires

El Obelisco, Buenos Aires

This is the business and shopping district of the Buenos Aires, and where you’ll find some of the most famous sites, such as the Plaza de Mayo, La Casa Rosada and El Obelisco.

Visit for: The BA Free Tour for an excellent introduction to the city; big brand shopping.

If you’re hungry: indulge in something decadent at the touristy (for good reason) Café Tortoni, Buenos Aires oldest café.

decadence at Café Tortoni

decadence at Café Tortoni

Nearest Subte: The four stops on Line A between Plaza de Mayo and Avenida de Mayo.

Retiro

Plaza San Martín

Plaza San Martín

Home to the train and bus stations of the same name, Retiro is where you’ll find some of the poorest and some of the richest inhabitants of the city. It’s full of European style architecture and one of the main landmarks is the Torre de los Ingleses, which locals (clearly those who have never been to London) say looks like Big Ben.

breakfast at Torcuato and Regina

breakfast at Torcuato and Regina

If you’re hungry: have breakfast with wifi or an afternoon snack in charming 19th century style, overlooking the pleasant Plaza San Martín at Torcuato & Regina.

Nearest Subte: Retiro, Line C.

Recoleta

Zab in Recoleta cemetery

Zab in Recoleta cemetery

The eponymous cemetery is the focal point of this upscale residential and tourist-heavy neighbourhood. French architecture abounds, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re wandering the streets of Paris rather than Argentina’s capital.

Floralis Genérica, Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Floralis Genérica, Recoleta, Buenos Aires

Visit for: Recoleta Cemetery to see the final resting place of Eva Perón, in her relatively small and plain tomb that bears her maiden name of Duarte.; Floralis Genérica; the Museo de las Bellas Artes.

Read more: Art Galleries of Buenos Aires: Part 1

Nearest Subte: Retiro, Line C (in the east); Pueyrredon, Line D (in the west).

Palermo

Buenos Aires’ biggest and most up-and-coming neighbourhood is without a doubt Palermo. Funky cafés, organic restaurants, yummy mummies and hipsters in skinny jeans are all likely sightings, especially on and in the area around Gurruchaga between Avenida Santa Fe and Avenida Córdoba. And with so many green spaces in the north end of Palermo, it’s easy to see why the area is so attractive.

in Palermo's rose garden

in Palermo’s rose garden

Visit for: the Museo de las Artes Plásticas (on Wednesdays when it’s free); Palermo Rose Gardens; the Botanical Garden; the Japanese Garden; window shopping, café or bar hopping along unrelentingly hip Gurruchaga.

Read more: Art Galleries of Buenos Aires: Part 1

La Esquina de las Flores

La Esquina de las Flores

If you’re hungry: try the delicious, organic food at la Esquina de las Flores (which you can also take away for a picnic in one of the gardens); Pierina Teahouse for an afternoon snack including French-style macaroons; Bartola for hearty brunches; Artemisia for something a bit special.

Read more: Artemisia: An Exceptional Dining Experience; Food Porn Friday: La Esquina de las Flores Again, Buenos Aires

Nearest Subte: the five stops on Line D between Agüero and Palermo.

Belgrano

Belgrano

Belgrano

Probably the furthest from the centre you’re likely to go as a visitor to Buenos Aires, Belgrano is a middle to upper class residential neighbourhood with pleasant tree-lined streets, a handful of museums and the city’s Chinatown that are worth the trip.

Chinese Gate, Belgrano, Buenos Aires

Chinese Gate, Belgrano, Buenos Aires

Visit for: the Chinese shops where you can buy all the things you can’t find anywhere else in the city (this was the only place I could find coconut milk, for example); Museo Casa de Yrurtia for some interesting sculpture.

Read more: Art Galleries of Buenos Aires: Part 2

If you’re hungry: stop for kaffee und kuchen in the European comfort of Zürich.

Nearest Subte: Juramento, line D.

Caballito

A residential neighbourhood in the geographical centre of the city, Caballito is a nice area to get a glimpse of tourist-free Buenos Aires.

a stuffed(?) armadillo at the natural science museum

an armadillo at the Museo de Ciencias Naturales

Visit for: the Museo de Ciencias Naturales to learn about Darwin’s voyage in the Beagle around South America and see a huge range of bird species native to the continent.

Nearest Subte: Malabia, Line B (in the north); Acoyte, Line A (in the south).

Map

Here is a map of Buenos Aires with all the places mentioned in the post marked.


View Buenos Aires in a larger map

Practicalities

Getting Around

While Porteños love to complain about their public transport system (which city’s citizens don’t?), from a visitor’s point of view, if you’re not having to travel in rush hour, it is actually very comprehensive and cheap.

The public transportation system is made up of underground trains (know as the Subte, or Subterráneo) and buses. If paying cash, a single journey on the Subte costs AR$3, and between AR$1.20-1.80 on a bus depending on the distance. For the bus, you must have the correct change, and it must be in coins.

Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

Puerto Madero again, because I don’t have any pictures of the Subte

There are literally hundreds of bus routes in Buenos Aires, so knowing which line take can be a little daunting at first. We found this website extremely useful for helping us work out the options: just click your start location and your destination and it will show all the buses that run along that general route.

Since obtaining coins can be a bit tricky in Argentina (there seems to be a shortage), we recommend buying a SUBE card, which like the Oyster card in London is a rechargeable, credit-sized card that can be used on all Buenos Aires public transport. They cost AR$15, and can be recharged in any Subte station and at many kiosks, and using one makes each journey slightly cheaper.

Money

Our number one tip to anyone planning a trip to Buenos Aires (or Argentina in general) is to take US dollars and change them on the blue market into Argentine pesos on arrival. You’ll likely save up to 50% on everything this way!

Read more: From Dollars to Pesos to Pounds: The Real Cost of Argentina

Further Resources

You can also check out the guest posts I wrote for Divergent Travelers on free things to do in Buenos Aires, the Sunday Spotlight on Buenos Aires I did for Don’t Ever Look Back, as well as where to find street art in the city that I wrote for Indie Travel Podcast.

Buenos Aires street art

Buenos Aires street art

Finally, if you’re looking for a really comprehensive, in-depth guide, try Indie Travel Podcast’s guidebook to Buenos Aires, available as an ebook, written by Stephanie Ockerman.

Have you been to Buenos Aires? What’s your favourite barrio? What have I missed out? Tell us in the comments!

You can also download this guide in the GPSMyCity app!