Which Buenos Aires barrio is for me?
There is no simple answer to this question. It all depends on what type of person you are, and what you want to get out of your time in Buenos Aires. The following descriptions of the main areas to stay in Buenos Aires should help you choose. Leave us a comment if you have any questions about a particular Barrio, Hotel or Hostel.
‘Microcentro’ (City Center)
This area is OBVIOUSLY central! For many people this is ideal, and it will put you close to major tourist attractions such as the Obelisk, Plaza de Mayo, the Pink House, the Cathedral, Avenida de Mayo, Congress, Florida Shopping Street, Teatro Colon, Plaza San Martin and a whole lot more. However, in other ways it is not so perfect, because this area is also the most busy with dangerous traffic, polluted, noisy, and lacking in space. You have to weigh up these pros and cons to make your decision. But if you do stay in the Microcentro, it is very easy to get around on the subte (subway) system, which serves this area well, as opposed to other further-flung parts of Buenos Aires.
Slightly North of Center – Recoleta, Retiro, Barrio Norte
These are generally the most exclusive areas of the City of Buenos Aires (particularly Recoleta), where you will find high class hotels such the Alvear, Four Seasons, Park Hyatt, Sofitel and the Marriott Plaza. Although they obviously come at a price! In keeping with the exclusivity of these areas, you will also find some of the most upmarket shopping centers, leather shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, art galleries, and parks in Buenos Aires. Also, you’ll be fairly close to the remarkable Recoleta Cemetery, where Evita Peron is laid to rest among many other amazingly decadent mausoleums of the rich and famous. Recoleta and Retiro (mainly near Plaza San Martin) are probably the most pleasantly upmarket areas to stay, if you have the cash required.
A little Further North – Palermo
Palermo is the largest barrio of Buenos Aires, mainly filled with tranquil, green parks. And so it can be one of the most laid-back areas to base yourselves in. Among the parks you will find the Rosedal (Rose Garden), Botanical Gardens, Japanese Gardens, the 3 de Febrero boating lake, the horse racing track, and the Buenos Aires Zoo. In recent years, parts of Palermo, such as Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho, have become the hippest parts of Buenos Aires, with fashionable bars, nightclubs, restaurants, boutique hotels and small designer label shops springing up almost by the minute.
Palermo is quite well served by Line D (Green Line) of the subte system, which conveniently takes you into the city center, or a little further north to Belgrano (which is another nice, tranquil place to stay, although a little bit further out of the way than the other areas mentioned here). The area is great for both families and young couples alike, and is a very popular place for visitors who decide to rent an apartment in Buenos Aires.
Go South! – San Telmo and Monserrat
These adjoining barrios, just south of the Microcentro, are the most ‘historic’ areas of the city. The olde worlde Buenos Aires, if you like. This is where the city was first founded, and is where some of the few remaining Spanish colonial buildings can be found, mixed in with some beautiful art nouveau and gothic styles from the following historical periods, all in a state of atmospheric decaying grandeur. Cobbled streets abound!
The rich of BA used to live in San Telmo until a yellow fever outbreak in 1871, when they first moved north away from the lowland river areas to their current residences in Recoleta and Retiro. These days, San Telmo is the home to modern Argentine Tango in Buenos Aires, where you will find many Tango shows, clubs, lessons, street performers and even Tango hotels! Sunday in San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego sees the most famous street market (antiques, tango paraphenalia, etc) here, along with the compulsory outdoor Tango dancers and singers.
Adjoining Monserrat has similar architecture, and some of the most interesting churches in the city. However, these areas can be a little sketchy (lots of almost deserted, badly lit streets with little or no police or security presence) at night, and something on the dirty side, so please bear that in mind before deciding on a hotel or apartment in this more ‘atmospheric’ part of town!
Well, those are the main areas to consider. There are of course others, but these are where most visitors will consider staying. Please leave a comment if you have any questions about these or other areas of BA. I hope you enjoy wherever you stay!