Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall

September 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Historic Shopping Center in Buenos Aires

Housed in a lovely Beaux Arts building in downtown Buenos Aires, the Galerías Pacífico Shopping Mall is a great place to visit for much more than just shopping. Originally constructed in the 1890’s as the BA headquarters for the Parisian department store, Le Bon Marche, this prime spot on the Florida pedestrian street has changed through the years, but retains a nostalgic elegance, making it a dazzling place to shop.

beautiful shopping malls in buenos aires
[Photo credit: Wally G’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-SA 2.0]

Modeled after the great Italian arcade Gallerias Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, the building was commissioned exclusively for Le Bon Marche. The department store never occupied the entire building however, as it struggled to compete with the English store Harrods just down the block. (The Harrods building now lays empty, after closing over fourteen years ago.) As a result, other companies and stores occupied parts of the Galerías. It was the first home of the National Museum of Fine Arts, a hotel moved into one corner (now the luxurious Esplendor Buenos Aires), and the Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway converted some of the building into offices, thus the Galerías Florida were renamed Galerías Pacífico, since the rail line reached from Buenos Aires, through Chile, to the Pacific Ocean (el pacifico).

Beautiful ceilings and dark basements

mural in mall Buenos Aires
[Photo credit: Barcex’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-SA 2.0]

At the nexus of the galleries you’ll find impressive murals painted on the interior dome. Commissioned in 1947, these murals were painted by five of Argentina’s greatest artists at the time: Antonio Berni, Juan Carlos Castagnino, Manuel Colmeiro Guimaraes, Lino Enea Spilimbergo, and Demetrio Urruchua. The murals reflect universal themes like brotherhood and man’s relationship to nature, and it’s an interesting study in the unique styles of each artist within the same medium. Keep an eye out as you stroll through the rest of the mall for some more contemporary murals, as well.

Like many other beautiful sites in Buenos Aires, the history of the Galerias is tainted with the stain of the last military dictatorship. In the late 1980’s, a film crew ventured into the basements of the mall, and one of the cameramen recognized the the space as the site where he was held and tortured as an ex-desaparecido in 1976.  The basement still bore ghastly evidence of torture, such as markings made by the imprisoned, including dates and pleas for help. The building was declared a National Historic Monument in 1989.

High-end brand shopping in downtown BA

After lying abandoned for a while, the galleries were converted into a shopping mall in the 1990’s, while Argentina was experiencing an economic boom. Today, the stores in Galerias Pacifico are basically the same ones you can find in other malls throughout the city, or walking down Santa Fe avenue, and around Palermo. Foreign brands like Chanel, Tommy Hilfiger, Estee Lauder, and Swarovski have shops among the many Argentine brands, and you can stop for cafe or lunch in the cafes and restaurants both on the bottom floor, and up high under the glass ceiling. Here’s a full listing of stores.

Galerias Buenos Aires shopping

[Photo credit: Miguel Cesar’s photostream/ /CC BY-BY-NC-SA 2.0]

While you’re there, don’t miss the Centro Cultural Borges (Borges Cultural Center), which features many wonderful exhibits. Also stroll down the pedestrian Calle Florida for more shopping and lots of interesting people watching (rushed business people, street vendors, travelers, money traders, and buskers all converge here).

For a preview of the Galerias, check out this video, and read more on Wander Argentina.

Location and hours of the Galerias Pacifico

Av. Cordoba and Florida, City Center
Website:  www.galeriaspacifico.com.ar/eng/index.php
Phone: 5555-5110
Hours: Monday – Saturday 10am – 9pm
Sunday – 12pm – 9pm

Centro Cultural Jorge Luis Borges:
Located on the corner of Viamonte and San Martin, City Center

El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore

April 30, 2013 by · 13 Comments 

The world’s most beautiful bookstore, in Buenos Aires!

Buenos Aires is a bookworm’s city: cozy cafes for snuggling up with a novel on every corner, bargain bookshops on Corrientes Avenue, famous literary personalities, and high taxes on technology make Kindles and Tablets rare (that’s right, porteños still read real-life, scribble in the margins, flash them on the subway, wallow in the scent of musty spine, thumb the velvety pages BOOKS!). And of course, Buenos Aires is home to the most beautiful bookstore in the world.

El Ateneo bookstore

[Photo credit: m4caque’s photostream/ /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

El Ateneo Grand Splendid is one of the biggest bookstores in South America and certainly the most luxurious. Located in the ritzy Recoleta neighborhood, El Ateneo is as splendid as its name, and exudes Buenos Aires’s nostalgic elegance.  The building originally housed the theater Teatro Grand Splendid, designed by architects Pero and Torres Armengol in 1919. After years of popular shows, including performances by the famous tango singers Carlos Gardel and Ignacio Corsini, the Grand Splendid was converted into a movie theater in the late ’20’s, featuring some of the first sound movies shown in Argentina.

All the bookstore’s a stage

Beautiful bookstore Buenos Aires

The El Ateneo publishing house converted this old theater into a bookstore in 2000, thankfully conserving its original aspect, but replacing seating with bookshelves. The theater’s spectacular cupola (dome), painted by Italian artist Nazareno Orlandi, depicts an allegory for peace after WWI. Framed by plush crimson curtains, the stage is now a cafe where literary types and people-watchers alike form part of the spectacle; acting like a porteño by sipping a cafe and struggling over a Cortázar story has never been so literal!

Opened in 1912 by Spaniard Pedro Garcia, El Ateneo started out as a publishing house whose initial catalog included The Divine Comedy, Montaigne’s essays, Shakespeare, Ruben Dario, Machiavelli and Homer translated and printed for an Argentine readership. In 1968, the publishers launched “The Spring of Letters”, a series of lectures and signings with famous authors which eventually evolved into the International Book Fair held annually in April. Today, the editorial forms part of Argentina’s most important literary conglomerate with many bookstores throughout BA and the rest of the country.

BYOB: Bring your own book

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

[Photo credit: violinha’s photostream/ /CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

If you want to be one of the 3,000 who visit this glorious temple of books daily, I recommend waiting for a spot in any of the reading nooks housed where the box seats once lay. Snuggle up with your selections, admire the ornate views, and watch people from all over the world snap photos and delve into texts.

Don’t be disappointed by the English book section, though; it contains almost exclusively romance and mystery novels with an occasional classic. There are, however, many books on Latin American art, regional cuisine, guide books, and Argentine culture which make for fun browsing for even those who don’t understand a lick of español. Check the basement for music, DVDs, and an extensive children’s section, and the upper floors for great views. The first floor houses mostly medical, psychological, and education texts, and you can find Classical and Opera music on the third floor.

dome at El Ateneo Grand Splendid

[Photo credit: kara brugman’s photostream/ /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Don’t believe it’s the most beautiful bookstore in the world? Neither did The Guardian; in this article they placed El Ateneo at second. Call me dramatic, but I hold to my claim that El Ateneo is number 1! For a great description of the store, try Atlas Obscuro, and if you want to see some more magical bookstores check out this top twenty list at Flavorwire. Or just sit here and watch the following short video on El Ateneo instead:

Location of El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore

Avenida Santa Fe 1860, between Riobamba and Callao, Recoleta
Telephone: 4813-6052

Monday to Thursday: 9am to 10pm
Friday and Saturday: 9am to 12am
Sunday: 12pm to 10pm

Foto Ruta Photography Excursions

February 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Get clicking on a creative excursion in Buenos Aires

Walking around a city as photogenic as Buenos Aires without a camera can be a frustrating experience, and never more so than when you are overtaken by a man on a bicycle, talking on his mobile phone while simultaneously walking five variously sized dogs, their leads straining as they struggle to keep up. Watching him wobble down the cycle lane past picturesque old buildings covered in graffiti, even the least enthusiastic photographer will be gripped by the desire to capture the scene on camera.

For those hoping to hone their snapping skills while in town, Foto Ruta organizes photography-based weekly events that are one part photography workshop, one part (unguided) city tour.

Behind bars in Buenos Aires

[Photo credit: Foto Ruta Facebook page]

Snap happy

Each Saturday Foto-Ruta holds an afternoon excursion in that week’s nominated neighborhood, usually San Telmo, Palermo or Villa Crespo (check the diary page on the website for the schedule). It is a chance pick up some picture-taking tips and explore that area of city in the company of other photography enthusiasts, who range from SRL wielding semi-pros to point-and-click holiday snappers.

In the Villa Crespo neighborhood, the meeting place is a closed doors restaurant in a traditional ‘casa chorizo’ style house. Unassuming from the outside, the street entrance leads down a narrow passageway to a charming and character-filled space, setting the tone for a day of ‘getting under the city’s skin’; seeing beyond the superficial to capture the real essence of the neighborhood.

Buenos Aires mural

[Photo credit: Foto Ruta Facebook page]

Pre-photography boot camp

Seated around a table scattered with inspirational photography books, the first part of the day is an introduction to the neighborhood and a brief teaching session with Foto Ruta founders Becky from England and Joss from Canada, who is a professional photographer.

With the help of images taken at previous Foto Ruta events, Joss talked us through the concept for the day and gave some photography tips about lines, shape, viewpoint, pattern, movement, light, photographing people and so on – probably pretty basic stuff for some of the group, but all new to me. “The best camera is the one you have with you,” she said reassuringly, before sending us out onto the streets armed with a map and a list of words.

Your mission should you choose to accept it…

Our task was to explore the neighborhood in small groups and take photos that corresponded to 10 ‘clues’ – words or phrases such as ‘behind bars’ and ‘follow the leader’. The exercise has as much to do with concepts and creativity as photography skills, prompting us to use our imaginations. Becky and Joss describe it as ‘slow tourism’; the idea is to take your time, look closely and see the details that are so often missed when visiting a new city.

A dog crossing Avenida Corrientes in Buenos Aires barrio of Buenos Aires

[Photo credit: Foto Ruta Facebook page]

Once outside, we immediately began spotting potential shots all around us: a frustrated little boy in an Argentina shirt and superhero cape glaring angrily out onto the street from a gated passageway (‘behind bars’), a building almost entirely covered with ivy (‘connecting with nature’) and a labrador with a luminous bow in her hair crossing Avenida Corrientes (‘fluorescent female’). Working together to track down the clues while wandering around the neighborhood and stopping to chat to the people we asked to photograph, it felt like a completely fresh way of experiencing the city.

A Saturday shopper in the barrio of Villa Crespo in Buenos Aires

[Photo credit: Foto Ruta Facebook page]

From clicking cameras to chinking wine glasses

After two hours on the streets taking pictures, we reconvened in the closed doors restaurant to select the best shot to represent each clue from each group. While we selected and uploaded, we were served a glass of red or white wine, and finally we watched a slide show of the photos taken by each group, with feedback and comments from Joss. It was clear from the range of shots that we had all risen to the challenge and really captured the essence of Villa Crespo. So next time a leather-clad gaucho clutching a Starbucks frappuccino walks past me I’ll be ready.

Tips for photographing Buenos Aires from Foto-Ruta

In addition to the weekly event, Foto Ruta also holds Academia guided photography tours and iPhoneography tours in Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile.  To find out more go to http://foto-ruta.com/

For more articles about Foto Ruta, see Tim Fitzgerald’s post on the BBC Passport travel blog,  this post on The Argentina Independent, this report from the Buenos Aires Herald and this post by travel writer Michael Turtle.

Location of the neighborhood of Villa Crespo in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Guitar Lessons

June 4, 2012 by · Comments Off on Buenos Aires Guitar Lessons 

Learn to play the guitar in Buenos Aires

If you are staying for more than a couple of weeks, get into some local grooves with Maxi, a porteño who gives private classes in the international language of music. He has been studying and playing guitar music for 15 years, and knows his stuff.

Description of guitar classes

First there will be a general discussion of the student’s needs, expectations for the class, music they like to play and learn (whether it’s rock, folk, blues, electronic, or other types), etc. The course plan is designed specially for each student, and they can receive emails with exercises to practice at home. This keeps music in the students’ minds all the time… not just the time that they are in class.

Maxi is in continual contact with his students – they can feel free to contact him if they have questions or want more exercises, which for example can relate to scales, chords and other music theory, open tunings, particular songs, and chords. Reading and writing music, ear training, pick and finger techniques can also be covered.

But perhaps most importantly: all levels are welcome and catered for.

Details of classes

  • Classes generally take place at Maxi’s apartment (in the north of Buenos Aires),
  • OR Maxi can go to your place (for a small extra fee)
  • The classes cost 250 pesos* per hour at Maxi’s apartment (at present he doesn’t have the time he would need to travel to you) and are usually 1 hour long (*price as at August 2017)
  • They can be in English or Spanish
  • Using Electric, acoustic or classical guitar, which can be provided for you for the lesson
  • Contact us for more information by completing the contact form below:

Happy playing!

San Telmo Sunday Fair / Feria

September 29, 2007 by · 17 Comments 

Buenos Aires Antiques and Beyond

Colorful Soda Siphons at the Feria de San Telmo, Buenos Aires

The Feria de San Telmo is one of the most notable and popular events that takes place in Buenos Aires. Nestled in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, the San Telmo Fair is bustling with unique artisans and antiques every Sunday from about 10am to 4pm (depending on the season and the weather). Perhaps its greatest qualities, besides the architecturally beautiful neighborhood which it calls home, are its exclusive goods and reliable nature. Never a Sunday will there be without tourists pouring into the cobblestone streets of San Telmo for one of a kind antiques, trinkets, art, tango and delicious food.

The San Telmo Fair, in Plaza Dorrego

Set your alarm, it’s morning in San Telmo

The true Feria de San Telmo is in Plaza Dorrego, although, it spills out into the surrounding blocks making it almost impossible to see the entire fair in just one Sunday. Plaza Dorrego houses mostly antique booths where one can find any number of valuables. Some, like original matchbox cars, gramophones and old telephones, which are still fully functional, may fetch a more expensive price, but the authenticity and uniqueness of these antiques make it well worth the extra pesos.

Antique telephones at the Feria de San Telmo

Many booths house truly one of a kind relics where a handmade backgammon board, full dinette sets and antique garments make you feel like you’re looking through your grandmother’s attic rather than a street fair. Antique knives, old jewelry and a myriad of figurines earn a spot in nearly every booth and soda siphons, artwork, mate trinkets and leather goods are in abundance. While the latter may begin to feel redundant all of these effects are an excellent example of Buenos Aires’ charming nature and rich history, and all of them deserve a spot on your shelf.

The Feria de San Telmo isn’t a time to speed shop, as walking too quickly through Plaza Dorrego may cause you to miss the very thing you’ve been looking for. Each booth ultimately has something different to offer and time well spent will turn up something to earn you “Ooohs and Ahhhs” the next time you have guests over.

Puppets at the Feria de San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Take a load off while you load up on anything you want

If you’ve built up an appetite, Plaza Dorrego is bordered by quaint eateries, cafes and bars. One of the varying prices and styles is sure to offer you the exact mid-day break you are looking for. For a taste of home with Argentine style, you can always meander your growling tummy down Defensa Street, an excellent way to view more of the fair. On Defensa, pick up some choripan (a chorizo sausage sandwich) to go and maximize your time munching away happily as you continue shopping (one of the few ways you’ll find mobile food in Argentina). Of course, Buenos Aires never disappoints with a lack of restaurants and a few blocks up or down Defensa and you’re sure to find a place that fits your mood.

Don’t spend it all in one place

If you need a break from the brassy pots and old-style belongings, Defensa provides a more modern attempt at souvenirs. Naturally, leather goods and alpaca furs still pop up from booth to booth, but younger artisans with interesting clothing designs and modern jewelry are a welcome change from the antiques of Plaza Dorrego and the antique stores lining Defensa. If you have room in your suitcase or a place in the corner of your room, quirky lamps and art pieces are a must see. If your outfit needs jazzing up, then the scarves, hats and purses will surely catch your eye.

Brass pots and things in Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires

It’s a beautiful Sunday, enjoy the view

If you happen to remember to take your eyes off of the endless maze of booths and gaze upward, the architecture of San Telmo is spectacular and a relic all on its own. San Telmo boasts extremely beautiful buildings that stand as they were, when they were built over a hundred years ago. In fact, the walk from Plaza de Mayo towards Plaza Dorrego is almost as rewarding architecturally as it is for day shopping. Another reason to perhaps leave the house early, and take your time.

If you’ve somehow managed to enjoy all the fair has to offer, and remembered to take Defensa all the way to Parque Lezama, which has its own street fair and flea market, let yourself wander through more of the surrounding blocks. San Telmo’s quaint and quirky nature is spellbinding, and a right turn here or left turn there, and a ten-man orchestra has attracted your attention.

Street entertainers in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Many of the street performers here deserve a closer look and many of them are geared towards the kids. (It’s important to mention as well, that you certainly won’t leave without catching a street tango performance). Be sure to mark the map with any museums you pass along the way. These gorgeous buildings are eye catching and if they’re not open on Sunday they deserve a day for themselves during the workweek.

Getting there is half the fun

If you’ve taken advantage of San Telmo the way it’s intended, you might need an extra suitcase home and more shelf room once you arrive. The best way to tackle the fair is walking from Plaza de Mayo down Defensa. It’s a wonderful transition from the city and an architectural delight. However, if you prefer to start closer to Plaza Dorrego and jump-start your antique splurge, there is a Subte (subway) stop on the C line at Avenida San Juan, about 6 blocks away from the fair. Like any true gem of a city attraction, don’t expect the fair to jump right out in front of you. From the right (or rather, wrong) side street you can almost miss it, making the San Telmo fair a real Buenos Aires treasure.

San Telmo Fair, Plaza Dorrego

Location of the Feria de San Telmo

Plaza Dorrego, corner of Defensa & Humberto Primo, San Telmo

Avenida Corrientes Bookstores

July 24, 2007 by · 11 Comments 

The famous bookstores of Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires bookstores on Avenida Corrientes

Buenos Aires is no doubt one of the most literary cities on the planet. The people here know the value of a good book, whether it’s poetry, fiction, art, anthropology, self-help, or psychology (not only can you bet that most porteños have read some Freud, but there is even an area of Palermo – Villa Freud – named after him).

If you wish to properly observe this social fact, you absolutely must visit the bookstores of Corrientes, the famous avenue that bristles with the action of theaters, cinemas, cafes, shops, and people with their noses stuck in used copies of anthologies of Argentine history or poetry.

Buenos Aires’ bookstore hotspot

Every bookstore has its own history and character, but all of them proudly display extensive collections of works by Argentine and Latin American authors and artists, as well as North American and classical European works, calendars, and CDs. Very few of them have any English language sections, although if you dig around you should find a few English offerings.

Most of the bookstores deal primarily in new books, but you’ll find some used books as well. With books scattered here, there and everywhere, presentation is not a priority – very different to more upscale bookstore chains in Buenos Aires like Boutique del Libro or El Ateneo.

If you don’t read Spanish, it is still enjoyable to peruse the stores simply because they are unique in their atmosphere and awesome in their vast quantity of texts. You could always get a children’s book or calendar as a souvenir. Or maybe it’s about time you learned to read Spanish… after all, it’s a language that is truly rich in expressions and has hundreds of years of literary heritage.

A typical Avenida Corrientes bookstore

Here are some excellent spots for book-hunting on Corrientes. The best way to visit them is to start at the Obelisco (subway station Carlos Pellegrini, on Av. 9 de Julio) and walk up Corrientes going westward (towards Av. Callao). The places listed below go in order from east to west so you can follow them like a walking tour. You could spend thirty minutes briefly poking your head into them, or an entire afternoon going through the immense selections.

Obel Libros

This modest bookstore has been in operation for about a decade and is run by a friendly middle-aged man who will be excited to practice his English with you. The special items you will find here are encyclopedias for students, books focusing on Latin American social and economic matters, and used novels.

Cuspide Libros

If you want professional guides for things such as computers, culinary arts, tourism, and hostelry (in Spanish, of course), Cuspide offers a wide range of these books. It also has the usual offerings of cheaply produced novels and non-fiction books.

Libreria Lucas

Liberia Lucas bookstore on Avenida Corrientes

At Lucas you will find a good selection of well-kept used books, which might interest collectors or book sellers. Also here are plenty of children’s books.

Libreria Hernandez

There are two Hernandez locations on Corrientes, within a few blocks of each other. A very extensive selection of books is offered, with topics such as Latin American revolutions, Che Guevara, economics, politics, Peronism, Argentine history, religion (you may notice that there are a lot of books about Judaism, a subject Argentines are fascinated by, due to the large Jewish population here), self-help, and psychology.

Are you looking for a gift?  Pick up one of the colorful cookbooks with recipes for traditional porteño favorites. You may even find a few cookbooks in English, or even one that explains methods for the traditional Argentine asado (barbeque). Also at Hernandez is a great collection of art books, with a focus on artists from Argentina and Buenos Aires.

Liberia Hernandez bookstore on Av Corrientes

Libreria Libertador

Don’t miss this classic Corrientes bookstore, with its unbelievably cheap classics by Spanish and Latin American authors, poetry collections, children’s books, and offerings by Shakespeare, Kahlil Gibran, Henry James, and more. The prices are low enough that you might buy books even if you can’t read Spanish.

If you are traveling around Argentina, you might also look for the nicely done travel guides published by the newspaper El Clarin. They can come in handy and are much lighter than the Lonely Planet you are probably lugging around.

Also at Libreria Libertador there are random items such as dollhouse parts and furniture, calendars with themes of Argentina and Buenos Aires, old magazines that will delight collectors, heaps of crossword puzzle books, CDs by composers such as Beethoven and Vivaldi with booklets providing information about the music, and, if you dare, a backroom full of dirty magazines and videos.

Magazines and Puzzle books also abound

Posada Libros

This enormous bookstore stretches back into a building big enough for two businesses. You’ll find the usual suspects here: cheap novels, books on the humanities (philosophy, anthropology, religion), CDs (Latin and classical music), and so on. Mainly it’s worth visiting Posada Libros just to see so many books in one place.

Between the Bookstores

Once you’ve tired of the Corrientes book-walk in the Buenos Aires City Center,  you most definitely deserve a break. If you get hungry, head to Pizzeria Guerrin (touted as one of the best pizza restaurants in Buenos Aires), or for a mid-day coffee break, to El Gato Negro (a beautiful old cafe and spice shop).

While you are bookstore-hopping, watch out for the plenty of artisans who set up their displays on the sidewalks of Corrientes. Also you’ll walk by some of Buenos Aires’ famous theaters – inquire there about the latest spectacles.

Location of Avenida Corrientes Bookstores

Various stops along Avenida Corrientes, between Avenida 9 de Julio & Avenida Callao, City Center

Boutique del Libro – Bookstore and Cafe

July 7, 2007 by · 4 Comments 

Buenos Aires, a city of book lovers

Boutique del Libro Bookshop - Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires

As one of the most literate cities on the planet, Buenos Aires will not disappoint a book lover. You can spend hours just browsing through the stacks and shelves of novels, academic theses, art and photography collections, and poetry anthologies in shops across the city here. Of course Buenos Aires is best for book-shopping if you read Spanish, or don’t mind captions in Spanish, but most places do also have an English-language selection.

One very attractive and alluring bookstore in Buenos Aires is the Boutique del Libro, a combined bookshop and café tucked away in the streets of Palermo Soho.

Boutique del Libro: Unsurprisingly, full of books

Indulge the bookworm inside you at Boutique del Libro

Boutique del Libro is the kind of bookstore that makes you hold your breath in awe as you walk past the shelves full of enough books to satisfy any intellectual thirst. If you want to find art, photography, or design collections, especially ones that are specific to Argentina, this is a great place to look. Boutique del Libro also boasts a pretty decent collection of English-language classics and new novels, which are located by the front window. They also have a small collection of CDs by Argentine and international musicians.

The bookstore staff are friendly and happy to point you in the right direction to help you find a book. Everything is well-labeled by section, so you can always just go straight to a specific category and peruse. The bookstore is usually filled with foreigners and locals alike, enjoying the atmosphere and lounging around in the café.

Look smart with a novel by Borges or Isabel Allende

The café is an ideal spot for quiet reflection with a recently-purchased book, or if you need to get some studying done. There is free wireless internet so you can read your emails in this high-ceilinged, spacious area. The décor is tasteful: large white-and-beige modern style paintings adorn the muted walls, and the furniture is a mix of antique low-slung patio chairs and sturdy wooden seats. Each table is creatively topped by a miniature cactus plant. You’ll find yourself among people happily lost in a novel, or in thought, or in their studies.

Lounging around in the Boutique del Libro cafe / bookshop

Maybe just a coffee or tea in the café: it’s better for mood than food

If you’re on a budget, it’s probably best not to come to Palermo Soho hungry, because by Argentine standards places like Boutique del Libro are overcharging for their food and drinks. The Boutique offers standard fare such as steak sandwiches, salads, baked chicken, hamburgers, and tostadas, which are grilled-cheese sandwiches (usually jamon y queso – ham and cheese). It’s got an espresso bar and alcoholic drinks.

Boutique del Libro is actually a chain in Argentina, but the Palermo location has a special air of sophistication that is worth checking out. If you are a book lover you will understand the aura that radiates from a really good bookstore. Come here just to see the place and admire the simple decoration in the café, or to get some reading material in either Spanish or English. And while you’re in the area, across the way you’ll also find a very cool store called Objetos Encontrados, full of interesting antiques, toys and other random stuff.

So, in an afternoon of strolling or shopping in Palermo Soho, it’s definitely worth your time to visit Boutique del Libro, even if just for a look or a quick coffee with some cookies. And if you are actually in the market for books, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the variety of their selection.

Cafe and bookstore life come together

Location of Boutique del Libro Bookstore and Cafe

Thames 1762, between Costa Rica & El Salvador, Palermo Soho

Sugar and Spice Cookies

June 29, 2007 by · 19 Comments 

A great sweet snack in Buenos Aires

Sugar and Spice and everything nice

Sugar and Spice makes some fantastically delicious cookies and cakes. In a cafe-happy city like Buenos Aires, coffee and pastries may begin to become monotonous, but not at Sugar and Spice. This Palermo shop has left the coffee behind and instead focused on perfecting their pastries to be some of the finest quality in the city.

It may be difficult to sample them all, but those the ones you will try are extremely tasty, and a perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee. Don’t miss their “passion for chocolate” cookies and “super chocolate” budin (cake), if you are a chocolate lover. Also a good pick are the raisin and oatmeal cookies and, from their savory range of biscuits, the copetin fugazza (a biscuit flavored like fugazza, an Italian/Argentine pizza with no cheese or sauce – just the dough with onions, olive oil and oregano). Great stuff!

Buenos Aires bloggers meet at Sugar and Spice HQ

Cookies and the Buenos Aires blog scene

Sugar and Spice has graciously hosted a Buenos Aires bloggers at the event, and as is the trend, most of them have already written about it: Nathan, Diva, Dalila and Marce, for starters. Check their posts for more descriptions of these delectable treats.

 

If you are in Buenos Aires and want to be part of the cookie inner circle, you can find these delicious treats all over the city. Sugar and Spice biscuits and cookies are available in the following fine Buenos Aires establishments (among others):

Shops

  • Sugar and Spice, Guatemala 5415, Palermo Hollywood
  • Falabella (two outlets along Florida shopping street in the city center)
  • Al queso, queso (outlets all over the city)

Cafes and Ice Cream Parlors (each with outlets all over the city)

  • Aroma cafe
  • McDonald’s McCafe
  • The Coffee Store
  • Freddo
  • Munchis

Direct Orders: Sugar and Spice Contact details

Location of Sugar and Spice

Guatemala 5415, corner Av. Juan B Justo, Palermo Hollywood

Tel: 4777 5423,  Website: http://www.sugarandspice.com.ar

Mataderos Fair

June 26, 2007 by · 11 Comments 

All the fun of the gaucho fair

Feria de Mataderos, Buenos Aires

One of the best-kept secrets in Buenos Aires is the Feria de Mataderos, a weekly event that takes place during the fall, winter and spring months (approximately March to December) on Sundays, from about 11am and into the early evening (during January to the start of March a cut-down version of the Mataderos fair is held on Saturdays nights, from 6pm). You may already know about the ferias (street fairs) in San Telmo or Recoleta, but if you want a real South American experience, come to Mataderos to see the gauchos (Argentine cowboys) and friends, who come from the countryside with their displays of horsemanship, handicrafts, live music, folk dancing, and delicious foods.

The Feria de Mataderos

The fair has an upbeat and jovial atmosphere, despite taking place in one of the poorest sectors of the capital. Mataderos, and its neighboring neighborhood of Liniers, were where cattle were traditionally brought in from around the country, slaughtered, and then shipped out as meat to other parts of the capital (in Spanish, Mataderos literally means slaughterhousesand the area is also often called Nueva Chicago, because of the cattle-killing heritage it shares with the ‘Windy City’).

For this reason there is an interesting mix of cultures: gauchos, porteños, and migrant workers from Bolivia & Paraguay. The fair represents this colorful combination of traditions, dancing and artwork.

Dancers from the La Rioja province of Argentina, at the Mataderos fair

To get to the fair from other parts of Buenos Aires is about a 45-minute-plus bus ride on one of the following colectivos (city buses): 55, 63, 80, 92, 117, 126, 141, 155, and 180. Of these, the 55 and the 92 are the ones that bring you closest; with the others you may have to walk a little bit. Just ask the bus driver to let you off at the fair (if you are following your map, with the 55 and 92 buses, the exact intersection you need to get off at is Av. Directorio and Av. Lisandro de la Torre).

Mataderos can sometimes be a bit of a rough neighborhood, so be sensible and keep an eye on your belongings – leave the Rolexes, pearl earrings, and mega-expensive cameras at home. Of course it’s fine to bring a camera and some money, but always be aware of where they are on you, and don’t flash either around carelessly (this is of course also good advice for all tourists visiting any city in the world) – especially as the fair is usually very crowded.

The crowds enjoying the Feria de Mataderos

Traditional Argentine Folk Music & Dancing

At the Mataderos fair, you can spend a few hours taking in the gaucho culture by watching the locals do folk dances known as zambas, accompanied by live musicians on a nearby outdoor stage. The zamba (not to be confused with the extremely different Brazilian samba) is a pleasure to watch. It is danced in pairs, a staged routine of flirtation in which the man and the woman dance toward each other and then quickly whirl away, waving scarves or handkerchiefs in flirtatious gestures. The dancers wear traditional Argentine costumes from the countryside, often in bright colors. My favorite part is when the men break into rhythmic step dances, which is akin to tap dancing with gaucho boots: very impressive!

With the live band playing folk music on accordions, traditional bombo legüero drums, folk guitars, and vocals, it’s a true fiesta, a street party, and people might grab you by the shoulder and laughingly try to pull you into their dancing circle. Feel free to join in!

Folkloric dancing at the Feria de Mataderos

Picking out a bargain at the fair

There are plenty of beautiful handicrafts at the fair, and in fact you might find some of the best deals in Buenos Aires here. Specialties of the Mataderos fair are leather goods, mate gourds, stone and silver jewelry, trinkets and good-luck charms molded from clay or other natural materials, key chains, wind chimes, and other fun objects that make great souvenirs or gifts. Usually the price the seller gives you is what you are expected to pay, although if your Spanish is good and you are accustomed to bargaining, you can try to get a deal for buying more than one thing. For example, if you buy five necklaces, the seller may give you five or ten percent off the price.

Market stall at the mataderos fair

If you are on the lookout for a souvenir that is purely Argentine, keep your eyes open for something known as a duendito. These are little clay figures that look like miniature garden gnomes, and you can always find them in any Argentine craft fair. The figure is supposed to radiate the spirit of the mountains and nature, and it is often wearing a big floppy hat and something like elf shoes. Some artisans make them with plaques where your name or a message like “Luck of the duendito” can be engraved to personalize your gift.

Got the Mataderos munchies?

As you walk around the Feria de Mataderos, which covers four long blocks in the streets, you may want to grab a choripan or a pancho. These staples of Argentine street cuisine are grilled sausage sandwiches and hot-dogs, respectively. The greasy treats are obscenely cheap and also not the healthiest choices, but there’s nothing quite like munching on a choripan while sitting on a bench people-watching on a Sunday afternoon.

Cooking up some delicious chorizo sausages on an Argentine grill
[Photo credit: Paul Keller]

If outdoor food, or greasy sausages for that matter, aren’t your style, then take a look at this Argentina Travel Guide blog, which has a review of an interesting place to eat in Mataderos – that is, if you like the choices on offer of empanadas, empanadas, or… empanadas! However, if you like variety and trying something new, there are many other cheap restaurants and stalls, most with outside seating, lining the fair, offering up delicious Argentine regional treats such as locro, asado, tamales, and torta frita.

See some remarkable gaucho horse riding skills

For many people, the most interesting event at the Feria de Mataderos is the Carerra de Sortija – the “Race of the Ring”. This usually starts at about 3.30pm along a stretch of the road Av. Lisandro de la Torre, and it is where gauchos race their horses at breakneck speeds towards a small ring hung onto a raised metal frame overhead. The gauchos stand up in their stirrups as they race, and try to spear the ring, which is no larger than a normal piece of jewelry, with a small pointy stick. Everytime a gaucho is successful in spearing the ring, the crowds go wild, and the gaucho is extremely happy to milk the applause for all it’s worth as he trots back on their horse through the crowd holding the ring above his head.

Mataderos Fair Information & Guides

If it rains, the Mataderos usually still goes ahead. However, on holidays, such as election days, the fair is not held. You can find up to date information at the official Feria de Mataderos website (Spanish). You can also call to ask questions: 4687-5602 (on Sundays) or 4374-9664 (Monday through Friday), but of course your Spanish will need to be pretty decent for that.

So grab your camera, friends, hostel-mates, significant others, children, or parents, and head out to the Feria de Mataderos to experience provincial Argentine culture and relaxation; this is an activity for everyone, of any age and personality. Enjoy the colorful music and dance, try some of the foods, take some great photos, marvel at the gaucho horsemanship, and don’t forget to get a souvenir to take home as a memory.

[Article by Rachel Singer]

Location of Feria de Mataderos

Av. Lisandro de la Torre & Av. de los Corrales, Mataderos

Abasto Shopping Mall

December 11, 2006 by · 6 Comments 

Grand Shopping Center in Buenos Aires

Abasto corner

The Abasto shopping center is probably the one mall in Buenos Aires that has at least something to appeal to all people, of all ages. It’s wonderful 1930s Art Deco architecture and grand size add to the experience.

As far as shopping goes, it is full of mainstream clothes stores, and it boasts over 250 brands to choose from, including major labels like Nike, Lacoste and YSL. A bit logo-happy, but the building itself quite beautiful and unique (see right). And if size matters, it is one of the largest malls in the city of Buenos Aires (along with its newer, more modern counterpart, Dot Shopping in Saavedra, and Unicenter, the biggest mall in Argentina, which is technically outside the city limits).

This area of Abasto also has played a major role in the social and tango history of Buenos Aires, and for those reasons alone it is worth a quick visit, even if you are not interested in the shops inside. And there is also a range of things to see and do inside the center, which can be found near the end of this blog post.

History of the Mercado de Abasto

Mercado de Abasto

In 1893, a market fair started in this zone, which back then would have been referred to with its official barrio name of Balvanera. This official barrio is still found on the maps, but these days it is generally split into three unofficial, but more commonly used, areas, of Abasto, Once and Congreso – all named after major landmarks in each area (the Abasto mall, Once train station, and Congress building, respectively).

By 1930 Buenos Aires needed a wholesale distribution center for its food produce, and this old marketplace couldn’t cope with the needs of a rapidly growing population, so plans were projected by the architects Delpini, Sulsio and Besque for this grand structure to be erected as a new indoor home for the wholesale food market. Building began in 1931, and el Mercado de Abasto eventually opened in 1934. It soon became the center of the noisy, busy food trade in Buenos Aires. Crowds of workers would also drink, listen to tango music and play cards in the seedy bars around the market.

Art Deco Abasto

On the structural side, it was significant as the first building in Argentina to ever use cement for both its façade and indoor finish. The original façade is still the same as ever, with its lovely five curves at the front, the central one being wider and taller than the others, as can be seen in the picture above.

The Modern Abasto ‘Shopping’

Inside Abasto shoppingThe Abasto market set the lively pace of this neighborhood until it was closed down in 1984. This was due to its position in the middle of the city, which was seen as impractical, given that all of the produce came from the countryside and it meant unnecessarily travelling through most of the busy city to bring it here. And so a new central market was instead built on the city outskirts, which is the present Mercado Central, with the Abasto building sadly left abandoned to contemplate its former glory.

However, fifteen years later, in 1999, Abasto was reborn into a shopping center (or just ‘Shopping’, as they say in Buenos Aires), as it was refurbished completely on the inside, and with additional structures at the back and side, but keeping the original beautiful Art Deco façade.

Carlos Gardel’s Old Stamping Ground

The area around Abasto also just happens to be where the most famous tango singer of all time, Carlos Gardel, lived (with his mother) for most of his life. He was so closely connected to this area, that one of his nicknames was El Morocho del Abasto, which basically means ‘the dark-haired guy from Abasto’.

Carlos Gardel in his 'hood' of Abasto

In honor of this, a nice bronze statue of the immortal tango crooner stands just outside of the Abasto building, as shown in the picture over to the right.

Also within just a few blocks distance are his former house where he lived with his mother, on Jean Jaures 735, which is now a museum about his life, a small street named after him, called Pasaje Carlos Gardel, a subway station bearing his name, a corner tango house built in an 1893 bar that ressurects his songs in razzle-dazzle Argentine tango shows each night, and even a small street called Pasaje Zelaya where Gardel’s multi-colored mug is painted on most of the walls.

Finally, just across from the side of the mall is El Progreso Bar, on Anchorena 529, which happens to be one of the few places in Buenos Aires where Carlos Gardel actually sang (among other famous tango figures such as Tita Merello), which has also been preserved in the state it would have been in when Gardel performed there.

How to get to Abasto

Getting to the Abasto mall is fairly easy, thanks to an adjoining Subte (subway) station, called estacion ‘Carlos Gardel’, on the red B Line.

Also, if you are staying in a hotel, you can ask them to call 4338 2333 to arrange you free transport to and from the shopping center, which will certainly help if you are planning on going on a big shopping spree.

Things to do for families in Buenos Aires

Big wheel in the Abasto shopping center

The Abasto shopping center also includes several activities that may help to keep families with kids entertained when on holiday in Buenos Aires, for example:

  • A 12 screen cinema, which goes by the name of ‘Hoyts’ and shows all the major American, European and Argentine release.
  • A massive food court on the top floor where you can guiltily pig out on junk fast food, if that is, like me, one of your secret pleasures. This includes a Kosher McDonald’s restaurant, as Abasto is part of the Jewish area of Buenos Aires.
  • The Museo de Los Ninos, with its massive indoor big wheel (see right) and where kids can play at being adults in a ‘city’ scaled down to child size, where they can, for example, operate cranes on a building site, run a TV studio or man the helm of a ship. Open from 1-8pm on every day, except Mondays.
  • A fairly large games/amusements arcade replete with the usual flashing lights and games machines that gobble up pocket money at a fast rate.

Buenos Aires Cinema

If you are looking for a place to go to the movies in Buenos Aires, the Hoyts cinema complex in Abasto is an excellent choice for a laid back night at the cinema. It also serves up some tasty sweet popcorn, called pochoclo in Spanish, and if you want sweet, ask for dulce, or say salado for salted.

Also, if you go to the Hoyts cinema in the Abasto mall at night, you will get to see the outside of this wonderful building at its best, when its curves are lit up after dark, to stunning effect:

Abasto mall beautifully lit up by night

And finally, if you are on a budget, the cinema offers discounts on Wednesday nights, which is the day before the big releases come out. Almost all films in Buenos Aires are shown in the original English version, with Spanish subtitles, so there will be no potential language problems.

Location of Abasto Shopping Center

Corrientes 3247 (between Aguero & Anchorena), Abasto

Open 10am to 10pm daily,  Website: http://www.abasto-shopping.com.ar/

Choose your currency:

Close
Converted prices are for reference only - all orders are charged in $ US Dollars ($) USD.
  • USDUS Dollars ($)
  • EUREuros (€)
  • GBPPounds Sterling (£)
  • AUDAustralian Dollars ($)
  • BRLBrazilian Real (R$)
  • CADCanadian Dollars ($)
  • HKDHong Kong Dollar ($)
  • NZDNew Zealand Dollar ($)
  • CHFSwiss Franc
  • ZARSouth African Rand