Meat & Malbec: A Day in Buenos Aires

by Chris on April 11, 2011

What to do in Buenos Aires, if you have just a day? I managed to visit the San Telmo antique market, have lunch in Palermo Soho and see Eva Peron’s grave at La Recoleta Cemetery.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

My trip to Argentina can only be described as whirlwind. With only 3 1/2 days on the ground, I saw as much as I could – and that included an action-packed day in Buenos Aires.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

When time is short, it helps to have a good guide. Luckily, my traveling companion Nicole Rodriguez (cousin to John DiScala, of JohnnyJet fame) had made plans to meet up with Amy Scott, founder of Nomad Editorial Services. Amy has been living in BA since 2007, so she knows all the neighborhoods and things to do in Buenos Aires when your time is limited.

Prune Argentina

Our first stop in BA was the Prune store in the posh Recoleta neighborhood. I had seen so many Argentine women carrying gorgeous leather purses at the Park Hyatt Masters of Food & Wine Festival that I knew I needed to have one. The store was just down the street from the BA Park Hyatt, where we dropped our bags for the day.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

Amy caught us a cab, and we headed to San Telmo, BA’s oldest neighborhood. With cobblestone streets and colonial buildings, San Telmo had been a haven for the wealthy in the 1800s, until a yellow fever epidemic in 1871 drove the rich out.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

Immigrants turned San Telmo into the most multi-cultural neighborhood in BA. Artists returned in the 1950s and now it’s a main tourist attraction for Buenos Aires visitors.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

San Telmo is also home to the Feria de San Telmo, an antique fair that takes place every Sunday.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

Held in the Plaza Dorrego, the fair has more than 270 stalls filled with books, jewelry, vintage clothing, and antique bottles and glass. Bargaining is highly encouraged, but don’t expect to always get your way (as with any crowded market area, keep your eye on your purse or wallet, as pickpockets can be quicker than you think).

Things to do in Buenos Aires

From the Plaza, we walked down Calle Defensa, the main artery of San Telmo. Lined with colonial buildings, Defensa bustles on Sundays, with vendors selling bracelets, jewelry and handicrafts on the street and people going in and out of antique and modern furniture boutiques.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

One thing I noticed around BA: The graffiti seems out of control. In some areas, it seems to fulfill an artistic purpose.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

But on too many buildings, the scrawling distracted from the beauty of the architecture.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

I wanted to sample some of Argentina’s famed empanadas, stuffed pastries full of meat and cheese, while I was in the country. Luckily, vendors on the street had some to sell. One empanada cost the equivalent of 25 cents US.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

From San Telmo, we took a cab to Palermo Soho, a part of the city that’s filled with trendy restaurants, bars and boutiques.

Things to do in Buenos Aires

We stopped in a cafe on the corner of Plaza Serrano for a bite to eat. When we arrived around 2 p.m., the place was empty, but as we ate, the balcony filled up. Argentineans keep notoriously late hours, and lunch usually runs from 1 to 3  (which makes sense when you realize that no one in Argentina eats dinner before 10 p.m.)

What to do in Buenos Aires

With time running out, Nicole and I cabbed it back to Recoleta, but not before doing a little last-minute shopping in Plaza Serrano. With the Argentine peso trading at around 4 to $1, the country still has deals if you’re looking for crafts or artwork.

What to do in Buenos Aires

If you’re a fan of gorgeous Gothic cemeteries (and I am), then La Recoleta Cemetery is a must-do. The first public cemetery in Buenos Aires, La Recoleta is the final resting place for many of Buenos Aires’ wealthiest and most famous families, including that of Eva Peron, the inspiration for Evita.

What to do in Buenos Aires

Many of the tombs have fallen into disrepair and are filled with trash and broken glass. Others are covered in creepy cobwebs. I could have spent several hours walking through the long rows (for those who have time to do so, here’s a good online guide to La Recoleta).

What to do in Buenos Aires

The rows aren’t marked, so it took us a while to find Eva Peron’s grave. The strange story behind her burial befits her life lived large; it took 26 years for her body to reach its resting place, as military leaders confiscated her corpse after her death in 1952 because they were afraid that the opposition would use the body as a rallying tool.

What to do in Buenos Aires

Buried first under an assumed name in Italy and later kept in her husband Juan Peron’s villa in Spain (where he apparently kept it as a shrine, with his third wife combing the corpse’s hair daily), Eva Peron came back to Argentina in 1976. The military eventually buried her in the Duarte family tomb under three plates of steel, in a vault designed to thwart burglary and grave-robbers, with only one key.

What to do in Buenos Aires

Admirers from around the world continue to leave flowers and notes for Evita.

What to do in Buenos Aires

Checking out La Recoleta Cemetery proved to be the perfect cap in our 10-hour BA tour. I know I didn’t see a fraction of Buenos Aires’ sights, nor did I experience the city’s famed nightlife. I can’t wait to return to continue exploring.

Thanks to Park Hyatt Masters of Food & Wine, which sponsored this trip.

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea April 11, 2011 at 7:03 am

Love these pics! It’s a shame you didn’t have more time but looks like you saw quite a bit anyway. I love that handbags were a priority =)

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Chris April 11, 2011 at 7:17 am

@Andrea – Yep, we had to get the bags out of the way first! :) It was a whirlwind day, but I know I missed a lot. Would love to go back and explore more of Argentina. There’s just so much to see.

@Johnny – Nicole is great! Hope to see her again on my travels.

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Johnny Jet April 11, 2011 at 7:14 am

Thanks for the plug and glad you had fun with Nicole!

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Amy April 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

Hey Chris, thanks for the mention! It was great to meet you and Nicole, and I had a lot of fun being your guide for the day.

Just one quick editorial note: most locals actually eat lunch around 1 p.m., and many restaurants are only open for lunch from about noon to 3 p.m., so if visitors wait until 3, they might miss lunch! Some cafés are open all day as a backup, though might serve a limited menu outside of standard meal times; the other restaurants open again for dinner around 8 or 9 p.m. The trick to not passing out sometime between your 1 p.m. lunch and 10 p.m. (or later) dinner: merienda between roughly 4 and 6 p.m., either at home or at work or a café. It’s similar to English teatime, with sweet or savory snacks and coffee, tea, or yerba mate.

Let me know when you make it down this way again! :)

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Chris April 11, 2011 at 10:24 am

@Amy – Thanks for the clarification! I updated the story with the correct info.

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Kent @ NVR April 12, 2011 at 3:59 am

Wow, Chris – what a day. Looks like you had an ideal itinerary. As you know, something about BA speaks to us (loudly!). We’ve lived in three different apartments – all in Palermo – during our long-ish visits to the city. The warmth and ease of the city is captivating.

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Chris April 17, 2011 at 9:58 am

@Kent – I’ll need to talk to you guys further before (when?) I go back. While I liked BA and want to explore more, I wasn’t as drawn to it as I was to Lima, where I also spent a day earlier this year.

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