Photo: Fabian Schmiedlechner / EyeEm / Getty Images
With global travel on pause and almost everyone stuck at home, we know you’ve been dreaming about where you’ll go as soon as you can book that next flight. To help give you some inspiration, we’re asking our well-traveled staffers about their best trips. First up is Deputy Editor Justin Goldman, who’ll be telling us about his first visit to Buenos Aires.
1. What about the destination made this your favorite trip?
Buenos Aires is often called the Paris of South America, and it’s crazy just how accurate that label actually is. The grand apartment buildings in Recoleta look like they could’ve been built by Haussmann himself, and the vibe in general combines the best of Europe and Latin America: cafés and bars that stay open deep into the night, great coffee, even better wine, bookstores galore, amazing street art, expansive parks, and people who are fun-loving and intellectual but not entirely without sharp edges. (Just ask a cab driver about the economy … or soccer.)
2. Can you pinpoint the moment when you fell in love with the city?
My buddy Rob (who came on the trip) and I went to La Catedral, a classic milonga (tango bar). It’s in a non-touristy neighborhood and looks unremarkable from the outside, but after climbing the stairs to the second floor, you enter an expansive room that has artworks bursting from nearly every surface. The walls and ceiling feel as if they might collapse at any moment, but as disorderly as the space seems, the tango dancers are the inverse—so precise in their steps, and at the same time wonderfully fluid. Bear in mind, these aren’t professionals: They’re just regular people out for a night of dancing. I didn’t have the courage to step out on the floor myself—tango is hard!—but I found simply watching the dancers to be utterly enchanting. I’ve been to a lot of places in the world, but few can match the magical vibe of La Catedral.
3. What was your favorite tourist attraction?
The Cementerio de la Recoleta is way more than just a graveyard; with its 6,000-plus ornate tombs and mausoleums and its winding pathways, the 13.5-acre site feels like a city unto itself. While the most-visited tomb is Eva Peron’s, ironically, the famed first lady has a relatively plain burial site. (It’s worth taking a tour, or eavesdropping on one, just to hear some of the stories about what has happened to Evita’s body over the years.)
I also want to give a shoutout to a more, ahem, lively spot. Café Tortoni is a gorgeous 19th-century Parisian-style coffeehouse with stained-glass ceilings and brusque yet charismatic waiters that has long been a gathering place for Argentina’s literati (including Nobel laureate Jorge Luis Borges). There’s always a line out front, but once you’re inside, you’ll never want to leave. Rob and I stayed here for hours—long enough to make the switch from espresso to malbec.
4. What was the best meal you had on the trip?
The first thing people will ask you about is the steak—and yeah, it’s great. We ate at Parilla Don Julio (No. 34 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list), where you can watch the cuts of grass-fed beef hit the grill from your table while you sip an Argentine wine. In truth, though, my favorite item here wasn’t the signature bife de chorizo (sirloin steak), but rather the mollejas (sweetbreads), which I would give anything to be eating right now.
But while the meat in Argentina is great, I’m not a hardcore carnivore. So my favorite meal in BA was at a restaurant called i Latina, which is run by a Colombian family out of a lovely house in the newly hip neighborhood of Villa Crespo. When I went, dinner was set up as a seven-course meal, with each dish representing a different Latin American cuisine, from Peruvian ceviche to Oaxacan mole. It was fantastic.
5. Did you have any memorable nights out on the town?
Aside from La Catedral, the coolest bar I went to was Florería Atlántico, a basement speakeasy below a flower shop. The long, narrow bar is full of insanely good-looking porteños (Buenos Aires residents), and I seem to remember having a lot of very tasty G&Ts made with mate-infused gin.
But really, every night in BA was memorable. People stay out late there (even by Latin American standards), particularly in the hopping neighborhood of Palermo, where we routinely found ourselves sitting at a sidewalk table until 3 a.m., drinking wine or Quilmes (the national beer), surrounded by beautiful people. (I’ve mentioned the porteños are good-looking, yes?)
6. Did you meet any cool people?
BA has one of the best street art scenes in the world, and I took a mural tour through Palermo and Colegiales with Graffitimundo. My guide was an expat from Montreal named Myriam who gave a lot of historical perspective on the city and how the graffiti reflects the events of the last few decades. She was also just generally super-witty and charming, and she summed up the chaotic energy of BA better than I ever could when she told me: “Buenos Aires is fantastic because it lets you take part in everything. If you want to take a juggling class at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday, you can find that class.”
7. Did you bring back any neat keepsakes?
I went to El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a stunning multilevel bookstore in an old theater with frescoes on the ceilings, and bought a novel by legendary Argentine writer Julio Cortázar (although I’ll never actually read it, because my Spanish just ain’t gonna get there). I also brought home a nice leather wallet, which is in my pocket right now, and a couple of bottles of malbec, which I’ve long since consumed.
8. What’s the first thing you’ll do when you go back?
My biggest regret from that trip is that I didn’t go to a soccer game. In particular, I want to see a Boca Juniors match at La Bombonera, a storied old stadium in the colorful historic neighborhood of La Boca, the birthplace of tango. Boca Juniors is one of the most popular teams in Argentina (Diego Maradona, or “God,” as he’s known here, played for the team), and the raucous fans at La Bombonera have made attending a game here a bucket list item for sports fans around the world. I’m dying to go.