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Like every major city, Buenos Aires is split into different areas, each with a distinct character. Here is a guide to the ones we managed to visit during our time there.
I lived in Palermo for six weeks while in Buenos Aires and barely left the area. I was aware I was living in a bit of a bubble but it suited my schedule of working, yoga and Spanish lessons. Most importantly for me, as I was alone, it’s one of BA’s safest areas. The streets are lined with trees and street art, and filled with trendy and creative cafes, bars, restaurants and pretty boutiques. There are few chains so everything is charmingly independent.
Peaceful by day, the barrio wakes up at night when bars are open until daybreak. As a backpacker with no space and limited funds, I avoided the shops, but if you’re looking for clothes then Palermo, and particularly Palermo Soho, is full of stylish and interesting shops that seem to have an endless selection of good boots. Palermo is BA’s biggest barrio and is split into smaller areas. The main hub is Palermo Viejo, which is made up of Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood where I lived. A lot of people are put off Palermo because of its tourists but I was living with a local so I didn’t notice that so much.
Villa Crespo borders Palermo and feels like a quieter, and cooler, version of its neighbour filled with locals rather than tourists. We enjoyed visiting some restaurants there including Armenian Sarkis and a hidden bar, 878 (pictured above) on the same road (Thames).
We spent some time in Boedo living with a couchsurfer friend. This sleepy residential neighbourhood is said to be the true home of tango and we were pleased to catch some music at a lovely local restaurant called Pan y Teatro. It was a great experience to see BA life off the beaten tourist trail. There’s a particularly nice area around Boedo street where a cluster of restaurants with outdoor seating create a lively, convivial atmosphere.
Bohemian San Telmo is a charming barrio with crumbling colonial architecture and plenty of cosy cafés, restaurants and bars. We would have quite liked to live there but were put off by more than one person warning us that is was dangerous at night. As I was to be in BA for five weeks by myself, I chose to live in Palermo instead. San Telmo is most famous for its Sunday Market, which, although touristy, is still fun and full of beautiful products. San Telmo is also the home of one of our favourite puerta cerradas – Jueves a la Mesa.
Recoleta, after Palermo, is another popular spot for foreigners to live. It’s an attractive, leafy area with tall, balconied buildings home to monied Porteños. It’s also the location of Recoleta Cemetery, one of the most elaborate homages to the dead we have ever seen – it’s certainly worth a visit.
We don’t normally succumb to ‘must-sees’ but people kept telling us to go to La Boca so in the end we did. When people tell you to go there, they will likely be talking about Caminito, a small enclave that has been preserved to look like old-time Buenos Aires, with colourful houses and people dancing the tango. Unfortunately, it’s so artificial that it’s one of those rare places that seeing a photo is just as good as seeing the real thing. Caminito is surrounded by the working class La Boca barrio, which we were repeatedly warned is dangerous to walk around. For that reason, we only saw Caminito and a few streets around it. We wouldn’t recommend it unless you simply want to say you were there, or if you are visiting the nearby Boca Juniors stadium.
Other Buenos Aires barrios
This is by no means an exhaustive list of Buenos Aire’s barrios – in fact there are officially 48 – but it’s what we had the time, energy and inclination to see during our time there. Now comes the time where you tell us all that we missed! There’s always next time…