Welcome to South America. This was our first time on this continent so we were all super excited. First stop was Buenos Aires, Argentina, the home of amazing steak, great wine and tango!
We originally had planned to stay here for a week and then move on to other parts of the country. However, since its Autumn here, the weather was quite horrendous for the first few days so we decided to extend our stay so we could see more things. But let’s be honest, the real reason why they extended their stay was because of the steaks. They are the best steaks ever and the prices are very reasonable. It was also nice to manage to see a lot of things but not be too rushed either as we were pretty tired from the constant moving.
La Recoleta Cemetery
One of the main tourist destinations is the cemetery in the affluent neighbourhood of Recoleta. Here, you can find many mausoleums dedicated to the wealthier residents of BA including politicians, sports personalities and the former first lady, Eva Perón. In total, there are 4491 vaults.
It did seem odd that a crematorium would be a highlight, but it was very interesting. The vaults varied in size so the number of caskets one could hold would also differ. The biggest plot can hold up to 60 coffins. Some choose to make use of the space and have urns whilst others may have a bit of both. Traditionally, people had to be buried as followers of Catholicism but that has changed with the times.
As you walk round, you can see that some are very well maintained whilst others have been completely abandoned. There are still some plots available as the younger generations may not want to/can’t afford to keep using these sites. If people want to see their area of land, then they must get rid of the bodies before it can be sold. The costs vary, depending on the size, but the most expensive can be up to 150,000 USD.
The headstones and décor are extremely lavish and the attention to detail is highly impressive. Many styles are based on Catholicism, so there are many statues of angels, cherubs, and other religious artifacts. One grave was even a replica of a church with an altar, prayer table, crucifix etc.
One of my favorite burials is the husband and wife who stopped speaking to each other when they were married, which continued into their afterlife. As they were a wealthy family, they had help at home so they workers would communicate with the couple. Although the couple have been buried at the same site, the statues of them are facing the other way to represent their feelings of each other when they were alive.
The most famous memorial (for tourists) is probably Eva Perón. After a rough few years, her body was finally returned to BA and her family laid her to rest in Recoleta. This is rather ironic as, during her time as First Lady, she spent a lot of it helping the poorer members of society, yet has been buried amongst the elite.
Speaking of the first lady, there is a museum dedicated to her in the central area. It’s not overly big but it’s a collection of memorabilia, photos and other sentimental belongings. We didn’t have to pay to get in and it’s worth popping in if you have time. Everything is labelled in Spanish but you are given a leaflet in English with some information to inform as you walk around.
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
We decided to be somewhat cultured for a day (plus it was raining) so we visited the art gallery. BA is full of galleries and museums so we decided to pick the closest one! For art lovers/appreciators this is probably too small, but we enjoyed it. It had 3 floors and displays art from many different periods as including painings, scultptures, statues and modern art.
Historical City Walking Tour
Before coming to BA, we didn’t know much about the country other than steak and the war against the Brits over the Falklands. We decided to embark on a city tour to help us get a better idea of the city. We went with Strawberry Fields (which is free, but 10% of donations go to charity). Our guide, Marianna was very good and we were the only people on the tour. We visited Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires in Plaza De Mayo. This is the main Catholic church in BA and the home church of Pope Francis. It is a very pleasant building and worth wandering inside. In the church, there is also a mausoleum for General Saint Martín, the leader who fought for South America’s independence against the Spanish.
The most interesting part of the walk is understanding the different architecture here and how this has formed as part of its history. BA is known as the ‘Paris of South America’.
A working-class neighbourhood situated on the harbor and home to many immigrants stemming from Europe, predominantly Italy. As this was deemed a ‘working-class’ area, the BA government did not use to support the people who lived here. As a result, the community came together to help themselves and even had their own firefighters. Nowadays, it is still regarded as a poor neighbourhood and tourists should only really visit during the daytime. We visited with another walking tour; Free Walks. Despite the name, the tour costs a little (200 ARS = £5). Our guide Santiago was very good. He explained everything in detail and was also very entertaining. We learnt about immigration, the birth of tango and the tour ended at the Boca Juniors stadium, which is home to Diego Maradona and Carlos Tevez.
Alongside the colorful and vibrant streets, there are many walls filled with street art. Quinqula Martín helped develop La Boca to be the bright area it is today. In order to keep the authenticity, only those from this area are allowed to add to the street art. The most striking street art is the tribute to ‘the mothers of Plaza de Mayo’. Between 1976-1983 many people went ‘missing’ during the country’s dictatorship. Not only did the mothers of the missing children fight to know the answer, they also drew attention to the violation of human rights across the world. Many of the missing children were also pregnant/had young babies at the time. Subsequently, these babies were adopted and people born in this period were told to get a DNA test to check if they were with their biological parents. To this day, only 25% have been found. The grandmothers/mothers still march every Thursday at Plaza De Mayo (outside the president’s house). The white headscarf depicts the mother and the diaper to represent their children and can be seen randomly on the streets.
Palermo Graffiti Tour
A very hipster and trendy neighbourhood in BA is Palermo. Here you will find cobbled streets and many different types of graffiti. Art is a huge part of BA and many people (especially commercial properties) request artists to graffiti their buildings. As it is such a common phenomenon here, people say it is better to have your building graffitied (with your commission) otherwise people would do it anyway!
*Notorious BIG and Tupac are in San Telmo, not Palermo.
So the main reason why we decided to go to BA and why we stayed for so long was for steak. It did not disappoint!
Probably the best we had in BA but it was also on the pricier end. The meat was super tender, well marinated and melted in your mouth. Bookings are essential as it does get packed all the time, even lunch times!
One of our favorites is El Mirasol. It’s also a chain so there are quite a few darted around the city. It’s very similar to Don Julio (but just falls short on the steak side). However, the overall dining experience is much nicer (desserts and price wise).
Another of our regular haunts. The steak was lovely but sometimes it was a little overcooked. When it was done correctly, it was superb. This was probably the cheapest out of all the ones we went to (including wine/beer/dessert).
After doubling our body weight, we thought it was best to leave BA before we triple it. We were originally going to fly to Brazil, Colombia and then Peru but the cost of all the flights were pretty expensive. It’s been a while since we had some social interaction too, so we decided to join a tour company; Intrepid. They essentially run trips continuously and people join/drop out at different stages.
Our trip took 10 days from BA, Uruguay, Iguazu Falls (both sides) and ended up in Rio. We met everyone on the first night in BA and the next morning we set off for Colonia in Uruguay!
Join me next time over the border!