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Buenos Aires: Insider Advice

Where to stay and what to do in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A San Telmo courtyard market.
PHOTO: Francesco Lagnese
By Carolyn Whelan

Telephone numbers below, except for toll-free numbers, should be preceded by 011-54-11 when dialed from the United States.

When to Go

Buenos Aires is at its loveliest in spring (September through November), when its jacaranda trees are in bloom, and in autumn (March through May), when the weather is warm and languid. The city clears out somewhat in summer (December through February), when porteños head to coastal and mountain resorts.

Prices

With the exception of its luxury hotels, which run almost as much as their U.S. counterparts (about $300 a night and up), B.A. is still a relative bargain. A meal at a good restaurant, with wine and dessert, will set you back roughly $25 a person, and one at a top restaurant up to triple that amount. Taxis are inexpensive.

Safety

Crime in B.A. is down, but as in all big cities, especially those with large disparities in their residents' incomes, random purse snatching and pickpocketing do occur, particularly in tourist spots. Even if you're staying at the finest hotel in tony Recoleta, it's a good idea to carry just one credit card and smaller bills for cabs and to stow valuables, including jewelry, in the hotel safe. When leaving restaurants, have the front desk call ahead for safer radio taxis, and when on the street look for trusted names, like Premium (011-54-11-5238-0000). Ask at your hotel for names of other recommended taxi companies.

Lay of the Land

Many of Buenos Aires's low-rise barrios are minutes from the city's center, 9 de Julio Boulevard, which runs parallel to the port area, on the Plata river. In the east is the historic Plaza de Mayo and its Casa Rosada, the palace where the president's office is located. To the southwest is Congreso, an Italianate neighborhood whose Champs-Élysées-inspired Avenida de Mayo is lined with ornate cafés and old hotels. To the southeast are vibrant La Boca and San Telmo. The most fashionable parts of the city are clustered in the northwest, in Recoleta and Palermo, with the hippest quarter, Palermo Viejo, just beyond them. Recoleta and Palermo offer sumptuous hotels, parks and excellent shopping, and Palermo Viejo is notable for its lively boutiques, restaurants and nightlife.

What to Do

Buenos Aires is best seen on foot, and by cab when traveling between neighborhoods. (The ride from Recoleta to Palermo Viejo takes ten or fifteen minutes, as does that from Recoleta to Puerto Madero, the redeveloping waterfront area.) Don't miss the Recoleta cemetery, whose elaborate tombs make it the city's most famous site (1790 Calle Junín; 4803-1594); the Bellas Artes museum (1473 Avda. del Libertador; 4803-0802; mnba.org.ar); the MALBA museum of modern art (3415 Figueroa Alcorta; 4848-6500); and the Teatro Colón, the renowned opera house (621 Libertad; 4378-7344).

Leave time to explore weekend markets in Palermo's Plaza Cortazar and San Telmo's Plaza Dorrego, where you'll also find street performers and antiques stalls. Especially in the bohemian barrio of San Telmo, antiques shops, artisans' markets and cafés are constantly popping up amid the tenements and neoclassical churches with their crumbling, beautiful façades.

Published on 11/1/2006
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