Six Things to Do in Buenos Aires, By Day Or By Night

Argentina, Dispatches from the Road — By on September 10, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Lost Girl Leah Moushey recently took off on a seven-month trip to South America, taking her to a different hemisphere, WAY out of her travel comfort zone. She set up shop for a month in Cuenca, Ecuador, where she dived head first into a Spanish language immersion program and discovered the ins and outs of Ecuadorian culture while living with a family. Now,  she’s setting up roots in Santiago, Chile where she’s living with a family for five months — and traveling around the continent as much as possible. Jealous yet? We sure are!

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By Leah Moushey

I’ve always dreamed of visiting Buenos Aires.  I set the bar high, but after getting a taste of this thriving cultural hub, I was certainly not disappointed. Whether it’s day or night, rain or shine (I battled rain for much of my trip), there’s always action in bustling Buenos Aires. The city truly offers enough to keep visitors busy for years, but if like me you only have a few days to spare, check out some of my favorite hot spots that will be sure to have you (legitimately) crying for Argentina when you leave.

Evita’s Grave at Cementario Recoleta

Whether you’ve studied the extensive political history of Argentina or are just aware that Madonna kicked butt in the ‘96 filmEvita's grave Evita, it’s probably fair to say that most of us know a little something about Eva Peron, one of the most striking political figures of the 20th century. Eva or Evita was the wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron, the man who introduced the Peronism political movement to Argentina in the 1940s.  Evita, who was born into a lower middle class family, never forgot her roots and dedicated much of her short life to fighting for the rights of the working class. Due to some questionable tax dollar spending, her tremendous social class leap, and her altogether diva-like persona, Evita lived a very public and often controversial life until she died of cancer at age 31. For many, she was a powerful voice for the working class, so it’s interesting that she is now buried in El Cementerio Recoleta, plopped within the city limits of Buenos Aires in a district called Recoleta, among the same aristocrats whom she spent much of her life combating.

The day I visited the site, despite the fact that it was rainy and that she died more than 50 years ago, there were fresh flowers placed on Evita’s grave that demonstrated the resilient sense of adoration toward her. Even if politics are not your cup of tea, Cementario Recoleta is worth checking out for its rows of cobblestone paths lined with granite and marble mausoleums that make you feel as though you could be wandering the streets of Rome.

MALBA

For anyone even mildly interested in art, El Mueso de Arte de Buenos Aires (MALBA) is definitely worth the visit. The state-of-the-art, design (an entire side of the building is covered by glass prisms) of this limestone building is just as much of a spectacle as many of the works found within it. Visitors don’t need to go much further than the first floor to see works by world -amous Latin American artists such as Diego Rivera’s “Retrato de Ramón Gómez de la Serna o Retrato de don Ramón Gómez de la Serna,” in which he incorporates a mixture of cubism and more traditional styles to create a paradoxical message. Also take a look at Fernando Botero’s overweight subjects in “Los Viudos” and Antonio Berni’s use of cartoon-like images to depict the political struggles of Buenos Aires in the 20th century.

I was personally happy to see photography pieces by Andy Warhol (and to learn that MALBA recently hosted a large Warhol exhibit), as he is one of my favorite artists and hails from my hometown of Pittsburgh. Although it is easy to be awed by every piece in MALBA’s collection, my two favorites were Freida Kahlo’s “Autoretrato con Chango y Loro” (which means Self-Portrait with Monkey and Parrot) and “La Mañana Verde” (The Green Morning) by Wifredo Lam because both utilized colors that pop off the canvas — in very different ways — to combine a sense of magic mixed with reality. While the amount of time that a person spends in a museum usually is dependent on how detail oriented he or she is, I would allot at least three hours to cover the basics. Also note that students enter for free on Tuesdays, and check out the museum’s website for hours and prices.

Plaza de Mayo

One of my favorite aspects of Buenos Aires is the conspicuous political presence  — think loads of loud political T-shirts and frequent protests that can be seen everywhere from shopping malls to the streets. Even if you could care less about politics, I suggest stopping by the Plaza de Mayo, which is the political heart of Buenos Aires. Several important political buildings surround the plaza, including La Casa Rosa or “The Pink House,” where the president works (and used to live). Perhaps even more interesting than what surrounds the Plaza is the action that happens within it. Because the last military dictatorship only lost power in 1983, for most Argentines dictatorships are not only learned in history class but a standout part of their pasts. Therefore, most residents are passionate about making sure the recent dictatorship — a time know as the “Dirty War” because more than 30,000 people disappeared —  is not forgotten.  One of the most famous activist groups in Argentina (and throughout the world) are the “Madres de La Plaza de Mayo.” Every Thursday afternoon these women march around the plaza wearing white scarves with the names of their children embroidered on them. They do this to protest the loss of their children and loved ones during what is called the “Dirty War.” Their purpose, along with making sure the losses of their loved ones are not forgotten, is to help further women’s rights in what used to be, and in many ways still is, a very patriarchal society. That’s why the plaza is so interesting — it’s one thing to read about foreign politics, but to gain a real sense of people and their passions firsthand is much more riveting.

Le Bar

Le Bar is as cool as it gets in Buenos Aires. With a gorgeous façade that looks like a Victorian era row house, Le Bar is a great place to experience the true vibe of Buenos Aires. Le Bar’s several floors and bars allow easy access to a plethora of amazing drinks, fresh-squeezed daiquiris and potent cocktails as well as great bites like homemade pita chips (rare in South America!). I’m not one to order girly drinks, but after tasting my friend’s Mora Daquiri, made from a common fruit in South America that tastes like a bitter raspberry, I wanted to bathe in it — I could tell the drink was blended freshly, without all those nasty preservatives we pour into our frothy cocktails. I also recommend Fernet, a customary liquor in Argentina that is similar in taste but slightly more bitter than Captain Morgan, mixed with Coca-Cola or as a shot followed by ginger ale. One of the best perks about Le Bar is that it feels like an ultra chic lounge in New York’s Meat Packing district, but it has pretty affordable drinks – a sizeable cauldron of wine costs just $5. Le Bar also boasts a rooftop terrace complete with bean bag chairs and murals that are great for taking a break from the live music (I saw what seemed to be an Argentina Hip Hop band, but reggaeton and tango are also the norm) and finding your inner Zen in the midst of this bustling city.

Siga La Vaca

If you’re looking for a place to taste world-famous Argentine beef without emptying your wallet, look no further than Siga La Vaca.  The name translates to “Follow the Cow,” and after my dinner there, I certainly know why. After paying a little less than $20, I received my own bottle of wine (other options are a pitcher of beer or a liter of soda) and then I was let loose to attack the two gigantic salad bars. Although these salad bars include the standard veggie fare, don’t be fooled. The bars also boast gourmet side dishes like marinated eggplant, several different platters of unique cheeses, and perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes. True meat lovers should head right to the grill to stack plates with as much meat as their hearts desire. The steak was very good  — it might not have been on a Ruth Chris’s Steakhouse level, but for a hungry college student, who cares — and I was sold on the two different varieties of chorizo sausage. Just when I thought the button was going to pop off of my jeans (I’d suggest an elastic waistband), our super friendly waiter asked us to select one of the many delicious desserts. The chocolate mousse was heavenly and without hesitation, I managed to force down the entire bowl. If you’re in Buenos Aires, head to Siga La Vaca. You will leave overly satisfied, and you won’t spend a boatload.

La Cholita
Rodriguez Peña 1165

If you want to experience the true flavor of Buenos Aires, don’t miss the locally renowned restaurant La Cholita. I stumbled upon this gem when I wanted to find a place to try yerba mate, a customary herbal drink found in many South American countries that’s slightly reminiscent of green tea. What a lucky find! A friend and I had no problems snagging a table at this cozy, lively establishment around 7:30pm. By 9pm, the place was packed (and had a line out the door) with locals seeking the laid-back atmosphere, the friendly service ,and the steaming hot, flavorful dishes. At La Cholita, the cuisine is considered parilla, or from the grill, and chefs cook everything from steaks to empanadas to pizzas packed with eclectic toppings. The meat looked worth a taste, but the selection of sides steals the show. Sample more than two dozen types of empanadas stuffed with anything from chicken to butternut squash, or split the massive picar platter full of meats, cheeses, olives and other antipasti selections. For around $4,  order the Pinguino, a Penguin-shaped pitcher full of red wine. With low prices and good quality, La Cholita is one of the best-kept secrets in Buenos Aires.

    2 Comments

  • Timothy says:

    Great picks! I made it to four of these six when I was there, though I think I chowed down in enough steakhouses to get a close enough experience to Siga La Vaca. Definitely one of the finest cities in the world for food if you’re a carnivore.