Creative Coordinates: Buenos Aires
For the latest installment of Creative Coordinates, our series that charts the world’s creative hotspots, we asked noted travel writer Jedidiah Jenkins to scope out the Argentinian capital for us. Read on to experience Jedidiah’s Buenos Aires and listen to his exclusive playlist inspired by the city.
I found my way to Buenos Aires by bus from Mendoza. I was nearing the end of a sixteen month bicycle trip from Oregon to Patagonia. I had slept in ditches and barns and hostels for months. I was craving a big city. I was craving civilization. South America is a diverse hive of history and varying levels of development. Bolivia’s economy and infrastructure are minimal and rugged. But Argentina was a different story. The moment I crossed the border I felt the familiarity of an advanced economy. I hadn’t seen a well built house for thousands of miles. Suddenly I was seeing beautiful homes and yards. And I had heard from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, that Buenos Aires was the New York, Paris, London and Los Angeles of South America. It was out of my way, but I needed to see it. I would bike through Mendoza, explore the vineyards a bit, and then leave my bike there. I would bus ten hours across the middle of Argentina and spend a few weeks in BA.
The long-distance buses in Argentina are wonderful. They aren’t like Greyhounds here in the US. These buses have meals, fully reclining seats, eye masks and wine. The new ones have personal TVs. It’s remarkable.
I arrived in Buenos Aires early in the morning and fell in love with it quickly. The buildings are astonishingly European. It reminded me of Madrid or Paris immediately. The cafes and bars were in ancient stone buildings. The waterfront had brand new glass skyscrapers. The new Google headquarters was right on the water in a sprawling refurbished old brick building. The subway was easy to understand and the cabs were cheap and fast. There had been a recent slew of muggings in the news, so I was careful to look local and confident. I never had a problem, but I was alert and aware.
I immediately went to meet a friend who lived there. She is cool and smart and opinionated. It helps to have one of these in any city you visit. She had an itinerary of bars, restaurants, music venues, and historical sites to see. Her list is so extraordinary, I wanted to share it with you guys.
Side note: Buenos Aires is a dynamic city that mixes history with fast-paced change. Some of these recommendations are new and could be gone soon. Some are older than the United States. So… double check these things before you go.
Shop — The Sunday Flea Market in San Telmo It’s old stuff, trinkets, antiques, art, and weird things. It’s block after block of treasures. The area is the oldest part of town and the streets are narrow and it feels like old Spain. Cafes are everywhere and you can get lost easily, in the best way.
Tango — La Esquina de Homero Manzi You want to go see a Tango show. You’ll feel transported to another time. The sense of rich culture, music, and beauty will knock your socks off.
Coffee — El Banderin Cafe This is where you want to get coffee in the morning. It’s mostly old guys reading the newspaper. You’ll feel impossibly local.
Eat and Drink — La Florería Atlántico: Arroyo 872 Best gin and tonic and octopus. It’s a speakeasy restaurant hidden beneath a flower shop. You walk into the shop and the woman will let you in through the doors of the flower freezer. Suddenly you go down a spiral staircase into a brick basement.
Art — El Gato Viejo This place is fascinating. It almost looks like a junkyard. Owned by a painter and sculptor with a pot belly, he turned his art studio into a restaurant. It’s dark inside. You’re surrounded by metal art. The wine is amazing. The food is ok. And the ambiance is impossible to beat.
Sights — La Recoleta Cemetery A giant maze of above ground graves. Beautiful, haunted, old, and huge. It’s a must-see.