This city is really hot. Incredible food, fresh young designers, and a cultural scene that’s thriving—all these Buenos Aires has. Here, a flirtatious glance can be as passionate as a tango; a heated sports discussion as important as a world-class soccer match. Its this zest for life that’s making Buenos Aires Latin America’s hottest destination.
The term el centro is confusing: although people tend to say “Voy al centro” or “Trabajo en el centro” (without the capitals), meaning “I’m going downtown” or “I work downtown,” they’re using the term generally. The official barrio names of the downtown area are San Nicolás and Monserrat, though few people use these either. Suffice to say that “el centro” is really an umbrella term to cover several action-packed districts at the city’s heart. In it are theaters, bars, cafés, bookstores, and the crowded streets you’d expect to find in any major city center.
The vibrant working-class neighborhood of La Boca, just south of San Telmo, served as the first port of Buenos Aires. Many who settled here were immigrants from Genoa, Italy, and the district retains much of its Italian heritage although time as a tourist center is taking its toll on La Boca’s authenticity. You can still enjoy inexpensive Italian fare in a cantina along Avenida Patricios.
Palermo and Las Cañitas
Palermo not only has the honor of being the largest barrio, but also the one with the most subneighborhoods. The city’s gastronomic, design, and shopping scenes revolve around its districts, and families flock to its parks on weekends to picnic, sunbathe, bicycle, and jog. The polo field and hippodrome also make Palermo the city’s nerve center for equestrian activities.
The newest barrio has a view of the sprouting skyline on one side and the exclusive yacht club on the other. Once an abandoned port area, its multimillion dollar facelift imitated that of London’s Docklands. Its main draw is a chic riverside promenade, which has become the place to go for a casual stroll, elegant dining, and nightlife.
This neighborhood to the east of El Centro has seen it all. It was settled in the 1700s by the Franciscan Recoleto friars. The needs of the spirit eventually gave way to those of the flesh, and the neighborhood became home to brothels and tango halls. In the late 1800s, the elite swarmed here to escape yellow fever, and the district remains upscale and European in style. People-watching at sidewalk bars and cafés here is an art.
Highlights of bohemian San Telmo include Sunday strolls, antiques shopping at Feria de San Pedro and surrounding stores, and the tango halls that come to life nightly. Cobblestone streets teem with 19th-century buildings, once inhabited by affluent Spaniards. Thanks to preservation efforts, the area is now a cradle of history and culture, and all its landmarks have been declared national monuments.