We just spent a wonderful 10 days in BA & nearby Uruguay. We’re a couple in our early 60s and travelled with our daughter & son-in-law in their late 20s, all of us from NYC. We found BA to be very appealing and atmospheric, with abundant cultural attractions, a vibrant dining scene, easy to get around by taxi (super cheap by NYC standards), and a friendly vibe. We felt very safe but didn’t go off the beaten path. It was helpful that one of us spoke basic Spanish, but we felt we could have navigated without it. Would go again in a heartbeat to BA and recommend it very highly! Our info and tips are below.
ARRIVAL: Our pre-arranged mini-van driver met us outside customs and the trip into the city took about 45 mins, w the cost 350 AR pesos (we paid w/ US$)--this was over-priced but worth the convenience.
RENTAL AGENCY: We got an apartment through Oasis Collections, which I picked (with no prior connection) because their website offerings seemed the best available; they have a “Clubhouse” with pool & bar available to guests; and they offer a free concierge service (which was extremely helpful). Oasis made all our BA dinner reservations; got our Boquebus tickets; arranged our car to/from airport; ordered & had snacks/beverages delivered to the apt for our arrival; and provided a short but valuable guide to the city. An Oasis rep met us at the apt for the quick check-in/check-out, and we could not have been more satisfied with the service across the board.
APARTMENT: We rented a 3 BR/3 bath apt (“La Isla”) on Gelly y Obes in the La Isla section of Recoleta. Because we rented it for the week it was $250 a night (as opposed to $350) – to us a bargain for the apt, which was in a beautiful building, in very good condition (a few loose door knobs etc) and very well-decorated; had excellent wireless and A/C, 3 large TVs, well-stocked kitchen, W/D, and small patio; and was very comfortable for 2 couples. (We were surprised that the “dryer” was a large “heating closet” with bars to hang clothes on!) We loved the location because it was an extremely nice, quiet residential street, but was 1 block from groceries, drug store, patisserie, etc., and felt very well-located, with the Centro in one direction and Palermo Soho in the other, plus was walking distance from the Cemetery, park and a few museums. I gave Oasis my credit card info for the $1000 security deposit but was never charged.
MONEY EXCHANGE: We used a private contact who came to our apt on our arrival (I can provide the info by private email). The exchange rate was 11 pesos to the US$ -- lower than the cambios, but we liked getting it done immediately, in private, and without taking big sums out of the apt. We paid for the BA apt by US$ wire transfer, and used AR pesos and US$ in Uruguay.
TOURING: We brought guidebooks that we consulted on the trot, but in retrospect I think a private guide for the main historic sites would have been more relaxed and informative. We had to spend some time working remotely, so our touring was on the “light” side. Also, for us, going to a quiet resort in Uruguay for 3 of the 10 days was a great complement to the city experience.
--Day 1: Arrived at the apt at 2 pm, so just explored the nearby neighborhood (Recoleta, Paris-like charming) and had early evening cocktails at the Park Hyatt bar (wonderful outdoor café also there).
--Day 2: Toured must-see historic sites from Plaza de Mayo to Congresso to Obelisk to San Martin Plaza. Had coffee late morning at Café Tortoni (fun) and lunch (pizza/good) at Filo. There are several leather stores in Retiro which we visited.
--Day 3: Visited Evita Museum (small but interesting, some info provided in English, nice café); Decorative Arts Museum (very worthwhile; discovered a reservation was needed to eat at the popular Croque Madame there); Recoleta Cementerio (amazing, our favorite BA attraction); and walked in park (lovely; great for jogging/biking). Lunch at Café Biela (central people watching spot). Bought leather jacket at Rossi y Caruso in Recoleta (we felt the highest quality seen, also recommend Casa Lopez). Cocktails at Alvear Palace (upscale).
--Day 4: Visited the street fair, antique stores, and museums in San Telmo (a must-see); lunch at nearby Panaderia de Pablo (like a hip NYC brunch place); visited the Fortebat art museum and enjoyed the Puerto Madero setting (view of bridge, renovated warehouses, etc).
--Day 5: visited MALBA art museum (recommend; had lunch at the MALBA café, excellent); and visited the Zoo (don’t bother unless you have children). Explored Palermo Soho (see day 10).
--Day 6: traveled to Four Seasons Carmelo, lovely, upscale riverside resort, with topnotch accommodations and friendly & attentive service (surprised some online posters found things to complain about). We rented a car (Thrifty is in the Boquebus terminal) but discovered it was entirely unnecessary since the Four Seasons provides van service to/from ferry and around Carmelo (free), as well as arranging luggage storage if needed while touring Colonia.
--Day 7: horseback riding in the AM (fun/lovely terrain/can walk, trot or cantor); sun-bathing; winery tour & wine tasting (highly recommend) at Finca Narbona followed by dinner there.
--Day 8: relaxed by beautiful pool, worked out in gym, took a sunset boat cruise of the Rio de la Plata (small, colorful boat holding 6-8 guests, great fun, very recommended).
--Day 9: spent afternoon in historic Colonia del Sacremento (recommend), lunch at El Drugstore (fun/funky vibe), returned to BA by fast Boquebus.
--Day 10: brunch in Palermo Soho at Mark’s (nothing special) and further explored the shops, street market, and scenic streets (must-see atmospheric “gentrifying” neighborhood, analogous to Tribeca in NYC, with a slew of cool restaurants, bars & shops; we felt urbane shoppers would be disappointed but fun shopping for young crowd and esp teens).
RESTAURANTS: We dined out every night, a very exciting part of BA for us. One of us is not fond of seafood (so we didn’t go to Oviedo etc), and we didn’t choose French, Italian or Asian since we do so much of those in NYC. Cost for 4 inc cocktails & mid-range wines was usually in the area of $300 inc. tip, ie considerably cheaper than comparable NYC restaurants.
--Don Julio: appealing, low-key ambiance; wonderful, attentive waiter; underwhelming food.
--La Cabrera: terrific funky decor; indifferent and annoying waiters; underwhelming food.
(If could do just one of the above, we’d choose La Cabrera over Don Julio just for the fun décor and many unique sauces provided, but food seemed same at both.)
--I Latina: Columbian/Carribean; each dish of the 7-course tasting menu was superb; lovely space; very attentive, warm service; on the level of popular NYC restaurants w/ 26-27 Zagat ranking; highly recommend. (Several travelers we met said it was their favorite.)
--El Sanjuanino: cute ambiance; simple & friendly; tasty empanados; good for a convenient, casual supper.
--Hernan Gipponi: did the Monday night “One Table” tasting menu (ie, only one communal table, I believe usually limited to 14-16 diners, hosted by the chef); excellent cuisine (like a Zagat’s 26-27 ranked NYC restaurant); and a super fun group experience. Highly recommend.
--Casa Cruz: excellent food and service (like Zagat’s 26/27); very snazzy, upscale feeling, much like the vibe of a hip downtown NYC restaurant; recommend.
--Finca Narbona Winery in Carmelo – great food, caring service, and wonderful ambiance.
--Basto Pedro in Carmelo– excellent pizza, simple & downscale w/ fun wharf-side vibe.
--Four Seasons Carmelo Pura Restaurant– typical but very serviceable hotel fare.
DEPARTURE: Left for airport at 6:15 pm for 9:45 pm flight and had plenty of time to get through security (if traveling coach, or if wanted time for eating or duty-free shopping, I’d have left at 5:45). The pre-arranged car was $315 AR pesos.
CONCLUSION: An absolutely wonderful vacation destination that we all recommend very highly!