Buenos Aires is now more accessible than ever

 

  • The beautiful, theatrical city of Buenos Aires is easier to visit than ever with Norwegian’s £589 return flights
  • From delicious steak and chorizo to the vast Palermo Park, friendly locals are keen to show tourists the sights
  • And don’t miss out on Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada, or the busy open-air craft market in nearby San Telmo

Buenos Aires is a theatrical city. Its signature performance, tango — originally danced between men — is a masterpiece of dramatic tension: stern expressions, seductive steps, moves so swift and furious you’ll gasp with wonder.

While its wide, tree-lined boulevards nod politely to Paris, the people are Latin at heart.

Largely descended from Italian and Spanish immigrants, Portenos (named after their port city) speak loudly, gesticulate passionately and drive with brio.

They’ll promise you better pizza than Italy, more decadent ice-cream, and nights out that end well into the next day.

Thanks to a new 13-hour, 45-minute direct flight with Norwegian, from only £589 return, the Argentine capital city is more accessible than ever. Don’t fret about past tensions, locals are warm, sociable and eager to tell you about their vibrant home.

You won’t catch anyone clasping a takeaway cup on the street. People stop to chat in coffee shops, some of which, such as Cafe Tortoni on Avenida de Mayo and La Biela in Recoleta, are officially designated places of cultural interest. Running 30 minutes late is standard and Sundays are for long family lunches.

They don’t mess about with charred sausages and floppy buns. At an asado (grill) you’ll feast on steak, crispy intestines and chorizo.

The pretty streets of the Palermo district are a good place to shop, drink or soak up the atmosphere. La Malbequeria has a cool courtyard.

Portenos offset their carnivorous diet by roller-skating, cycling or pounding through Palermo Park, so vast you can easily get lost, as I did on a jog. Take a bicycle tour (125 pesos, or £4.50) and you’ll get a feel for this huge green space, which manages to contain a domestic airport, polo field (where you can spectate for free) and horse race track.

Locals don’t only pursue the body beautiful. Everyone has a psychoanalyst. One young woman tells me she’s been in therapy for five years and describes stopping seeing her analyst in terms of a break-up.

They speak their minds, too, with protests at the Obelisk in Plaza de Mayo a near-daily occurrence and expressive graffiti art all over the place.

Passion: The United Nations declared the tango tradition of Argentina a world cultural treasure. Pictured: tango street dancers in downtown Buenos Aires

Passion: The United Nations declared the tango tradition of Argentina a world cultural treasure. Pictured: tango street dancers in downtown Buenos Aires

What do people think of the current president, Mauricio Macri? ‘Compared with former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Macri is beautiful,’ says my taxi driver.

Visit Plaza de Mayo on a Sunday when it’s quieter. You can’t miss the Casa Rosada, or pink house, from whose balcony Eva Peron (and Madonna playing her) performed to the crowds below.

Drop into the busy open-air craft market in San Telmo, a 20-minute walk away — the place to see tango performed in the street. For a full-on stage drama, go to a show at Esquina Carlos Gardel.

One of the city’s most popular and macabre attractions is Recoleta Cemetery. Here, the best stories are of tragic women, says my cheery guide Florencia.

This is where some of the city’s wealthiest and best-known figures are buried. The plot next to Eva’s was up for sale for £190,000 in 2011.

Not all the tombs are well kept. Some of the glass, wardrobe-like doors are cracked, broken, or off their hinges revealing coffins with lids sliding away alarmingly.

Twilight views: Just after sunset, the Piramide de Mayo and Cabildo on Plaza de Mayo is as gorgeous as ever

Twilight views: Just after sunset, the Piramide de Mayo and Cabildo on Plaza de Mayo is as gorgeous as ever

Eva resides in a black marble tomb under her family name, Duarte. Her embalmed body went on quite a journey to get here — at one point it was even buried in Milan under a false name with a fake mourner paid to visit the plot.

Now, she’s 4 m under and the tomb is fitted with bulletproof glass. She continues to be divisive — people either love or hate her, I’m told.

But the tale of Rufina Cambaceres is more haunting still. Known as the lady who died twice, she awoke to find herself in a coffin. The statue outside her tomb depicts her pushing open a door.

After all that, you’ll need a breather.

Puerto Madero, rather like London’s docklands, is now home to sedentary cranes, waterside bars and restaurants, a statement Women’s Bridge and plush hotels. One of the city’s most expensive districts, it’s a breezy spot to unwind in.

The recently opened Alvear Icon Hotel has far-reaching views over the Rio de la Plata, the world’s widest river, which separates Argentina from Uruguay.

If you aren’t in the market for a room, go for a drink in the Crystal bar on the 32nd floor, where you can admire Portenos competing with the twinkling lights below.

 

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