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Destination of the Week: Buenos Aires, Argentina

by on March 9, 2012 · 19 comments

in Destination of the Week

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Avenida 9 de Julio, the world's widest street, is in the heart of Buenos Aires.

TPG Managing Editor Eric brings us our weekly Destination of the Week Post…

For the first time ever, we tango south of the equator for our Destination of the Week, and head to the vibrant city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

THINGS TO DO
In recent years, Buenos Aires has become one of the world’s premier international destinations thanks to a great exchange rate, heaps of culture, excellent food and more and more great flight options, as well as a spate of hotel openings both in terms of the big brands and more boutique options.

If you haven’t been there yet, what are you waiting for? Pack your tango shoes, bring an extra suitcase for all the leather goods you’ll be buying, start a pre-trip cleanse because you’ll likely be having steak every night you’re down there, and watch Evita to get into the proper spirit. Once you’re there…

The Casa Rosada--picture Evita on that balcony!

El Turistico
Start at the Casa Rosada, the pink presidential palace, then stroll down toward the river to catch a show at Luna Park, where Evita met Juan Perón for the first time in 1944. See the tomb of the famous lady herself at Buenos Aires’s creepy-cool necropolis, Recoleta Cemetery on a guided visit so you get all the good gossip on the interred inhabitants.

Buenos Aires doesn’t have many museums, but the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA for short) houses an extensive collection of Latin artists including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and the eccentric Xul Solar, whose former house is also a museum: House of Xul Solar. Consider skipping the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and instead visit the small Museo Evita, where you can learn all about Argentina’s iconic first lady’s life and legacy.

The baroque facad of Teatro Colon.

The baroque-style Teatro Colón is one of South America’s most famous performance venues, so if you’re there for the opera season, you could score some tickets, but for some real fun, try to catch a soccer match at blue-and-yellow Bombonero stadium in the equally colorful La Boca neighborhood which, though touristy, is still fun to wander (just not at night when it can get dangerous).

La Comida
Argentina is the land of beef, and you’ll find some of the world’s best steakhouses in Buenos Aires. Guidebooks often suggest the fancier places like Cabana Las Lilas in Puerto Madero, but many visitors prefer more authentic parrillas, or grills, like humble La Dorita and upscale La Cabrera (TPG personal favorite), or the hip newish Parrilla Miranda, all in Palermo.

Buenos Aires's Woman's Bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava.

The bohemian but gentrifying neighborhood of Palermo is also where you’ll find the city’s stylistas dining at fashionable watering holes like Sucre, Bar Uriarte and Casa Cruz (another TPG favorite), though venture to the Barrio Norte to dine at Gran Bar Danzon and Milion, which is in a converted early 20th-century mansion with a gorgeous garden where you can enjoy a nightcap.

Literarati should be sure to make time to visit Café Tortoni just up Avenida de Mayo from the Casa Rosada to have a coffee and roll just like the famous author Borges used to.

The shops of La Florida.

Compras
The shops along the pedestrianized outdoor mall of La Florida sell mostly tacky souvenirs, but there are also many fine leather shops and the famous El Ateneo bookshop, which was founded in 1912.

If you’re looking for custom-made leather goods and clothing (at a fraction of the cost of goods in the U.S.), your best bet is Uru Cuero, which is right across the street from the Recoleta Cemetery.

If you’re there on a Sunday, be sure to explore the picturesque streets of the San Telmo neighborhood as you peruse the wares of its famous weekly antiques market.

YOUR EXPERIENCES
Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations, nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.

Aerolineas Argentinas will be joining SkyTeam soon.

GETTING THERE
The main airport in Buenos Aires is Ministro Pistarini International Airport, also referred to as Ezeiza (EZE). American Airlines offers non-stop service from Dallas, Miami, and New York-JFK (See TPG’s review of EZE-JFK in AA First); Delta flies direct from Atlanta, and United flies to Houston, Newark (beginning April 7), and Washington-Dulles (ends April 6).

Award travel to Buenos Aires on American Airlines begins at 20,000 miles each way for their MileSAAver Off-peaks awards, or 30,000 miles for MileSAAver Peak Awards. AA flights can also be booked with British Airways Avios points – for example JFK-EZE costs 50/100/150k for coach/business/first. Delta redemptions start at 60,000 miles roundtrip for low-level awards, though they are difficult to come by in advance. United starts at 30,000 miles each way for a one-way Saver Award or 55,000 miles each way for a one-way standard award.

Aerolineas Argentina also flies here from Miami, and is expected to be joining SkyTeam in 2012, which will open some more redemption options—though most of the stories you hear about their service and timeliness are nightmarish, so it might be better to stick to US carriers!

HOTELS
Though the Buenos Aires scene has pretty good representation of the major chains (which we’ll talk about below), it is also home to some fantastic boutique hotel options, so we’ll list a few of those at the end. If you’re staying for several days, you might also consider renting an apartment through reputable sites such as airbnb.com, bairesapartments.com and apartmentsba.com.

The Buenos Aires Hilton in Puerto Madero.

Hilton
Hilton Buenos Aires: Located in the Puerto Madero District near the Casa Rosada and the busy Microcentro area in the center of the city, this hotel has 418 guest rooms and suites that have 32” LCD televisions, marble bathrooms and walk-in closets. There is an outdoor pool and sundeck. There is also an executive lounge that serves complimentary breakfast and refreshments throughout the day. The hotel’s three dining outlets include a fine-dining restaurant, El Faro, the Mosto Wine Bar and Panadero Take Away. Rates in March start at $209 a room, or 40,000 Hilton HHonors points since it’s a Category 6 property.

The gorgeous courtyard of the Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau.

Hyatt
Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires: This luxe hotel is housed in a mansion that dates to 1890 and is located in the heritage district of Recoleta. It has 165 rooms and suites, including Palace Suites, which have crystal chandeliers and working fireplaces. All the rooms have LCD televisions and marble bathrooms. Check out the suite TPG got when he stayed here last year.  The Ahin Wellness and Spa located within the hotel has an 82-foot swimming pool, whirlpools, saunas and a fitness center. The hotel’s main restaurant, Duhau Restaurante & Vinoteca features sophisticated Argentinean cuisine and over 7,000 bottles of Argentine wine. The lowest rates we could find in March were $550 for a Park Deluxe Room.  This is a Category 5 hotel, so free night redemptions require 18,000 Gold Passport points for standard rooms and 27,000 for suites. Just a reminder, the New Chase Hyatt Visa now gives two free award nights after your first purchase and if you’re already a Platinum member when you sign up, you also get two two suite upgrade certificates to use on paid stays up to 7 days, and Diamond members receive their two free award nights in a confirmed suite.

A Deluxe Geustroom at the Intercontinental Buenos Aires.

Intercontinental
Intercontinental Buenos Aires: Also located in the Microcentro, this property has 309 guestrooms and 10 suites, all renovated in 2008. There is also an executive floor. The hotel’s restaurant Mediterráneo Restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine. The hotel also has an indoor heated pool, sauna, steam room and solarium in addition to its on-site fitness center. Rates in March begin at $170 or 30,000m points a night.

There is also a Holiday Inn at EZE Airport, and a Holiday Inn Express in Puerto Madero.

The Marriott Plaza Buenos Aires.

Marriott
Marriott Plaza Hotel Buenos Aires: Located on the Plaza San Martin in the Retiro district, this hotel is housed in a historic 100-year-old building and has 270 rooms and 48 suites. The guestrooms feature Marriott’s Revive bedding and 32” LCD TV’s. There is also an executive level with a lounge serving complimentary breakfast and evening snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. Rates in March begin at $285 a night. This is a Marriott Category 5 property, and requires 25,000 Marriott Rewards Points (20,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption.

Starwood
Park Tower: A member of the Luxury Collection, this 23-story hotel has 181 Biedermeier-style rooms and suites with wood furniture and all-Italian marble bathrooms. Rooms range from 592 square feet for a Deluxe Room to over 4,000 square feet for the St. Regis Suite. Hotel guests have access to the Neptune Pool and Fitness Center at the connecting Sheraton Buenos Aires. Butler service is offered for all guests as well. Rates in March start at $295 a night. This is a Category 5 hotel requiring between 12,000- 16,000 Starpoints for a free night, or 4,800 Starpoints + $90.

A Deluxe Room at the Park Tower Hotel, an SLS Luxury Collection Hotel.

Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel and Convention Center: Connected to the Park Tower, this 742-room hotel’s accommodations range from Classic, Club to the 1,800-square-foot San Martin Suite. Rooms feature flat screen TV’s and Sheraton’s Sweet Sleeper Bed. The top six floors are the executive levels with access to the Sheraton Club, serving breakfast, afternoon snacks and evening hors d’oeuvres. Hotel guests also have access to the Neptune’s two swimming pools and fitness center. Rates in March start at $205 a night. This is a Category 4 hotel requiring 10,000 Starpoints for a free night, or 4,000 Starpoints + $60.

Sheraton Libertador: This Sheraton is located in downtown Buenos Aires close to the financial and commercial districts. The hotel’s 200 rooms and suites have marble bathrooms, Sweet Sleeper Beds and mini bars. Other facilities include an indoor pool and whirlpool, business center, fitness center with sauna, as well as the Sheraton Club Lounge that offers complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and beverages. The hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, La Pergola, offers international cuisine. Rates in March start at $189 a night. This is a Category 3 hotel requiring 7,000 Starpoints for a free night, or 2,800 Starpoints + $45.

The rooftop pool at the Axel Hotel.

Other Options
Some of the city’s trendiest boutique options include Five Cool Rooms and the adorable Home Hotel, the Hot Listed Bo Bo Hotel (short for bourgeois bohemian) and the retro-cool Vitrum all in Palermo. The Art Hotel is a lovely affordable option in bustling Barrio Norte, as is the cE Diseno. The Axel Hotel in San Telmo caters caters to a mostly LGBT clientele, while the Moreno is housed in a 1920’s publishing building and is a bit more staid.

El Bistro at the Faena Hotel + Universe--note the unicorn heads.

On the luxury sides of the spectrum, there’s a gorgeous Four Seasons in Recoleta, the historic Alvear Palace Hotel where BA’s upper crust still takes afternoon tea, the whimsical Faena Hotel + Universe in Puerto Madero, and perhaps the city’s most exclusive new accommodation, the super tony Algodon Mansion in Recoleta.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Maxim

    Just went to Buenos Aires last month and agree it’s very fun. I booked the flight via BA Avios with stopovers in Lima, Santiago and Mendoza. Stayed at Hyatt Palacio Duhau and everything was top notch.

    Do go to Recoleta cemetary, do walking tour of Teatro Colon (and see opera if it’s the season), walk along Puerto Madero boardwalk, go for a daytrip to Tigres Delta (and book a cruise with Swiss ahead of time), go for a daytrip to Montevideo (but skip Colonia del Sacramento)

    El Marisol (under the bridge) is upscale and somewhat expensive (still 1/3 price of NYC steakhouse) restaurant, but serves incredibly delicious steaks. The service was OK to subpar, but steaks are worth the visit.

    Cafe Tortoni is OK, but very touristy. It’s a nice place to stop by and have a cup of coffee, but don’t watch tango show there.

    Skip San Telmo flea market on Sunday – definitely a tourist trap.

  • Rich A

    Yes, BsAs is a great destination. Have been there 5 times since 2003. Even rented an apartment in Belgrano for 45 days last year. Good to see you did not list bytargentina.com in your apartment listing paragraph. WOULD NOT recommend renting through them under any circumstances. Only downside to traveling to Argentina now is that there has been a four to five-fold increase in all prices since 2003. Inflation has been running at a 20-25% increase/year. It’s still less costly than Europe but not by much and changing daily!

  • JMR

    I was in BA in November and was shocked at the inflation over the past few years. In general, good food is still relatively inexpensive for the quality you get but clothes, shoes, etc are now very overpriced.

    Stayed at the Park Tower using cash and points and it was really beautiful. The rooms were large and upscale. And I was glad to be able to use the outdoor pool at the Sheraton next door. The hotel is not in the center of BA but there’s great access to Puerto Madero or Recoletta and you can always get a cab since its in the financial district.

    There’s a large Italian community in BA and the Italian food rivals Rome in terms of quality. Piegari was not cheap but one of the best Italian meals I’ve ever had and I lived in Italy for 4 months.

    A great restuarant where a lot of locals go is Juana M. Great food, hip scene and its very inexpensive. Its right in Recoletta.

  • Catherine Morrison

    So excited for my first trip to BA in less than two months!! Thanks for the reccs!

  • Andy

    Great posts! thx! btw, is four days enough for exploring BA? Vacation is too short for me..

  • http://twitter.com/mrknoxsf Bryan

    I was supposed to leave to BA yesterday but had to cancel due to a new job. I had booked with Avios 90k half in business class on LAN. I called British Airways and they gave me my points back which I was very happy about so I’ll just have to wait until I can take time off again. But I will definitely use this as a reference!

  • mi_dreaming

    We just returned from 5 days in BA, thanks to Brian (and British Airways 100,000 mile CC). It was amazing. If you like NYC, you’ll LOVE BA. We used the subte and buses everywhere, very easy to navigate.

  • akgw

    I just came back from a 2 week vacation in Argentina. Our four nights in BA were at the Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau (thank you Hyatt card x 2 one for me, one for the wife). The staff were incredibly accommodating, even letting us have a late checkout on our last night til 6pm.

    When you get tired of BBQ meat (2 weeks can do it to you) there is lighter fare at Valenti at a mall up the street called Patio Bullrich. Finest Italian deli I’ve been to in years.

    If you have a toddler like me, and cannot handle a 4 hour tango show, go to Bar Sur in San Telmo for their $65/pp variety show. There are only about 20 seats, very intimate and excellent show. It runs from 8PM to 2AM and you can come in when you want and leave when you want but it is the same price however long your toddler can stay awake.

  • CharlesG

    Perfect! I am headed to Bs As this month, and this came right on time!

  • MN1971

    Here is a list of amazing places to eat in BA:

    La Brigada (in San Telmo) – meat
    La Cabrera (in Palermo) – meat
    Cabaña (in Ricolleta) – meat
    Cabana Las Lilas – meat
    Don Julio – Argentine/meat
    Casa Cruz – top chef in Argentina
    Tegui – (same owner as above)
    Sucre – Argentine cuisine
    Oviedo – Seafood/Mediterranean
    Marcello – Italian
    Bar Uriarte – Argentine/Italian cuisine
    Piegari – Italian
    Il Matterello (in La Boca) – best Italian in BA (recommend to go for lunch since area is not the best at night)
    Freddo – ice cream
    Persico – ice cream
    Nonna Biana – ice cream

    If you want to stay in a boutique hotel, try the Mio http://miobuenosaires.com/ The hotel is owned by Cristina Catena, one of Argentina’s most well-known wine families from Mendoza.

  • studd

    The pic of the Axel hotel pool is from the wrong direction…

    BA is fun esp the protests- they just approach but never cross the line to violence with firecrackers and loudspeakers that would never be permitted in the USA.
    Where is Plaza Mayor with the mothers of the Plaza with their iconic white veils some in their 90s are still protesting 30 minutes every afternoon to remember their disappeared children decades later?
    Better than boring internationalist crap art at MALBA is the Museum of Bel Arts where an extensive collection of Antonio Berni’s powerful images of street children and homeless families reach across culture with a particular Argentinean take on the issues. These are the reasons to travel to BA over NYC.
    The most interesting thing about BA today is the vibrant cultural, social and political scene, however crime is a worry there are pickpockets are present but its not Nigeria or even Colombia.

  • studd

    Oh, and everyone has an apt for rent in Palermo SOHO, Palermo Hollywood, Palermo this and Palermo that to earn hard currency. Lots of independents out there and the places are mostly fine, no need for an agency unless you want to pay more.

  • studd

    lots of tourist places here,
    Volta is much better ice cream, and better wifi, Freddo has gone down hill however its getting somewhat better.
    The is old woman selling Argentinian pizza in San Telmo on weekends, very good, only open after 1AM and closed when she looses interest in cooking. Always crowed, impossible to describe location.
    Sucre, is one of best places that is both affordable to us, and very fashionable.

  • Gpapadop

    Bookmarked this as it will come in handy for our August trip here! Staying at the Hilton for 4 nights! Thanks!

  • SgFm

    In BA now, and staying at the Hilton. The Hilton interior is striking and quite modern. We have had almost consistently good service. Especially happy with the assist from one of the concierges here- Charles. The lounge/Executive Club is quite good. The breakfast is modest, with a couple of hot items. The cocktail spread from 6-8pm is excellent, it seems varied each day, from what I can tell. If you did not have a big appetite, it would certainly be possible to make a meal out of. The location in Puerto Madero is good for walking to the adjacent areas of San Telmo and Microcentro.
    Although I have of course seen the comparisons between BA and Paris, with BA being referred to as the Paris of S. America, I find that while this is true from the point of many examples of monumental architecture, that there are many other aspects that do not compare. It is still a developing country and while more prosperous than many other developing countries, it clearly does not have the resources of a city such as Paris. This is particularly noticeable with regards to something as simple as the condition of streets and sidewalks, and by the inability to contain rampant “tagging” (grafitti) on many buildings. This is my first time in BA, and only my second trip to S. America. I am happy I chose to travel here, and have found the numerous interactions with people here to be unfailingly pleasant.
    One recommendation for a tour- the Palacio Rosato, the President’s Palace, has a terrific free tour on the weekends, they fill up fast, but leave every 10 minutes, and every other tour is given by a bilingual (Spanish/English) guide.

  • Guest

    Hi – Can someone explain how to use BA Avios to travel from JFK to EZE. When I go on the British Airways Website it says there are no affiliates that fly that route for a bunch of dates I’ve looked into.

    Sorry if this question has been answered in previous posts, I’m relatively new to this site. Thanks!

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