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When I wrote my bucket list (almost 2 years ago), the first item on my list was to spend a week in a number of cities and Buenos Aires was one of them. At the time, I still had a strong affinity to city life; but I’ve found that it has gradually been fading. These days, I find it harder and harder to enjoy the urban rhythm. Everything is fast-paced, disconnected from nature and there are lots of things that don’t make much sense to me.
Still, I had heard so many nice things about Buenos Aires that I was really looking forward to spending a few days there. Most people said that it was such a cosmopolitan place, a very European looking city (some like to say it’s the Paris of South America) with cool neighbourhoods and great nightlife. Everyone I know who has visited, pretty much loved it. So I had high expectations.
When I first arrived from the airport, I was quite disappointed with its looks: the buildings looked gray and plain and it reminded me of the ugliest parts of the Eixample Esquerra in Barcelona. However, as I walked around Palermo it didn’t take long to find cool cafés, restaurants and shops; the mood there was more similar to Berlin, with the street art and all. And for me, that was one of the few redeeming aspects of Buenos Aires: the abundance of high quality street art murals.
There were of course other things that I enjoyed: watching tango aficionados from all over the world dance their hearts out, strolling down the San Telmo Sunday market to people watch, and the awesome food (yes, specially the steaks and empanadas!). But I couldn’t help noticing the harden looks on some of its inhabitants’ faces; regardless of all its cosmopolitan grace, Buenos Aires seems to be a tough place to live in if you cannot afford to enjoy its fancier perks.
After a few days in this massive metropolis I wanted out, fast! It probably didn’t help that I almost got robbed in the subway, I managed to avoid loosing my wallet, smartphone and camera; because I quickly realised what was about to happen, if it’d taken me 2 more seconds they’d have been gone. However, I did loose my beautiful vintage sunglasses and my laptop’s case when I forgot them at a table in two separate incidents; I know it was due to my careless mistakes, but I can’t help thinking that in other places they would have been turned in and returned to me.
In the end, I had a good time in Buenos Aires because of the people I met there; but I really didn’t enjoy the city that much with the exception of the street art and a couple of favorite places. When I left, on the longest bus ride that I have ever taken, I was once again happy as I woke up to the view of the open plains as I made my way south to Patagonia.
Have you ever been to Buenos Aires? How did you like it? Let me know in the comments below!
Buenos Aires is a really cool city but like you said it lacks nature and there are definitely cooler places to live in South America (I would argue Argentina as well). I could see myself spending sometime there June, July and August but that’s about it.
Thanks for your comment, Kevin :) Buenos Aires left me with mixed feelings; but as soon as I found myself in Patagonia I fell in love with Argentina. It’s so much nicer down south! I can’t wait to come back, I’d love to spend a full season exploring the area.
To me it seems like you’re really just not a big city person. As a native New Yorker who’s been to Buenos Aires twice, my sentiments are different than yours. I love that city, and yes, it’s not as safe as NY, and there are more pickpockets, etc, but it’s not a city that’s dangerously super crime ridden.
For example, Rio, is one of the most horrible places I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been there twice, in 1991 and 2006. We were mugged on the beach at 3:00 in the afternoon, we were followed after leaving the flea market, (found police & got assistance) and it’s just an awful place. We were even swindled by a waiter who kept telling us that we weren’t ordering enough because the portions were very small, and realized that when enough food cam out for an army, he was getting us to buy more and probably took home what we didn’t eat. Then the restaurant billed us double. (took 2 months to fix that one) Taxi’s don’t stop for red lights at night because thieves with guns will rob both driver and passengers.
But aside from taking precautions, (granted, more precautions than NYC or Paris), I never felt my life was in danger in Buenos Aires. And I do think it’s a beautiful city. There’s some gorgeous architecture, and I didn’t find the locals unfriendly – just the opposite. I tend to blend well when I travel and am usually assumed to be a native no matter where I am…..until I speak. I can’t tell you how many wonderful conversations I’ve had with locals once they heard me trying to shop, order food, or figure out where something was. We found so many of the locals to be warm, friendly and helpful.
I’m not doubting your experience, just sorry to hear that you didn’t experience the city the same way I did. But then as I stated in the beginning, I like big cities, and perhaps you’re more comfortable in nature.
First, sorry for my late reply :s I really appreciate your comment, as it provides a more balanced view to my post. Like I mentioned, I really wanted to like Buenos Aires; everyone I know who’s ever been there has loved it! So I thought I would as well. In fact, I think that if I’d been there earlier on my journey, I’d have probably liked it, too; for most of my life, I was always a city person… But once I started spending more time in nature, I changed; although it took me by surprised, I’ll tell you that! LOL It was quite an unexpected change in my personality, but it’s like it is :) Thanks for stopping by!
I’ve never been to Buebos Aires but the street art you talked about really interests me.
No matter how much we like or dislike a place, the experiences we live in that place are the ones that make it very special or not. The fact that you lost your loved belongings and almost got robbed has simply worsen your already disappointed impression of the city.
Maybe you’ll go back one day and live it in a completely different way :)
Thanks for stopping by, Franca :) I agree with you about how our experiences in a place can push the balance one way or the other. And I haven’t given up on BsAs, if I go back to Argentina it’s very likely I’ll stop there again; so my experience could be very different :)
I felt exactly the same way about Buenos Aires when I visited last year. I expected to love it, but it didn’t live up to any of my expectations. It is certainly not as pretty as I expected, neither was it as fun or vibrant. To be fair I visited in winter, so I expect that there is more of a buzz in summer. It seemed pretty dead, the bars and the streets were very quiet.
San Telmo market seemed more geared towards tourists than a real market – there was nothing there that I would consider buying, and the vendors did not have the banter that I have encountered in markets elsewhere around the world.
I didn’t have any bad experiences in Buenos Aires, but I never felt safe. It was the city I felt most unsafe in during my whole S.America trip (which included Colombia). It was the only place where I felt that the locals were hostile to foreigners.
The food was good, but more expensive than the rest of South America, and it was very difficult to find a milonga which wasn’t super expensive and geared towards foreigners only.
I left Buenos Aires with little opinion of it. I didn’t dislike it, but I can’t really say I liked it either. For me, the cities that really left an impression of South America were Cusco, Santiago and Cartagena.
Thanks for your comment, Elaine :) It’s funny that you mentioned Santiago. After my experience in Buenos Aires and because other travellers seldom mention it, I had no expectations for this one. But I ended up enjoying my time there quite a lot! I still haven’t been to Cusco, but now I’m looking forward to it.
At the moment, I’m in Sucre (Bolivia) and so far I’m liking this city as well; specially after spending a week in high altitude places and being cold almost all the time :) So it’s all relative, I guess.
I currently live in Buenos Aires. I came here two years ago and never left. If it weren’t for the accessibility when it comes to working in art (street art is included… practically anyone can make it here with a bit of motivation) and for my foreigner friends, I would have left running in a heartbeat. It’s tiring, it really is, and while the architecture is “European”, there is nothing “European” about the inhabitants and the way they treat you or themselves. It’s not a Latin American thing either, as I am from a Latin American country and never, in a million years, would I expect to see people of any gender or age yell at each other for full minutes in public for trivial things like being accidentally pushed in my country. Palermo is super neat, but it’s because it’s touristy and hardly anyone can spend their whole time there. The subway is a total mess… if you have to get somewhere in a small amount of time, either get there late or reschedule, but don’t ever, ever take el subte. I’ve realized it’s not very time-saving at all anyway. The city isn’t very clean either, I fear for my life every time it rains, as on balconies tend to fall on people and streets everywhere get very fooded, and as the rising prices and crime rates… well let’s just say I really, REALLY love street art…
I currently live in Buenos Aires. I came here two years ago and never left. If it weren’t for the accessibility when it comes to working in art (street art is included… practically anyone can make it here with a bit of motivation) and for my foreigner friends, I would have left running in a heartbeat. It’s tiring, it really is, and while the architecture is “European”, there is nothing “European” about the inhabitants and the way they treat you or themselves. It’s not a Latin American thing either, as I am from a Latin American country and never, in a million years, would I expect to see people of any gender or age yell at each other for full minutes in public for trivial things like being accidentally pushed in my country. Palermo is super neat, but it’s because it’s touristy and hardly anyone can spend their whole time there. The subway is a total mess… if you have to get somewhere in a small amount of time, either get there late or reschedule, but don’t ever, ever take el subte. I’ve realized it’s not very time-saving at all anyway. The city isn’t very clean either, I fear for my life every time it rains, as on balconies tend to fall on people and streets everywhere get very flooded, and as the rising prices and crime rates… well let’s just say I really, REALLY love street art…
I have lived in Buenos Aires for 3.5 years and I have to offer a different perspective, Fox. Sure Buenos Aires has it’s fair share of problems (like any city) and it’s easy to focus on the negative things to ANY place. But I love this city and it has become home to me. I’m originally from New York and can appreciate the good and the bad to both places. The people here are absolutely wonderful, and I can’t remember if I have ever seen people screaming at each other on the streets, so I wouldn’t guess that’s a regular thing. Anyway, I just had to share another side of living here as a foreigner.
Bianca, I know exactly what you mean about the hustle and bustle of the city though. I love BA for living, art, culture, food, etc, but when I’m traveling I like to get out of the cities and into nature and pueblitos to see a different side of life. If you ever find yourself in Buenos Aires again, you should check out the company I work for, http://www.foto-ruta.com. We do photo tours that show a different side of the city and judging by your photos, I think it would be something you’d like!
Hi, I live in Buenos Aires. I know it’s not the safest place (I see it on my TV) but there are some beautiful streets in the city. I was reading the article and I was like why? Bs. As. is beautiful but I was looking in the replies and I saw that in one you said quote: “But once I started spending more time in nature, I changed” and I understood.
Sorry if something is misspelled or something like that, i’m 12…
Have a good day
I think your post was too nice. Buenos Aires was terrible. I’ve been to over 50 different cities around the globe, and this was one of the worst. Bad pollution, nasty people, racism, machismo, bad economics, expensive but with inflation and dangerous. But don’t tell a porteño that, they’ll lose their minds and prove you right about the nasty people.