We spent quite a bit of time in Buenos Aires on the tail-ends of our Patagonia trip last February. When wandering the city, you can't help but be taken back to the country's "golden era" over a century ago. From the beautiful baroque architecture to the street-side tango dancers, the city's rich heritage is always on a full display. However, the country's well-documented recent economic struggles are also clearly evident. Exchange rates are artificially set far above the peso's real value, and once glorious buildings are slowly deteriorating and tagged with graffiti.
Nevertheless, Buenos Aires is a captivating and vibrant city. From newly revitalized shopping districts to beautiful green parks, there's plenty to see and do here. If you plan ahead, it can also be very affordable for tourists. Below are a few tips and favorite spots if you're planning on visiting in the near future:
More bang for your buck: The value of the Argentine peso has steadily declined in recent years. When exchanging for pesos, the "official" exchange rate will vary widely from the "blue rate" - a more accurate representation of the currency's true value. If you use your credit card or exchange money at the airport or bank, you may get an 8:1 (USD) exchange rate. However, through alternative options, you can easily get as high 12:1. I would highly recommend bringing plenty of dollars in cash with you. Many local businesses prize US currency and will even exchange pesos with you at a preferred rate. Additionally, we used an online service called XOOM that lets you send money from the US to Argentina for in-person pick up. Their current exchange rate is 11.6 ARS to 1 USD. This preferred rate more than makes up for the slight fee you will incur.
Beef: If you like steak, you're in luck. The city has tons of amazing Parrillas (steakhouses). Our favorites were Don Julio and La Cabrera. When ordering, my favorite cut is the bife de chorizo, which is similar to a sirloin or New York strip.
Closed-Door Restaurants: If you don't love steak, don't worry. There are plenty of other foodie destinations in the city. One of the more fun and authentic dining options is checking out a closed-door restaurant. These nightly affairs happen in private spaces and personal residences. You just have to do a bit of online research and book in advance. Our last, and perhaps best, meal in the city was at Casa SaltShaker.
There's plenty more to see and do in Buenos Aires. I would also recommend checking out the cobblestoned streets of San Telmo, browsing dozens of boutiques in the trendy Palermo neighborhood and exploring the maze-like La Recoleta Cemetery. You should also check out this great expat blog with food and cultural recommendations in Buenos Aires.