It was the long-awaited trip of a lifetime – 2 months out to travel around South America, with our 2 small children (aged 4.5 and 6 months).
We began in bustling, bohemian and boiling hot Buenos Aires. It was the height of summer – not ideal, especially with a baby and an Irish husband who keels over above 30ºC.
Initially, we stayed in the historic San Telmo district – famed for its Sunday antiques market with street tango, cobbled streets and crumbling post-colonial mansions.
Our daily pattern emerged: get out to see a sight before the heat drove us into a café or restaurant (baby in the carrier where he would nap, the older one in a pushchair), return for an afternoon siesta, then emerge to meander through a barrio before snatching dinner. The biggest issue for us was the late opening of restaurants – few are open before 8pm, by which time baby was done with being awake and out and about, so evening meals weren’t our finest hour!
Sightseeing while navigating potholed pavements with a buggy proved quite exhausting in the heat, so we made the most of oases such as the mesmerising MALBA (Latin American Art Museum), which has terrific art and plenty of space for children to run around – a successful marriage of culture and kids.
Less successful for Esme was our backstage tour of the ornately crafted Teatro Colón, considered one of the top 5 opera venues in the world. She got bored quickly after realising that no performance was forthcoming!
We took things a little slowly on the tourist trail when strolling around the barrio of La Boca by the waterfront, admiring colour-blocked houses sitting cheek–by-jowl with tango joints.
My favourite moment in Buenos Aires was birdwatching in the Buenos Aires Ecological Reserve, in the newly regenerated and now glamorous (formerly grimy) Puerto Madero area, alongside the Río de la Plata. I was thrilled to see the southern crested caracara for the first time.
Surprisingly, our daughter loved the world-famous Recoleta cemetery, where Evita is buried amongst spires, crucifixes, angels, domes and ‘little houses’ (as she described the mausoleums).
Afterwards we walked past upscale, gated apartment buildings, the smell of street food incongruously wafting from the waterfront, to Philippe Starck’s uber-flamboyant Faena Hotel for sundowner cocktails and nibbles. We enjoyed pretending we were beautiful people; Esme enjoyed paddling in the fabulous pool, complete with its crown-shaped fountain!
Buenos Aires has plenty of gritty realism alongside (or because of) its fascinating history. My husband really enjoyed his tour of the old catacombs, and there’s a lot of graffiti (much of it political) together with sombre reminders of a relatively recent turbulent past.
However, the barrio of Palermo, to the north and east of the Central Business District, has a more relaxed urban vibe: plenty of boutiques, restaurants, attractive historic buildings and open spaces with trees and playgrounds.
Our action-packed week in Buenos Aires ended too soon. Next stop: Uruguay and then Salta and Jujuy, in the far north west of Argentina, in the foothills of the Andes.
Look out for my post about our time in Uruguay next month. And, to find out why we think Argentina is a must-see, read our Destination Guide >>