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Get Lost in Palermo

Calle Gurruchaga Palermo

Cafes along Calle Gurruchaga.

My favorite cities are those that are big enough to get lost in, where I could explore for months but still stumble upon new alleyways, galleries and open-mic nights. Twice the size of Paris, Buenos Aires is so packed with history, culture and asado (Argentine barbecue) spots, you may as well pick a neighborhood and stick to it—at least for a few days. Palermo, the largest and most bustling one, is home to everything from craft beer bars to museums to flea markets to botanical gardens. The neighborhood sits in the northeastern part of the city and contains several sections, each with its own distinct personality: Palermo Chico, for instance, offers upscale shopping, while Palermo Soho vibes bohemian and Palermo Hollywood monopolizes the nightlife.

On my first stroll among all the European architecture and dog walkers sipping mate from thermoses, and through Bosques de Palermo—reportedly the oldest park in Buenos Aires, centered on a manmade lake—I deem Palermo a cross between Milan and Mexico City’s hipster neighborhood La Condesa. Passing ice cream shops and vegan pizzerias, I realize that it’s going to be impossible to choose a place to eat; I’m navigating an endless food mecca. If you mention Palermo to anyone in the know, the first thing they’ll tell you is their favorite place to go for empanadas or milanesa (breaded meat fillet)—there are 25 million Argentines with Italian ancestry, a fact reflected as vividly in the capital’s food as it is in the porteño accent and hand gestures.

So I decide not to decide and sign up for a food tour with local guide José Marinucci, who knows all there is to know about Argentine culinary history and the chef-driven eateries of Palermo. We spend a few hours hopping from a fine-dining restaurant to a choripan (a joint selling chorizo sandwiches) to a cocktail spot, Boticario Bar, that looks like an old-school apothecary, where we keep the party going, sharing round after round of unusual liquors, including one that tastes like mushrooms and turns out to be dry white vermouth (the Italian liquor is having a big moment in Buenos Aires) infused with shiitakes. Sharing drinks is as much a part of Argentine culture as alfajores (dulce de leche sandwich cookies) and soccer, so at least for one night, I try to shed my American germ phobia. The tour is a perfect introduction to Buenos Aires, not just because the food is tremenda (that’s porteño slang for “tremendous” or “terrific”), but because I’m grouped with an eclectic array of locals and travelers, including a French magician who somehow pulls the card I chose from his deck out of his mouth.

The next day is bright and sunny, perfect for walking and checking out the street art. Latin America has a rich history of political resistance expressed through murals and graffiti on public walls, and some of the best street artists in the world today, including Ever and Milu Correch, are working in Buenos Aires. Walking down Calle Santa Rosa, a cobblestone street surrounded by walls covered in a collage, feels like getting wrapped up in a graffiti hug. I’m enthralled on the corner of Dorrego and Cabrera, where I find a nearly 30-foot-tall Frida Kahlo smoking a cigarette, flowers in her hair, a hint of her belly exposed. The mural is the work of the artist collective Campos Jesses. On the corner of Charlone and Santos Dumont, I discover my new favorite bookstore, Falena. Buenos Aires has more bookstores per person than any other city internationally, but Falena feels less like a store and more like my dream house, with its comfy couches, simple furniture and gentle jazz filling the air.

On Bulnes near Alto Palermo Shopping Center, thirsty after another hour of wandering, I walk up a set of stairs to a sign that says BAR. Faraday is indeed a BAR, a lively and low-lit gastropub with exposed brick walls and hardwood floors, its lack of signage part of its mystique. I drink a craft beer and plan my next day in Palermo.

Where to Stay

Nuss Hotel in Palermo Soho is centrally located. The urban, minimalist vibe will make you feel like you’re in one of those TV shows where the characters live in New York City apartments that are suspiciously elegant and spacious. 


Where to Get Asado

You came all this way and you want some of that famous Argentine meat. You may as well start near the top: Parilla Don Julio in Palermo Viejo was named one of the best restaurants in Argentina by Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017. 

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