Buenos Aires, Argentina, is one of the most beautiful cities Ted and I have ever visited. Not just because of how it looks … it truly is a gorgeous, cosmopolitan city … but also because of how it lives.
With 3 million people in the city proper and another 14 million in the province surrounding it, Buenos Aires is working hard to get cars off the streets and become a “wellbeing city,” designed with pedestrians in mind.
There is a subway. A mostly efficient one.
But there is also a network of more than 100 independent bus lines whose gleaming vehicles barrel down the boulevards 24×7.
Odd as it may sound, the buses were one of the things that impressed us most about the city.
Seeming to travel in packs, they are cleaner than any city buses we’ve ever seen. Their broad windows mirror beautifully the city’s French, Latin American and uber-modern architecture as they roar past. And without fail, at least in our experience, they get you where you need to go.
White-knuckled, perhaps, but right on time.
The result of this “leave the driving to us” approach in Buenos Aires?
The sidewalks are WHERE IT’S AT.
Every block in the Recoleta area where Ted and I stayed for a week this past January teemed with life. Sure, we’ve visited other world-class cities, but to us Buenos Aires is the best example of what life can be like when people get out of their cars. Or ditch car ownership altogether.
First, there are bookstores! We passed many on our walks around the city.
Cubbyholes like this one.
Others offer books on a grander scale. El Ateneo is housed in a refurbished theater, the Grand Splendid, on busy Avenida Santa Fe. Some say it’s the most beautiful bookstore in the world. We think it ranks right up there with one we fell in love with in Portugal a few years ago … the Livraria Lello in Porto.
There’s a cafe on what once was the theater’s stage.
And impressive views of a book-loving public from the store’s balconies. Known as the bookshop capital of the world, the city has more than 700 of them, roughly 25 brick-and-mortar bookstores for every 100,000 inhabitants.
Another thing that impressed us about the focus on public transportation in Buenos Aires is how compact and concentrated everyday life is.
Nearly every block is a universe in itself.
There’s often a cafe and a bakery or two, so you don’t have to take many steps from your front door to catch the aroma of fresh bread and cakes baking.
Items are displayed for maximum street appeal … tempting you as you dash to your bus stop. If you drop in for coffee and a toasted jamon y queso sandwich, no worries. Another bus will be along in a few minutes.
Butcher shops, fruit and vegetable stands, juice bars, wine and liquor stores abound. Farmacias, too.
The Carrefour grocery chain operates what it calls a hypermarket of express stores in barrios throughout the city. They are tiny and the aisles are cramped for sure, but on your way home from work, you can stop in and pick up everything you need for a nice dinner in.
Also along the sidewalks of Buenos Aires, we’ve never seen so many kiosks selling sweets.
The tiny snackfronts offer a dizzying array of candies, chocolates, Kit Kat and other candy bars we find in the United States. And those wonderful Latin American alfajores: cookie sandwiches with chocolate or dulce de leche in between.
Residents say the kiosks are one of the reasons for Argentina’s obesity problem. But speaking for ourselves after spending a week in BA, we saw more slender people than overweight ones: anecdotal evidence that led this tourist to conclude that walking to catch your bus every morning is one of the best ways to stay slim … even with occasional breaks for chocolate.
For more wholesome fare, there are plenty of restaurants in the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires … small, local ones like this one that serve amazing food, often Italian dishes like beefsteak Milanese, reflecting the city’s Italian heritage that took root here in the 19th century.
You can also grab a slice of pizza just about anywhere, like this place that has been serving customers since 1942. (We never did find out why it was named Kentucky, although we hear it had something to do with a wad of cash made at the Derby.)
The Argentine variety of pizza is typically thick-crusted, heavy on cheese and light on sauce. I liked it better than Ted did. (That was virtually the only thing we disagreed on during our visit.)
We enjoyed our week in Buenos Aires.
In fact, we concluded that one could live a most agreeable life here without venturing much beyond the street where you live.
Or you could hop on a bus, hold on tight and try something new … like a tour of the fabulous, century-old Teatro Colón near the city’s center, another impressive feature of life in Buenos Aires.
P.S. I’ll close with one other impression of Buenos Aires from our recent visit. The city was hit hard by Covid, with 17, 049 deaths and 1.52 million cases. A memorial in the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada is a stirring reminder of the loss.
The memorial is made of stones with the names of those who lost their lives to Covid, placed here by their families or loved ones.
And yet to a pair of tourists from the United States, the city seems to have fully recovered from the worst of the pandemic. We didn’t see a single sign on any storefront saying the business was closed because people don’t want to work.
To the contrary, people are working in Buenos Aires. Sidewalks are hosed down and swept each morning. Servers greet you in restaurants and shops as soon as you walk in the door.
We didn’t see any self-service or “fast casual” eateries, that awful U.S. term that might as well mean, “Grab your food yourself, eat it and get the hell out of our restaurant.” Businesses are friendly and welcoming here.
No one seemed rushed, angry or overworked. Indeed, everyone we met and interacted with seemed content … happy to be who they were, where they were.
Maybe that was the biggest difference we saw between our sometimes stressed-out, traffic-clogged home city, Atlanta, and beautiful Buenos Aires.
Thanks for reading! And watch for future blogs about our visits to Antarctica, Uruguay and Chile on the same trip that began in Buenos Aires.
4 thoughts on “The Best Views of Buenos Aires? From the Sidewalks”
Sent from my iPad
Hi Mike and Ted,Thank you for your pics and telling us about your stay in Buenos Aires. We liked hearing about your time there and how you were impressed by the city. It really is a great place to spend time in.We’ll being watching the Superbowl in a little while. I’m from Kansas City originally, so I’m cheering the Chiefs on with an order of BBQ ordered from one of our favorite restaurants there.I must tell you I smile, and my heart swells when I think of the two of you being together for 50 years! It’s obvious you still love each other. It just makes me happy to know you.Sending best wishes,Deanna HayMike MoxeySent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device
Thank you so much, Deanna. Glad you enjoyed it. Enjoy the game!