10 Cultural Experiences To Have In Buenos Aires, Argentina

graffiti Traveling to Buenos Aires in Argentina? Add these experiences to your itinerary for a better view of local culture.

Graffiti Walks

Walking around Buenos Aires, it will immediately become clear the city has close ties with the arts, specifically graffiti. While many associate street art with vandalism, the works adorning the streets in Buenos Aires are created by talented and thought-provoking artists, many who are trying to send messages about politics and government. Porteños, or the people of B.A., are very passionate about politics, and you can often see protesting happening on Avenida de Mayo and in Plaza de Mayo. The city’s graffiti is a symbol of these amorous locals. You can either wander around on your own or opt for a Graffitimundo Graffiti & Street Art Tour.Visit An Estancia

An estancia is a large rural estate, similar to an American ranch. These stationary ranching ventures feature workers on horseback, or gauchos, and crop farming due to the area’s healthy soil. Travelers can visit estancias right outside Buenos Aires in the Pampas region and take part in activities such as eating typical Argentinian food like empanadas and asado, sipping local wines, drinking mate, horseback riding, riding in colonial carriages, watching traditional folk dancing and taking part in events like ring races and troops rides. You’ll get to learn about the gaucho lifestyle, and experience an important agricultural region in the country.

tango Do The Tango, Or At Least Watch

Argentina is thought to be the birthplace of tango, which is a big part of the culture. In Buenos Aires, you’ll catch free impromptu acts on the streets as well as on Sundays at the weekly San Telmo Market and Recoleta Fair. Other ways to experience complimentary tango include going to Museo Casa Carlos Gardel, which regularly features free tango shows and lessons and at many of the city’s cultural centers on Sundays. If you have money to spend and want a lavish experience, many venues offer dinner, wine and a show and/or classes, such as La Ventana, Rojo Tango and Complejo Tango. Another option is to go to a milonga, a place where tango is danced. For instance, La Glorieta offers free entrance to their open-air milonga on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 7 to 10 p.m. Even when these venues are not free, they are usually inexpensive and allow you to watch some of the city’s best tango dancers.

Go To A Peña

While most people know Argentina for its rich tango culture, a lesser-known facet is peñas folklóricas. These rustic dance halls feature wine, food, singing, dancing and traditional guitar music. Originating in the 1950s, they started when people from rural communities moved to Buenos Aires and began to long for the traditions and laid-back atmosphere of the country. You can expect live performances, impromptu jam sessions and improvisational dancing. While typically located in Salta, peñas are also located in Buenos Aires. Some venues to check out include La Peña del Colorado, Los Cumpas and Los Cardones, which also offers folk dancing classes on Fridays from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

coffee buenos aires Have A Coffee In Argentina’s Oldest Cafe

In Buenos Aires, cafes and coffee play a large role in the culture. It’s not simply a place to grab a quick cup and go, but to leisurely sit with friends and chat. It’s also a venue for people to enjoy a breakfast of cafe con leche y medialunas, or coffee with milk and croissants, while reading the morning paper. The cafe culture in Buenos Aires is so strong, 53 of the oldest have been declared part of the cultural and historical heritage of the city. To experience history and culture, head to Cafe Tortoni. Located on Avenida de Mayo, it is the oldest cafe in Argentina. Opened in 1858, the lighting, furniture and interior design have remained the same, and you’ll see paintings, artwork and newspaper clippings that make the cafe seem like a museum. They open at 5 p.m. when locals typically have a snack, as dinner isn’t until around 11 p.m. and sometimes after midnight.

To order like a local, remember a few tips. First of all, if you want a small espresso shot make a “c” shape with your hands (shown above). No talking is necessary, although if you’d like you can say “cafe” while doing the gesture. If you’d like a larger beverage with 3/4 coffee and 1/2 milk say “jarito.” If you say “lagrima” to your server, you’ll get the opposite, 3/4 milk and 1/4 coffee. To order a large cup of 1/2 milk and 1/2 coffee, say “cafe con leche.”

See A Protest

Like I said before, Buenos Aires’ locals are passionate about politics. In fact, don’t be surprised to see three or four protests a day in the city. Most occur on Avenida de Mayo, a road connecting the city’s political buildings of National Congrass and Casa Rosada, as well as Plaza de Mayo, located right in front of Casa Rosada. At Casa Rosada, you’ll notice a makeshift fence separating the building from the plaza. While technically a temporary fence put up only during protests, city officials got tired of constantly having to put it up and take it down and just left it there. In 2011, angry locals protested so hard, then-President Fernando de la Rúa resigned from office and exited the building via rooftop helicopter.

At 3 p.m. on Thursdays in Plaza de Mayo, you’ll see the silent protesting of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, or Mother’s of Plaza de Mayo, circling the square’s May Pyramid monument. During the 1970s, Argentina went through a period of military dictatorship, leading to over 30,000 people going missing, ending up in torture camps and being killed. These women have been asking for answers as to where their children are ever since. While Argentina now enjoys a democracy, knowing the story of these women will make you truly appreciate your freedom and rights.

malbec Have A Glass Of Malbec

While Malbec production has declined in France, it is prominent in Argentina. Although the vine cuttings were originally brought over from France in the mid-19th century, the wine differs from its European relative as the grapes in Argentina have tinier berries that grow in smaller, tighter clusters. Expect fruit flavors like currants, plums, cherries and raspberries, as well as notes of spice, vanilla and sometime tobacco. Although Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja are the most prominent wine-producing regions in the country, vineyards have sprouted up in the southern part of the Buenos Aires province since the 21st century. You can also visit a local wine bar for a taste of locally-produced Malbec, like Finca, a modest wine bar focusing on rare Argentine wines from boutique wineries, Terroir, a hip venue with an exclusive wine list from top estates and La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar, which features an affordable tasting menu and extensive wine list with all bottles available by the glass.

Browse The Markets

Wandering through the markets and fairs of Buenos Aires, you’ll find everything from leather goods and antiques to yerba mate dispensers and gaucho wear. If you visit the San Telmo Market on Sunday, you’ll find millions of antiques, as the neighborhood is a hub for these items. You’ll also find artisanal goods, typical foods and tango performances. On Saturdays and Sundays you’ll find an artisanal fair in Plaza Francia near Recoleta Cemetery, with over 100 stalls of traditional pottery, leather products, traditional foods and street performers. In the Palermo Soho area, you’ll find numerous markets, like the one at Plaza Serrano, which has a hippie vibe and is great for finding unusual clothing items and alternative jewelry. You can also stop by Plaza Armenia for handmade goods, keepsakes and clothing.

mate Drink Mate With New Friends

You’ll often notice locals walking around Buenos Aires carrying hollow gourds filled with yerba mate, or mate. In Argentina, mate holds the special meaning of sharing, and people often get together to hangout and pass around the infusion of proteins, caffeine, herbs and hot water. It’s often passed around in a circle, with the “ceba el mate,” or the person who prepared it, being the first one to take a taste. When someone says “thanks” after sipping it means they don’t want anymore, which is why you shouldn’t thank everyone who hands you the drink. While you can easily have a drink of this by yourself, mate is best shared with new or old friends.

Check Out Street Performers And Live Music

The pulse of Buenos Aires beats through its upbeat song and dance. Explore the fairs and markets or ride the subway or train and you’ll be almost guaranteed a free show. Additionally, Museo Casa Carlos Gardel hosts live performances on Wednesdays, as does the Palace Notel on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7 p.m. For a daily dose of performance culture, head to the Street Museum Caminito in La Boca any day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for outdoor art, singers, dancers and one-of-a-kind acts.

[Images via Jessie on a Journey, prayitno, Jessie on a Journey, Ed Yourdon, Jorgealfonso]

Cruise Line Adds Focus On Learning And Self-Discovery

cruise linesCommon thoughts about a standard cruise line experience include bellying up to the buffet, ’70s Vegas-like entertainment and non-stop bingo with a few thousand strangers sailing through the Caribbean.

That experience can still be found, but these days, cruise lines are focusing on engaging passengers in a variety of new ways. From a focus on destination immersion to revamped onboard programming, today’s cruise experience can be a voyage of learning and self-discovery.

Luxury line Crystal Cruises has a 74-day world cruise coming up this winter. Like other lines offering world cruises, Crystal allows travelers to sign up for what they call “segments” of the world cruise, shorter journeys in specific areas of the world.

The February 2, 24-day segment from Lima to Buenos Aires is one of those experiences where passengers can choose from dozens of classes, hands-on lessons and interactive workshops in everything from golf to global affairs, Pilates to painting and memoir writing to magic.Via Crystal’s Creative Learning Institute curriculum, guests can learn how to make a movie of the Chilean fjords with an iPad through USC’s School of Cinematic Arts’ Digital Filmmaking classes. They can learn how to cook a traditional Peruvian meal at a Lima culinary school or learn to tread lightly in Antarctica, with a choice of two excursions to the remote continent.

This kind of cruise vacation does have its price though. All-inclusive fares for the 24-day segment start at $12,760 per person.

Overview of Buenos Aires



[Flickr photo by d[-_-]b Jonathan d[-_-]b]

Stressed Out? Try A Walk In A Cemetery

cemeteryCemeteries get a bad rap in the United States. The only time of year we really pay attention to them is Halloween, and then, it’s to equate them with fear or evil. I suppose Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day give cemeteries a little love, but those holidays are more about who’s in the actual graves, and not about the places themselves.

Unlike many of the world’s cultures, which celebrate or dignify death, we avoid it. So it’s no wonder that most Americans find cemeteries creepy. That said, I’ve met a number of people like myself who enjoy exploring cemeteries when they travel. Some enjoy the religious, spiritual, historical, or cultural aspects, others like visiting the gravesites of famous people. Many find wandering through graveyards peaceful and relaxing, a place for quiet contemplation.

The latter is the primary reason I enjoy visiting cemeteries, although I also use them as a way to find out more about the city, village or country I’m visiting. I look at the names on headstones, trying to discern the immigrant origins of the residents, or imagine what circumstances led to the death of, say, so many townsfolk in a given year. I also like looking at surnames, especially in 19th century American cemeteries, because they’re often (forgive me) amusing.

%Gallery-165496%cemetery Boulder, Colorado’s, Columbia Cemetery was established in 1870. It’s filled with pioneers, Union soldiers, miners, even an infamous 19th century “lady of the evening,” and a recently identified Jane Doe from a 1954 murder case. There are also lots of great surnames: Goodnow; Sex; Belcher; Hussie; Slauter, and Liverhaste.

Built on 10.5 acres near Chautauqua Park, and overlooked by the famous Flatirons, the cemetery is a favorite spot for locals to run, walk their dogs (how many other cemeteries have dog waste bags at their gates?), or go for a quiet stroll. I live right up the street, and visit at least once a week, using it as an interesting detour on my walks downtown.

My favorite cemetery of all time is Telluride’s Lone Tree, which I’ve written about previously. Located toward the end of a box canyon with waterfall, it’s not only beautiful, but historically fascinating. The Telluride Historical Museum occasionally offers tours of Lone Tree, but you can just as easily visit yourself.

While I find many small-town graveyards interesting and a good place for a mental time-out, some big-city cemeteries are bona fide tourist attractions, yet remain peaceful oases. I highly recommend Paris’ Pere Lachaise, for its elaborate tombs and grave markers, many of which belong to the likes of Frédéric Chopin, Edith Piaf, and yes, Jim Morrison.
la recoleta
At La Recoleta Cemetery (Cemetario de la Recoleta) in Buenos Aries, you can visit the tomb of Evita Perón, as well as those of many of Argentina’s most famous political and literary figures. It’s worth a visit regardless, for the architecture of the mausoleums, which range from Baroque, Art Noveau and Art Deco to Neo-Gothic.

[Photo credits: fall cemetery, Flickr user JamieSanford; Chiloe, Laurel Miller; La Recoleta, Flickr user pablo/T]

‘The Perennial Plate’ Partners With Intrepid Travel For Online Food Documentary Series

food documentariesI’ll be the first to raise my hand and say I despise most of the food shows currently on television and online. That’s why I got so excited when I heard about “The Perennial Plate,” a weekly online documentary series, “dedicated to socially responsible and adventurous eating.”

That angle by virtue does not a good show make. But Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine, the team behind the show, have the ideal background to make this concept work, which it does. Throw in a collaboration with well-regarded Australian adventure company Intrepid Travel, and you have the makings of a cult classic.

In case you’re thinking this is another “No Reservations,” or “Bizarre Foods,” the focus is different in that the duo explores the increasingly connected global food system, minus the machismo. That said, there’s plenty for those more interested in armchair travel.

Klein has an impressive resume as a chef, filmmaker and activist, while “camera girl” Fine has a background in graphic design and writing, and has previously released short, food-based films. Together, the two have completed two seasons. The first took place over the course of a calendar year in their home state of Minnesota. The second was filmed across America, taking viewers on a journey of “where good food comes from, and how to enjoy it.”

Season three, which premieres in October (check their site for dates), is the first since joining with Intrepid Travel. The season kicks off with a tour of Vietnam. Future episodes will include China, Japan, India, Argentina and Italy.


Sick Of The Heat? 40 Places Where You Can Cool Off

glacier national park Most people look for warm places to visit. I look for cold ones. I live near Washington, D.C., and by mid-July, I’ve had it with the suffocating heat and humidity. I’ve taken escape-the-heat trips almost every summer over the last five years to places like Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Maine and the Pacific Northwest.

The lower the temperature the better as far as I’m concerned, especially this summer, which has been one of the hottest in American history. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 40,000 daily heat records had been obliterated by the Fourth of July. Take a look at the USA Today weather map and you’ll see a sea of depressing deep red all over the country.

If you’re looking to escape the heat, check out these possibilities (with high and low temperatures for July 25 listed) for some immediate relief. And if you know someone like me who sweats like a pig and is always carping about the heat, forward them this list!North America

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia- 71/64- Cape Breton is one of my favorite summer escapes. It has stunning natural beauty, great beaches, whale watching and traditional Celtic music and dances every night of the week in the summer.

Rangeley, Maine- 76/54- The tourist hordes flock to the Maine coast each summer, but if sitting in huge traffic jams and paying $300 a night for a motel room doesn’t appeal to you, try this classic lakefront resort town, which is just 2.5 hours north of Portland, Maine.

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia- 70/59- This enchanting waterfront town has a terrific old town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. With its treasure trove of historic homes and B & B’s, you’d think it would be mobbed with tourists in the summer, but I was there a few years ago in August and it was blissfully quiet.

Twillingate, Newfoundland-71/58- You can actually buy a rustic little vacation home for less than it would cost you to rent a similar place in the Hamptons for a week. This is a delightful, end-of-the-world fishing village where you can watch icebergs float by from May-July. Don’t go to the only Chinese restaurant in town though, it might be the worst food I’ve ever had in my life.

zocalo mexico cityMexico City, Mexico- 73/58-(see photo above) Mexico’s capital gets a bad rap, but I love the place. It’s full of interesting neighborhoods, terrific museums, amazing archaeological treasures and the best public square in North America. Best of all, with an altitude of 7411 feet, the climate is moderate all year round.

Alaskan cruise- (Juneau- 66/50)- According to www.priceline.com, you can book a seven-night Alaskan cruise, passing through Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, The Inside Passage, and Vancouver for as little as $499 per person. Summers’s like this one were made for Alaskan cruises.

Glacier National Park, Montana- 71/43-(see top photo) I visited Glacier in late August two summers ago, and they had snow on the famous Going to the Sun road the week before our visit. Be sure to make a trip out to the Polebridge Mercantile, just outside the park to see one of the most off-the-grid settlements in America.

Vancouver, British Columbia- 76/60- Vancouver is one of the greenest, prettiest cities in North America with terrific natural beauty, great food and a Pacific Rim flare. You might encounter rain, but it won’t be scorching hot.

Seattle, Washington- 79/60- Seattle is one of my favorite American cities, and not just because of its temperate climate. Pike Place Market is one of the best of its kind in the country and the city’s stunning geography, islands, and nearby natural splendor make this a can’t miss mid-summer vacation spot. Google Kurt Cobain’s house and you can make a pilgrimage to the house where the punk icon died.

San Francisco, California- 63/52- The Bay Area can be downright cold in the summer, but I don’t mind. SF is easily the country’s most atmospheric city. A mecca for creative types, this is a great city for walkable neighborhoods, great bookstores and every type of ethnic food imaginable.

San Diego- 71/64- For my taste, San Diego has the best climate in the country. It’s relentlessly sunny but so temperate you don’t even need air conditioning. Great beach towns like La Jolla and Del Mar make this region one of my favorite parts of the country.

Grand Canyon National Park- 78/49- You’ll be sharing the awesome vistas at this majestic site with millions of others, but at least you won’t be baking in 100 degree heat.

Banff National Park, Alberta- 72/47- Banff is spectacular. If you’re looking for a mountain retreat with cool weather, fishing, hiking and mountain biking, look no further.

And here are some other ideas outside North America:

Galway, Ireland- 67/53
York, United Kingdom- 73/58
Isle of Skye, Scotland- 60/53
Brugge, Belgium- 77/61
Copenhagen, Denmark- 74/62
Stockholm, Sweden- 76/61
Yaroslavl, Russia- 78/60
Tallinn, Estonia- 76/59
Reykjavik, Iceland- 58/49
Khövsgöl Nuur, Mongolia- 70/39
Thimphu, Bhutan- 77/65
Kathmandu, Nepal- 77/68
Auckland, New Zealand- 62/51
Sydney, Australia- 69/52
Santiago, Chile- 64/35
Easter Island, Chile- 66/62
Bogota, Colombia- 68/49
Machu Picchu, Peru- 70/33
Buenos Aires, Argentina- 60/39
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay- 56/40
Potosi, Bolivia- 59/30
Quito, Ecuador- 73/51
Mendoza, Argentina- 63/35
Cape Town, South Africa- 70/51
Kruger National Park, South Africa- 68/38
Swakopmund, Namibia- 76/59
South Georgia Island, Antarctica- 34/32

[Photos by Dave Seminara]