Slip on your comfiest shoes: dog mom Paige Nichols is sharing a porteño promenade with you.
Whether you’ve been in the city for just a few hours or a whole lifetime, it’s no secret that Buenos Aires is a treasure trove of gems, ripe for discovery. With 203.3 possible square kilometers to cover, it’s not necessarily a task for the faint of heart. Subways, buses, taxis, and trains crawl across the landscape, and we’re quick to forget about the sprawling green spaces and palm trees, impressive architecture, and the beautiful plazas that liven up this concrete jungle.
Rather than suffer through a taxi ride delayed by the inevitable traffic jam, why not put those feet to good use and hoof it across town, taking in the sights, sounds and smells along the way?
After much reliance on (and love for) BA’s public transportation system, I’ve become absolutely spoiled by working within walking distance of my apartment. Now, it just feels easier to walk most places, especially if the weather’s fine and I’m not in a rush. Add this to the fact that I’ve always preferred to get to know a city by tracing its streets and avenues on foot, and you’ve got a recipe for urban adventure.
One of my favorite strolls takes you through the corridor around Avenidas Libertador and Alcorta, from Palermo down to Retiro. It’s here that you’ll be able to take in the beauty of BA while avoiding those pesky narrow sidewalks that plague the city’s claustrophobic downtown.
We’ll start in Plaza Italia, not because it’s particularly lovely (it is not), but because it’s a hop away from the city’s Botanical Garden. Here you’ll meander among more than 5,000 species of plants and trees, not to mention the sculptures and semi-feral cats. The gardens are a fitting microcosm of Buenos Aires: beautiful, captivating, and inviting, but lacking regular maintenance, which leaves things a little rough around the edges.
Once you’ve had our fill of the verdant surroundings, walk down Avenida Las Heras to República Árabe de Siria, which runs behind the city’s zoo. This pocket of Palermo is filled with tree-lined streets, trendy cafés, and one of my favorite Italian restaurants, Bella Italia. Turn down Boulevard Cerviño for a slice of the good life; neighbors linger over coffee and cakes while their pampered pooches snooze on the sidewalks.
From here, turn left on Salguero and head toward Avenida Figueroa Alcorta. Pass in front of the always-popular MALBA (don’t miss the Mario Testino: In Your Face exhibit if you’re here before 16 June) and give yourself time for delusions of grandeur by looping through the exclusive Barrio Parque neighborhood situated just behind the museum.
By now you’ve worked up an appetite, or at least the desire to rest your feet and indulge in some people watching. Turn up Tagle and pray there’s an outdoor table with your name on it at Croque Madame, located on the grounds of the Museum of Decorative Arts (another jewel worth a visit). Sip on a glass of white wine and recharge those pilas at this little urban oasis; though the place is nearly always packed, the atmosphere is always laid back and relaxed.
Continue down Avenida del Libertador, stopping into the Musem of Fine Arts if you’re keen. The permanent collection houses works by Argentine masters Berni and Eduardo Mac Entyre, not to mention impressive exhibitions featuring greats such as Caravaggio and Botero. Once you’ve met your culture quota, cross up through Plaza Francia and Plaza Alvear, home to the popular weekend feria next to the Recoleta Cemetery.
For the home stretch, we’re going to take in some serious opulence. Avenida Alvear, where everything just oozes luxury, is the pinnacle of Buenos Aires’s mistaken Parisian identity. From the boutiques (Hermes is still standing, while Cartier and Ralph Lauren shuttered, following economic uncertainty) to the apartment buildings, every inch of this avenue is pristine. Elegant grandes dames stroll through the lobby of the Alvear Palace Hotel; its signature scent wafts through the air and nearly puts you in a trance. Head next door to the Galería Promenade and give your credit card a workout by picking up some art deco jewels or handcrafted silver masterpieces in one of the tiny shops tucked away.
Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
With your treasures in tow, reward yourself with a break for tea at the Palacio Duhau. The palace, originally built by railway executive Alejandro Hume, was occupied by the prominent Duhau family until 1976 and took on its new identity as the Park Hyatt in 2006. Its garden is unmatched, a refuge providing total peace and quiet in a subdued and impeccable setting.
From here, breeze past the old boys’ den at the Jockey Club and turn onto Arroyo, where art galleries line the curved street and toy poodles head out for an afternoon walk. Pop into Florería Atlántico, one of the newcomers that’s boosted what I like to call the Retiro Renaissance, and pick up some blooms and a bottle of wine for good measure. Make a mental note to return after dark for dinner and drinks at its underground cantina tucked behind a cleverly hidden door.
Before your stroll comes to a close, walk just a few blocks more to Plaza San Martín. One of the city’s most prominent, it teems with activity on any given sunny afternoon. The Edificio Kavanagh – built out of spite in 1934 by Corina Kavanagh in order to block the Anchorena family’s view of the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento – and the Palacio San Martín (where the Anchorenas used to reside) are two of BA’s most iconic buildings and can be enjoyed in unison from this vantage point.
After a splendid 5.8 kilometers, it’s time to head back to home base. Hail a taxi this time, not only have you earned it, but your tootsies will thank you.
Botanical Gardens – Av. Santa Fe 3951
Bella Italia – República Árabe de Siria 3285 / tel: 4802-4253
MALBA – Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415
Croque Madame – Av. del Libertador 1902 / tel: 4806-8639
Museum of Decorative Arts – Av. del Libertador 1902
Museum of Fine Arts – Av. del Liberator 1473
Galería Promenade – Av. Alvear 1883
Palacio Duhau – Av. Alvear 1661 / tel: 5171-1234
Florería Atlántico – Arroyo 872
Paige Nichols, 27, spends her days working in digital communication and strategy, and her nights eating and drinking her way across the city. Originally from Washington, DC, she relocated to Buenos Aires in 2008. You can follow her adventures on Instagram at @lapanza.