top of page

Buenos Aires - Tourist versus Local

You know how some places are great vacation spots, but you couldn't see yourself living there, or vice versa?

For example, for me, Atlanta was a fantastic city in which to live, raise a family, and own a business for 30 years. However, it was a bit challenging to entertain guests who visited for more than a few days. Atlantans love their Coca-Cola, but there are only so many times you can visit a soft drink museum. On the other hand, our home in Costa Rica was a fantastic place to visit. Endless beaches with brilliant orange sunsets were the perfect recipe for complete relaxation. However, after a while, I found myself longing for more social interaction than just monkeys, coatis, and iguanas.

My husband and I often ponder the tourist verses local question as we visit cities around the world but have never had the opportunity to stay in one place long enough to compare the differences until our trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Buenos Aires had never crossed my travel radar. Honestly, I hadn't given much thought to any of the countries in South America, instead focusing on more exotic locations like South Africa or Vietnam, or the familiar destinations of Europe.

But then one evening, I was watching an episode of the Netflix show, "Somebody Feed Phil," set in Buenos Aires, and my eyes were opened to the possibilities. If you haven't seen the show, I highly recommend it. Imagine a lighthearted version of Anthony Bourdain’s “Points Unknown” where Phil Rosenthal, a former TV producer, travels to cities worldwide, sampling the best food, highlighting the culture, and charming you with human-interest stories.

He had me hooked from the beginning by describing Buenos Aires as "feeling like you are in Europe". Europe. In South America. Really? "Tell me more, Phil,” I thought.

The next hour was filled with scenes of charming streetscapes, tango dancing, historic markets, delicious food, and the Argentinian tradition of gathering with family and friends to cook endless meats over an open fire called an Asado. It checked all the boxes of things I love.

"Perhaps Buenos Aires would be the perfect city to try an experiment," I thought. Would we enjoy Buenos Aires more as tourists or living like locals?

We spent a total of four weeks in Buenos Aires in the following months, approaching each two-week period very differently. The first two weeks were spent living like tourists, and the second two weeks were spent living like a local.


So, is Buenos Aires better suited for vacationing or living a local lifestyle?


BUENOS AIRES TOURIST EXPERIENCE

I had heard people say you only need a few days to see Buenos Aires. I can't help but think that must be quite a whirlwind tour in a metropolitan area with fourteen million people! We were able to fill two full weeks with new adventures every day.

We traversed the city from bustling grand boulevards to quaint historic neighborhoods, using trains, Ubers, and taxis. The transportation was quite easy to navigate, and despite its size, traffic flowed smoothly. The city was clean, had plenty of green spaces, and was very walkable. We felt safe everywhere we went, but we maintained an appropriate level of caution, as we always do when we travel.

Here are a few highlights of our tourist time:


Recoleta Cemetery: Who would have thought a cemetery would be at the top of a highlights list, right?


But this cemetery, situated in Buenos Aires' wealthiest neighborhood, Recoleta, impressively encompasses 14 acres and has 4691 vaults. Each gravesite felt incredibly personal, with marble mausoleums containing statues and inscriptions that tell the story of the lives and legacies of its inhabitants, including the final resting place of some of the country's most celebrated citizens, such as Eva Perón.


I highly recommend you hire a guide for a tour. It is a fascinating way to learn the history of the city through the stories of

individual lives.


Teatro Colón: The theater is emblematic of the nation's past wealth.


Opened in the early 1900s and undergoing a major renovation in 2010, the theater encompasses more than 88,000 square feet.


The reception halls exude elegance, and the grandeur of the performance seating area itself is stunning, with some of the best acoustics in the world.


We were fortunate enough to take a tour on a day when a local ballet school was performing a dress rehearsal, allowing us to see and hear the theater in all its glory.





Mercado de San Telmo: I love a good market, and Mercado de San Telmo did not disappoint.


Still thriving today in the original building where it began in the late 1800's to meet the needs of the rapidly growing immigrant population, it is a wonderful blend of locals and tourists. The market caters to the everyday needs of locals including vegetables and meats, but also offers hip modern goods and charming antiques.


Our favorite part was the expansive food hall featuring restaurants with fare ranging from delicious quick bites to white tablecloth dining. We scored front-row seats at La Choripaneria to watch the

creation of the Argentinian sausage sandwich

called Choriopan. Delicious!



La Boca: If you want to visit the roots of the immigrant population that built the city, you can't miss La Boca.


This small, brightly colored neighborhood was home to thousands of Italian immigrants when they first came to the country. The brightly colored houses lining the streets, once tenements where hundreds of people lived in deplorable conditions, now support a rich artist community.


Free guided tours of the area are highly recommended to fully understand and

appreciate the significance of this vibrant

neighborhood.



El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore: Argentinians love their books. Buenos Aires has more bookstores per capita than any other city in the world.


At the top of the list is the El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore. The name might sound pompous to some, but this bookstore lives up to its name.


Formerly a theater for many decades, it was converted into a bookstore in 2000 but continued to embrace the original architecture, including the stage, which is now a cute café where you can sip a cappuccino and enjoy the splendor of it all.




There are so many more places to visit and things to see and do in Buenos Aires. I highly recommend you visit the website www.solsalute.com. Erin Mushaway, the author, lives in Buenos Aires, and the website is a treasure trove of information on Buenos Aires as well as other locations throughout Argentina.

BUENOS AIRES LOCAL LIVING EXPERIENCE

For our second two-week stay, we took a totally different approach. Having checked off a lot of boxes during our first two weeks, we were ready to settle in and live like locals.

We rented a lovely apartment in Palermo, a neighborhood filled with cobblestone streets shaded by massive old trees. The streets were lined with quaint residential buildings, small shops, and dozens of sidewalk cafés. Mothers escorted their children to school, and well-heeled dogs and their owners strolled along the streets.

It was the peak of the cool autumn days when the gorgeous yellowing leaves stood out against the clear blue skies. We aimlessly wandered the neighborhood streets, visiting local markets whose owners were always happy to chat with us.

We explored the plethora of parks that are all equipped with public fitness equipment and filled with groups and individuals engaging in all forms of exercise, from tai chi to roller skate dancing throughout the day.

We found a padel tennis club around the corner from our apartment and signed up for lessons. As long-time tennis and pickleball players, we caught on very quickly. We loved our new sport so much that we signed up at the club for a weekend afternoon round-robin tournament. The tournament was a blast. We didn’t take home any trophies, but we certainly had a great time mingling with the locals and getting some great exercise at the same time.


Much of our time was spent sitting in the little café downstairs from our apartment, eating breakfast or lunch and watching the people go about their everyday lives. The waiter soon greeted us with a big smile and knew our "regular" order. We grew to expect the afternoon arrival of the cutest Corgi dog and its owner, who would always be there drinking an espresso at the same table each day.

It was easy to fall into the rhythm of the city, being able to wander freely without always needing a destination.

And life was good.



So which experience did we prefer? Tourist or Local?

Buenos Aires proved to be a city that captivated us both as tourists and as temporary locals. As tourists, we discovered a city brimming with history, vibrant neighborhoods, and cultural landmarks that kept us fully engaged.

But then, as locals, we discovered a different layer of Buenos Aires—a city that embraced us with its warmth, charm, and everyday rhythms. We found ourselves appreciating the simple joys of daily life, whether it was chatting with shop owners, exploring the local parks, or immersing ourselves in the neighborhood's unique character.

Ultimately, the preference between being a tourist or a local ended in a tie. I eagerly look forward to our next adventure in another city comparing tourist versus local lifestyles, inspired by the experiences we had in Buenos Aires. Until then, I'll be eagerly awaiting Phil's next destination on Netflix, ready to be captivated once again.

Comments


bottom of page