January 23, 2018 / Property Spotlight

Buenos Aires: An Insider’s Guide

Sommelier and Buenos Aires resident Sorrel Moseley-Williams takes a fresh look at the highlights of Argentina’s cosmopolitan and fun-loving capital


In Buenos Aires, Belle Epoque façades rub shoulders with brutalist architecture and glass-fronted skyscrapers; traditional tango and opera are enjoyed alongside electronic cumbia; and porteños (locals) have a seemingly insatiable thirst for rib eye, Malbec, and socializing—preferably at the same time, and usually until the small hours. Some describe the city as "New York lite.” Throw in a dose of fun-loving Latino attitude, and Buenos Aires can stake its claim as one of the world’s most exciting cities.

Designed and gifted to the city by Argentine architect Eduardo Catalano, the steel and aluminum Floralis Genérica is 105 feet wide when in full bloom. Banner image: The green dome of the neo-classical Palacio del Congreso towers above the Buenos Aires skyline. Photographs: Getty ImagesWhile Argentina has seen its fair share of political and economic ups and downs over recent years, its capital is currently riding high, with locals, visitors, and real estate investors discovering new architectural, cultural, and gourmet highlights.

Why now?
With Argentina’s economy at its most stable in a decade, it’s easy to see why international property buyers are considering this fascinating city, according to Fernanda Canals, president of ReMind Group, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Argentina.

Early settlers in the Recoleta neighborhood built elegant, European-style housing, contributing to the area’s timeless grandeur. Photograph: Getty Images“Two years into Mauricio Macri’s presidency, Argentina is showing great opportunity. By creating a new investment environment, the government is now open to receiving foreign capital. For the time being, prices are relatively low, and there is still room for investments to grow in value.

“Buenos Aires allows for diversity," Canals continues. "It welcomed a lot of immigrants in the early 20th century, and that philosophy is still present. Throw in an abundance of museums, nightlife, good food, plenty of greenery, and opera... Culturally, it’s very exciting.”

The leafy Palermo neighborhood features Parque Tres de Febrero, with its picturesque lakes and gardens. Photograph: AlamyProperty hot spots
Besides renowned barrios (neighborhoods) such as Palermo and Recoleta, Canals suggests buyers consider the northern belt just beyond the city limits.

“Palermo is green, home to parks and gardens such as the Rosedal. Here properties are modern with great views, and there’s a plethora of restaurants and bars. Recoleta has plenty of European style and is home to Belle Epoque architecture—it’s like a Latin version of Paris.

Green space abounds in Buenos Aires. Rosedal Park has a large lake and a rose garden designed by landscape artist Carlos Thays. Photograph: Alamy“Further north, in El Cordón del Norte, Vicente López and Olivos are close to the River Plate, and you’ll find even more green spaces that are perfect for families," Canals says. "It’s an interesting proposition given that big businesses are moving from Microcentro, the traditional central business district, to this area.”

The city is also more well connected than ever. Its proximity to its Latin American neighbors means it’s a two-hour flight from Santiago, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, while there are direct connections from New York, London, Houston, and many European capitals.

These colorful painted houses in the Abasto neighborhood are not far from a monument and museum dedicated to Carlos Gardel, a renowned tango singer. Photograph: Getty Images“Buenos Aires has new subway lines, the Metrobus, and bike lanes, so there’s incredible connectivity in terms of city transport links,” Canals adds.

Design and architecture
A short drive from the Four Seasons Hotel, where Christie’s International Real Estate will hold its 2018 Owners Conference on 5-6 February, a maze of extravagant mausoleums at Cementerio de la Recoleta mark the final resting places for Argentina’s great, good, and malevolent.

A stroll through Cementerio de la Recoleta is a journey through the country’s history, revealing the final resting places of past presidents, military heroes, politicians, and Argentina’s rich and famous. Photograph: ShutterstockAlso nearby is the Biblioteca Nacional, a brutalist marvel designed by legendary Argentine architect Clorindo Testa, also responsible for the Banco de Londres y América del Sud in Microcentro.

The city’s architecture is as varied as its cultural offerings. Among the standout examples are the brutalist Biblioteca Nacional by architects Clorindo Testa, Francisco Bullrich, and Alicia Cazzaniga de Bullrich. Photograph: Getty ImagesArt Deco fans will adore the Kavanagh Building overlooking Plaza San Martín in Retiro, as well as the Floralis Genérica installation in the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. Gifted to the city by architect Eduardo Catalano, its petals open and close in step with sunrise and sunset. 

Tango, which you can catch at the Faena Hotel’s Rojo Tango show, is undoubtedly Argentina’s most renowned cultural export, while the city’s Teatro Colón opera house stands out for its musical program and eclectic architecture.

Tango is at the heart of Argentina’s culture, gaining worldwide appeal in the 1930s. Today, visitors can attend dinner shows, or take part at a tango school or academy. Photograph: Getty ImagesThe capital also flexes its artistic muscles: not only was it selected for the Art Basel Cities initiative in 2018, the Faena Arts Center and Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires are musts for contemporary art enthusiasts.

Polo is the city’s most popular sport, and the Campo Argentino de Polo, or <i>La cathedral</i>, according to <i>porteños</i>, is the place to see it. Photograph: AlamyDespite Argentina’s relative youth as a nation—it’s just over 200 years old—history abounds: El Zanjón is thought to be the site of the city’s first settlement and is an archeological wonder, while the Museo Evita unveils the former first lady’s life. Given that many consider the sport of kings to be a religious experience, the Campo Argentino de Polo in Buenos Aires is aptly nicknamed La catedral (The Cathedral). Fans can catch charity matches in the offseason, while the Open is held in November and December.

Eating and drinking
As for dining out, it’s a no-brainer: an abundance of excellent steak and fantastic local wines is available in every barrio; the Four Seasons’ Nuestro Secreto is one of the finer purveyors. But beyond its iconic national dishes, Buenos Aires’s food scene is as eclectic as its architecture.

The outdoor-indoor restaurant Nuestro Secreto (Our Secret) at the Four Seasons is an urban retreat nestled between skyscrapers. The <i>asado</i> (traditional Argentine outdoor grill) surrounded by lounges and plump cushions is an excellent spot to gather for an aperitif as the sun goes down.Home to Tegui, listed on the 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, as well as Chila—recently awarded Relais & Châteaux’s seal of approval—the city also has nine establishments ranked on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list. For business lunches in Microcentro, Tomo 1 shouldn’t be missed, while the tasting menu at Recoleta’s Aramburu, which recently transferred from Constitución, is a lesson in fine dining.

The sleek Pony Line lounge in the Four Seasons offers creative cocktails while paying tribute to the sport of kings with its leather accents.And you can’t help but burn the midnight oil when in Buenos Aires, so grab a yerba mate-infused cocktail at the Pony Line lounge in the Four Seasons, which nods to the sport of kings. Or sip a Buenos Aires Zombie at Presidente Bar’s secret library, helmed by top mixologist Seba García.

While top-quality leather goods from the likes of Rossi & Caruso are an obvious indulgence, Argentine designers are also making their mark in other areas. Blue Sheep’s handmade knitwear is both cozy and stylish, while womenswear design legends include Martin Churba’s Tramando and JT by JT, Jessica Trosman’s second store on Posadas. Both are a stone’s throw from the elegant Alvear Palace, the classic luxury hotel where Christie's International Real Estate will host a cocktail party during the February conference.

Part of the city’s independent fashion boom, Jessica Trosman’s second store is a paean to good taste. Located on Posadas Street (home to one of the city’s finest hotels, as well as an apartment once lived in by former First Lady Eva Peron), the shop features voluminous cinched-waist pants and androgynous outerwear.Ready to plan a trip? The best time to visit Buenos Aires is in spring (October and November) and early summer, when the polo dominates the social calendar, porteños take to streetside cafés and restaurants, and the glorious blue-purple jacaranda trees are in full bloom.

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Sorrel Moseley-Williams
is a journalist and sommelier who has lived in Argentina since 2006