Buenos Aires Is One of the Most Underwhelming Cities We’ve Visited

Posted By Angie in South America | 10 comments


Buenos Aires Architecture.  Could Be Anywhere

Before our stop in Buenos Aires, many people assured me that I would fall in love with the “Paris of South America.” Seeing as Paris is one of my favorite cities that we’ve visited on our RTW trip, I had high expectations. But instead of being “electrifying” and “sizzling” as some guide books describe the city, I found Buenos Aires rather dull and underwhelming.

The lack of character, our bad food experiences, the difficulty of withdrawing money from ATMs, and other bureaucratic nightmares made our time in Buenos Aires less than awesome.

What City Is This?

The most interesting building in BA

My first impressions as we walked along Ave 9 de Julio were that I could be in any big city anywhere in the world. No architecture or character really stood out. We did walk through a few other neighborhoods like Recoleta and San Telmo, which, although they were nice, still felt like they could have been anywhere.  Considering other major cities have styles that are most certainly their own, Buenos Aires seemed just a little too plain. 

At Least the Food is Good, Right?

Seriously awful steak in Buenos Aires

I was really excited to try the food in Buenos Aires, but over and over again we just kept striking out.

My ravioli at the popular restaurant El Desnivel was inedible and Jeremy’s steak there was drowning in a layer of grease (see above). We tried three or four different pizza places, including the famous El Cuartito, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that all of the pizzas had barely any tomato sauce and were covered with pounds upon pounds of cheese. That’s not pizza, that’s just cheesy bread. 

The only good thing in Buenos Aires - Gelato!

On our final night in Buenos Aires we went to La Brigada, another popular spot known for their steaks. Jeremy and I both got the lomo, which was a nice hunk of meat, but that’s just it: it’s just meat! With no seasoning and no sauce, you can only eat so much before you get the meat sweats and give up. The final straw was when we stood up to leave after placing money on the table with the bill, and our waiter came over and counted the money while we were standing there! He then proceeded to tell us that tip was not included and waited expectantly for us to give him more.  Considering his service was poor at best, all they ended up with was a terrible review on TripAdvisor as soon as we got back to our room.

Low Limit ATMs and Bank Fees Galore

Another irritating thing about Buenos Aires is that you can only withdraw around $200USD at a time at ATMS, and the standard withdrawal fee is about $6USD. Seriously? You could spend $200 on a single dinner with relative ease at some of the popular restaurants we went to. Although this withdrawal limit is something we’ve found throughout Argentina, it is much more problematic in Buenos Aires where the cost of food and lodging is much higher than in smaller towns. So far we have spent more in bank fees in Argentina than we have in almost all of our previous countries combined.

The cemetery; however, was gorgeous.

And For Shipping Boxes, Don’t Even Think About It

Finally, don’t ever try to ship a package from Buenos Aires. Just don’t do it. We waited in line an hour for the post office to open, as the waits get incredibly long if you show up any later, only to find out that you can’t ship boxes weighing more than 2 kg from just any old post office. You have to go to a specific head post office, which has weird hours and even longer lines (people take their number, go about their days, and come back hours later to do their business).  We ended up carrying our box on our flight to Ushuaia and over the border into Chile before finally being able to mail it without hassle at a local post office (it also arrived to our parent’s house 6 days later, a new record).

I admit that we didn’t see everything Buenos Aires has to offer. We’re not partiers so we didn’t experience staying out until 5am drinking and we also didn’t get to see any of the tango culture which is something we deeply regret. Even so, I don’t think any of these experiences would have redeemed the city for me. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t find anything that really intrigued me about Buenos Aires.

Luckily, we flew down to the Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia shortly thereafter, and our opinion of Argentina as a whole changed for the better.

We spoke to many travelers in Argentina who felt the same way as us about Buenos Aires, but we want to know what you think!  Comment below to let us know what you thought about this popular South American destination.

Angie

Angie is the resident foodie of Living the Dream. She seeks out local food, restaurants, farmers markets, and cooking classes wherever she travels. Angie has been on one long-term trip of 465 days along with her husband Jeremy.

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10 Comments

  1. I’m sorry you guys had a disappointing time in Buenos AIres! While I ran into a few of the things you all did (one disappointing dining experience and those horrible ATMs!) and had cold, rainy weather for most of my time there, overall, I really liked Buenos Aires. It did remind me a bit of Paris, but also of Washington DC, my home city.

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  2. This makes me so sad! I haven’t visited yet, but I totally built Buenos Aires up as this magical European-like exclave in South America. I’m bummed to hear you had a less than awesome experience.

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    • If I hear the expression “Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America” one more time I will scream. (Good thing you didn’t say it!) I do not think there is very much in Buenos Aires that was European other than the fact that it is modern when compared to other major cities in South America. I’d rather visit a city that has character and a unique feel than a generic one.

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  3. I half-agree, based on my 2009 visit. The architecture is a non-unified pastiche. This is because in the “olden days” when people made huge fortunes, they would bring over entire disassembled buildings from France or Italy.
    The ATM issues — nowadays the thing to do, I have read is to use the “blue” exchanges, but you need USD. I have heard of some Bitcoin options. In 2009, I just used the ATM or credit cards, and did not find this a big deal.
    What I particularly liked was the tango culture and the musical culture. So if you missed those, then you missed most of what I liked.
    So far as food goes, I did pretty well choosing almost at random (this was 2009, so who knows if it is still true). I had a great set of walking tours. I loved the modern art museum. I loved La Boca. I loved a day tour I took to a ranch in the countryside where they had an amazing meat-based feast. I loved hearing, unexpectedly, the Hallelujah Chorus in English, at the cathedral.
    I disliked the horrible sidewalks, and for some reason they bothered me more in BA than elsewhere.

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  4. Like you, I did not find that Buenos Aires lived up to the hype – and that’s probably why. I think I expected too much of it, and was disappointed to find just another, normal city. I enjoyed my time there, but don’t think it is anything special. The South American cities that really stood out for me were Valparaiso, Cusco, La Paz and Medellin. Buenos Aires, not so much.

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    • I definitely agree with you on Valparaiso and Cusco. Those have been some of our favorite places in South America so far. La Paz was alright to us, but we really loved Sucre! We’re really excited to be getting closer to Colombia as we always hear wonderful things about Medellin.

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  5. Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy BA! In January I went on a month-long trip through Argentina, Chile and Uruguay and I was absolutely in love with the city. Compared to the rest of S. America, the architecture is really unique and I felt like I was in Spain the whole time. Maybe since I’ve been living in Brazil for so long that I had a little bit of a different perspective. But I do agree, the pizza has no sauce and the food generally has no flavor to it.

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  6. You are not alone. After enjoying the rest of Argentina, we were really disappointed with BsAs. Everything was so pricey and unremarkable. I thought parts of the city were really gorgeous, but we were expecting a bit more from the food.

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  7. I also was disappointed in BA. Although we found one fantastic and cheap parillada for steak sandwiches. We ate there all the time. I thought BA fairly dirty and difficult. Now, I imagine it even worse. We were there in 2009 when the peso was better. Now, the economy is in shambles making everything so much more expensive. As for the steak, I am hoping you had better steak experiences outside of BA. For me, Argentina has ruined me for steak, as I cannot really eat it anywhere else. High quality beef should need nothing more than some salt and a grill – no sauce or other seasoning. To me, that is the sign of a good steak. I hope you enjoyed the steak elsewhere!

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    • I wish we had the name of that Parilla for those sandwiches. Do you remember for anyone who may stumble upon this post later on before they travel to BA?

      The thing that upsets me the most about the economy issues is that if we had USD with us we could get a 50% bonus on the money over the official rate. But since we’ve been traveling so long we had no means to bring in $1,000 to $2,000 in USD like that.

      We’ve had much better steak in Argentina after the fiasco in Buenos Aires. Our favorite has been at a small place in El Chalten that only seasoned with salt and pepper (the only ones ever needed), topped with some grilled vegetables, and was just heavenly. For me, though, I still say the steaks in Kobe, Japan reign supreme!

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