This is easily my favorite neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Yes, Palermo, located in the north of the city, just west of the Recoleta district (click here to read about Recoleta) is less touristy, with only a couple sights that would attract the average traveler. It lacks much of the spectacular architecture that defines some of the older neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. It is residential, hipster, and, to me, perfect. It is also where I’m spending my month here living.
The name of the neighborhood comes from the abbey of Saint Benedict of Palermo, the patron saint of Sicily. But with the number of Italian immigrants Buenos Aires boasts, easily evidenced by the overwhelming number of quality pizza joints all over town, having a neighborhood named for an Italian city makes even more sense. Palermo grew during the second half of the nineteenth century as Buenos Aires expanded west, and a more open new city plan for this area allowed vast green spaces to be worked in, highlighted by the EcoParque (the city’s free zoo), a botanical garden, and the huge February 3 Park.
Palermo is today an upscale neighborhood, featuring luxury high rise buildings, hip restaurants, cool bars and cafes, and shopping. One can sort of divide the neighborhood into two sections, one to the north of the Buenos Aires D Line subway, and one south. North holds the parks, some museums (more on those in a bit), and some great cafes. South is restaurant central, with streets lined with cool eateries, as well as one of the top rated bars in the entire world.
If you are staying in any other part of Buenos Aires and come to Palermo, chances are it is for either of the area’s top two museums: Museo Evita or MALBA, the Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art. Both are in the northern half of Palermo. Museo Evita sits on a small shaded street just a block or so from the zoo, and is something that one probably wouldn’t even notice walking past unless one knew to look for it. This small museum is dedicated to the life and works of Eva (Evita) Peron, Argentina’s First Lady during the dictatorship of Juan Peron and subject of the film and musical Evita. (Click here to read more about Museo Evita and the story of Eva Peron.)
MALBA is a bit more obvious, a modern building sitting adjacent to yet another park. The museum is large, but features a lot of open space, with a few permanent exhibits, all of art done specifically by Latin American artists. It is one of the largest collections of its kind in the world, and in my mind, worth a visit just for that fact. While Buenos Aires also has a “normal” fine art museum, its place as one of the centers of culture in South America means a chance to really appreciate the work of local artists, most of whom I’d never heard of before.
While visiting this northern section of Palermo, take a couple hours (at least) to walk around the parks. February 3 Park has wide lawns, lakes with peddle boats, and a superb rose garden in addition to its other features, spread out over several miles and cut across by a few streets. On a pretty day, it seems all of Palermo is here to enjoy the sunshine and greenery, as well as pop-up food stalls and live music.
EcoParque certainly isn’t the best zoo I’ve ever visited, but it is free, cute, and right here in the middle of the city! The easy highlight is the abundance of maras, rodents that sort of look like marsupials, that are loose. They are adorable, wandering at their leisure along with peacocks, adding some terrific local ambience to a zoological park with giraffes, elephants, a capybara, monkeys, Andean condors, and more.
If you journey south in Palermo, you’ll find the heart of Buenos Aires’ hip dining scene. Costa Rica Street, in particular, has several blocks with almost nothing but cool restaurants, all lit up at night with patio seating, offering everything from Argentine parrilla (grilled meats) to Mexican food, sushi, and more.
Or head a few blocks away to the totally unassuming Tres Monos, one of the top rated bars in the world, for incredible craft cocktails that would be $15 or more back home in Los Angeles, but with the power of the dollar here in 2023, come in around $5. My drink had orange and rhubarb, and other ingredients I wasn’t able to translate, and was awesome!
But my favorite Palermo activity is sitting at a cafe and watching the dog walkers. There are more dogs here than anywhere I’ve ever been, and during the work week, dog walkers have ten or more at a time. They are well behaved (even solo dogs walking off leash on the sidewalk, or groups playing together – with their owners, of course – in the parks all seem to be impeccably trained) and a sight to see while one sips coffee and enjoys a pastry. Try Lharmonie, a Kosher (so closed on Saturdays) cafe for a solid latte and perhaps the best almond croissant I’ve ever tried, as well as a cute little patio that is prime dog watching territory. Or pick up empanadas from Vinnie’s and head to any of the parks (try the German Plaza, perhaps) to watch the dogs at play and enjoy your flaky finger food.
For my month in Buenos Aires, this neighborhood has been home. And I can safely say that there is nowhere else in this huge and beautiful city that I’d rather have be home than Palermo. Whether it’s a small cafe along Avenida Scalabrini Ortiz near my Airbnb apartment, or a great restaurant next to Armenian Immigrants Plaza, or a park bench in one of the literally dozens of green spaces, Palermo makes me happy and makes me feel welcome. And it will do those things for you, too!
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