Last month I set up camp in Buenos Aires, Argentina for three weeks, and rather than stay in one place the whole time I decided to split my stay between accommodation in three areas: San Telmo, Recoleta and Palermo. Each neighborhood had its own unique atmosphere, attractions and culture, and Palermo was undoubtedly the most contemporary, action-packed barrio that I explored.
I actually spent more time in Palermo than any other Buenos Aires neighborhood, staying in my rented apartment for slightly more than two weeks. I took advantage of my extended pause in Palermo to really get to know the neighborhood and to travel in a more relaxed stye: reading by the pool in the late afternoon, going out for happy hour drinks at sunset and, of course, dining in Palermo’s many world-class restaurants.
I’m sharing all of my favorite things in this Buenos Aires neighborhood, and I’m pretty sure that by the time you’re done reading about them you’ll be booking your own flight to Buenos Aires!
The Many Faces of Palermo
Palermo is the largest district in Buenos Aires, so it has been divided into a number of smaller neighborhoods, known as sub-barrios. Each one has its own atmosphere, culture and attractions. I actually didn’t explore them all, but I will give you the lowdown on the different Palermo sub-barrios that I spent time visiting:
- Palermo Soho – My Airbnb was on the north edge of Palermo Soho, a few blocks away from Plaza Italia. In my opinion, this is the best sub-barrio to base yourself in, as it’s sort of in the middle of everything. You’ll find hundreds of trendy restaurants, cafes and bars at your doorstep, but it’s also easy to hop on the metrobus or subway to reach other parts of the city.
- Palermo Hollywood – During my stay in Palermo I often crossed the metrobus tracks to visit Palermo Hollywood. This area felt a little grittier, but in return things were generally a little bit cheaper and cooler.
- Palermo Botanico – A little bit far from the action, this part of Palermo is home to several of the city’s largest and most beautiful parks. You’ll definitely want to spend an afternoon wandering around this region, and it would be a good place to rent an apartment if you’re traveling with children.
- Palermo Chico – This is the part of Palermo that borders Recoleta, and is closest to the tourist attractions of that barrio. It’s primarily residential, but it does have a few interesting museums.
Things to Do in Palermo
At first glance, Palermo may seem less interesting that Recoleta and San Telmo, but actually, it’s home to some of Buenos Aires’ most interesting attractions. You’ll definitely want at least two days to explore the indoor and outdoor attractions in Palermo… anything less would be impossibly rushed!
MALBA (Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires)
The #1 top thing to do in Palermo is to visit the MALBA, or the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires. Opened in 2001, this contemporary art museum has a permanent collection of more than 400 pieces from the most prominent Latin American artists of the 20th century including Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Additionally, they feature rotating special exhibits (during my visit, they were showcasing La Pileta by Leandro Erlich, a piece that had been on my radar since it was first exhibited about twenty years ago). Admission is heavily discounted on Wednesdays, but it’s a good value no matter when you visit.
As a foreign tourist in Argentina, you are likely to hear many different opinions about Eva Peron. Although most of what you hear will be positive, if not reverent, even the kindest words are often followed by a “but…”. There are no buts at the Eva Peron Museum in Palermo, where room after room after room celebrates the life and accomplishments of South America’s most famous first lady. The story of Evita’s life is told through her dresses, her possessions, photographs and videos. Other than the videos, most of the exhibits are signed in both English and Spanish. The museum is located in a house that used to owned by one of Evita’s social foundations, and you’ll definitely want to enjoy lunch in the cafe before or after your visit.
(I regret not rewatching Evita before coming to Buenos Aires… don’t make the same mistake I did!)
National Museum of Decorative Arts
Argentina’s National Museum of Decorative Arts is located in a spectacular turn-of-the-century mansion in Palermo. The building was designed by French architect Rene Sargent (who also worked on the Savoy Hotel and Claridges in London, along with the Rolls-Royce headquarters!) for an elite local family. The museum does double-duty: its rooms showcase the opulent furnishings that only the richest Argentinians could dream of in the early 1900s, while its walls also showcase a collection of important pieces from artists including El Greco and Manet.
Photo credit: @travelbuenosaires
The Botanical Gardens
Adjacent to Plaza Italia, the Botanical Gardens of Buenos Aires is home to numerous themed gardens (French, Italian and Asian) and an Art Nouveau greenhouse dating back to 1900, which together house more than 6,000 different varieties of plants. If you speak Spanish, you can sign up for one of the free guided tours that take place on Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons.
Photo credit: @travelbuenosaires
Buenos Aires Eco Park
I was super-confused when I visited the Buenos Aires Eco Park in Palermo, because I’d seen it listed as a “former zoo”… but it was still full of captive animals including elephants, capybaras and birds of prey. My understanding is that the remaining animals are mostly rescued from worse situations, and there is an ongoing effort to rehome the animals that are currently living in the Eco Park, but it’s not an attraction I can currently recommend, even though admission is free. If you happen to visit after they’ve rehomed all of their captive animals, please let me know so that I can update this post!
Parque 3 de Febrero / Bosques de Palermo
One park, two names. Whether you call it Parque Tres de Febrero or Bosques del Palermo, this is the largest park in Palermo. Centered around a large lake with rental boats, but is also home to a planetarium, a rose garden, a collection of busts of significant poets and the ornate Andalusian patio, which was donated by the city of Seville shortly before the second World War. The paths here are red and dusty, so don’t wear your favorite white trainers.
The Japanese Gardens in Buenos Aires
Operated by the Japanese Argentine Cultural Foundation, the Japanese Gardens in Palermo are interesting. I visited on a Sunday afternoon and to be honest, the gardens were so crowded that I could barely walk along the stone paths and underneath the cherry blossom trees. I can imagine that it would be nice to visit on a weekday, maybe in the late morning or early afternoon, when the gardens are a little bit more peaceful. On a busy weekend afternoon I’m not sure they’re worth the admission fee.
Palermo Street Art
It’s impossible to walk more than a few blocks in Palermo without spying an Instagrammer posing for a selfie, or a professional photographer overseeing a real photo shoot, in front of Palermo’s famous street art. The art ranges from purely decorative to almost-purely political, and from works commissioned by commercial businesses to illicit street graffiti. It’s easy to find the graffiti on your own, but if you want to understand the message and history behind the art, consider joining a Palermo graffiti tour. I’d recommend the monthly tour offered by the city’s tourism bureau (details here) or an Airbnb Experience over the tours offered by the local free walking tour companies.
Feria Honduras Street Market
Every Saturday, Sunday and holiday, Honduras Street, near Plazoleta Julio Cortázar, closes to traffic and converts into a lively street market. This is a great place to shop for homemade bags, jewelry, beauty products and even snacks. Keep an eye on your belongings in the dense crowds.
Shopping in Palermo, Buenos Aires
It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon wandering around Palermo (especially Palermo Soho), popping into cute boutiques and designer collectives. Here are a few shops worth a stop:
- Todo Mates – Shown above, this is the coolest spot in the city to buy everything you’ll need to drink South America’s most iconic tea, yerba mate. Start with a traditional gourd-shaped cup (made from an actual gourd, ceramic, metal or even a cow’s hoof!) and a bombilla, or straw, with mesh to keep the tea leaves in the cup where they belong. If you’ve got room in your suitcase you can also grab a specialized mate thermos or even a dedicated mate satchel! (If you forget to pick one up at Todo Mates, you can always buy the cup and straw on Amazon).
- Libros del Pasaje – There aren’t a ton of bookstores in Palermo, but this one has a good selection of Spanish books, and a few in foreign languages as well. The coffee shop tucked away a the back is the perfect place to enjoy a quiet cup.
- Nanda Producto Esencial – Where Recoleta has the million-dollar Fueguia perfumeria, Palermo has much the much more wallet-friendly Nanda Producto Esencial with a fun collection of scents, most featuring prominent fruity notes. Most of the scents are available in products for both the home (like linen sprays and diffusers) and the body (body splash, body wash, lotion, etc.).
- Paul French Gallery – Down a semi-hidden little alleyway, Paul is one of the hottest stores in all of Buenos Aires for housewares, gifts and even clothing. I loved their leather bags and whimsical teacups.
- Distrito Arcos – When the Argentinian peso began plummeting a few years ago, most of the major international brands pulled out of Argentina’s retail market. So, local shopping malls are full of national brands that are… unusual. And the most unusual clothes from the most unusual brands eventually get sent to their outlet stores at Distrito Arcos, an open-air shopping mall. Prices aren’t as low as you’d expect, but there are some real hidden gems to be found here if you’re willing to do the work.
If you’re an avid reader of my blog, you’ll know that my phone was stolen in Buenos Aires and I lost most of my food photos. Sadly I lost a lot of photos of the food that I ate in Palermo, so you’ll just have to trust me when I recommend (or don’t recommend) the cuisine at one of these restaurants in Palermo. I’m coming at this from a vegetarian perspective, so I’ll start with the totally meatless restaurants (indicated with an asterisk), then I’ll talk about the ones that also serve meat.
Argentina’s oldest organic restaurant, Bio, serves an interesting menu of vegetarian and vegan foods. I visited this restaurant in Palermo twice: once on my first night in the district, and again on my last full day. When I went for dinner I had their grilled tofu in mustard sauce, which was served with salad and amazing roasted vegetables. If you like mustard you will love this vegetarian dish, but since I don’t love mustard it wasn’t a hit for me. When I went back for lunch I had their veggie burrito, which was stuffed full of julienned veggies and smoked tofu, and served with some fresh tomato sauce for dipping and a side salad. I thought the wrap was fantastic, and it was super-filling. Reservations are needed for busy evenings.
Krishna Veggie *
Having recently traveled solo in India, I was interested in seeing what vegetarian Indian food in Argentina would look like. So, I headed to Krishna Veggie, a vegetarian restaurant in Palermo that feels a bit like a magical maze with lots of mirrors, narrow doorways and exotic art. Krishna Veggie has regular tables as well as floor seating, and a simple menu of Indian-inspired dishes. I opted for their thali so that I could try lots of different foods. It came with veggie pakoras, a beet and yogurt raita, curried vegetables, coconut rice, chutney and chapati. Everything was quite good, if not authentically Indian.
Estilo Veggie *
I’d read that Estilo Veggie in Palermo was inspired by American fast food chains. Since I can almost never eat fast food back home in Canada I wanted to see what it would be like to eat somewhere that I could order any burger off the menu. I opted for their “Nuevo Chori” sandwich, which started with a whole-wheat bun and was stuffed with vegan chorizo, salsa criolla (kind of like pico de gallo), vegan chimichurri mayo and vegan grilled provolone. It was certainly indulgent, so if you’re looking to load up on cruelty-free fast food, this is a great fast food restaurant in Buenos Aires.
Similar to Bio in that it’s an upscale vegetarian restaurant in Buenos Aires, Artemisia is situated in an airy heritage building with bright white walls, high ceilings and lots of plants. I recommend that you call ahead to reserve a table as their hours can be a bit confusing – there are times of the day where they are open but not serving food off the menu, which is rather… odd. I believe the dish that I had here was called Gracias Paraguay, and unfortunately I can’t remember all of its components, but I do remember that it had crazy delicious corn-and-cheese pie and that it was way more food that one person really needed to eat, so consider splitting an entree and a salad if you’re a couple.
Loving Hut *
For the unfamiliar, Loving Hut is a global chain of 100% vegan restaurants. Each is free to make their own menu based on local preferences, but they all share a commitment to sustainability and cruelty-free foods (and a TV screen showing Supreme Master TV in twenty languages). I love finding different Loving Hut locations around the world to see what local foods they’ll have available, and the Loving Hut in Palermo, Buenos Aires didn’t disappoint. I opted for one of their seitan “steaks”, which was breaded and fried before being topped with vegan mozzarella and a sauce made from grilled bell peppers, tomatoes and onions. It was served with a heaping side of fries, and it was honestly the closest I felt like I would ever get to the Argentinian steakhouse experience. I wish I’d had more time as I would have liked to try some of their Asian-inspired noodle dishes as well.
I stand by my belief that there is no proper Armenian food anywhere in South America (I should know, I traveled across Armenia in 2017) but if you’re willing to call generic Middle Eastern food “Armenian”, Sarkis is the best place in the city to eat it. This huge restaurant draws a crowd, but staff turn tables quickly and the twenty-person queue in front of me on a Saturday afternoon turned into a less-than-ten-minute wait. Even better, they have tons of vegetarian options, including meze that can be purchased by the whole or half plate, allowing you to sample lots of little dishes. I went for the eggplant dip, tabbouli salad and a half portion of falafel, which came served atop a cabbage salad in a sauce that I swear had peanuts in it. Overall it was a good meal, it wasn’t super-expensive, and there were more than enough choices to inspire a second visit.
The Cafe at the Museo Evita
I think this is probably the first time I’ve recommended a museum cafe as an actual culinary hotspot, but the cafe inside the Museo Evita is a popular lunch spot for locals, drawing in more Portenos than tourists every day for their fixed-price lunch menu. There is always a fish or beef option, but on the day I visited there was also a vegetarian pasta dish on the daily menu. For a very reasonable price I had a glass of wine, half a baguette, pasta with grilled vegetables and half a cup of Parmesan cheese, and poached pears for dessert. I can’t guarantee there will always be something vegetarian on the daily menu, but I can assure you that there are always interesting vegetarian options on the standard a la carte menu.
The Burger Joint
A fast-casual burger joint in a dark, cavernous venue in Palermo Soho. They have a decent veggie burger and a handful of interesting flavors on the regular burger menu (they’d probably sub in a veggie patty for any of the burgers, if you asked).
Fukuro Noodle Bar
An Asian-style noodle bar in Palermo Hollywood with a facade that makes every passerby stop and do a double-take. There are a limited number of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu, including ramen with veggies and tofu (and an optional poached egg) in a shiitake-soy broth. Only open for dinner.
Another one of the trendy streetside restaurants in Palermo Soho, I knew going into my lunch here that it didn’t have great reviews, but I was impressed by the different vegetarian options on their menu and decided to give them a shot. I had the halloumi sandwich with wedge fries and a glass of lemonade (shown at the top of this section!), and it was really good! I have no hesitations recommending you stop by here for lunch, but again, keep an eye on your stuff – the table beside me was pickpocketed during their meal.
This was one of the closest bars to my Airbnb in Palermo, and I often stopped by for a quick drink on my way in or out for the night. It does double-duty as a Polish Community Center, but it’s definitely got more of a bar vibe, with vibrant red walls, a courtyard full of picnic tables and lots of beers on tap. I loved their apple cider, which they serve ice-cold and with an optional slice of lemon, and if I’d been in town longer I would have come back for a cheeky lunch of fries topped with, well, everything, or a zapiekanka, Poland’s typical open-faced sandwich. There are vegetarian and vegan options on their food menu.
The closest Italian restaurant to my Airbnb in Palermo Soho, I ordered thin-crust pizza from here twice and it was good (even better the next day!). Vegetarian options beyond the standard margarita are fairly limited, but there are lots of options for those who love Italian ham and salami.
There are a few Mexican restaurants in Palermo Soho and this one had the best reviews, so I decided to check it out. The streetside tables are lovely in the evening (but hold your purse tight!), though the food leaves a lot to be desired. I ordered the vegetarian fajitas, which consisted of a sizzling plate of very-oily sauteed vegetables and a few flour tortillas… no guacamole, no sour cream and not even any salsa. What’s the fun of that? Food aside, the tropical margarita with passionfruit and pineapple is delish. Come for a drink then go somewhere else for dinner.
Full City Coffee House
And now come three disappointing reviews of Palermo breakfasts. Honestly, I preferred to eat breakfast in my Airbnb, since the quality of breakfasts I had in Buenos Aires were generally quite low. Full City Coffee House came recommended to me by a local, but I was disappointed by the fruit, yogurt and granola bowl that they served: the portion size was really small and the fruits (apples, plums, bananas) felt more like the fruits I’d get in Canada than those I’d want to eat in the tropics. That being said, their breakfast combos are pretty cheap, so it’s a decent option for a light meal.
Padre Coffee Roasters
Ate here twice, was underwhelmed twice. I had a pancake with nutella, strawberries and bananas and it was one of the hardest, most brick-like pancakes I’ve ever tried. I wanted to give them a second chance so I went back for something savory (scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes) but the didn’t saute the onions at all before adding them to the eggs, so they were huge chunks of crunchy raw onions. Maybe that’s up some people’s alleys, but not mine. This place is pretty big, though, and they have good WiFi, so if you want to work online in Palermo Soho, it might be worth buying a coffee and camping out for an hour or two.
Wanted to love this cute little breakfast and lunch joint, but I think it tops my list for worst breakfast in Palermo, Buenos Aires. I opted for their fruit, yogurt and granola cup again, and it was even worse than the one at Full City. I swear it was two full cups (500 ml) of plain yogurt, with one sliced strawberry, a quarter of a banana, two tablespoons of very weird granola and a teaspoon of honey. I was so unpleasantly surprised by the bowl that I posted about it on Instagram, noting that it must have been designed for yogurt fetishists…
Palermo is definitely the place to stay in Buenos Aires if you’re into restaurants, bars, nightlife and street life. There are lots of accommodation options here, and local businesses are used to having foreign visitors (in fact, in a lot of places, foreigners outnumber Argentinians!).
I stayed in this “luxury” Airbnb in Palermo. I’m torn because I loved staying in Palermo and I loved that this apartment-hotel had a rooftop pool, but I kind of preferred the homier vibe at the place I stayed in Recoleta. I’d recommend this Airbnb for anyone who wants a sort-of-hotel experience in Palermo but who also wants a little kitchen area to cook some simple meals. If you want a real, lived-in kind of apartment, this probably wouldn’t be the right vacation rental for you.
If you’re not into Airbnb, there are some other really interesting, unique hotels in Palermo, ranging from backpacker hostels to boutique hotels to high-end, luxury properties.
- Selina is a popular chain of upscale hostels with locations across South America (I stayed at one of their two hostels in Bogota). The Selina Hostel in Palermo Soho is a design-lover’s dream, with chic decor in both the private and dorm rooms. They organize tons of activities here, including yoga classes and live music at their rooftop bar.
- If you’re not into the big-name chain hostels, Malevo Murano Hostel gets rave reviews for its included breakfast (a huge plus in a neighborhood where restaurant breakfasts leave something to be desired) and common areas where it’s easy to meet other travelers.
- For an intimate hotel experience, check out Jardin Escondido (“Hidden Garden”), a boutique hotel located in a converted heritage home. It’s right in the heart of Palermo Soho, but set back from a quiet street so that you can have a good night’s sleep. Oh, and did I mention that it’s owned by the Coppola family, and Francis Ford Coppola often sets up camp here to work on new scripts?
- You can get a little more value for your dollar by staying in Palermo Hollywood. For example, Palo Santo is a trendy “urban green” hotel built to LEED standards, with eco-friendly toiletries, bikes to borrow and more than 800 plants throughout the site (including 25-meter vertical gardens).
More Palermo Travel Tips
- Staying in Buenos Aires for a while? Need to refresh your look? I got my hair colored at ORIGINS HEAD, a salon in Palermo Hollywood. The staff didn’t speak much English but their stylists are experts and they use high-quality products. The end result was on par with what I’d get at a top-end salon in Canada (but for one-fifth of the price…). Oh, and they served me a huge glass of red wine at 11:00 am.
- As I wrote before, my phone was stolen in Buenos Aires (not in Palermo, however). Unfortunately, as one of the busiest districts in the city, Palermo is prime hunting grounds for the city’s pickpockets and I personally witnessed a number of people discover their phones or wallets went missing while they were eating or drinking in the neighborhood. Be careful with your stuff when you’re out and about in Palermo.
Traveling to Buenos Aires? Check out my guide to Recoleta, the neighborhood adjacent to Palermo. It’s a little bit more quiet, but it’s also got a broader range of tourist attractions and things to keep you busy.