Where Night Becomes Day: Buenos Aires

When I was at uni, my football friends (ooh friends!) and I labelled Wednesday as the new Friday. Essentially, this was purely to excuse doing all the debaucherous things we would usually get up to at the weekend, after a game in the middle of the week instead.

And in a similar way, I like to think that most folk from Buenos Aires live by the motto that ‘night is the new day’.

In a nutshell, everything is done later here. The supermarkets are busiest after dark, people don’t go out to eat until after 11pm, and nights out don’t start until 3am, when most nightclubs in the UK would be closing.

You can’t blame the locals for waiting until after sunset to heighten their activity, given that the city is an absolute sauna. Indeed, I spent 97.89% of the time sweating, looking for a column of shade to walk in, and wondering how commuters in suits hadn’t melted yet.

However, the nocturnal nature of the city is a reason that a lot of travellers fall in love with Buenos Aires. Its European feel is created by people that are laid back, main roads that are long and circle round monuments, and the presence of al fresco dining on every corner.

But in an almost oxymoronic way, Buenos Aires is extremely lively, and you’re never short changed for things to do.

Recoleta Cemetery is as grand as it is bizarre, La Boca is a vibrant and colourful neighbourhood that takes you back in time to tango through its Italian roots, and some of the architecture in the city centre is as impressive as anywhere else in the world.

However, it would be wrong to render Buenos Aires a sightseeing city, given that its true character is evoked by sampling all of its contrasting neighbourhoods.

The centre of the city is home to Avenida 9 de Julio (the wide avenue that claims top spot in a Google image search for Buenos Aires), which has great links to other parts of town, but in reality appears quite dirty and is not the most welcoming of areas.

A short bus journey north is Recoleta, a cultural district that is brought alive (ironically) by the winding street markets selling an abundance of local crafts, foods, and wines.

However, every traveller these days strives to find the Shoreditch of the city they’re in, and Palermo is a hipster haven.

Packed with trendy shops, trendy bars, and trendy people, it’s easy to spend hours wandering Palermo’s cobbled streets taking in the creativity that oozes out of the Spanish style buildings.

Palermo may be devoid of much history, but the fact that it is young, innovative, and international makes it the perfect place to nurse a pint and people watch.

Palermo is also home to La Cabrera, one of the most famous steakhouses in the city which, almost foolishly, offers a 40% off happy hour between 7 and 8pm.

Just to ensure this wasn’t a myth, I arrived half an hour early, and as a reward my taste buds were treated to one of the juiciest steaks I’ve ever laid eyes on. The happiest of hours, indeed.

As good as the hunk of beef was, the highlight of Buenos Aires was being exposed to the jungle of a Boca Juniors game.

A Brazilian I met in Paraty warned me that although Brazil loves its football, Argentina is the place to experience ‘real fútbol’.

Away fans are no longer allowed to attend games in Argentina, and finding tickets for a game is becoming increasingly akin to finding a needle in a haystack, so it was no surprise that the porteños were shouting ‘gringo puto’ at our group of tourists preventing their pals from seeing the game.

I’m used to a small section of teenagers at Selhurst Park banging a drum from 3pm onwards but, with no disrespect, it’s nothing in comparison to the carnival atmosphere that grows out of La Bombonera (Spanish for ‘the chocolate box’).

The noise builds an hour before kick off, as the all standing South Stand packs together while the Boca ultras do their best to intimidate the away team getting changed directly beneath them.

When a goal is scored the locals stampede forward in an avalanche of joy, and the celebrations which follow Carlos Tevez or Walter Bou finding the net genuinely cause the stadium foundations to shake.

La Bombonera served as somewhat of a microcosm for Buenos Aires. The porteños have a unique energy, a mad existence, that brings their city to life, and with so much to do, it’s not difficult to lose yourself and a lot of sleep trying to keep up with them.

Next up, the university city of Córdoba. Until then.

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