The availability of good books in English is high on the list of priorities for a lot of expats, and Buenos Aires has a better range of options than any other South American city. The best of these is almost certainly Walrus Books in San Telmo where there are over 40,000 second-hand titles, all in good condition (well, almost all) and a great selection of classics. If you prefer your books brand new, Kel Ediciónes stocks an excellent range, though be prepared to pay a little more. They have several branches around the city, the main one being in Barrio Norte.
A slightly more unorthodox option is the Book Cellar. Run by expat Daniel Zachariah, the collection is mostly the result of inheriting the collections of former English language bookshops in the city, forced into closure by hard times. You’ll find a well-maintained catalogue on his website. After choosing your titles you can give him a call and arrange to pick them up, or simply go round to his apartment for a browse.
La Boca is somewhere you’ll be told not to go. Though it has a reputation for lawlessness, this unswervingly and often brashly working class barrio is also a cheery and community-minded area. For many, life isn’t complete without their beloved Boca Juniors, Argentina’s most famous football club.
The neighbourhood stadium, La Bombonera, is far from the biggest stadium in the country, though its reputation for creating one of the brightest and most most boisterous atmospheres in world football is entirely justified. Rather frighteningly, if you go to a game you’ll literally feel the concrete stands bouncing up and down with the motion of the fans, particularly near in the upper tiers. “La Bombonera late” they say - the Bombonera beats like a heart.
Steeped in Parisian old-world charm, the dilapidated facades of San Telmo have thankfully escaped the sanitising renovation efforts that so often rob these places of their character. The Sunday antiques market on Plaza Dorrego is a wonderful place to while away a couple of hours before visiting the engaging Museo Histórico Nacional where you can learn about the events behind Argentina’s independence.
Ignore the doubters who’ll inevitably tell you to avoid a neighbourhood popularly seen by affluent Argentines as grimy and working class. Though you’ll now see evidence of creeping gentrification, it’s these very qualities that have kept San Telmo from becoming another carbon-copy tourist district.
La Recoleta Cemetery
One of the most beguiling cemeteries in the world, La Recoleta can feel more like a miniature city than a graveyard. Housing the graves of such Argentine notables as ‘Evita’ Peron, the cemetery’s tombs are a mishmash of architectural styles; some resembling scaled-down Roman temples, while others are fully fledged gothic mausoleums complete with cherubic statues and spires. Packed tightly together to create atmospheric little alleyways, it’s easy to find some solitude here, even on busy days.
The Reserva Ecológica
If you prefer to get your peace and quiet somewhere slightly less morbid, Buenos Aires boasts an astonishingly wild and secluded ecological reserve practically within the city centre itself. Located on an abandoned landfill site by the seafront, the reserve is testament to the amazing adaptability of nature within derelict urban environments. You can expect to see a whole myriad of animals including black-necked swans, hawks and even monitor lizards.