The sprawling barrio of Palermo—erstwhile home of Jorge Luis Borges and now home to Buenos Aires’ particular, trend setting version of ‘cool’. The café corners and leafy boulevards of Palermo Viejo, the many stylish cocktail bars and boutiques of Palermo Soho, beyond which stretch the lawns, gardens and lakes of the Palermo Parks—in many ways this popular neighborhood is a world to itself.
A convenient place to begin a visit to the neighborhood of Palermo is the Plaza Italia. Centering around the rearing horse statue of Garibaldi, this traffic infested intersection for some of Buenos Aires’ main thoroughfares sets up a complete contrast to the rest of the neighborhood’s more sedate character. From here, one can head straight for some of Buenos Aires’ chief attractions.
Directly next to the Plaza are Buenos Aires’ zoo and botanical garden. Both of these attractions are interactive and feature all of the things one would expect from them. Further up Av. Sarmiento is the famous Palermo Park system. One could easily spend a sunny day enjoying all the various things on offer here. On Sundays, the roads around the park close to vehicle traffic, allowing one to join the many Porteños rollerblading, biking, or even taking a carriage trip around the lakes. Visit the concrete, golf-ball-shaped Galileo Galilei Planetarium, which, despite its Space Odyssey era appearance, is modern and entertaining inside. At night, it lights up in a variety of amusing pinks, blues and greens. Alternative attractions include the largest Japanese garden outside of Japan, a French-style rose garden, and, a little farther away, Argentina’s premier horse racing venue. A sure way to feel like a Porteño is to pack a maté gourd with yerba and a thermos, and plan on sipping it idly in the company of friends here. The venders even offer more hot water if you run out.
Situated a little to the west of the Parks, and advancing all the way to Recoleta and the center of town are some of the most visitable of Palermo’s many museums. The closest to Plaza Italia is the Museo Evita, dedicated to one of Argentina’s most famous and beloved figures. The museum gives an excellent impression of her life, the issues that she faced, and through them, the Argentina of her day. Farther along, on Av Figueroa Alcorta is the MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires), one of the largest collections of Latin American art in the world. It is well worth a visit for anyone who is interested in better understanding the complex soul ofLatin America and the differences between some of its constituent countries. It features many exhibitions and outreach programs. A final museum worth mentioning is the National Museum of Decorative Arts. Ignoring the somewhat dry name, this museum is an opportunity to take a trip into the palace of the Argentine aristocracy. It is interesting to take in the Euro-phile tastes of the family decorators, and is in many ways a kind of microcosm of the city at large.
Making an about-turn at Plaza Italia and heading down the street named Jorge Luis Borges will very quickly bring one into the heart of Old Palermo. The checker patterned streets with old buildings, corner cafes and shops fairly oozes with character. Take time to drink it in along with a coffee or even something stronger at the pink hued store- El Preferido, once ‘preferred’ by the writer Borges himself. It is worthwhile to walk several blocks farther from here to the Plaza Serrano, the hub around which the nebulous Palermo Soho turns. Featuring an outdoor market on the weekends, and, in the evenings, endless chairs to sit and enjoy a drink, it is no wonder so many come here to enjoy themselves. The shops surrounding here are some of the hippest and trendiest in Latin America and the world.
Entering Palermo one might be tempted to stay, and in fact the area is quickly filling up with more and more expats who decided to do just that. This cosmopolitanism, far from hurting the area, has actually gone a long way towards preserving its atmosphere, as well as ensuring that Palermo will continue to become identified as a place far away from the town in Sicily that bears the same name.
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