Buenos Aires’ largest barrio, Palermo, (by size) beckons expats, vacationers and an ever-growing number of porteños like moths to a flame. Regardless of where you choose to live/stay, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that most of the people you know and meet in the city will live in Palermo. And, if they don’t, you’ll still wind up here to take advantage of the boundless café and restaurants, bars and nightclubs, parks, museums and galleries, shops and artisanal markets.
That’s Palermo in a nutshell. Now let’s concentrate on Palermo Soho. This vibrant area of the bohemian sub-barrio Palermo Viejo sits between the streets Santa Fé, Coronel Diaz, Córdoba and Juan B. Justo. This is one of the trendier parts of Palermo (along with Palermo Hollywood) and a favorite haunt of backpackers, hipsters and designers. It is home to lazy, tree-lined cobblestone streets where new businesses continue to spring up in the old Spanish-style houses and converted warehouses.
If you wish to delve into Buenos Aires’ colonial past then you are in the wrong place because Palermo Soho is all but devoid of history. Instead, the area oozes innovation and is young, fresh and international. It’s the place to sip a cortado while sat on the terrace of a chic café; browse market stalls and independent boutiques for the latest fashions; seek out the newest low-key bar; catch up on some work or emails at a co-working space; or simply wander the streets and blend in with the cool crowd.
The area’s name is actually unofficial and stems from a supposed likeness to New York’s Soho neighborhood. If you’ve been to both you can decide for yourself on the similarities!
Things to See and Do
If you aren’t visiting Palermo Soho to eat and drink then you’ll be here because you’ve been told that it’s a shopper’s paradise. Buenos Aires’ finest boutiques are here, from clothing stores and specialists in leather goods to bookstores and wine shops. What makes it all the more appealing is that the shops are expertly set in recycled houses, former warehouses and elegant old homes. Stroll along Jorge Luis Borges, Gurruchaga or Malabia streets and you’ll see what we mean.
Weekends are especially busy in the area when it seems that tourists and Porteños alike don their coolest attire and head to the open-air markets on Plaza Serrano and Plaza Armenia. Plaza Serrano is particularly notable because the bars surrounding the square open their doors for independent vendors to showcase their goods. It’s a great spot to look for funky t-shirts, dress shirts and dresses in addition to accessories and handicrafts. Nearby, Plaza Armenia has more of an artisanal focus and you’ll find similar items to those at the Hippy Fair in Plaza Francia, Recoleta. What’s even better is that surrounding both of the markets are myriad bars and restaurants, ideal for taking a break.
Naturally, everyone’s tastes are different, but the following are a few shops worth visiting. For menswear, such as Mod-style Parker jackets, colorful shirts and blazers, try Bolivia (Gurruchaga 1581). Mon Lorie (Gurruchaga 1739) is a good spot for fun and unique women’s wear; think miniskirts, patterned leggings and shimmering tops. Find home décor by a host of Argentine designers at Pehache (Gurruchaga 1418). Check out the handmade and organically-produced jewelry at Gabriela Horvat (Honduras 5238) or the recreations of 1940s and 1950s footwear at 28 Sports (Gurruchaga 1481). If you like your vintage sport’s gear then drop into the Adidas Originals Store (Malabia 1720).
Palermo Soho Cafés
Once you’ve fulfilled your shopping desires there are plentiful cafés to sit at and refuel on caffeine while you admire your purchases or plan your night out. Boutique del Libro (Thames 1762) is one of the most charming café-cum-bookstores you are likely to stumble across. Sit among hip design students, order your favorite blend and browse the abundance of books, some of which are in English. The food’s decent, there’s WiFi and the indoor patio is frequently bathed in sunshine.
If you like sweet treats and cupcakes to accompany your coffee then head to Pierina Tea House (Gurruchaga 1875). The pastel-colored décor, fresh flowers and pavement tables present a cute setting for indulging on macaroons, muffins and sandwiches made using home-baked bread.
At the upper end of the price scale is Mark’s Deli & Coffee House (El Salvador 4701), a pioneer of healthy eating in Buenos Aires. It’s one of those loveable places where the clientele often battles it out with the coffee, salads and soups for being the most attractive. Stay on the healthy road at b-Blue Deli & Natural Bar (Armenia 1692), which does a great range of smoothies, juices, wraps and salads.
Meanwhile, true coffee aficionados will spin dizzy at the Colombian blends on offer at Full City Coffee House (Thames 1535), recently relocated from Chacarita to join the Palermo Soho café revolution.
Palermo Soho Restaurants
From parrillas and burger bars to fine-dining restaurants and fast food joints, Palermo Soho is swarming with dining options.
You’ll have surely been told about La Cabrera (Cabrera 5099 and 5127), a parrilla with a touch of finesse. Order an eye-popping 800g slab of juicy meat and enjoy it with an array of condiments, such as sweet potato mash and roasted garlic. Tourists love it so expect to stand outside in anticipation until a table becomes free. Fortunately the waiters are kind enough to hand out free champagne while you wait. Equally delicious yet slightly less touristy is Don Julio (Guatemala 4699), an unpretentious family-run parrilla. Enjoy top-grade cuts of bife de chorizo and bife de lomo washed down with a selection of over 150 wines. For a true porteño steakhouse experience, try Lo de Jesús (Gurruchaga 1406). Don’t expect silver service from the waiters. Instead enjoy a laidback ambience, good meat and a good wine collection.
In tune with the area’s hip attitude, in recent years there’s been an influx of restaurants that don’t just serve steak and pasta. A few blocks from Plaza Serrano is Burger Joint (Jorge Luis Borges 1766) and as its name suggests, it’s a burger bar. Think homemade burgers in sesame seed buns and topped with your choice of cheese, guacamoles, spicy sauces and salad. While you wait you can get busy and graffiti your table or chair. For no-nonsense and well-priced fast food, La Fabrica del Taco (Gorriti 5062) is perfect plus you can load up on hot sauces that are often elusive in Buenos Aires.
If you like to eat bistro-style then Las Pizarras (Thames 2296) is the place to go. Take a seat and mull over the day’s specials, which blend French and Argentine influences. Expect dishes along the lines of osso bucco cannelloni or rabbit and duck confit. While in the area, don’t miss El Preferido de Palermo (Jorge Luis Borges 2108), set inside an old general store. Since opening in 1952 it’s stayed true to its traditions and continues to serve up hearty servings of tapas, picadas and calamari, among other things. Want good wine, cheese and bread? Then, head over to Pain et Vin (Gorriti 5132). This Argentine-Israeli venture knows how to make a sandwich. You’ll find a decent cut of bacon in your BLT and they even run the occasional wine course.
Despite its easy-going vibe Palermo Soho also does classy. Pick of the bunch is Isabel (Uriarte 1664), a restaurant-cum-bar complete with chandeliers and art deco furnishings. Priding itself on the use of fresh ingredients, the food is really a sideline to the see-and-be-scene bar. Dress to impress and be ready to smooth talk the fashion police doormen if you want to get passed the red-velvet rope. Seafood too often plays second fiddle in Buenos Aires but, fortunately, the chefs at Crizia (Gorriti 5143) do it with pride. The moody lighting provides the perfect anticipation for tasty plates of oysters, ceviche and grilled red tuna in addition to Patagonian lamb and the standard ojo de bife.
Palermo Soho Nightlife
Palermo Soho’s nightlife centers around the bars and resto-bars scattered around Plaza Serrano. They are pretty nondescript but in the summer months the plaza is a great place to sit outside and quaff liters of ice-cold Quilmes.
Head a few blocks in either direction from Plaza Serrano and you’ll discover some great watering holes. Beer lovers will appreciate the range of bottled international beers and artisanal beers on tap at The Temple Bar (Costa Rica 4677). The pale ale, cream stout and Belgian blond lager are a refreshing change from local lagers. Antares (Armenia 1477) is another pub serving craft beers, with several locations around the city. You can even buy their beers in the supermarkets.
For something with a difference, head to The Harrison Speakeasy, a secret password-protected bar by the owners of Franks, in Palermo Hollywood. The bartenders are serious about their mixology and if hunger bites then you can get some of the city’s best sushi at the bar’s Nicky New York restaurant. All you need now is the password! Giving Harrison a run for its money in the cocktail stakes is Rey de Copas (Gorriti 5176), a bar owned by the son of late Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez Vilaro. It’s where Argentina’s finest wines get expertly turned into tempting cocktails.
With bizarre animal portraits adorning the walls and the sounds of funk and soul in the background, The Steve Bar (El Salvador 4968) is an instantly-likeable bar. Cheap happy hour beers and cocktails by the jug guarantee a good night out. Another unpretentious spot is Esquina Libertad (cnr. Uriarte & Gorriti) especially if you like sitting on a rooftop terrace and supping cheap cocktails. For those in the mood to drink hard and fast, they even serve basic drinks by the pint.
So, there you have it, Palermo Soho and all its colorful glory. Like it or loathe it, it’s quite unavoidable. If you’ve got work to do and like the area that much then why not spend even more time here and join the hordes of virtual workers at the numerous co-working offices.