By now you will have no doubt heard of the sprawling barrio of Palermo and its abundant commercial and entertainment districts that allure hordes of expats and foreign students.
Here we shall take a closer look at the sub-barrio known as Alto Palermo. It occupies the mid-eastern area of the barrio and is bounded by Avenida Libertador to the north, Coronel Diaz to the east, Santa Fe to the south, and Sarmiento to the west.
An introduction to Alto Palermo
Although Palermo has been a popular barrio since its modern inception in the 1830s, Alto Palermo is a relatively new addition to the sub-barrios of Buenos Aires’ largest neighborhood. The area takes its name from the namesake shopping mall inaugurated in 1990. The introduction of the mall led to the area becoming one of the busiest shopping districts of the city.
Alto Palermo is commonly known as a middle-to-high class barrio and a favorite location of porteño families. Walking around you will notice a blend of modern high-rise apartment blocks interspersed by traditional homes, many of which would have belonged to wealthy families during the 1900s. The area is revered for its central location between Microcentro and Belgrano.
Curiously, up until 1962 the barrio was home to the Penitenciaria Nacional, a maximum-security prison. During the penitentiary’s operation, the area was known as ‘La Tierra del Fuego’ because of the prison’s similarities with Penal de Ushuaia (a prison located in Argentina’s southernmost province). Now completely demolished, where it once stood is today a popular park.
Things to see, do or both
There are two stand-out attractions of Alto Palermo: shopping and parks. The Alto Palermo shopping mall is a huge commercial center with around 150 stores, mainly high street brands, and a large food court. The main entrance is on Avenida Santa Fe, a busy avenue where you’ll find chain stores and independent shops, restaurants and cafes, health and beauty centers standing shoulder-to shoulder. The area is more main stream than the boutiques of Palermo Soho but certainly worth checking out if you are in a shopping mood.
Two blocks behind the back entrance of the shopping mall is Parque Las Heras. It is spread along Avenida Las Heras between Coronal Diaz and Jeronimo Salguero. When the sun shines the park’s grassy slopes are inundated with sunbathers. Due to the redevelopment of Recoleta’s Plaza Francia the park has become a popular ‘hippie hangout’, especially on the weekends.
Directly west of Parque Las Heras is Buenos Aires Botanical Garden. It was designed by Argentine-French landscaper Carlos Thays, who was responsible for numerous city parks. Although bordered by busy thoroughfares of Santa Fe and Las Heras, you’ll find stepping inside the gardens like entering a quiet oasis. In 2012, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant was made an ‘honorary guest’ of the city here. Check the park’s calendar for art displays, talks and concerts.
Completing Alto Palermo’s outdoor attractions is Zoo Buenos Aires. A particularly good spot if you are in Buenos Aires with kids, the zoo covers 45-acres of park and was opened in 1875. Try to avoid coming at the weekend as it is swamped with visitors from La Provincia. Also, skip the main entrance in front of Plaza Italia and instead walk down Sarmiento to the corner of Avenida Libertador. A visit to the zoo can be combined with a walk around El Rosedal and El Bosque de Palermo.
Nightlife and restaurants
Museo de Evita Restaurant (Guitierrez 3926). When the sun shines, which is rather often, this is one of BA’s best open-air restaurants for lunch or dinner. The setting is perfect: a black and white tiled patio shaded by overhanging trees and an antique mansion. The menu matches the setting, as well, taking on a French-bistro style. After dinner, take a 45-minute guided tour of the museum dedicated to Eva Peron.
Tenkuu Sushi & Cocina Asiatica (Cabello 3370). Ok, we say this often, but finding quality Asian food in Buenos Aires is not always easy. Fusing the characteristics of Japanese food with Peruvian flavors, Tenkuu really does satisfy the cravings. You’ll find wok dishes, tempura, and sushi all at prices that have so far escaped ludicrous inflation.
Voulez Bar (Cerviño 3802). If you want to feel like a true Palermo resident, then head to the leafy Cerviño street. Occupying a prime corner, at Voulez Bar you can sit on the street side tables and watch hip and well-to-do locals stroll by with their kids and dogs. Stop by for a coffee and cake, or sample dishes like risotto and homemade burgers. A potentially good venue for a date.
Taco Box (Cerviño 3768). Looking for something other than steak and milanesa? Missing what you had at home? Taco Box is a chain of Mexican restaurants that does a decent and affordable job of knocking up tacos, burritos and fajitas. You’ll even find something resembling spicy salsa.
Paseo del Sol (Between Berutti and Arenales). Behind Alto Palermo is an open-air patio home to a healthy amount of bars and discos. Especially popular with a younger crowd that comes to pre-game, it is also a good spot for a beer and picada after a day of shopping.
Club Aaroz (Aaroz 2424). Most of Palermo’s nightclubs are in Soho and Hollywood; however, Club Aaroz is a good option if you want to stay close to home. There’s nothing especially unique about the place but on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays there is always a party. Expect the usual mix of Latin pop, cumbia, dance and 80s tunes, and a jam packed dance floor.
With its family orientation and array of parks, the Alto Palermo area offers a relaxed neighborhood in which to stay. Whilst its connection to the rest of the barrio is obvious, the inner streets feel somewhat removed from the commercialized Palermo Hollywood and Soho. If you want to be close to the nightlife action but far enough away that it doesn’t suffocate you then this could be the place to be.