By now you’ll have already heard of Palermo’s many sub-barrios, including Hollywood, Soho and Viejo. What about Palermo Chico? Simply meaning Little Palermo, this part of Buenos Aires’ largest barrio is tucked away in its easternmost corner. It is bounded by Avenida del Libertador to the south and the train tracks to the north, and the streets Tagle to the east and Cavia to the west.
Characteristic of Palermo’s many aliases; the barrio is also referred to as Barrio Parque. This is the place of millionaires and ambassadors, local television and sporting celebrities.
An introduction to Palermo Chico
The modern day origins of Palermo can be traced back to 1836 when Juan Manuel de Rosas, a politician and military leader, acquired land and built a residence on the corner of Avenida del Libertador and Avenida Sarmiento. However, plans for Palermo Chico were not drawn up until 1912. The idea was to take advantage of the land used during for the Industrial Exhibition of the 1910 centenary celebrations.
The French-Argentine landscape architect Carlos Thays was handed the responsibility of designing the barrio. It is split into two distinctive sectors with Avenida Figueroa Alcorta running through the middle. The northern side is characterized by its grand mansions and Tudor-style homes complete with private gardens. Whilst the south side also displays opulence, from the 1940s the barrio witnessed the development of large apartment blocks.
Today, Palermo Chico, with its wide and quiet streets shaded by overhanging trees, is recognized as being a barrio of the elite. Past and present residents of note include television personalities Marcelo Tinelli and Susana Gimenez, sporting heroes Gabriela Sabatini and Carlos Bianchi, and Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri.
Things to see, do or both
Palermo Chico is a wonderful barrio for walking, especially so if you have an interest in architecture. The streets around Plaza Republica de Chile are home to numerous embassy and government buildings. Across Figueroa Alcorta, between Tagle and Ortiz de Ocampo, the spider’s web of streets is lined with some of the most lavish homes in the city. This is the area of the celebrities.
The barrio is also popular with art enthusiasts and has some notable galleries and museums. Check out MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinamericano de Buenos Aires) on Figueroa Alcorta to see the work of Rafael Barradas and Diego Rivera plus temporary exhibitions from the likes of Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo. Come on Wednesday for half price admission (free for students). Whilst in the area, go to Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo to find weaponry, sculpture and antique furniture collections.
Palermo Chico is particularly enjoyable during La Noche de Museos when all the city museums are open to the public for free. Other venues in the area are Mueso de Arte Popular Jose Hernandez, which is set in the former home of the prestigious Bunge family, and MAMAN Fine Art gallery.
For a small barrio there is certainly plenty to keep you occupied. Should you want a rest then head to the western side and Plaza Alemana. Another creation of Carlos Thays, the park is a popular hangout of local residents. Being fenced off, there are no dogs thus it is devoid of the pet excrement that often blights the city. From here, you can cross to the Jardin Japones or continue along either Figueroa Alcorta or Libertador to El Rosedal and the Planetarium.
Nightlife and restaurants
On the whole, Palermo Chico is a quiet residential barrio and you won’t find the bars and nightclubs representative of Las Canitas, Hollywood and Soho. That said, there a handful of cafés and restaurants worth a look.
Croque Madame (Libertador 1902). Part of the Museo Nacional Arte Decorativa, the restaurant’s classy décor befits its location. Ask for a window seat upstairs for views of Plaza Republica de Chile or sit on the patio. The French-inspired menu is full of delights, including quiches, vol-au-vents and, of course, croque madam.
Patricia Villalobos (Castex 3327). The well-to-do love the concept of high tea in Buenos Aires and this small café in the back streets of the barrio is a great place to join in the ritual. All the porteño favorites are available: medialunas with quince, dulce de leche alfajores and chocotorta. It’s often full but you can order to takeaway and sit in one of the nearby plazas.
Rond Point (Figueroa Alcorta 3009). Occupying a prime corner spot with views towards Recoleta, the restaurant’s glass façade does its classy vibe justice. In fact, time your visit right and you may just rub shoulders with local football stars and politicians. Dinner is a little overpriced but the set lunch menu is a winner – three courses and a hearty glass of wine. Dishes range from lamb sirloin to pink salmon.
Le Pain Quotidien (Salguero 3075). This Belgian bakery chain is a cracking spot for breakfasts of croissants and muffins, baguettes and soups, coffees and juice. Stop by and join the neighborhood housewives around the communal table or head upstairs and make use of the free WiFi.
Why it’s hot / Why it’s not
Quiet and laidback, Palermo Chico goes about its daily life with a degree of class (some might even say snobbishness). Moreover, you’ll find some of the most beautiful residences here and apartments with great views out to Rio de la Plata.
That said, apartments on Figueroa Alcorta and Libertador have some of the highest rents in the city so you’ll need to be earning a good amount of dollars from outside to afford staying here.
With the ability to afford to live in Palermo Chico you’ll find yourself in a strategic position. The barrio is walking distance to Recoleta and El Bosque de Palermo. Also, the shopping district of Alto Palermo is only 10 blocks away. Finally, the barrio is a just short drive from Costanera Sur and nightclubs like Pacha and Caix.