Boasting cobblestone streets lined with cafés, bars, restaurants, bookshops, and boutiques — from upmarket global brands to edgy young local designers — Palermo Soho is the stylish quarter of Palermo Viejo or Old Palermo. Named after the Soho districts of London and New York, Buenos Aires’ version is actually hipper than both.
Across the railway line, a short stroll or taxi ride away, is Palermo Hollywood. Still part of Palermo Viejo, and frequented by the same cool crowd, it has a slightly different vibe. Palermo Hollywood is where the city’s media, arts and entertainment businesses reside — advertising and graphic design agencies, television studios, post-production companies, animation houses, and interior design stores — and it’s dotted with easily as many restaurants, bars and cafés as Soho on the other side of the tracks.
It’s apt therefore that our stylish Buenos Aires holiday rental building is decorated with sculptures, that there is a small art gallery on the first floor, and a ‘music room’ and bar-like space with sweeping views of the city that can be booked for band rehearsals, parties, or anything.
There is also a stunning swimming pool in the gorgeous grounds that’s long enough to do proper laps (although sadly, the weather has been much too cold for us to test it out), a heated plunge pool, jacuzzi and terrace up on the top floor with spectacular city vistas, and on the ground floor, a café-like area and plenty of bikes that can be borrowed to ride in the nearby parks.
Owned by a lovely, local, mother and daughter team, who are just a phone call or email away if you need help with anything, the apartment itself is homey and cosy. While it’s not Palermo Soho-chic, it’s perfectly comfortable with loving attention to detail, such as fluffy throw on the sofa for cool nights, and helpful guidebooks in the cupboard.
There are two good-sized bedrooms, each decorated in a rather different style, one in warmer colours and so more snug in winter (the one we chose for our stay), and the other in bright, cool, blues and whites, looking onto the balcony, that would be lovely if you’re staying during summer and spring.
The balcony was my favourite bit of the apartment, with a table where I envisaged we’d be spending the early evening drinking Malbec, while ‘researching’ our local neighbours’ lifestyles. Because with the first rays of sunshine, Porteños are outside on their balconies, decks and patios, drinking coffee, having lunch, and sipping wine. If only the weather had been more accommodating during our stay!
The apartment has a big sleek, minimalist bathroom with bathtub and shower, another smaller toilet and washbasin, plenty of cupboard space if you’re planning to settle in for a while, and access to a laundry. The owners provide nice towels, toilet paper and soap, and there is a welcome package to get you started that included a very welcome bottle of local wine (muchas gracias!) as well as tea and coffee supplies, and handy condiments like salt and pepper, vinegar, and olive oil.
The kitchen is well equipped with a big fridge, decent stove, dishwasher, kettle, toaster, a filter-style coffeemaker, and microwave, and enough china, glassware and cutlery for two couples. There is some basic cookware, but then with so many brilliant restaurants in the surrounding blocks, you’re probably only going to cook basic meals anyway, and there was enough for Terence to whip up some delicious pastas during our stay.
There is a big screen television and DVD player and excellent high-speed Internet access. The only things we felt the apartment really missed were an espresso maker and an iPod docking station (to replace the CD player in the kitchen), which would be more in keeping with the state-of-the-art style of the building. Did we mention there is a private elevator to the apartment and 24-hour security downstairs? Very slick.
The last time we were in the city, in 2007, we were here to write the first edition Lonely Planet Buenos Aires Encounter guidebook, splitting our couple of months’ stay between San Telmo and Palermo, the modern part of Palermo with block after block of residential high rises. We’d wander over to Palermo Viejo to take in the leafy streets with their mishmash of architecture — everything from grand colonial mansions to Art Deco apartment buildings and sleek contemporary loft-like affairs — or take a taxi here at night to try out the restaurants and bars.
Now, they’re all within a short walk of our home. This time we’re looking forward to experience the ’hood like a local. And perhaps paying a visit back to ‘new’ Palermo to check out our old stomping ground.