We arrived in Buenos Aires on a gorgeous spring Sunday. While the sky was a perfectly clear cobalt blue and the sun was well and truly out, there was still a wintery crispness to the air in the shade and a clarity to the light that said winter hadn’t gone yet.
After checking into our apartment, we grabbed our cameras and took a stroll down to Palermo’s splendid parks, a ten-minute walk away, to do what we love to do best in Buenos Aires on a Sunday – hang out with the locals on the lawn.
The park is to a Porteño, a Buenos Aires local, what the beach is to a Carioca, a Rio de Janeiro native. Porteños escape to the city’s parks to soak up some rays the moment the sun shines, especially on weekends when the parks can get enjoyably jam-packed.
Just like Cariocas, Porteños are out rollerblading, cycling, skateboarding, jogging, juggling, power walking, playing roller hockey, playing guitar, doing pilates, riding silly bikes, rowing silly boats, doing yoga, and even bellydancing.
If they’re not, then they’re more than likely lazing about on a picnic blanket, reading a book or canoodling with a loved one. Most will have a hollow gourd of maté, an infusion tea made from the yerba maté plant, in one hand, and a flask of the hot tea under the other arm.
Otherwise, they’ll be tucking into a picnic lunch they’ve brought from home, a steak sandwich or burger they’ve bought from one of the stands in the parks (only buy from the guys with the long queues), or some empanadas wrapped in butcher’s paper that they’ve probably picked up from their favourite empanaderia on their way to the park. And they’ll probably be washing it all down with a cold beer or glass of Malbec.
Palermo boasts a handful of parks that are clustered together, the highlight of which is our favourite, Parque Tres de Febrero, pictured above. Also known as Bosques de Palermo or ‘Palermo Woods’, it’s a sprawling green space of lakes, rose gardens, and shady lawns, with wide walking/cycle paths running through it.
The Park was originally 19th-century dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas’ private sanctuary, but, no, that’s not a statue of Rosas on a horse that you’ll see as you cross the intersection of Sarmiento and Presidente Figueroa Alcorta on your way to the park – that’s the bloke who overthrew him in 1852, Justo José de Urquiza. Make sure you see the monument at night when it’s illuminated and is just magic!
Other Buenos Aires parks we love, which you can easily drop into on a ‘park hop’:
Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays
Avenida Santa Fe 3951, Palermo
We call this wild, overgrown garden ‘kitty-kat park’ (and you know the extent we’ll go to in order to pat a cat) because it’s crammed with all kinds of cats, sleeping, playing, sleeping, cleaning themselves, sleeping, and roaming the gardens like they’re kings of the jungle. Designed by landscape architect Carlos Thays, the park has pretty ponds, romantic sculptures and elegant greenhouses.
Cnr of Las Heras & Sarmiento, Palermo
Just across the road from the park above, it was built on Rosas’ estancia (ranch), and while it’s looking a bit tatty and some of the enclosures are sadly too small, there are some beautiful and often whimsical buildings in the grounds, and it’s a great place to see some unusual South American animals like the chimango!
Cnr Figueroa Alcorta & Casares, Palermo
These tranquil Japanese gardens are not only wonderful for a spot of meditation on the natural of travel, with their Koi ponds, pretty bridges, and tinkling waterfalls, but there’s also an excellent Japanese restaurant that does delicious sushi and puts on tea ceremonies, and, being, a haven for Buenos Aires’ Japanese community, there’s always something going on, from karate exhibitions to origami demonstrations (generally in Japanese/Spanish).