Q&A with Moon Buenos Aires Author Nicholas Mills

Moon chatted with Moon Buenos Aires author Nicholas Mills about the best ways to explore his beloved city for the first time: see what he has to say!

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What is the biggest misconception people have about Buenos Aires?

Many people imagine Buenos Aires as a tropical, Latino city and are surprised to discover its European similarities and traces, without a beach in sight. Of course, the people and culture fit in wonderfully with the South American vibe and even enhance it in many ways, but the southern latitude and chaotic history of the city ensure that visitors are often caught off guard.

What is the first place you take visitors?

It’s hard to pin down any one place, as the city is so vast and offers such a variety of wonders for all tastes, but I like to take visitors to the very heart of the city center to get an initial impression of the city. The depth and beauty of the city can be appreciated in the mixture of the old and the new, the formal and the couldn’t-care-less, the ornate and the deteriorating, the local and the international, and the happiness alongside the insecurity.

What are the best local bites?

Argentine beef is renowned as being of the most flavorful in the world and is commonly eaten at any of the city’s thousands of parrillas (steakhouses). Empanadas, snack-sized pasties filled with anything from cheese to chicken, can be eaten at any pizzeria, which also serve up the local style of pizzas that overflow with molten cheese. The Italian heritage is also evident in the ice cream tradition, with a dizzying variety of flavors available even at 3AM.

Where is the best place to take a selfie?

When a soccer team comes out on to the pitch before a match, the local fans shower them with streamers, balloons and confetti. Combined with the vivid colors of the ubiquitous flags, banners, drums, trumpets and jerseys, this is the perfect moment for photos, especially in the biggest matches.

Where can you find the best view?

Given that Buenos Aires is completely flat, there are no natural viewpoints from which to survey the city. There are a number of bars, restaurants and hotels perched atop tall buildings but the most iconic views can be enjoyed from the upper echelons of Palacio Barolo.

sunset over Buenos Aires from atop Palacio Barolo
The view from Palacio Barolo. Photo © KaitlinM/iStock.

Which event is at the top of your list every year?

The tango festival is a unique event that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Over a couple of weeks, the world’s tango community convenes in Buenos Aires for concerts, dances, classes, talks and exhibitions. It also includes the world championship, which offers the chance to see dance-offs between the best dancers around.

How would you spend a normal day off?

The hustle and bustle of the city center encourages locals and visitors alike to spend downtime in the extensive parks of Palermo or the nature reserve in the sleepy Puerto Madero neighborhood. Taking a train out to Tigre and taking a whole day (or more) to explore the river delta is even more enjoyable and adventurous.

If Buenos Aires were an animal, what would it be?

Well, some say fish never sleep, dolphins make friends with everyone, chameleons have an infinite number of colors and kangaroos never stop growing, so some kind of bouncing, underwater creature would perhaps bear some kind of resemblance. It’s definitely most unlike a slug.

What is the best way to get around?

Bike lanes cross the city in a grid system that now rivals any major city around the world and traveling by two wheels is often quicker than in a car or bus as well as offering the greatest freedom and best view. Thousands of bikes can be used for free across the city in the government-run Ecobici system. The bus system is also excellent, running 24 hours with extensive coverage.

What is the best thing to pack for a trip?

It’s worth bringing clothing for all conditions if possible, as temperatures often swing wildly, ferocious thunderstorms descend from nowhere and winds sweep in from all directions. Warm, sunny days are also regular throughout winter, so it’s sensible to have at least one set of clothing for potential out-of-season weather.

What do locals wish visitors knew?

That the best place to sample the extensive range of grilled meat cuts is in the traditional neighborhood “parrillas”. There are certain steakhouses that locals rarely eat in as the quality is low or prices are inflated and unfortunately these are often those most frequented by visitors. It is always worth asking a local for the best nearby place to eat a steak, as they will invariably send you to the joint most popular among the Argentine meat-connoisseurs.

What is the most useful word or phrase to know?

In the Buenos Aires region (and certain areas of Central America and other isolated parts of the Spanish speaking world), the word “vos” is used instead of “tu” to say “you”. Although locals will understand the usage of “tu” by visitors, they will very rarely pronounce it themselves.

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