So you’ve lived in San Telmo in a hippy-ish former conventillo with a Brazilian, a French guy, and two Colombians. You’ve hit up all the expat bars and ambled along the cobblestone streets soaking in the bohemian vibes and reveling in the glory of being a world away from the USA.
But at some point, the charm of living without air conditioning and cooking in a kitchen the size of a shoebox began to wear off. You decided to move on up to Palermo where modern apartments and nightlife abound, loving life with such proximity to the Subte D and all the amenities offered by this upscale and trendy hood.
“Es muy top,’’ you thought to yourself. But then the landlord kept increasing your rent each time the peso lost ground to the dollar. Soon, you were paying New York City prices to live here and you realized that went against the whole reason for being here in the first place.
“So, what’s next?” you found yourself wondering. Well, you might be able to find your answer in the literal heart of the city… The Triple Frontier.
Not to be confused with the Triple Frontier in Puerto Iguazú, where you can see both Brazil and Paraguay while standing on Argentine soil, here in Capital Federal the term refers to the point where three neighborhoods come together, Almagro, Villa Crespo, and Caballito. The exact point where they touch is around the station Angel Gallardo of the B line of the subte, and just a few blocks from what is arguably the most noteworthy landmark of this area, Parque Centenario.
These barrios don’t have quite the same vibe as the San Telmos, Palermos, and Recoletas of the world. They aren’t as touristy, and you’re not going to hear much English being spoken. But wasn’t that the point? You’re immersing yourself in porteño culture, and we can’t hold your hand forever. It’s time to take the leap.
Let’s start with Almagro.
Bound by Gallo to the east, Independencia to the south, Río de Janeiro to the west, and Córdoba to the north, one could make a case that Almagro is the most porteño of all the barrios.
It’s chock full of cultural centers, theaters, and even a diverse selection of restaurants if you’re willing to explore a bit. Two main thoroughfares run east to west through Almagro, Avenida Corrientes and Avenida Rivadavia. Tucked away a few blocks off these beaten paths you can find hidden gems such as one of the prettiest churches in the city, the Basilica Maria Auxiliadora.
Not only was Pope Francis baptized here, Carlos Gardel also sang in the choir as a child – a veritable porteño double whammy. Close by you’ll find classic confiterías and pizzerias that date back at least a hundred years, Las Violetas and Pin Pun, and excellent Mom and Pop parrillas (Lo de Mary is the best).
For people watching it doesn’t get any better than the five corners at Perón and Rio De Janeiro, where you can just grab a couple of tall boys and kick it with a friend.
For those a little more culturally inclined, the Club Cultural Matienzo always has something good going on. Concerts, plays, and art openings fill up their calendar and the price is always right. Lastly, it almost goes without saying that craft breweries are sprouting up on every other corner. For convenience, Almagro is the best. Its close proximity to both Palermo and Microcentro make it one of the prime spots to live in town.
So what about Villa Crespo? Well, you know that somewhat disorienting feeling you get when you feel like you are kind of in Palermo but you are actually closer to Corrientes than Santa Fe? That means you’re in the Crespo.
Real Estate agencies have taken to calling this part of town Palermo Queens, which I personally find to be an abomination.
A traditionally Jewish neighborhood with plenty of history, Villa Crespo has become a hotspot for those looking to live near Palermo, but not ready to drop 15 grand (pesos, of course) in rent for a one bedroom with monthly access to the SUM.
Within the past ten years it has become known for its “outlets.” I put that word in quotations because apparently here it means something different – in English, the word ‘outlet’ has a connotation of a place where one can find good prices, but I digress.
Cool brunch spots like El Malvón and awesome restaurants such as Sarkis make this a place that you’re sure to pass through even if it’s just for the morfi.
Also, the corridor of Corrientes between Scalabrini Ortiz and Chacarita has lots of cool bars and clubs. (That would be in between Canning and La Quinta del Ñato for those of you in the know.) The local soccer team is Atlanta, a perennial B-league bottom feeder, but nonetheless the pride of the neighborhood. You’ll see their colors on jerseys worn by the locals and their escudo painted everywhere along the sidewalks and on the sides of buildings. Bottom line, if you want to live near Palermo without breaking the bank, Villa Crespo is probably your best bet.
And now, last but not least, Caballito.
Oh, Little Horse de mi corazón. The name of the neighborhood comes from a horse-shaped weather vane that was placed on top of a bar in the mid 19th century at the corner of Rivadavia and Emilio Mitre.
It became a well-known landmark on the route between downtown and what was then the outskirts of town. As time went on, the residents began to refer to the entire area as Caballito. The Subte A, the first line in the city, and in all of South America, arrived in Caballito in 1914, forever connecting the neighborhood with the Plaza de Mayo.
Caballito boasts several important parks: the aforementioned Parque Centenario, as well as Parque Rivadavia and Plaza Irlanda. All three of these are bumping on the weekends with ferias, murgas, foodtrucks, and everything else you can think of. For my money the coolest church in the hood is the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Buenos Aires at the corner of Gaona and Espinosa. Built in the 1920’s, this neogothic structure is definitely worth a visit.
Another part of the neighborhood that will appeal to architectural enthusiasts is the Barrio Inglés, just a couple of square blocks in between Valle and Pedro Goyena near the cross street Cachimayo. Also built in the 20s, this little nook provides a glimpse into turn of the century British architecture that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. The only functioning streetcar in town also passes through here.
On Sundays, you can take a guided tour on the tranvía to learn more about this beautiful relic of days gone by. For your dose of joda, the hotspot is Avenida Pedro Goyena. Bars and restaurants have sprung up everywhere along this street in what is now known as “Caballito Gourmet.” (Don’t forget to pronounce the T if you don’t want to sound like a yanqui)
So there you have it, a quick rundown of three of the coolest, non-touristy neighborhoods of the city. If you’ve been in town for a while and you’re tired of hanging out with only Expats and speaking English every weekend, branch out a little bit… this part of the city will not disappoint.