That magical candy land that draws locals and foreigners alike. A hipster sanctuary and the ultimate point of convergence for philosophers and Rastafarians. Like Lesotho, it’s a kingdom within a nation. And it remains unfazed by the great afflictions currently troubling our world.
Go out for a walk on a chilly Wednesday night and its restaurants and bars are overflowing with sophisticated patrons, wine glass in hand. Meet your friends for brunch on a summer Saturday morning and try to spot the many female foursomes quoting
Sex & the City Girls and giggling as they recollect their sexual escapades from the night before.
Why is Palermo, the largest neighborhood in Buenos Aires, so alluring to the cosmopolitan crowds? Is it the overpriced, pretentious cafes? Is it the New York/Paris/Berlin vibe? The cobblestone streets? The pervasive, pheromonic aroma that results from an unavoidable clash between the parks, hipsters, models and beatniks that pullulate the hood?
I don’t know and/or care.
What I do know is that despite our efforts to resist its siren song, we’re repeatedly drawn to it like fireflies darting towards its deadly -yet tantalizing- incandescence (unless you’re one of those people who scoff at the very notion of attending an event there. “No, I like to keep it real so me and my bike and my beard live in Almagro. The only place that’s real.” You know who I’m talking about. Yeah. Those guys.)
Believe it or not, a long, long time ago, back when Palermo was still known as just Palermo, this now-refined neighborhood was a dormant residential area where the everyday riffraff buoyed from one street to the other heedless of a looming fragmentation that would change the dynamic of their Palermitan pangaea forever.
After the 2001 economic crisis, and in some sort of reverse renaissance, the social debacle brought a surge of pseudo-Parisian cafes, pseudo-Brooklynite bars and pseudo-Ibizan nightclubs to the area. This sudden and unexpected flourishing of coolness, which accelerated after 2003, revitalized several areas of Palermo and created many others, a product of the visionary minds of the pillagers in the real estate business who decided that since two film production companies and a few TV and film studios had germinated in Palermo near the Juan B. Justo Avenue, it would be neat to start referring to that area as Palermo Hollywood. (Because movies. Get it?)
In just a few years, big realtors realized that recognizable, first world-sounding names worked wonders with wealthy tourists who were looking to have some exotic adventure in Buenos Aires but still liked the idea of having a Starbucks right around the corner in case they suddenly missed their pumpkin spice latte. And that’s how the gag-inducing compartmentalization of this gigantic neighborhood came to be.
So if you’re thinking of coming to visit, here is a comprehensive guide that will help you sort out the real areas from the bullshit ones made up by greedy realtors desperately trying to squeeze one more dollar out of you.
Oh and before you ask, this is real. I didn’t come up with all these ridiculous names. All I had to do was go to Wikipedia and write about all the different areas that are listed there. (There are some other that are not on Wikipedia but were either created by the local media or spread verbally by some local bullshitters.)
Ready? Here we go.
Description: The real deal. And by “real” I mean totally fake but I’ll be lenient because from all the fakes, this was the first one. To many, this is the only Palermo that matters, obviously. It’s like Williamsburg and Kreuzberg had a an illegitimate South American baby. Home of unruffled restaurants and beautiful people, Palermo Soho (named after the eponymous neighborhoods in New York and London) is everyone’s favorite destination. Its vintage cafes, its Colombian and Spanish waiters and its unnecessarily complicated ethnic menus all play a role in the composition of such a cosmopolitan backdrop. Let’s say you decide to visit this new Moldovan restaurant that just opened. A non-Argentine (obvi) will greet you and take you to your table, where you will be handed a deck of poker cards with the menu options scribbled over them. “I’ll take the queen of hearts, please” you will say, totally not sounding like an douche.
You see, cool people from all over the world decide to buy property here, because where else would you be able to buy an apartment in a building that includes an art gallery and a recording studio? Fashionable people who work in advertising or design and wake up at noon are its usual denizens. You’re either in or out.
And as this infamous, almost universally-reviled video from the New York Times proves, I would say most Argentines are probably out.
This is the Soho. Banal sophistication, millennial fashionistas and bagels for brunch. All of that sprinkled with a soundtrack featuring musical abortions such as the Bossa Nova version of Gangnam Style.
(PS: If you had to had to google “Williamsburg” and/or “Kreuzberg”, please leave this website at once. We don’t want your kind here.)
Location: Consider Plaza Serrano to be a life-sucking vortex. A black hole with the gravitational pull of… well, a black hole. The more you approach that little square, the more cafes, bars and designer brands stores.
Notable for: Being the epitome of expensive sophistication and a hipster heaven. It also functions as a de facto expat sanctuary, with popular “Se habla inglés” joints.
Description: This is also one of the original bullshit Palermos. Now, I understand you may be inclined to think that Palermo Hollywood is doused with green hills, movie stars, exclusive red carpet events and lots of waiters “temporarily” living in studio apartments as they dream of one day garnering enough fame and fortune in order to be able to rent a studio apartment in the real Hollywood.
But alas, the Palermo version of Tinseltown is nothing but a vague idea when one enters this alleged silver-screened realm. Sure, there are a couple of TV and movie studios, networks and production companies. Hell, this is where The Bubble’s newsroom and offices are located! And yes, some local celebrities live there but let’s face it: The only reason you would live in good old PH (please never call it “PH”) is the incredible restaurants and bars scattered around the area. Fukuro Noodle Bar, Sunae Asian Cantina, Tegui, Olsen and Siamo nel Forno are all here. The Mercado de las Pulgas (Flea Market) is here. That nightclub where Justin Bieber got into a fight with the paparazzi? Also here. I guess that makes it Hollywood-y enough.
Location: Delimited by Santa Fe, Cordoba, Juan B. Justo and Dorrego.
Notable for: Being a more down-to-earth, anti-Soho. This is where the neo-hippies and alternative artists choose to exercise their vivid imaginations and has-beens try to resuscitate their already decrepit careers. Unlike it’s prudish, stuck up sister, anything is possible on this side of Juan B. Justo Av. Independent theater and questionable, nameless bars abound as Argentines flock to drink Fernet con Coca from cheap plastic cups, although new venues such as the Peugeot Lounge and Milo Lockett Bar have already changed that vibe around. Blame it on the SoHo’s contagion effect.
Bonus: This video.
Description: Remember those two bullet points you just read about Soho and Hollywood? Of course you do, you just read them. Turns out it’s all false. At least that’s what the original cave dwellers of the Palermo Viejo area claim. You see, before Palermo Soho was known as Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood was known as Palermo Hollywood, both areas were considered to be a unified chunk of land popularly known as Palermo Viejo (in English, “Old Palermo”.) Then the people with the ironic mustaches arrived in 2002 and it all went to shit. Legend has it that some still refer to it as Palermo Viejo, and evidence of this is a mysterious website (Update: it doesn’t work anymore) that angrily claims that there is no such thing as a Palermo Soho.
Location: Delimited by avenues Scalabrini Ortiz, Córdoba, Santa Fé and Dorrego.
Notable for: Apparently not updating its official website since 1998. Seriously, that website looks older than Professor Mack’s Wonderous Web Page. Which is a real thing, by the way.
Description: Another region from a pre-bullshit era. Quaint little area full of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and classy
hookers escorts people that one day decided to ditch the Palermo prefix and go by a totally different name. However, no one is really sure whether Las Cañitas is part of Palermo or Belgrano, Palermo’s ugly, middle class sister.
Location: Delimited by avenues Luis María Campos, Olleros, Del Libertador and Chenaut St. (good luck finding that last one on a map).
Notable for: Being a quaint little area full of restaurants, bars, nightclubs classy
hookers escorts people. It has a vibrant night life, specially in the summer, when many go down to calle Báez – our very own Bourbon Street – for some parrilla and a few drinks. Just give it a few years until someone starts calling it “Palermo New Orleans.”
Description: A district within a district within a district within a city. This place is like the Inception of neighborhoods. Geographically located inside Las Cañitas (which at the same time is located inside Palermo, maybe), but that’s pretty much all you can say about it. It’s also impossible to find unless you know its exact location and are accompanied by someone who lives in it. You know, like the Smurf village.
Location: I just said I don’t know.
Notable for: Making it impossible to pinpoint its exact location. Also I think there’s a Megatlón gym and a Persicco in it.
Description: Considering I had no idea this area even existed, I’m afraid I don’t know what to say.
Notable for: Apparently, making people believe it exists.
Description: I would assume that there are lots of trees and stuff because it has something to do with the Botanical Gardens?
Location: Area surrounding the Jardín Botánico (Bingo! I’m so smart.)
Notable for: Lots and lots of friendly and adorable totally non-feral cats, horrible cat pee smell. Also there’s a botanical garden in it.
Bonus: Cue mandatory upbeat drone video of the Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens.
Description: Not a thing. There. That’s my description.
Location: Area surrounding the Campo Argentino de Polo.
Description: Contrary to popular belief, Alto Palermo is not just a mall in Palermo. As it turns out, the area surrounding the mall is also referred to as Alto Palermo for mysterious reasons since as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing high about it.
Well, except for its prices!
Location: Hard to say. A two-block radius? Three-block radius? Who knows? Only realtors do.
Notable for: Boasting the dubious honor of being the place where the first Starbucks and KFC stores opened in Argentina.
PALERMO SENSITIVE / VILLA FREUD
Description: This is where I live. It’s the best area ever. Everything about it is awesome so shut up. And look, we even have our own Wikipedia page! The name Villa Freud (or “Freudville,”) since you’re obviously wondering about its undeniable coolness, comes from the large amount of psychologists that reside in the area.
Location: All around Plaza Guemes (also known as Plaza Guadalupe).
Notable for: One time, like a few years ago, all the shrinks in the area got together and petitioned to change the name of the street bordering Plaza Guemes from “Medrano” to “Sigmund Freud.” And I don’t mean the entire street, I mean just that one block. The City Government replied by saying: “Please don’t contact us again.” True story.
Description: I have no idea. “Also known as Palermo Centro“, Wikipedia says. Sure. Why not.
Location: “Area surrounding the Juan B. Justo Av.” Ah. So in theory Palermo Boulevard could also be Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, and Palermo Pacífico since those are all divided by Juan B. Justo. Right?
No, that’s OK. Don’t respond, it was rhetorical.
Notable for: Pretending that Juan B. Justo is a boulevard, when the only thing barely resembling that medieval type of road is the abundance of potholes.
‘PALERMO SAN FRANCISCO’
Description: Allegedly popular with the LGBTQ crowd, Palermo San Francisco is where the members of that community allegedly go nightclubbing. I said “allegedly” twice since this has the distinctive smell of bullshit.
Scattered along Córdoba Av., a relatively large concentration of nightclubs and bars like Amerika and Sitges entice the gays with catchy tunes and suggestive flyers that depict semi-naked guys in semi-controversial positions. But things have changed in the last few decades and, as homophobic douchebags realize that they actually like the gays (and sometimes the gay sex because, why not?), the straight crowds have begun taking over the gay clubs to such a degree that sometimes they don’t feel like a gay club anymore. Sure, Lady Gaga is still playing and the crowds go wild with Like a Virgin, but the appropriation of gay culture is now a reality.
In all honesty, I’ve only heard a few people refer to this area as Palermo San Francisco. And this is probably not a thing because one of the reasons why Buenos Aires is considered one of the gay-friendliest cities in the world is that, instead of having a “gay district” (or as some call it, a “gay ghetto”), BA is proudly waving the rainbow flag everywhere.
Location: All along Córdoba Av. and adjacent streets, between Agüero and Juan B. Justo. Allegedly.
Notable for: Not existing.
Location: Also self-explanatory.
Notable for: Not being an area of Palermo but an actual place that I already mentioned above. Let’s move on.
Description: Ah, finally one of the original, real Palermos. Also known as “Barrio Parque,” Palermo Chico is where all non-nouveau riche and (new) old money celebrities live. This residential area is home to several embassies and legendary Argentine TV stars such as Susana Giménez and Mirtha Legrand, Buenos Aires former Mayor (now President) Mauricio Macri and a millionaire lawyer/psychotic gun enthusiast who back in 2007 almost blew up the entire area to smithereens after a long stand-off with the police. True story.
Location: You know the MALBA museum? It’s right behind it. More specifically, east of Libertador Av. between Cavia and Tagle St.
Notable for: Extremely expensive property that you will never be able to afford and for being a place you only visited once, and it was only because a friend of yours was invited to a cool party and she asked if you wanted to tag along. So basically it was a pity invite.
Description: (*rolls eyes*) Area surrounding Francis Ford Coppola’s hotel.
Loca– OK, you know what? No. I’m not even going to dignify this stupidity with an explanation. Screw it.
Notable for: A hotel in Palermo SoHo that is owned by legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.
‘PALERMO RED’ (AKA ‘Palermo Hot’, ‘Zona Roja’)
Description: This is where the trans sex workers allegedly are.
Location: All along Godoy Cruz St. between Córdoba and Santa Fe avenues and El Rosedal. This is why whenever you go train to the Bósques de Palermo and sit on the ground you sometimes have to canvas the area for used condoms.
Notable for: Trans sex workers and closeted football players looking for a good time. Also TV shows like this.
Description: Sounds like bullshit, but OK. Apparently the so-called Palermo Nuevo is located right where Palermo VIP is (see below.) I also just found out Palermo Nuevo has been around at least since 2007, according to this article on La Nación.
Location: Delimited by Las Heras, Libertador, Coronel Díaz and Sarmiento avenues.
Notable for: I’m sure there’s something good in it but I just don’t know. Ignore it.
Description: Anyone saying that they live in “Palermo VIP” is a terrible person. This is probably the Donald Trump of Palermos. It’s the triumph of stupidity and if you actually moved there because calling it “Palermo VIP” made you feel important, you deserve to be waterboarded.
Location: Between Las Heras, República de la India, Libertador and Salguero. See? It’s not even that exclusive.
Notable for: There are two Starbucks in it.
Description: Never heard of it in my entire life, but such a peculiar appellative bears the unmistakable odor of bullshit. In fact, I’d like to know who edits this Wikipedia page, since I’m sure it could be traced to the Argentine Association of Realtors or something.
Located in: According to
the Argentine Association of Realtors Wikipedia, it’s the area around Libertador Av. and Casares. But according to the same Wikipedia page that is also called “Palermo VIP”. So this just makes absolutely no sense.
Notable for: [Insert shrug emoji]
‘PALERMO LITTLE ITALY’ (AKA ‘PALITA’)
Description: “Just like in Manhattan (*sigh*) you can now find a small corner where all the Italian restaurants are located, a new Little Italy, New York style, is slowly flourishing in the city of Buenos Aires,” says a recent article in the local media. Oh for fuck’s sake. Seriously? Have you even been to that place? There’s like three pizzerias! You can find the same amount of Pizzerias in Puerto Madero and you don’t call it PuMaLiTa.
Location: Honestly, it’s like one block. ONE BLOCK. Gorriti 5700. That’s it. There are other pizzerias around but if you expand the area too much they overlap with, like, three other different Palermos around. And trust me you don’t want to open that Pandora’s box. It’s a mess.
Notable for: Pizza. I think there’s also a supermarket on the corner. That’s all.
Description: Thought PaLiTa was the epitome of bullshit? I present you: Palermo Brooklyn! Originally coined in a La Nación piece from 2013, Palermo Brooklyn is, well… I’m not sure. The original article making the case for Brooklyn has close to 1000 likes on Facebook and yet the 230 comments at the bottom only call for the journalist who wrote it to be skinned alive. There is much uncertainty about what the article says since the definition of “Brooklyn” is pretty vague. But I think it says that Palermo Soho is becoming Palermo Brooklyn or something because there’s like, bakeries, cool bars and stores that sell design crap and old records. Also, foreigners. Lots and lots of them. And it’s true, the real Brooklyn has lots of foreigners. But so does Manhattan. So that is one big mess of an article.
Location: Maybe inside Palermo SoHo.
Notable for: Everyone hates its.
[PALERMOS THAT ARE LITERALLY NOT INSIDE PALERMO]
Then there are those Palermos that don’t even exist in the real estate vernacular, yet the media uses them over and over again in hopes that they will become a thing. Fortunately stupidity has a limit and the populace refuses to accept such ridiculous denominations and continues to use their more “real” monickers such as “Palermo VIP”.
Description: This is where the locals drew the line. There’s no such thing as “Palermo Queens” and there never has been. After property value in Palermo skyrocketed, real estate agents turned to other alternatives in order to con dollar-having foreigners. They soon discovered that there was life south of Córdoba Av. and hence began a ruthless evangelization process. The creative underclass population of the Villa Crespo area were timid at first, but nonetheless welcomed the real estate agents into their world, confident that they would help the advancement of the Villa Crespo peoples. Little did they know of their macabre plans to subjugate the local villagers through transculturation. Despite the endless protests and many battles fought, the conquerors crushed the tribesmen in a nick of time and proclaimed the neighborhood of Villa Crespo as their very own Palermo Queens. The area is now known for its veggie restaurants, outlet stores and its up and coming nightlife. It is also where hipsters who want to be hipsters but can’t afford to be Soho hipsters move to, claiming that the Soho has become too mainstream for them.
Location: Walking from the Soho, cross Córdoba Av. to the south. You are now in Palermo Queens. Look down on the locals in order to assert your authority.
Notable for: Outlet stores. Not resembling the Queens borough in New York. Not being Palermo either.
Bonus: This cool music video by French singer Benjamin Biolay, shot in Palermo Queens (I think).
Description: I have no idea where it is but I have to say it sounds kind of racist. And no, it is not the area where the largest mosque in Latin America is located. That’s Palermo Nuevo. Or Puente Pacifico. Or Palermo Boulevard. I don’t know, one of those. However, my sources suggest that Palermo Baghdad “is what people call the run down area of Palermo Queens”. See? Racist.
Location: No idea.
Notable for: Being racist.
‘PALERMO DEAD (AKA CHACALERMO)’
Description: “Oh, you wanna rent a new place? Sure, I have this cozy little studio apartment in ‘Palermo Dead,’ right across the street from the Chacarita cemetery so you can freak out every time you hear a noise outside your window at night.”
Notable for: Being “the other” cemetery that most people don’t give a shit about (most people only care about the Recoleta cemetery where Evita is buried.)
Description: I can’t even.
Location: Apparently that’s what some people like to call the La Paternal neighborhood, which doesn’t make any sense because it doesn’t even come close to the real Palermo.
Notable for: Being the most ridiculous of them all.
So there you go.
If you ignore the many, many times all these “areas” overlap with each other, we can safely say that you finally visualize every area of Palermo. Next time you Skype with your parents and they ask you where you’re staying, just say Palermo.
I promise you there’s no difference.