A combination of extravagant elegance and an authentic lived-in feel pervades the north of Buenos Aires, where the four residential barrios of most interest to visitors – Retiro, Recoleta, Palermo and Belgrano – each retain a distinctive character. Nearest to the centre, Retiro and Recoleta – known jointly as Barrio Norte – have chic streets lined with boutiques, art galleries and smart cafés, although the dockside fringes and the highly insalubrious bits near the city’s biggest train station, also called Retiro, are just as down at heel as parts of the southern barrios, if not more so. Recoleta is associated primarily with its magnificent cemetery where, among other national celebrities, Evita is buried. Both barrios also share an extraordinary concentration of French-style palaces, tangible proof of the obsession of the city’s elite at the beginning of the twentieth century with established European cities. Many of these palaces can be visited and some of them house the area’s opulent museum collections, but they are also sights in themselves.
Palermo and Belgrano, further north, are large districts composed of a mixture of tall apartment buildings, tree-lined boulevards, little cobbled streets and grandiose neocolonial houses. Many of Buenos Aires’ best restaurants and shops are here, so you should plan a visit in this direction at least once. It’s worth making a day of it to check out the beautiful parks and gardens, attend a game of polo, or to see another beguiling side of the city in, for example, Palermo Soho, a district of lively cafés-cum-art galleries.