Much of Palermo, Buenos Aires’ largest barrio, is vibrantly green and appealingly well kempt: ornate balconies overflow with jasmine and roses, grand apartment blocks line wide avenues, and plane trees, palms and jacarandas shade older, cobbled streets; its beautifully landscaped parks, some of the biggest in the world, come alive with locals practising in-line skating, playing football or walking their dogs.
Palermo takes its name from an Italian farmer, Giovanni Palermo, who in 1590 turned these former flood plains into vineyards and orchards. The barrio began to take on its present-day appearance when large parks and gardens were laid out at the end of the nineteenth century; the process of gentrification continued and Palermo is now regarded as a distinctly classy place to live.
Given its sizeable proportions – it stretches all the way from Avenida Coronel Díaz, on the border with Recoleta, to Colegiales and Belgrano, to the north – it’s not surprising that the barrio isn’t completely homogeneous. The bit of Palermo around Plaza República de Chile that juts into Recoleta is known as Palermo Chico and contains some significant museums, including the Museo de Arte Decorativo. Nearby, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) is a must for fans of modern art. About ten blocks west, Palermo Viejo is a traditional neighbourhood with lovely old houses along cobbled streets, but it’s become such a trendy place, full of funky cafés and avant-garde art galleries, that the area around Plaza Cortázar is now known as Soho. Across the rail tracks, people in the media work, eat and drink in a cluster of TV studios, restaurants and bars that have been christened Hollywood. Much of the north of Palermo is taken up by parks and gardens, such as the grand Parque 3 de Febrero, giving the area its soubriquet the ‘‘bosques de Palermo’’ (Palermo woods). At the barrio’s northern edge is Las Cañitas, a zone of upmarket bars and restaurants, focused on the corner of Báez and Arévalo.