Neighborhood Watch – Recoleta, Buenos Aires

brazil1This article first appeared in our September/October 2016 issue.

By Chris Moss

While new-fangled neighborhoods sprout up all the time, leafy, laid-back, luxury-loving Recoleta has been left to evolve slowly and thoughtfully. It specializes in niche over number, classic rather than kitsch.

Start your barrio browse with a coffee at La Biela, the classic Recoleta café. The name means piston rod and it used to be the pole position for the racing crowd to meet, including F1 legend Juan Manuel Fangio.

Cross the plaza opposite and walk through grand portico of Recoleta Cemetery. This is Buenos Aires’ most exclusive necropolis, a city in miniature. The mausoleums of generals, presidents and society dames – including that of Eva Perón – ape the palaces and mansions outside the high walls.

Head back across the plaza to elegant Avenida Alvear, arguably the best address in the city, as far as the handsome Alvear Palace Hotel – the city’s grand old hotel. Inside is the Galería Promenade and a branch of local silversmith, Juan Carlos Pallarols, whose sublimely sculpted silver roses have found admirers in Argentine-born Queen Máxima Zorreguieta of the Netherlands and Liza Minnelli.

Two blocks along is stylish perfume laboratory Fueguia 1833. Low lighting means you can focus your nostrils on the 50-plus aromas. Scents can be tweaked to suit your needs and 42 percent of the product price of all perfumes, candles and room fragrances is donated to social projects.brazil3

More seductive scents welcome the visitor to upscale chocolatier Vasalissa, where, since 2006, mother and daughter Dadi and Federica Marinucci have been confecting chocolate bars, truffles, ice creams, drinking chocolate and quirky figures.

Drop by El Sanjuanino, the barrio’s best empanada outlet. These semi-circular pies are the ultimate finger food – enjoy with a glass of robust Malbec.

For almost 40 years, Pérez Sanz has been crafting exquisite handbags, ornate sculptures and wearable art. Need a souvenir? Pick up a suitcase-sized alpaca silver box or marble-buckled belt.

Leather should be the official scent of cow-raising, horse-riding, gaucho-worshipping Argentina. That’s the heady aroma that greets visitors to Arandú, which stocks serious equestrian gear such as saddles, whips and riding boots, as well as more transportable needlepoint belts, mate gourds and picture frames.

Finally, exit Recoleta via Arroyo, home to a few small art vendors. If the cocktail hour is calling, the very fashionable Florería Atlántico bar’s signature gin comes flavored with yerba mate.