A different way to relax and explore the barrios in the north of Buenos Aires where Tigre isn’t the only destination.
Buenos Aires is beautiful – Fact. But despite the city’s name meaning “good airs”, fresh air sometimes feels like it’s on ration in this juggernauting mammoth of almost 2.9 million people. So what do the gente do here to escape the chaos? Well, they hop, skip and jump onto the Tren de la Costa – a dinky railway that kisses the coastline of the Rio de la Plata from the Puente de Maipú (Maipú Bridge) in the northern suburb of Olivos, through 11 stations and 15.5km to the Porteño waterside playground of Tigre.
The Tren de la Costa leaves from Maipu station in Olivos; photo by Sonja D’cruze.
It’s a small luxury, but with its air-con, clean carriages and ‘choo choo’ toy train horn, it’s a big step up from the slow, lleno chugging Mitre line alternative which leaves from Retiro at a fraction of the price. But for just a few pesos more you’ll have a whole lot more pleasant, and dare I say it, safer, trip to explore the Barrio Norte. The train ride itself would be gem enough, but the beauty is that each station has it’s own personality and attractions. Below are The Real Argentina’s favourites…
Nuevo Mercado De Pulgas starts the journey off right before you even board the train. A stack full of treasure digging awaits on the bridge. It could do with a bit of TLC, but if you’re looking for a unique gift or some retro furniture, this ain’t a bad place to start, and the prices are much cheaper than San Telmo. The kitsch Priscila Bar hosts live music during the evenings.
Rustic and rusty bicycles on show at the Nuevo Mercado De Pulgas in Maipu train station; photo by Sonja D’cruze.
Adopting the moniker of ‘Station of the Arts’, step off into a leafy bench lined Olivos square surrounded by cobbled streets. Once abandoned, the now perfectly restored Cine York (Juan Bautista Alberdi 895) looks on to the plaza and has a good cultural program. In front you’ll find a monument commemorating Argentine actor and comedian Juan Carlos Altavista or ‘Minguito’ who starred in many films from 1942 to 1988. Hop back across for a refresher at literary café Luna Cornea which hosts exhibitions and live music on weekend evenings.
Breathe in your first open vistas of the río here with a spectacular view back to Buenos Aires. It’s a good spot to jump off with a bike and follow the path hugging the water or just chill the afternoon away as you watch families having picnics, skateboarding teens and kids with kites running free.
TOP TIP: There’s usually quite a breeze so bring some extra layers.
Friends share sunset mate at Anchorena backdropped by a view of Buenos Aires; photo by Sonja D’cruze.
The only one built in wood and in the English style, this is the fairest station of them all. From markets to food and water sports…this stop’s worthy of a trip all of its own.
Pootling into Barrancas station, you’ll arrive in the middle of the platform sprinkled with over 70 stalls that make up the Feria de Anticuarios. Going for over 17 years, it’s a top treasure hunting spot for vintage furniture and clothes, Grandma’s crockery, crystal glass wear, jewelry, old records and some plain old broken tat to boot. Head there on a sunny afternoon and enjoy some banter with the characters that frequent this spot. People watching and stress-free dawdling await. The hardest part is deciding which end to start at.
TOP TIP: Pull out your best smile and haggle. Word’s getting out and things aren’t as cheap as they used to be.
WHEN: 11:00am-9:00pm every weekend including feriados (public holidays)
The fabulous Feria de Anticuarios seen from above at Barrancas station; photo by Sonja D’cruze.
Where to Eat
Parilla El Ñandú (Sebastian Elcano 648, Acassuso) is a vast restaurant serving up buena onda and huge plates at bargain prices. No surprise then that it gets mobbed with groups of friends and families at the weekends, so be prepared to put your name down on the list and hover for a table. It’s worth it. Try El gran bife Ñandú, a feast of bife de chorizo, chips, fried egg, butternut squash pure, rice, grilled onion and peppers with a side of provoleta and a Rennie for desert or the locro stew and traditional tamales (steamed or fried filled pastry wrapped in leaf).
TOP TIP: Ask for a sunny table outside in the back garden but not too near the kid’s play area (if that’s not your thing!)
Families and friends enjoy the good weather along with a juicy steak at Parilla El Ñandú; photo by Sonja D’cruze.
Where to Drink
Just a couple of blocks from the market you reach Toien Peru Beach Bar (Elcano 794), locally known as Peru Beach. You’ve the right to feel a bit miffed when you find that there is, in fact, no beach in sight. But that doesn’t detract from this little beauty of a spot with beach bar open views to the Rio where sickeningly gorgeous people hang out, pout and look err…. gorgeous. Order a cold beer and enjoy! There’s a nice spot of grass and decking to throw your towel down on and showers to cool off on a hot day.
TOP TIP: Make-up a picnic and bring a book if you want to keep it cheap and wander further down the river to the right where there’s plenty of open grass to chill on with beautiful vistas of the Rio alongside jamming hippies.
For some slightly more demanding activities than hot girl/boy spotting, try one of these…all are just a short walk from the station.
Escalando climbing school (Sebastaian Elcano 794) have a range of day packages and courses and also organise climbing trips out of the city in Sierras Balcarce, Tandil, Cordoba, Mendoza and Bariloche.
Gutteral grunts and the crashing sound of bodies slamming in to each other mean you’ve found the roller hockey rink (El Cano 784). There’s usually a match to gawp at on weekends or if you want to take part get in touch with Jorge (Dicky) Haiek.
Bargains bagged at the market, head across the tracks for a merienda at the cutely white and mint painted Bikes & Coffee cafe (Juan Diaz de Solis 736), where you can, unsurprisingly, sip a cortado and hire a bike!
Kanoo is just at the entrance of the Peru beach complex and offers full day tours as well as nocturnal trips and courses.
Kite Surf & Windsurf
There are a few schools along this strip but El Molino (El Cano 888), attached to a cool little bar/restaurant, always has great onda and includes all the equipment you’ll need to get on the water. They also have a shop if you’re looking to buy.
Puerto Tablas is another water-sports centre, and they have an outdoor pool.
TOP TIP: Bring your photo I.D. to guarantee stress free rentals.
Walk through the dinky shopping mall on a Sunday or holiday and you’ll find yet another little feria. Buy direct from artists selling traditional leather goods, mates and jewelry with a more local touch than other ferias in the city. If you can stick around till sunset and sip some mate you’ll be treated to some street entertainment. Don’t leave without nipping into the Cathedral and nosing at the exquisite rica houses of the barrio.
From the station take a walk down Del Arca Street toward the Marina and you’ll be glad you purposefully stumbled upon The Dutch Café. A tranqui coffee sanctuary with an outdoor deck and blooming plants looking out to the river.
TOP TIP: The cafe is closed on Mondays. So don’t go then…
Toot! Toot! You’ve arrived at your final destination, the aquatic wonderland of Tigre. Riverside tranqui town is the vibe here. Plenty to explore for the day, and if you can, try hiring a río-side house to really appreciate the slower pace of life for a weekend. Enjoy exploring the myriad web of islands and waterways that form the Paraná River Delta, which is an UNESCO protected Biosphere Reserve. A great little get away.
You’ll pull up next to the ‘slighty’ antiquated Parque de la Costa to get your thrills on a roller coaster or two or you can spend some pesos at the Casino, Delta Handicraft Market or Puerto de Frutos which are just outside the station on weekends. But really this is all about the agua – here’s our pick of the best waterside ways to while away a few hours…
A view from the main port in Tigre where river action is what it’s all about; photo by Sonja D’cruze.
Back to Nature
A short boat ride from the main port, the Delta Terra conservation centre, complete with a delicious sun-decked bistro, offers workshops, guided walks and kayak trips. Worth it just for the peaceful setting and tasty food. Open Saturdays, Sundays & holidays.
On the Water
A number of tour companies can guide you through the labyrinth of rivers, or for a cheaper option just hop on one of the many public lanchas leaving from the port.
Navegando Por El Delta do full day tours and specialty night trips.
TOP TIP: Take super strong bug spray! The mosquitos and other insects get seriously hungry after dark. You don’t want to end up as their dinner. Not pretty.
Urban Biking do high energy tours, biking up to Tigre where you’ll then transfer to kayaks.
Originally a social club back in 1912, this stunning building now houses the Museo de Arte Tigre, the fanciest of Tigre’s museums, hosting famous Argentine artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. Worth visiting purely for the architecture alone, but if you’re short on time you’ll likely pass it on a boat tour.
A waterside view of the majestic Museo de Arte, Tigre; photo by Sonja D’cruze.
Where to Eat
Dueña Suzanne is originally from Vienna and serves up draft beer on tap alongside hearty German dishes and homemade pastries in the afternoon such as the yummy Apfelstrudel. This is a short trip down the river and the quiet río-side tables make it. Accommodation is also available.
Il Novo María del Luján
Enjoy mediterranean flavours alongside seafood and parilla favourites at this treat of a restaurant. Not the cheapest in town, but possibly the best. Grab a prime riverside spot outside on the patio. The tastiest helado in Tigre is sold at Heladeria Delta, just opposite too!
TREN DE LA COSTA: A VERY SHORT HISTORY
First set up in 1891 as an alternative route to Tigre, the line was electrified in 1931 and nationalised in 1948 until in 1961 part of the system was abandoned and left to rot for 30 years. Finally in 1990 plans kicked off to revamp the train line creating unique attractions at each station and the new Maipú terminus was opened in 1995. The then President of Argentina Carlos Menem attended the celebration. Various financial crashes have been blamed for passenger numbers having dropped over the years from 100,000 (on weekends) when it first opened to just 70,000 a month by 2010. It is now run by the Government through a subsidiary.
“Mapa Tren de la Costa 2” by Moebiusuibeom-en – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
How to Get There:
• Take the normal Linea Mitre from Retiro station for a few pesos and transfer to the Tren de la Costa at Maipú station.
• Bus 152 is a safe bet if you’re in the north of BA and jump off at Puente de Maipú. For other colectivo options check your route using this handy interactive city map.
• If budget is no question, opt for a taxi from wherever you are.
The journey takes 30 minutes from end to end and runs every 30 minutes. It runs from around 7am to 9pm. Leave in the morning to beat the rush and aim to be heading back by dusk to be on the safe side. Time is a different concept in Argentina!
A resident ticket is $20 while tourists can pay up to double. Prices are subject to change due to inflation.
TOP TIP: The train doors don’t open automatically. You need to press the small, round, green button on the inside or outside of the carriage to open them. I’ve forgotten to do that more than once!
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