At just 2.3km2, Colegiales is one of the city’s smaller barrios, but between rows of middle-class porteño homes, some of the city’s best lesser-known spots are waiting to be visited. Much quieter than its neighbour Palermo, exploring this neighbourhood you’ll feel like you’re discovering something special for the first time.
Colegiales’ history is closely linked to its neighbour Chacarita – the two once formed the neighbourhood Chacarita de los Colegiales, named for the farms and estates owned by Jesuit Monks where the students of the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires would spend their holidays.
In 1767, when the Jesuits were expelled from Spain, these lands were passed to back to Crown and given out again to European migrant families during the 1820s, a period marked by mass European migration. The newcomers were tasked with giving birth to a new village, and as the city grew, Chacarita and Colegiales were divided into two neighbourhoods.
Still a largely residential neighbourhood, and home of highly recommended puerta cerradas such as Cocina Sunae and Trientasillas, Colegiales’ public places are charming in their own right. The Indy hit quiet leafy streets in search of the top five notable places.
Pipí-Cucú in Pasaje General de Paz
Based on the number of couples in this charming restaurant, Pipí-Cucú could be the barrio’s most romantic spot. It has certainly has seen its fair share of marriage proposals and anniversaries, and there is a piano in the corner if diners feel the urge to play. The quirky French bistro design is stylish without being pretentious, partly due to the playful details such as travel souvenirs (all gifts for customers) and confetti that decorate the tables.
A small but select seasonal menu includes some outstanding dishes such as: slow cooked pork shoulder, with a sweet potato puree, molasses, and cayenne, and for desert, marquise de chocolate with English cream and mint.
Mains range from $80 to $150, but they don’t disappoint. The portions are ample and the quality is outstanding. The bar is a pillar of the restaurant with a strong selection of spirits, expertly prepared classic cocktails and house specialities (we recommend the Bombay Squeeze for gin drinkers).
And if you needed another excuse to visit, Pipí-Cucú is located in Pasaje General de Paz, a Andalusian-style walkway lined with mosaic benches and plotted palms that looks straight out of Seville. The three-story high building is mostly residential but you can sneak a look inside by entering through the side door of Pipí-Cucú. This is the place to go if you’ve got someone special to impress.
Pipí-Cucú is open Monday – Saturday 12.00pm to 1.00am and later for cocktails, Cuidad de la Paz 557, telephone 4551 9314.
Mercado de las Pulgas (and Plaza Mafalda)
Located on the boundary of Palermo, on the corner of Dorrego and Conde, Colegiales can just claim the Mercado de las Pulgas (flea market) as its own. The open shed consists of 143 stores filled with antiques, retro furniture, chandeliers, vintage posters, and many more miscellaneous goods.
Beginning operations in 1988, the Mercado de las Pulgas functioned for 18 years until the ramshackle shed had to be closed for renovations. It was remodelled and reopened in 2011 with a new sense of order and even cement floors. The wide corridors make hunting through the seemingly endless stock a little less overwhelming. In the absence of an Ikea, if you are staying long term in Buenos Aires you may find a bargain, or at least something you don’t have to put together with an Allen key.
One notable market resident is Tony Valiente, known for his signature Sombreros Locos (crazy hats) curious and personal headwear, as well as his artworks made entirely from materials he has sourced around the market. Tony’s workshop and store feels like a flea market on steroids, or some kind of hallucinogen, with bits and pieces piled high and narrow walkways to navigate around piles of boxes filled with objects waiting to be repurposed. You’ll find Tony in there everyday (except Mondays when the market is closed) amenable to a chat about what he is working on.
If the bargain hunting becomes a little overwhelming, or you need a quiet space to consider that potential chandelier purchase, right next door is Plaza Mafalda. Decorated with murals of the comic strip, based in Colegiales, the square pays tribute to Quino’s witty creations.
The Mercado de las Pulgas is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 7pm on the corner of Dorrego and Conde.
Hare Krishna Temple
Argentina’s largest congregation of Hare Krishnas- the popular name for International Society of Krishna Consciousness (or ISKCON)- is in Colegiales. Members of the religious movement based on Hinduism are very much part of the Colegiales community, with weekly religious processions on 6pm on a Friday around the neighbourhood.
ISKCON was established in 1966 after founder A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami introduced it to Westerners in New York and is today practiced globally. The movement came to Argentina during the ’70s but remained underground during the last military dictatorship. Since the return of democracy in 1983, the movement has grown in the country, and five years ago settled into its new spiritual home in Colegiales.
In 2008, Hare Krishna devotees purchased what was once a school, Escuela del Sol, which now houses an altar and place of prayer, as well as the nine monks (six men and three women) who live there.
Each Sunday, the serene space comes alive with colour and music during the Fiesta de Domingo. The public is invited to join devotees on Sundays from midday; the agenda includes meditation with mantras, accompanied by oriental instruments, religious talks, songs and dances by devotees, followed by a vegetarian banquet.
The members are welcoming, dishing up plates of vegetarian goodies, sugary deserts, and sweet tea. First time visitors eat for free and regulars are asked to contribute a $15 donation to cover the cost of next week’s meal. If you’re craving vegetarian food throughout the week, the devotees also run a restaurant next door called Naturaleza Divina, which caters for all your vegetarian and vegan needs.
The Hari Kirshna Temple is open to public on Sundays 12 – 3.30pm, Cuidad de la Paz 394. Schedule for the Sunday festivals can be found here. Naturaleza Divina is open Tuesday to Friday 12 – 6pm and 8 – 11pm, Saturdays 12 – 6pm, 8pm – 12am.
Buena Birra Social Club
Recently the Buena Birra Social Club made the transition from puerta cerrada to public bar, opening regularly Wednesday to Sunday from 6pm until close. Brother and sister duo Ariel and Maria Eugenia Golia found the bar was in such demand that they were frequently turning away visitors wanting to make a reservation. After three years as a private venue, they decided to open full time, further capitalising on Ariel’s 12 years experience brewing beers.
Located in the Golias’ home on a typical Colegiales street, and with a few minor tweaks to make the place more accessible, Buena Birra Social Club has lost none of its charm. Beer lovers need not be so organised as to make a reservation and can simply show up to enjoy any of the six styles of artisan beer on tap (that are rotated each month). The simple home-style meals such as pizzas, bagels, and nachos on the menu add to the relaxed vibe.
They also run beer-tasting workshops if you like to improve your beer vocabulary. Chatting to Ariel and Maria Eugenia over a beer, you get a sense of the friendly neighbourhood feel that has made many generations of porteños proud to call Colegiales home.
Start your summer evenings in Colegiales with happy hour – two pints for $40 from 6pm to 8pm.
Buena Birra Social Club is open Wednesday to Sunday 6pm until close, Zapiola 1353, telephone 15 6428 3457, http://www.buenabirrasocialclub.com/
Loreto Garden Bar
Away from the weekend crowds that flock to Palermo, Colegiales is full of green spaces and tree-lined cobbled streets that are perfect for strolling along. On one such street is Loreto Garden Bar, a café inside an art deco home that looks as though it could have been entirely furnished from the Mercado de las Pulgas.
Loreto follows a simple formula: good food, large portions, reasonable prices and friendly service, without pretensions. With seating on the street, in the front yard or back courtyard, it is an ideal place to begin a Saturday in the sunshine.
The menu has a solid selection of salads, foccacias, burgers, and deserts. Highlights include the Roger sandwich (grilled chicken, guacamole, rocket, sun dried tomatoes, brie on foccacia) and the hamburgers filled with melted cheese and caramelised onions. It’s pretty hard not to be relaxed sitting in the shady courtyard, in contrast to the noisier interior; it is also an ideal place to take a moment and wind down after devouring the ample serving sizes.
After brunch meander through the residential street around the café and head towards Plaza Miguel Ricoits as there are still plenty more spots to be discovered in Colegiales.
Loreto Garden Bar is open Monday – Saturday: 10am – 7pm, cash only, Virrey Loreto 2912 phone 011 4555 7170.