With Almagro and Boedo to the East, Flores to the west, Parque Chacabuco to the South, and Villa Crespo to the North, the barrio of Caballito is in the exact geographical centre of Buenos Aires. However, despite its accessible location, well-known outdoor book market, and rich culture, it somehow manages to remain below the radar, with few of its attractions making your typical tourist guidebook.
The word Caballito means “little horse,” a name that is said to have come from a horse-shaped flag that once hung from a famous gaucho bar in the neighbourhood. At that time, Caballito was known as a residential district where rich porteños lived in French, Spanish, and neo-colonial style mansions. Around the 1950s, high-rise, modern apartments began to spring up throughout the area, but many of the original, classic mansions remain, giving Caballito a distinct environment of old and new residential architecture.
Today, the neighbourhood still consists of mostly middle to upper class families and a more relaxed, suburban way of life. Relatively lacking in nightlife, and certainly more traditional than trendy, Caballito offers a rich history and genuine porteño culture that should not be missed.
Walk into this large, indoor market and you may feel like you’ve gone back in time a century or so. Built in 1889, the large structure holds meat, vegetable and fruit stands, some of which have been serviced by several generations of the same family. It was originally an open-air market, but was covered with art-deco awnings in the 1930s, and structurally has not changed a bit since then. Countless myths and stories surround this Buenos Aires staple: some say it was used in 1890 as a location to recruit troops for a revolution, and Argentine author Roberto Arlt even set one of his stories, ‘El juguete rabioso’, there.
Traditional meat, seafood and produce stands can be found throughout the building but, much like Buenos Aires, the products are always evolving. Stop by Alfredo’s stand and try a twist on typical empanadas: a sugar-coated crust filled with a delicious blend of beef, raisins and incredible seasonings.
As one local proudly told me, people often leave from Caballito to other neighbourhoods for shopping and restaurants — but in this case, people come from Palermo and other nearby neighbourhoods for the fresh, delicious grocery products. Don’t miss this historic, hidden treat.
Situated on Av. Rivadavia 5430, right next to the Primera Junta stop on Linea A of the Subte, the Mercado is easily accessible. It is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 2 pm, and from 5 pm to 8:30 pm. On Saturdays, it is open from 7:30 am to 2 pm, and from 5 pm to 8:30 pm. The market is closed on Sundays.
While you are making a trip back in history, why not stop by a certified living museum? Época is an incredible old barbershop, and only museum of its kind in this hemisphere. Suspended in time, the shop uses all original tools, decorations, and furnishings from the early 20th century, including the first barber’s chair ever used in Argentina. Owner Miguel Barnes, often called “The Count of Caballito”, says he likes to think of the more than 10,000 antique trinkets that fill the shop “not as objects, but as pieces of history.”
The shop follows old tradition in every aspect: barbers shuffle around in gold vests, patent leather shoes, and white collared shirts, and phone calls at the business are all made and received from a still-working rotary phone in a phone booth—one of the first of its kind in Buenos Aires.
The barbershop services are for men only, but if you don’t need a shave anytime soon, never fear: the location doubles as a gaucho’s bar, with coffee, cocktails, and pastries for very affordable prices. Barnes often organises lectures on the history of barbershops, and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the barbershop converts into a Tango show — to which neighbours flock to dance and honour the history of their city and neighbourhood. This spot is truly unforgettable.
Época is located next door to the Mercado del Progreso on Guayaquil 877. For more information, call their rotary phone at 11-4903-7799.
Caballito is one of the most historic neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, and therefore possesses a lot of Argentine flavour. However, if you are looking for something a bit more out of the ordinary, Panaderia Franck Dauffois is the perfect spot. The typical French bakery is small and unassuming, taking up a tiny corner store on Franklin and Juan B. Ambrosetti. The shop’s owner and namesake, Franck Dauffois, was born and raised in Lusanger, France, but moved to Buenos Aires more than 10 years ago to be with his Argentine wife. Inside the shop, smells of homemade pain au chocolat, baguettes, scons aux fruits rouge, and other treats are overwhelming. The pain au chocolat is said to be the best in Argentina, and although the shop serves many neighbours, people come from all over the city to get a taste of the “real” France. With no inside seating, this shop is for to-go orders only. Pick up a homemade croissant for breakfast and enjoy it at Parque Centenario, which is only a block away.
The panadería is located at Ambrosetti 901 and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. For more information, call 4982 1967.
Surrounded by non-descript residential buildings, this bookstore and art space is truly a hidden gem. Cobra was started as a bookstore in 2008, and has become a centre that offers a little bit of everything: film screenings, workshops, art exhibits, bike rental during the summer, concerts, and of course, books.
The book selection is small, but wonderful, featuring many independent, local authors. Books can be rented or bought, and the prices are great considering the craftsmanship that goes into them. In 2011, Cobra opened a new location in Recoleta, but has recently shifted their focus back to Caballito.
The space has been featured in a variety of national and international publications and is currently presenting work in ArteBA. Situated near Parque Centenario, this incredible art space is well worth the trip.
COBRA is located on Aranguren 150, and is open Monday to Saturday from 2pm to 8pm, and on Sundays from 4pm to 8pm.
Definitely lacking in nightlife, Caballito is probably not the best place to go clubbing. But if you’re in the neighbourhood and looking for a quick drink and dinner, Magno’s is the perfect place. The modern, swanky lounge features a huge variety of food, from the typical pizzas and lomo sandwiches to pancakes and an Asian wok. The prices for dinner can be steep, but lunch is generally around $50 and it has an affordable happy hour starting at 8pm. The bar and lounge also hosts a variety of events and dinner shows, a schedule of which can be found on its website.
Magno is located at Avenida José María Moreno 318. For more information or to make reservations, check out their website here.