Buenos Aires—it vaunts a culture redolent of so many others, and yet it’s charmingly inimitable, sitting pretty on the estuary of the Río de la Plata on South America’s southeastern coast. To me, it’s a sweet mélange of the architectural romance of Paris, the cool urban vibe of Casablanca and the swift pace of New York. And in the epicenter of it all is where I called home base—Milhouse Hostel.
Milhouse occupies two beautifully restored historic Argentine homes in the heart of Buenos Aires—Milhouse Avenue on Avenida de Mayo and its sister, Milhouse Hipo, just a few minutes-walk away on Hipolito Yrigoyen.
I arrived at the Avenue location in time for breakfast—cereal, oats and toast with an optional full English breakfast or tempting panqueques. It wasn’t at all difficult to find. Avenida de Mayo runs east to west, connecting two major government buildings—the National Congress, a massive Greco-Roman style building of the 20th century, and Casa Rosada at Plaza de Mayo, the iconic, balconied presidential palace. It’s also just off of Avenida 9 de Julio, named after Argentina’s Independence Day in 1816 and, at 10 lanes, the world’s widest avenue where the 70-meter-high Obelisco stands, built to commemorate the foundation of the vivacious city.
I spent the day wandering the city (most streets have free Wi-Fi, which made navigating the neighborhoods fairly easy) and exploring La Boca in particular, or barrio of the Argentine capital distinguished for its colorful homes, rich tango, famed football and cobblestone strip, El Caminito or “little walkway.” Many of its inhabitants come from Genoa, Italy, though the Spanish first settled there as early as 1536. Milhouse offers a walking tour through the area with entrance to the football stadium, among other neighborhoods and trips around the country, though I’d ventured off on a self-expedition since I was still settling in when they departed. I was fortunately able to check out the walking tour of Palermo, recognized for its vibrant nightlife, shopping and the aromatic Paseo del Rosedal garden, the following day and highly recommend dedicating one day to it.
Reception is open at all hours, so you can arrive at any time. Even if there’s not a bed readily available in your en-suite or dorm—I stayed in a six-bed dorm with a private bathroom and showerhead water pressure that remains thus far unsurpassed in my South American travels—there are chill out spaces with free Wi-Fi available—a computer lounge, a bar area, a basement hangout and rooftop space. I’ve stayed in my fair share of hostels spanning 30 countries across the globe, and I can confidently say that the common space of Milhouse is by far the most welcoming I’ve witnessed.
And it’s in these spaces that you’ll realize Milhouse is not only a place to crash, but an experience in and of itself. I didn’t stick around long enough to take the offered Spanish lessons, though I desperately could have used them as a lone backpacker with absolutely zero knowledge of the local language.
I was, however, around to take an hour-long tango lesson at the Milhouse bar, which is where I met most of my crew for the week. Turnout was about 20 people—an equal number of men and women, many of whom were also traveling solo, some for months. I was partnered with a French man much taller than me, who I got to know rather intimately—once I’d wrapped my leg around his. He dipped me a time or two, and after each new step we’d learned, we had to show the rest of the classroom one couple at a time.
The lesson was a shameless experience I’d do again. It’s on my bucket list to tango in Argentina, and while I was still apprehensive about dragging myself downstairs to do it alone, it was one of the best decisions I’d made that weekend. After class, we stayed for the Milhouse bar happy hour—two Quilmes (Argentine beers) for $65 pesos, or two cocktails for $80 pesos—and with new friends I left to check out La Puerta Roja bar, a Milhouse-recommended local spot popular on Tuesdays, and where we watched Argentina crush the United States in the COPA game.
The crew and I would check out local bars and restaurants in the evenings before returning around 10 pm to, without fail, always be greeted by a boisterous party. The parties alternate between both Milhouse locations, but for the most part I stayed at Avenue. By 2 am, we’d purchase our tickets for whichever nightclub—I checked out Kika in Palermo—was on the social schedule and headed out in cabs together.
Be warned: Buenos Aires dances long after the sun rises. The city is so alive that it makes New York look sleepy—which makes the streets feel safe to walk alone. But if you’ve booked an early ferry to Montevideo, Uruguay by morning—make sure you leave the club in time to catch it…
Or stay in Buenos Aires forever. It’s possible. And if you do, stay at Milhouse—the hostel that’ll offer you everything from cycling and graffiti tours to cultural lessons… and friends from around the world you’ll never forget.