Understandably, many guests at La Bamba de Areco relax on the property for the duration of their stays. However, I took a few hours one afternoon to visit the pretty colonial town of San Antonio de Areco, about 20 minutes from La Bamba.
Start in the parklike Plaza Ruiz de Arellano, overlooked by the 19th-century San Antonio de Padua church. After a quick look at the ornate interior, turn left and then make the first right on Alsina. Facing the square in a historical building is Casa Oberti (Alsina 138), one of many shops in San Antonio de Areco that sells wood trays accented with horn, and cactus wood picture frames clad in silver.
Continuing down Alsina, El Bagual (Alsina 98) has an appealing selection of leather belts and mate cups. But for the best display of mate paraphernalia, visit Platería de Campo (Alsina 86). It sells mate in attractive tins with photos of San Antonio, as well as a huge array of cups. My favorites had silver rims and caramel-hued leather exteriors. Lightweight and essentially unbreakable, these make excellent gifts.
At Zerboni, you can turn right to continue the shopping walk, or go straight toward the riverside park. To the left is the Old Bridge, and if you cross it, you’ll eventually reach the Ricardo Güiraldes Gaucho Museum (Camino Ricardo Güiraldes s/n).
From there, continue one block along Zerboni and turn right on Arellano to start heading back toward the main plaza. I liked Lo de Arnaldi (Arellano 45) best of the shops on this stretch, with its wide array of local crafts, including textiles such as colorful handwoven saddle blankets.
Take a quick look at Almacén de Campo (Arellano 59), a store that sells local cheese, charcuterie, jam and dulce de leche, before finishing your walk with some refreshment on the square. If you’re in the mood for ice cream, opt for El Tokio (Arellano 152). I chose to have a glass of wine at La Esquina de Merti on the opposite corner (Arellano 149 y Mitre). This wonderfully atmospheric bar and café, with its exposed-brick walls, checkerboard floor and art nouveau cabinets filled with ancient bottles of local spirits, would have long ago become a tourist trap in another city. But on the weeknight I visited, it attracted only a handful of locals, indulging in an aperitif before dinner.