Three Perfect Days: Buenos Aires
Story by Justin Goldman | Photography by Graciela Cattarossi | Hemispheres May 2017
Starting October 28 (subject to government approval), travel nonstop between New York/Newark and Buenos Aires with our year-round daily service. Buenos Aires will be our 14th South American destination served nonstop from the United States.
Imagine a city that has the energy of New York, the architecture of Paris, the café culture of Rome, the beautiful people of Los Angeles, the steakhouses of Chicago, the theaters of London, the wines of Napa, the nightlife of Miami, and the friendly spirit of Sydney. That seemingly mythical place your mind has conjured? It's real, and it's called Buenos Aires.
Argentina's capital hasn't always had it so good. The Dirty War of the 1970s and '80s casts a long shadow here, and the economy is still reeling from a meltdown in 2001. Yet these trials have done little to dampen the spirit of the locals, or porteños, who are affable, passionate, open-minded, cultured, and endowed with a seemingly bottomless appetite for pleasure. They are also famous for their, shall we say, self-confidence, but visit BA and you'll likely come away thinking that this attitude is justified.
In which Justin eats a contender for World's Best Steak, learns about Argentina's gods and monsters, and drinks gin in a flowershop
My first morning in Buenos Aires starts in the most classically porteño of places: a café. The interior of La Biela, in the tony Recoleta neighborhood, is decorated with images of the racecar drivers who hung out here in the 1950s. I'm outside, in the shade of a 200-year-old rubber tree, watching a parade of high cheekbones and skinny jeans while munching on a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and tea with steamed milk.
Life is good at La Biela, but just across grassy Plaza Francia stands a monument to the hope that the afterlife might be even better. Passing under a columned gateway bearing the inscription “ Requiescant in pace," I enter the Cementerio de la Recoleta and its labyrinth of mausoleums—some with gothic spires, others with Italianate domes and stained glass—where centuries of Argentina's elite are interred. It's easy to get lost here, but all you need to do to orient yourself is look for the crowd, which inevitably gathers around the most famous tomb of all. Eavesdropping on a tour, I learn that Eva Perón, Argentina's revered former first lady, died of cancer in 1952 at the age of 33, and that her body spent the following decades in transit from here to Italy to Spain (to keep her out of the hands of both her fanatic followers and her husband's political rivals) before it was finally laid to rest in the Duarte family mausoleum in 1976. Evita's tomb is relatively modest, but the burst of flowers that adorns it reflects the country's continued devotion.
After a couple of hours of cemetery-wandering, I'm feeling a need for my own (temporary) resting place, so I stroll a few tree-lined blocks back through Recoleta, below the balconies of Parisian-style apartment buildings, to the Alvear Palace Hotel. The 85-year-old Belle Epoque–inspired lodging would fit in next to any of Europe's finest palace hotels, with its finely woven rugs, expanses of marble, and sharp-dressed staff. In my suite, I take a minute to ponder a painting of hunting dogs over the sofa before moving on to a more modern amenity: the TV on the wall above the bathtub, which I tune to the previous night's soccer highlights as I slide into the water.
Luciano Bullorsky, president, Tours by Locals
Refreshed, I head back out, skipping the hotel elevator for the corkscrewing marble staircase. I'm ready for lunch, and in Argentina that means I'm ready for beef. A short cab ride takes me to hip Palermo, home to Parrilla Don Julio, considered by many to be the city's finest steakhouse. The dining room is lit with wagon-wheel chandeliers and lined with wine bottles signed by the people who emptied them. Opposite the door, for all to see, stands the
parrilla, the restaurant's 10-foot-wide grill. I sit and watch the meat sizzle, steeling myself with a decanter of 2008 Mendoza Malbec. My waiter brings an appetizer of tender sweetbreads and a plate of heirloom tomatoes, followed by the star: the bife de chorizo, an imposing slab of sirloin steak. He lays down a bowl of chimichurri sauce, but the meat, cooked jugoso (medium-rare), is so rich and buttery that it would be a crime to put anything on it. When the dessert of plum ice cream arrives, I wave my napkin in surrender.
After lunch, I meet up with BA native Luciano Bullorsky, president of the international guided tour company Tours by Locals, and Fabian, one of his guides. I'm hoping to understand this city's history a bit better, so they've agreed to take me to the Parque de la Memoria, along the Amazon-wide Río de la Plata. We move slowly up the brick riverwalk, past a series of street signs that allude to the right-wing junta that ruled from 1976 to 1983, and the atrocities it committed during the Dirty War. Along with the people who were “disappeared" were those who were forced to flee. “In those years, like 200,000 people emigrated from the country, and many of them stayed [abroad]," Luciano says. “And most of the people who left had higher education."
“We like to say, 'God is everywhere, but his office is in Buenos Aires.'" —Luciano Bullorsky, president, Tours by Locals
As we walk, the wind picks up to a howl. We reach the end of the pathway and a wall bearing the names of desaparecidos. From here, we can see El Monumental, the stadium that hosted the 1978 World Cup Final. “The stadium and the ESMA, which was a clandestine prison, were just five blocks away from each other," Fabian says. “People were killed there at the same time we won the World Cup."
That was heavy, so on the drive back to the city center, my guides cheer me up with stories about Diego Maradona, perhaps the greatest soccer player who ever lived. “El Diego," as he's known here, was a kid from a Buenos Aires slum who won Argentina the 1986 World Cup almost singlehandedly—ask any Brit about the “Hand of God" or the “Goal of the Century"—and was also notorious for his hard-partying lifestyle. “We love him for this," Fabian says. The Pope may be an Argentine, but to the people here, Maradona is a god.
We stop-and-go along Avenida 9 de Julio—16 lanes wide yet still choked with traffic—pulling over just short of the iconic Obelisco de Buenos Aires. I say goodbye to the guys and hop out in front of the Teatro Colón, which was built in 1908 and remains one of the world's great opera houses. At the entrance I meet Eduardo Masllorens, an architect and historian who worked on a renovation of the theater that cost $100 million and saw it close from 2006 to 2010. He shows me around, starting in the auditorium, which, with a capacity of nearly 2,500, is the second-largest of its kind in the world and is one of the top five in acoustic quality.
Tango dancers at La Catedral
Eduardo, who is 70, cracks jokes constantly, telling me about people who ask if Mozart performed here and relating the city's historical pretensions (“Buenos Aires was the Dubai of the 19th century"). Recounting the end of the architect who designed the auditorium, he says, “He died in a very operatic way—he was shot in the face by the husband of a 'friend.'" He's also full of interesting facts: The
theater was financed by 35 wealthy families; the sound quality is best in the standing-room-only balcony, or “the hen house"; the seats are filled with horsehair, as they were in 1908. What I don't need him to tell me is how beautiful this place is. Standing on the stage, looking out at the gilded balconies and frescoed ceiling, makes me want to belt out an aria of my own.
I thank Eduardo for the tour and hop a cab to Colegiales, on the other side of Palermo, for a culinary show. The car drops me in front of a white colonial building that's home to the restaurant i Latina. Opened by three Colombian siblings in 2012, it serves a pan–Latin American tasting menu that incorporates ingredients and techniques that run the gamut from Mexico to Argentina. My seven-course meal includes Peruvian Nikkei ceviche, quail in Oaxacan mole, braised pork in a Colombian coffee and sugarcane reduction, and an Ecuadorian chocolate truffle, each paired with an Argentine wine. At the end of the meal, chef Santiago Macias, one of the founders, stops by to offer a sort of cooking class. “All the countries of Latin America have different types of corn and different techniques to use it," he says, pointing at an ear of corn tattooed on his arm. “So on our menu we have arepas, we have cornbread, we have tortillas. But also, Latin America is mestiza [mixed]. Here, the root is the fusion—our different roots."
Parque Tres de Febrero
Speaking of roots, my next stop is Florería Atlántico, a flowershop in upscale Retiro, near downtown. Inside the store, a crowd of young people laugh and chatter as if they've been enjoying more than the blossoms. I glance at a woman in the corner, and she swings a door open and motions me toward a staircase, which I descend to a basement that's crammed with stylish people sipping cocktails beneath a chipped ceiling. I head for an open spot at the bar, which has been ranked among the 50 best in the world, and order the house specialty: a gin infused with Argentina's signature herbal stimulant, yerba mate, and mixed with tonic and grapefruit. I don't normally drink any of those things, but one sip and I find myself knocking them back. I hope the yerba mate doesn't keep me up all night. Or, on second thought, I hope it does.
In which Justin meets Argentina's mothers, goes on a graffiti tour, and finds BA's most secretive speakeasy
Those mate-gins succeeded in keeping me up, and I could sure use some coffee to kick-start day two. I blearily make my way down to the Alvear Palace breakfast buffet. The array of fruits and cold cuts and breads is impressive, but I keep things simple with a couple of medialunas, BA's beloved croissants, and a cup of cafe cortado. C'mon, joe, do your magic.
It's a lovely morning so, despite feeling a bit crudo, I go for a stroll in this city's version of Central Park, Parque Tres de Febrero, named for the date in 1852 when Argentina overthrew one of its (many) dictators. I wander past a row of fountains that feel lifted from the Jardin de Tuileries and around a green lagoon dotted with pedal boats. As droves of runners and cyclists buzz past me, I begin to understand how the people here can eat and drink the way they do without needing to get their stomachs stapled.
At the edge of the park, a railway track runs atop a series of brick archways, each of them housing a shop or restaurant. By now I've burned off the medialunas, so I take a seat at one of these, the lovely open-air café Naná. As a train rattles overhead, a waiter brings me an Aperol spritz. Suddenly, I'm feeling splendid, and I enjoy an early lunch of fried potatoes with caramelized onion and ricotta, burratta with pancetta, and a paella-esque dish with shrimp, calamari, and ham.
Santiago Macias, chef, I Latina
From here I head to the nearby Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, commonly known as the MALBA. The museum, in a blocky modern building, celebrated its 15th anniversary last year with a reimagining of its permanent collection. The resulting show,
Verboamérica, explores the responses of regional artists to 20th-century sociopolitical shifts, featuring everything from Pop Arty posters about Peruvian agrarian reform to an Eduardo Gil photo of a Patagonian hovel to a José Clemente Orozco painting of Mexican soldiers at a lonely outpost.
The exhibition has made me want to learn about one of Argentina's—indeed, one of the world's—most famous protests, so I take a cab to Plaza de Mayo, the city's main square. It was here in 1977, in front of the Casa Rosada, the seat of the national government, that a group of women marched in defiance of the dictatorship, demanding to know what had become of their missing children and grandchildren. The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, as they became known, still demonstrate here once a week, and I see them now, a small group of elderly women in white head scarves slowly circling the central Pirámide, calling out the names of the disappeared, responding to each one, “ presente." It's a strange scene—tourists jump in front of the madres to snap photos, and there's a larger economic protest just off to the side—but there's still something inspiring about the perseverance of these brave women.
“It's difficult to define Buenos Aires on only one thing. You'll find people who are really open-minded and people who only want to eat at parrillas. In a way that's good, because you can find any kind of restaurant." —Santiago Macias, chef, I Latina
There's a more upbeat historical location just a few blocks away. Café Tortoni was founded in 1858, and it soon became a hangout for the city's intelligentsia (a table in the back is occupied by lifelike statues of the writers Jorge Luis Borges and Alfonsina Storni and the tango singer Carlos Gardel). Aside from its cultural significance, it's a gorgeous space, with stained-glass ceilings and Tiffany lamps. It also has a long line of tourists out front, but the staff takes a welcoming approach to the clamor: As my waiter serves me coffee, he snatches my phone off the table and snaps a photo of me. Who needs a selfie stick?
From here, I cab back across town to a residential complex in Colegiales, where I meet Myriam Selhi, a French-Canadian who has lived in Buenos Aires for 11 years and works as a street art tour guide for Graffitimundo. The walls behind the complex's busy playground are covered with giant murals. In one, two minotaurs do battle; in another, a gaucho rears his horse in the manner of Napoleon Crossing the Alps while spraying paint in the air; in a third, Evita shares space with miners, condors, and other Peronist symbols. As we walk past these murals and others, Myriam provides the historical context of graffiti in Argentina. During the prosperous 1990s, many Argentines could afford to travel to cities like New York and Barcelona, where they were exposed to street art. When harder times came, they began to use tagging as a form of protest.
“In December 2001, Argentina went bankrupt," Selhi says. “Everybody lost two-thirds of their life savings. In 2002, because of this crisis, 50 percent of the population of Argentina was living below the poverty line. Protests were everywhere, and people would tag—not punk kids or angry teenagers, but middle-class people. So graffiti in Argentina is a super-middle-class phenomenon."
We stop at the house of a street artist that is decorated with a doll-like mural in the colorful, cartoonish muñequismo style. As we admire it, a man in a cat mask peers down at us from a window. “Yeah, those guys do that," Myriam says, laughing. We continue through the local flea market, its walls covered in graffiti, including an ax-wielding blond woman that Myriam terms “Hello Kitty meets ax murderer." Our last stop is in Palermo, at Graffitimundo's space, Galería Union, which houses stencils and paintings by some of the artists whose murals we've just enjoyed.
I'm a bit arted-out and ready for a nap. Fortunately, Home Hotel, where I'll be spending tonight, is just a few blocks away. The 20-room boutique property is unassuming on the outside, tucked amid cafés, bars, and private homes in trendy Palermo Hollywood, but the interior is überhip (one of the owners is an English record producer). The lobby furniture is mod, there are bags designed by artist Nicola Costantino on sale, and the pool deck is lushly overgrown with flowers and ivy that climbs the rear of the building. My poolside suite has a '70s feel (flowery wallpaper and a pink shag rug), with futuristic touches like electric curtains. I hit the switch on the drapes and dive into bed.
The winding marble staircase at the Alvear Palace Hotel
It's dark when I wake. I walk back through Palermo Hollywood, across the railroad tracks and past an alley where a drum troupe is loudly rehearsing. In Palermo Soho, I cruise by Plaza Julio Cortázar, surrounded by discotheques, and eventually reach Nicky New York Sushi. I'm not sure if the name is inspired by the Manhattanized moniker of the neighborhood, but the restaurant goes all-in on the concept, with a fake NYC address (109 W. 78th Street) and walls lined with white subway tiles. The food, it turns out, is more Nicky (Nikkei?) than New York—top-notch salmon and tuna
tiraditos, ceviche, and nigiri.
The real trick comes at the meal's end (when your waiter asks if you want to see the wine cellar, say yes). A hostess in a black cocktail dress takes me back to a room of wine racks and pulls a mirror open to reveal a submarine-style steel door. She turns a wheel-lock and ushers me into a bar straight out of the 1920s. The walls of The Harrison Speakeasy (named after an apocryphal Prohibition-era New York bar owner) are lined with mirrors and black-and-white portraits, classic jazz plays on the stereo, and the cocktail list includes the creative Mr. Bukowski (Jim Beam, Stella Artois, coffee, Angostura bitters, and tobacco syrup, poured into a beer bottle that's then pumped full of chocolate smoke). On the bottle's label is a Bukowski quote: “We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us." I think Henry Chinaski would have liked it here.
In which Justin goes running in a nature preserve, catches a street-fair puppet show, and discovers tango
Between all the food I've eaten and all the time I've spent surrounded by athletically inclined porteños, I'm starting to feel ashamed of my physique. So I start today by slipping on my sneakers and hitting the trails in the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur. At the eastern edge of the city, this environmental preserve separates the trendy, formerly industrial port neighborhood Puerto Madero from the Río de la Plata. I jog my way through low-lying marshland, expecting to find a peaceful reprieve from the bustle of the city, but the constant bird calls are so cacophonous I might as well be sweating it out amid the traffic on Avenida 9 de Julio.
My run comes to its conclusion at the front door of the Faena Hotel, a fortresslike red-brick former grain mill that impresario Alan Faena converted into Buenos Aires's most stylish digs. As I enter the long, red-carpeted front hall, a bellman in a white cape and top hat hands me a bottle of water. Now, that's what I call service!
Myriam Selhi, guide, Graffitimundo
After soaking my muscles in the claw-foot bathtub in my room, I head back down to El Mercado, the Faena's brunch spot, which takes its flea market theme to heart. Cabinets and walls are cluttered with tchotchkes, and the tableware is mismatched, as if each set has been cobbled together from market finds. The food is classic Argentine: I start with beef empanadas and carrot salad from the self-serve buffet, after which my punkily green-haired waitress brings me several courses of meat: chorizo and blood sausage, tenderloin, flank steak, and pork ribs, all cooked on the
parrilla in the blue-tiled open kitchen. Is there Malbec? Of course there's Malbec. This isn't a brunch so much as it as an attack on dietary decency.
Post-binge, I go for a constitutional along the Puerto Madero waterfront, past disused cranes and red-brick warehouses that are now home to high-end restaurants. At the bottom of the riverwalk, I cross a bridge into San Telmo, BA's oldest neighborhood, which was mostly abandoned after a 19th-century epidemic of yellow fever but has since been repopulated by the hipster set. On Sundays, cobblestoned Calle Defensa hosts the Feria de San Pedro Telmo, a street fair that stretches at least a dozen blocks past antique stores and beneath the balconies of old French- and Spanish-style apartment buildings. I pick through stalls that hawk leatherworks, mate gourds, and figurines of soccer players, then stop to watch a puppeteer put on a show.
“Buenos Aires is fantastic because it lets you take part in everything. If you want to take a juggling class at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday, you can find that class. Once you learn to surf the chaos, it offers you a lot of freedom." —Myriam Selhi, guide, Graffitimundo
At the end of the fair, I reach the Museo de Arte Moderno, better known as the MAMBA. A thunderstorm is brewing, so I duck inside the brick building and wander through an exhibit of drawings by Argentina's greatest artist, Antonio Berni. I love the politically minded Social Realist images, but my favorite part of the museum is its black metal staircase, which winds up from the lobby like a coiled snake.
From the museum, I cab it back to Puerto Madero and my dinner spot. Set in a sleek, modern space overlooking the river, Chila has made the 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America list four years running. Chef Soledad Nardelli recently left, but her former sous chef Pedro Bargero has taken over, and the tasting menu hasn't skipped a beat. I have grilled Patagonian shrimp in a yogurt bisque, humita (a traditional corn, pepper, and pumpkin puree) from the north of the country, perfectly grilled Antarctic black hake with pesto sauce, and a flank steak tamal, all paired, of course, with Argentine wines. As I polish off the final glass, chef Bargero stops by my table.
“Ten years ago, Argentine food was not the best, but the gastronomy here has changed a lot," he says. “We try to use different products from all over our country. We try to use all organic produce. We're talking a lot with farmers and chefs, working together to make a new Argentine cuisine."
The Puente de la Mujer footbridge in Puerto Madero
The food scene might be changing, but this city's most famous contribution to world culture endures. The tango dates to the late 19th century, when waves of immigrants, many from Italy, settled Argentina (especially the southern BA neighborhood of La Boca). These newcomers, mostly men without families, melded the rhythms of Spain, Cuba, and Africa into a dance to help them while away their lonely nights. The tango, in all its complexity and sensuality, has become a global symbol for this city, and the flashiest example of it can be seen at the Faena's Rojo Tango show. In a red-draped room, two singers front a five-piece band playing slinky fiddle and
bandoneón music as five pairs of dancers put on an elaborate, acrobatic display. They whirl across the stage, atop the bar, around the audience, the men in impeccable tuxedos, the women in slit dresses, their legs flying about in wild yet precise chop steps. The audience is small, only a couple dozen patrons, but when the lights come on, it roars with appreciation.
Rojo Tango is impressive, but I also want to see a milonga, the bars where regular porteños practice this art. So I grab a cab and head to the quiet residential neighborhood of Almagro. I get out at a borderline-dilapidated building and go upstairs to enter La Catedral. The warehouse space is dark. The rickety walls and vaulted ceiling are covered with art. Makeshift tables are scattered before a hardwood floor crowded with couples who sway to a trio of guitarists and a singer belting out ballads. It takes two to tango, and all I've got two of is left feet, so I order a pint of the national lager, Quilmes, and watch. The dancers slide gracefully around each other, like water over smooth rock. This scene, above all, captures the spirit of Buenos Aires: soulful people wrapped in a sexy dance, in a building that feels like it could collapse at any moment. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Hemispheres deputy editor Justin Goldman loves a good steak—but after this trip he's going vegetarian for a while.
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Weekend inspiration: Sydney
Sydney continues to be one of our favorite cities in the world – vibrant, stunning, with an amazing foodie scene and genuinely nice people. Each year we try to schedule a few street art jobs in Australia so we can spend the Northern Hemisphere's winter in the summer sun of Australia. If you're in town for a few days, here are some of our favorite spots.
If you're looking for places to stay, we recommend anywhere near or on Sydney Harbour. If you can swing it financially, our two favorites are The Pier on Sydney Harbour and the Park Hyatt. Both are majestic hotels set out on the water with equally magnificent views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
We find that we crave comfort food after a long flight, and there's no better place to enjoy it than Kindred. It's a warm cozy space with pasta and bread made in-house. The lasagna and the burnt butter triangoli can't be beat, and be sure to order a loaf of homemade sourdough with dinner.
Wake up early for a full day of exploring the city. Take a short cab or Uber ride to Lorraine's Patisserie – their croissants are warm and buttery and their coffee is strong.
After breakfast, head over to The Rocks Market where they have a stunning array of locally crafted art, jewelry, house ware and beauty products. The homey, cozy cobblestone lanes lead you to some of the best local artisans that Sydney has to offer. Be sure to also take a moment to pose with our Magic Wand street art piece on Atherdan Street.
We recommend The Glenmore Hotel's pub for lunch. This pub, built in 1921, has incredible views of the harbour from their rooftop. Grab one of their Australian Brewery Session IPA's, play a game of pool and end up on the roof with a Glenmore Burger in hand.
Following lunch, grab your swimsuit and take a 30-minute Uber to Bondi Beach – Sydney's most iconic beach. There's more to Bondi than just a beach, beyond is a village full of cafes, restaurants and shops worth exploring.
Bring a towel and start off with a cold swim at the Instagram-worthy Icebergs Club swimming pool. When in need of some warmth, lay in the sun on the white sand beach while watching the surfers – you can even take surfing lessons if you'd like.
If you have time, there's a wonderful walk between Bondi and Coogee Beach. This walk takes you along the rocky coast to hidden beaches and swimming holes. It's a beautiful walk that will get your heart pumping.
For dinner walk up the hill to the trendy Bondi Trattoria for great local eats. If you're still awake when you get back to Sydney and looking for a drink, we highly recommend stopping by the Sydney Opera House Bar.
Head over to Paramount Coffee Project to grab some caffeine and breakfast. Take a moment to check out the workout schedule for the recreation club on the roof to see if there is a class that interests you.
If you're looking to pet a wallaby or hold a quokka (quite possibly the cutest creature you have ever seen) we highly recommend signing up for the Featherdale Wildlife Park Mammal Encounter. It's about an hour drive from Sydney, but it's definitely worth it.
When you get back to Sydney check out Ribs & Burgers on The Rocks for a hearty lunch. In the afternoon, check off two essential experiences by booking an Opera House Tour and, if you're not afraid of heights, the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. Both offer stunning views and completely unique experiences.
After a somewhat exhausting day we love when we can come back to a hotel and dine there. Park Hyatt offers wonderful dining options, including The Dining Room, which is their signature restaurant. Finish your weekend with stunning harbour views and elegant food.
The reimagined United app: What you need to know
Starting on January 24, customers will be able to access the updated United app. With useful enhancements that provide intuitive assistance every step of the way, the United app still includes the features you know and love. And now, thanks to dynamic messaging, the updated app provides useful information throughout your journey whether at the airport or on the go.
How to install the updated app
If you've enabled automatic updates, the United app will automatically update. Otherwise, you'll need to manually update the app to see the updated version. Once you've updated the app, you'll no longer be able to use the previous version. If your phone is set to auto-update, the app will automatically appear on your device and stay. Otherwise, you'll have the previous mobile experience until you manually update.
The United app will now display the most useful and relevant information throughout your journey. For example, 24 hours before departure, the home screen on the United app will prompt you to check-in. Once checked in, an option to get your boarding pass will populate right on the home screen so you'll no longer need to access it via the boarding pass tab on the current version of the app.
Locating your boarding pass
If you're signed in to your MileagePlus® account, access to your boarding pass will appear on the app's home screen along with other details about the flight. If you're not signed in to a MileagePlus account, you'll need to go to "My Trips" on the bottom navigation bar. (Please note that mobile boarding passes are available for flights departing from all U.S. airports and select international airports.)
Accessing your profile and United Club℠ card
All this information will now be accessible from a "My Profile" section, so you can see everything in one place. You can find the "My Profile" section by selecting the icon of a person in the top right corner.
New options on the navigation bar
The new bottom navigation bar provides quick access to the most popular and helpful features. Find information about upcoming flights under the "My Trips" section that houses important information like your boarding passes and flight details. You'll also find an inbox icon section that stores important and useful information including gate changes, flight status updates and boarding alerts. You can also easily toggle back to your home screen from the bottom navigation bar.
Personal device entertainment
If personal device entertainment is offered on your flight, you'll see a tile titled Inflight Entertainment within the "Just for you" section on the home screen. The "Just for you" section will also give you access to other features such as how you can locate a United Club or how to earn award miles. You can also select "Wi-Fi & entertainment" from the More menu, located at the upper left hand of the app's home screen.
Finding the seat map
You can access the seat map for your flight via Flight Status on the bottom navigation bar or within Trip Details — when you have an upcoming flight there will be an option to view the seat map.
How to add or remove flights from your Flights Status list
Any upcoming flights will be displayed in the Flight Status section of the app. There is no option to remove a flight as the Flight Status section will be automatically update itself two days after your travel is completed.
Changing the image on the home screen
There is no way to change the image on your home screen manually. Instead, the image will update once a day based on the destinations most commonly searched for by our customers.
Porto: Portugal’s surprising second city
“Second cities" or those that rank #2 in population often surprise world travelers. And second doesn't mean second-rate. Porto is Portugal's second city — so off-the-radar that many world travelers haven't even heard of it. Yet, Porto and nearby spots in northern Portugal can be delightful destinations even if you don't visit the more well-known city of Lisbon.
Old city by day
The best place to get oriented, as in most European cities, is in the old city center. Porto's Old City is so well-preserved that it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 12th-century cathedral and the 15th-century Church of St. Francis, notable for interior wood carvings gilded by hundreds of pounds of gold, are mixed in with a rich collection of imposing granite, red-roofed Baroque buildings. Add 225 stairs and a stirring view to your walking tour by ascending the 250-foot-high Clérigos Church bell tower, built in 1754, which dominates the Porto skyline. Historic bridges over the Douro River and Soares dos Reis National Museum, an art museum housed in a palace, are also excellent sites to see.
Food and music by night
Porto's youthful population has turned it into a lively city after dark. You might start off the evening in the Old City at Abadia do Porto, a 1939 restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese dishes like roasted lamb and grilled octopus, or at Astoria, with its modern Portuguese fare served inside a former palace. Whether you choose a Portuguese, French or fusion restaurant, seafood is likely to be highlighted, drawing on Porto's proximity to the Atlantic and the Douro. Then, you can head to the large collection of bars and nightclubs in the nearby Galerias district, which includes Radio Bar, inside a former court building, and Gare, a disco in a tunnel that stays open until 6 a.m.
Head west to the beaches
The closest Atlantic beaches to central Porto are at Foz do Douro (mouth of the Douro), just 20 minutes away by city bus. But why settle? In a rental car you can explore Atlantic beaches and beach towns that extend for hundreds of miles along Portugal's coastline. Two of the best are Foz do Minho, the nation's northernmost oceanic beach that's just across the Minho River from Spain, and Quiaios, a dune-fringed paradise of sand south of Porto. Many beaches in northern Portugal are cradled in coves protected by rocky promontories, similar to northern California and Oregon beaches.
Or east to the wine country
The Douro Valley wine region is another World Heritage Site and one of the world's best and most scenic wine regions. It's up the Douro River from Porto by boat or 90 minutes by road. Namesake port wines and other fortified wines are the region's signature beverages, which can be sampled at tasting rooms on the Douro along N-222, a wine road that's been called the world's most scenic drive. While you're in the area, check out the wine and anthropology museums in the wine towns and yet another World Heritage Site — Coa Valley Archaeological Park — known for its prehistoric rock carvings.
Portugal's Mediterranean climate and coastal breezes bless it with mild weather year round, as the average temperature ranges from 57 degrees (and rain) in January to 78 degrees (and a little rain) in August. Whenever you come, there's no need to learn Portuguese as English is spoken even more widely than elsewhere in Western Europe. Once you arrive, rent a car only if you don't mind ridiculous drivers. The trains are more relaxing — light-rail and subway trains crisscross the Porto area and funicular cable cars climb its steepest hills. There's even a scenic train that follows the Douro nearly to Spain, with a roundtrip fare of only about $30.
Portugal requires that visitor passports don't expire until at least three months after the arrival date, so check that. Next, buy some Euros (for a great exchange rate) and reserve a flight. United Airlines flies nonstop from New York/Newark to Porto and MileagePlus® award miles can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your trip.
United 787-10 Dreamliner launch
Story was contributed by: Jennifer Lake | Photography: Alicia of Aesthetica
It was a typical Monday morning. I'm sitting at my desk at work, drinking coffee, reviewing my to-do list for the week. All around me, heels are clacking through the office and phones ring intermittently. However, this particular Monday morning was different. Ultimately, I would receive an offer from my favorite airline for a collaboration to participate in the United 787-10 Dreamliner launch from Los Angeles LAX to New York/Newark EWR. Read the full story here featured on Style Charade.
Fit for the runway: We begin testing new uniforms
Last year we announced new partnerships with Tracy Reese, Brooks Brothers and Carhartt — best-in-class fashion and apparel designers — to help reimagine uniforms for more than 70,000 of our employees. Focusing on high quality fabrics, improved breathability and overall enhanced fit, our goal is to design and develop a more cohesive collection that looks good, feels good and enables employees to perform at their best on behalf of our customers.
United employees can learn more on the uniform designs by visiting Flying Together.
An insider's guide to Boston
Boston is a pack-it-all-in kind of place. Founded in 1630, one of America's oldest cities does many things well. Boston's many claims to fame include many of America's oldest historic landmarks and one of its oldest ballparks. It's a destination for history buffs, culture vultures, foodies, sports fans, families and more. No matter who your travel companions are or what they're interested in, everyone will find something to pique their interest in Beantown.
Getting there & around town
Fly direct to Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) from many U.S. cities — visit united.com or use the United app to book your flight. Flights are 90 minutes from New York, two hours from Cleveland and five to six hours from California. From Logan International Airport, it's easy to hail a taxi, use ridesharing apps or take public transportation. If you want to take the scenic route, take a water taxi across Boston Harbor directly into downtown.
Downtown Boston is easy to navigate. It's walkable and taxis are plentiful. The MBTA, Boston's public transportation system, offers affordable access to Cambridge, many attractions and the suburbs. Keep in mind it's one of the oldest transportation systems in the country, so expect a few bumps. Because the city is dense, parking can be expensive or hard to find, so avoid driving if you can.
When to visit
Summer and fall are the most popular seasons to visit. Summer is prime time to enjoy Boston's many parks, outdoor eateries, open-air concerts and baseball games at Fenway Park. Mild fall weather, beautiful autumn foliage and Halloween festivities in nearby Salem, Massachusetts make October one of Boston's busiest months. The city also sees an influx of visitors for the Boston Marathon in April. You'll find smaller crowds and more affordable prices in winter, but brace yourself for the cold.
What to do
There's so much to take in just by walking through Boston's cobblestoned streets. Downtown is quaint, compact and easy to explore by foot. The small city is packed with historic sites, New England's finest food, proud sports fans and friendly locals.
As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston's historic sites are an attraction in themselves. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to visit 16 of them around the city, including Revolutionary-era museums, churches, buildings and an impressive warship. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is on the trail, too, and is one of Boston's top attractions, with plentiful shopping, dining and live music. Not much of a walker? Boston Duck Tours operate land-and-water historic tours on World War II-inspired vehicles, which transform from truck to boat mid-tour.
Many museums and sites are tucked along Boston Harbor. The waterfront is always bustling with activity year-round. The harborwalk is the perfect place to meander and explore without a strict agenda. Plan to visit a major attraction or two, but leave time to enjoy the scenery or to pop into a café for a coffee and sweet treat (award-winning Flour Bakery + Cafe is a local favorite).
Deemed the “Athens of America," Boston boasts not only some of the country's oldest and most architecturally significant buildings, but also a thriving arts and culture scene. You could spend your entire trip touring its dozens of world-class museums. Take in classical music at the famous Boston Symphony Orchestra, or take a leisurely stroll through Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, the city's most well-known public parks. Riding the giant Swan Boats through the Public Garden lagoon is a kitschy, yet delightful experience, especially for kids.
What to eat
What must you absolutely eat in Boston? In short, everything. Long ago the city was nicknamed Beantown, allegedly after slow-cooked molasses baked beans served to sailors and traders. Today, Boston continues its reputation as a great eating city. From clam chowder to cannoli, the most popular dishes here are often hearty and decadent. Boston is also known for fresh lobster rolls, roast beef sandwiches and, of course, Boston cream pie.
Ask any Bostonian where to find “the best" of anything, and everyone will recommend a different spot. Cannoli from Mike's Pastry, Boston cream pie from Omni Parker House (where it was invented) and the roast beef 1000 sandwich from Cutty's frequently top the must-try lists. If you make it to a ball game at Fenway Park, Fenway Franks are a Boston staple.
Our role in ‘Spider-Man™: Far From Home’
In Columbia Pictures upcoming release in association with Marvel Studios, "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," our web-slinging hero finds himself – yep, you guessed it – far from his home in New York City. And since flying is one of the few superpowers Spider-Man doesn't possess, we gave him a little help, meaning United is featured in the film.
The scenes of Peter Parker and his pals traveling to Europe take place on one of our Boeing 777s with the all-new United Polaris® business class, and several of our employees – including members of our Tech Ops, Inflight, Flight Operations and Airport Operations teams – served as actors and production support during shoots at New York/Newark (EWR) and London-Stansted (STN).
London-Heathrow (LHR) Customer Service Representative Manjit Heer and LHR Cargo Warehouse Operations Manager Richard Miller were background extras on board, and multiple flight attendants had a role, including San Francisco (SFO) Flight Attendant Tammy Harris.
"It was extremely surreal," said Tammy. "I was in my element because I was on the plane in uniform, but not really, because I'm not an actor."
Tammy said she hit her mark and delivered her line with gusto, and she's excited to see if she made the final cut when "Spider-Man™: Far From Home" hits worldwide theaters this summer.
"Hopefully, I'll have my two seconds of fame and all will be well," she joked.
Los Angeles (LAX) Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor Fernando Melendez is a veteran of several film shoots but said this one was his favorite. When the production went to London, he was one of five members of LAX Tech Ops who went over to look after our airplane and make adjustments to its interior based on the filmmaker's needs.
"When we parked the plane at Stanstead, there were lights and cameras surrounding us. It was like the plane was the star of the movie," he said. "Each day, we would work with the assistant director; he would go through and say, 'Okay, for this shoot we need these seats, or these panels removed,' so they could get the camera angles. Pretty much, the airplane was our responsibility; we opened it in the morning and closed it at night. We were the first ones there and the last ones to leave every day."
Fernando said the actors were all very gracious and engaging, and said the whole experience was fantastic from start to finish. It also earned him a little cooler cred with his 18-year-old son, who is a massive Marvel fan.
Leading up to the film's premiere this year, there will be plenty of ways for employees and customers to get into the Spidey spirit in anticipation of our cameo. Stay tuned for more details.
Peter Parker returns in "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," the next chapter of the Spider-Man™: Homecoming series! Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter's plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!
Directed by Jon Watts, the film is written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The film is produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal. Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Thomas M. Hammel, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Stan Lee, Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach serve as executive producers. The film stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal.
"Spider-Man™: Far From Home" makes its way to North American theaters on July 5, 2019.
What to expect from our improved app
The feedback from customers and employees was clear: we needed to improve our boarding process. As part of our ongoing efforts to put customers at the center of everything we do, we identified boarding as an opportunity to improve the airport experience. We tested a variety of different boarding processes on thousands of flights across multiple airports. Best practices emerged from each test, and combined, they now form what we are calling "Better Boarding".
Better Boarding consists of three key improvements
Less time in line:
By reducing the number of boarding lanes, there is more space for customers to enjoy the gate areas, many of which have been completely remodeled with more comfortable seating and in some airports, the ability to have food and drinks from within the airport delivered directly to the gate area. Over the years, we have invested millions of dollars in our terminals, and now with less time spent standing in line, customers will have more time to dine, shop, relax, work or enjoy a United Club℠.
Simplified gate layout
Say goodbye to the five long lines we see today
Group 1 will board through the blue lane.
Group 2 will board through the green lane, followed by groups 3, 4, and 5.
Late arriving customers in Group 1 and 2 will use the blue lane.
Customers in groups 3, 4, and 5 always use the green lane.
We are providing customers with more information throughout the boarding process so that they feel more at ease, and more equipped with the latest information about their flight. Customers with the United app can receive a push notification once their flight starts boarding. Customers will only receive the notification if they've opted in for push notifications and have a mobile boarding pass in the app's wallet.
Be in the know about boarding
Customers will receive boarding notifications through the United app (if they've opted in for notifications).
Improved gate area digital signage to guide customers through boarding.
Balanced groups and better recognition:
United MileagePlus® Premier 1K® customers will now pre-board and United MileagePlus Premier Gold customers will be boarding in Group 1. For more information on our boarding groups, visit: https://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/travel/airport/boarding-process.aspx
Improved premier customer recognition
We're happy to make them happy
Improved premier recognition and better positioning of customers to create balanced boarding groups.
The new Better Boarding process is just one of the steps we are taking to improve the customer experience. We will continue to collect feedback from customers on ways we can further improve boarding and you may receive a post-travel survey to tell us more about your experience
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Neighbors, coworkers, parents, protectors, heroes. All of these labels and more encompass the men and women whose devotion to our country serves as the truest embodiment of the American spirit. We're talking about Veterans. Join host Phil Torres as he heads to our nation's capital to learn more about these heroes and to explore just how many United employees are veterans on this Big Metal Bird.
From players and personnel to thousands of pounds of equipment, it takes not only a game plan, but a team to get the San Francisco 49ers to their next game and back all within 24 hours. This process is a little thing in the airline business we call chartering. Learn more about how our Charter team gets professional sports teams to their away games and back on the newest episode of Big Metal Bird.
On March 8, 2018, we announced a new global relationship with Special Olympics, an organization we've partnered with for many years focusing on supporting the spirit of inclusion with our employees through local communities and through our Charity Miles Program. United's increased sponsorship includes support for major Special Olympics events, including the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago, site of the very first International Special Olympics Summer Games in 1968, and the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
In addition, United will engage with local Programs in our key markets around the world. Special Olympics embodies our shared purpose to connect people and unite the world. With more than 5 million athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers in 172 countries, our employees and customers will join forces with Special Olympics to achieve our shared vision of inclusion. Together, we hope to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.
Our relationship with Special Olympics represents a continued effort to break down barriers and further build on the organization's remarkable legacy by engaging our customers and employees around the world. Working together, we created new training that specifically reflects insights from Special Olympics, including training scenarios with real-life situations that individuals with intellectual disabilities face when traveling. By the end of 2018, more than 60,000 United frontline employees will have participated in the new training modules that reflect Special Olympics insights as United takes steps to deliver a world full of inclusion.
Check back this summer for coverage from Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago and 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.