Buenos Aires is a whole world. It’s easy to get lost in the twirl of the Argentine capital; in its buzzing life; in the flamboyance of its architecture; in the wide array of the events it offers everyday; in the friendliness of the Porteños, the “people of the port”, as the inhabitants of the city are called. There are so many things to see and do in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Enough for a lifetime. We recommend staying at least one week or two. This guide gathers our favourite recommendations and will help you make the most of your time in a city we love so much.
We were lucky to arrive to Buenos Aires on the ferry boat from Colonia del Sacramento, in Uruguay. We could shortly revive what the crowd of immigrants might have felt in the XVIIIth and XIXth century, when they first set foot in what would become their home. The arrival in the safe harbour on the Río de la Plata, in a land full of dreams and promises…
Our Couchsurfing host Paula met us in the very heart of the city, maybe of the whole country; at the door of the Congress building, where she works. What a beautiful feeling to arrive to a new town and meet someone who greets us like friends; who trusts us with her key and her home; who tells us “see you tonight” like an old flatmate!
When to visit
There is no best time to visit Buenos Aires. Just keep in mind that Summer in the Southern Hemisphere runs from December to February. The weather is ideal in spring (September to November) and in fall (March to May) but the most beautiful time has to be in October and November, when the trees of its many parks are in bloom.
How to get around Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a very widespread city and the public transportation is good but not ideal. All subway lines leave from the centre in the east towards the west like the fingers of a hand; it’s not handy (see what I did there?) if you want to travel from north to south or vice versa. The subway trains are also constantly full, for a reason that remains obscure to us.
There are many buses though, but you’ll have to ask around for the right one. Anyway, public transportation will probably be a must. In that case, you’ll need a top-up “Sube” card to board busses and metros; get it at any station.
If you like walking as much as we do, our recommendation is to concentrate on a different district each day, get there somehow, and then explore by foot.
Things to do in Buenos Aires – Centro
It’s a good idea to start exploring Buenos Aires with the things to do in the very centre of the city. The part along Avenida de Mayo is know here as “Microcentro“. Like in many other big cities, it’s an area of offices and administrative offices; but here it’s also very lively and breathes a pleasant air of buzzing local life.
What to do and see in Centro
Gawk at the architecture
The main reason to come here is for the stunning neoclassical architecture, with strong influences from the French and Italians. This comes as no surprise in a city that welcomed thousands of European immigrants for more than a century. In fact, even nowadays, around 90% or the Argentine population has European origins.
Have a walk from the Congresso on the Avenida de Mayo until Plaza Mayo where you’ll see the Casa Rosada, the pink house which is the president’s residence. On the way, you’ll see Palacio Barolo, Teatro Avenida and Café Tortoni and many other beautiful buildings. You’re bound for some severe case of neck twisting!
Visit Casa Rosada
The presidential seat can be all yours for a couple of hours on Saturdays. Visits in Spanish are any time between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. Those in English are only at 12:30 pm. The visit is absolutely free of charge but you need to book maximum 15 days in advance on this website. Don’t forget to present your personal document at the visit.
Visit the national congress
The beautiful outside look of the Congress building really attracts visitors inside. A guided tour will show you around the most important rooms for the decision-making of the nation.
Visits can be in English or in Spanish, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The best part? It’s completely free – there again, remember to bring a personal document.
Have a look at this beautiful building inspired by the French neoclassical architecture. If you time it right, you can see also its sumptuous interior. Watching a play in such a jewel must be a delightful experience!
Spend time in El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Okay, maybe not everyone likes spending time in a bookshop as much as we do. But this is no ordinary bookshop. El Ateneo has been declared the world’s most beautiful bookshop by National Geographic in 2019.
It was built in 1916 and was a theatre for a few decades before shutting down and then being re-purposed. Oh, and of course it sells books too, in several languages.
Attend free events at the Centro Cultural Kirchner
This is a tip we give to every person going to Argentina and to Buenos Aires. The Kirchner Cultural Centre (CCK) offers all kinds of cultural events –concerts, dance classes, dance shows, exhibitions, fairs–, most of them for FREE. A great starting point for a night out!
It was one of our favourite features in the city; we went several times during our 2-week stay. Find their events calendar and book your seats on their website (unfortunately only in Spanish).
Visit the tango museum on Avenida de Mayo
Needless to say, tango is an essential part of the Argentine identity. If you travel around Argentina, you will see more tango museums than you can take. This small museum is your got-to place if you’re interested in learning the history and the key characters of tango; understand its difference with milonga; finally understand who Carlos Gardel was (or who the Argentinians want him to be).
Read more: What we learnt about tango
Things to do in Buenos Aires – Palermo
Palermo, in the northern part of the city, is divided roughly into a large green area made of parks and gardens; and a few trendy streets lined up with bars and restaurants. There are also several very interesting museums. It’s the perfect area to learn in the morning, chill in the afternoon and hang out in the evening.
Palermo is also where the yearly mate festival takes place, on Plaza Italia, over a weekend in November. It’s the best occasion to discover the culture and tradition behind the yerba mate tea, Argentina’s (and Uruguay’s) national drink.
What to do and see in Palermo
If you’re a budding botanist, you will no doubt mesmerise at the 20,000 roses from more than 1000 varieties here. Some are really beautiful; others are downright incredible. But this rose garden is more than a few rose parterres of different colours divided by sandy alleys.
It’s within a vast French park (3 de Febrero Park) which counts also with squares and fountains, woods and monuments. There is also a lake that you can tour by boat.
Buenos Aires’ botanical garden was created in 1898 by Argentina landscape designer Carlos Thays. It covers an area of 7 hectares (17 acres).
On the contrary to the rose garden, there is no space to chill on the grass or enjoy a picnic; notwithstanding, it’s a green lung in the middle of the city, with many plant varieties from the continent and overseas. It’s so clean and so peaceful, going back to the hubbub afterwards will seem insane! Ah, did I mention? The entrance is free!
The third in our series of gardens, this is the only one that isn’t free. Besides everything you expect from a Japanese gardens (landscaping, Zen areas, pond with the usual big colourful carps), this one offers also a sushi restaurant (of course) and guided tours that will teach you about the history of the Japanese immigration to Argentina.
The tours are free of charge every Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 pm. The garden also offers traditional Japanese activities like bonsai, origami, shiatsu, and probably manga drawing. Find opening times, prices and the event calendar on their website.
We didn’t go to the planetarium of Buenos Aires so we can’t say much about it; except that it looks cool and the entrance costs 120 pesos. You can find all the info on the website (only in Spanish).
Museum of Latin American Art – MALBA
Drop anything you were doing, forget all your plans. The MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) is one of the best fine arts museums we’ve ever seen. In fact, among the many museums we’ve visited in South America, this was our absolute favourite.
Not convinced yet? Well, for a start, it hosts the biggest collection of Latin American art on the continent. You’ll find names that ring a bell, like Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera or Fernando Botero. But besides those, you can familiarise yourself with other great artists’ works.
The museum is privately owned and there’s no free day, but on Wednesdays the entry is half price.
Eva Peron –”Evita” for friends and family– wasn’t only a character in a cheesy musical. She was the wife of president Juan Peron from 1946 until her death at a young age in 1952.
In this museum, you can learn much about her story: born in poverty, she married a rich politician and used her power to help the women and the poor, before dying of a rampant cancer.
Nowadays, she is seen in her country either as a role model or as a social climber. Even the politics of her husband still divides the nation between people against or in favour of “peronism“.
Read further: The best museums in Buenos Aires (art and not)
Have a drink or go out dancing
As we said, Palermo is the trendy going-out area for locals and tourists alike. You’ll get your kick there whether you want craft beer, cocktails, national or international cuisine. Roam anywhere between Avenida Juan B Justo and Raúl Scalabrini Ortíz. Fun fact: a club in Argentina is called “boliche“.
Things to do in Buenos Aires – San Telmo
A day before our one-week stay should have ended, we were too in love with the city to leave. We asked Paula if we could stay one more week and her generous answer was more than a simple “yes”. It’s such a feeling to feel at home while travelling – I felt I had always lived there. But for us, it meant more discovering the things to do in our beloved Buenos Aires!
With its pretty facades and cobblestone streets, San Telmo is a great neighbourhood for a day stroll, an evening drink, or even as a base to stay in Buenos Aires. The atmosphere is quite alternative, there are many cute shops, cafes, bars and food markets.
It’s the home of donation-based street tango shows by real artists; and hosts a cool Sunday flea market on the same square.
What to do and see in San Telmo
This square is the heart of the neighbourhood, but it pulsates especially for tourists. Nonetheless, we liked the easy-going vibes and of course the tango shows. Unless you plan on spending an evening in a (sometimes expensive) tango cabaret, it’s your go-to for high-class traditional tango. Those guys seem to me to be professional dancers rather than street artists.
There are restaurants around with typical porteño meals, bars, souvenir shops. It’s a great place for flâneurs, but keep an eye on your belongings at all times.
Second-hand outdoor market
The whole area in the direct surroundings of Plaza Dorrego gets crowded every Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm for the biggest and most famous flea market in town. You’ll find some real treasures here, and also some real crap – whatever your budget.
If you miss it, there’s a covered antiques market with food stalls on Defensa street at the corner with Independencia.
Museum of Modern Art
Anna really likes modern art, I don’t. Unfortunately for you, I won this time. So we don’t have much to tell you about the Modern Museum, as it calls itself. Have a peek at its exhibitions, plus prices and opening times, on its website.
This greenery roughly halfway between Plaza Dorrego and La Boca is the local point for social gatherings. Friends meet up there, but also running partners, outdoor yoga classes, local associations for their summer assemblies. There’s also a street market and an amphitheatre for cultural events.
It’s vast enough to be peaceful; but it’s also a good spot for some serious people-watching, our favourite activity when we need a rest.
Just opposite, on Defensa Street, the Cultural Centre Torquato Tasso offers regular tango shows and concerts with a local feel.
Take a picture with Mafalda
Mafalda is the famous comic character invented by the artist Quino. For the Argentinians, she’s more than a character; she’s a political statement, a symbol of the political ups and downs the country has gone through in the past. If you don’t know who I mean, look her up online and I’m sure you’ll recognise her straight away!
She’s sitting on a bench with her friends, actually not in San Telmo properly, but in the nearby San Miguel.
Things to do in Buenos Aires – Puerto Madero
Just east of San Telmo, Puerto Madero is the foundation mark of Argentina and the lung of Buenos Aires. It’s surrounded by water and more than half of its space is taken up by the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. We found it a real pleasure to feel the breeze there before diving back into the surf of the metropolis.
What to do and see in Puerto Madero
These 3.50 km2 (865 acres) on the Río de la Plata riverbank offer a real escape from the urban buzz. Of course, you won’t be alone there, as it’s a favourite of many nature-loving Porteños. But there are enough trails to enjoy a nature walk, and it’s absolutely perfect for bird-watching, cycling and picnicking.
- Parque Micaela Bastidas
Only a stone’s throw from the Ecological Reserve, the Micaela Bastidas park is certainly not as rough. It’s a very pretty city park, with fountains and monuments, green areas, sports areas. The surroundings are high-class residential buildings, with many restaurants. It’s probably a luxury to live in this area, one of the most moderns in South America.
Read more about yerba mate and its benefits
Museum of the Cárcova
This museum, located just South of the Bastidas Park, belongs to the National University of Arts. Its goal has always been to teach art students, and introduce visitors, to classical art. It’s a museum of sculptures, most of them replicas from outstanding Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Italian Renaissance works.
Being a university museum, it’s free to visit. Find opening times and exhibitions on its website (only in Spanish).
Uruguay is situated just on the other side of Rio de la Plata; it’s that coast you can see over there on a clear day. Even though we would heartily recommend to visit Uruguay thoroughly, it’s also a nice destination for a couple of days.
The fast ferry from Buenos Aires, Argentina reaches the charming colonial Colonia del Sacramento in 1,5 hour or the bustling Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, in 2 hours. Both companies Colonia Express and Buquebus depart from different spots on the canal in Puerto Madero.
Read our posts for tips about Colonia and Montevideo.
Other top things to do and see in Buenos Aires
You went through all the landmarks listed in this guide and you think you’ve seen it all? Think twice! There are still many things to do in this vibrant city. Here are a few more among our favourites.
Recoleta is famous for its cemetery, where many well-known people are buried. Evita is here for example, but also many presidents and artists.
For us, it was one of the most interesting places to visit in Buenos Aires, definitely on the list of the top things to do in Argentina. Instead of the usual gloom of the gravestones, exquisite little mausoleums have been built to honour the dead. Locals live a lively social life inside the cemetery eating, drinking mate, etc.
Make sure you locate on the map at the entrance the mausoleums of the famous people you want to visit.
Recoleta: National Museum of Fine Arts and Floralis Genérica
The MNBA (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes) showcases a large collection of national and international paintings and sculptures, from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century. This is your best introduction to the most famous Argentine painters like Antonio Berni, Raquel Forner or Xul Solar.
Find all info on opening times, prices and exhibitions on the website of the museum. There is also a branch in the city of Neuquén, in the north of Patagonia.
There is nearby a huge steel flower sculpture that opens its petals at sunrise and closes them at sunset. It’s quite an interesting phenomenon so time your visit well.
La Boca: el Caminito
You’ve probably heard of La Boca already, it’s on every list of the top things to do in Buenos Aires. This poor neighbourhood was transformed when a resident artist decided to give it colour. The touristy area concentrates around el Caminito, basically 2 streets full of souvenirs shops, tango joints and restaurants. It’s very colourful but smells decidedly of tourist trap.
If you’re a football (soccer) fan, check La Bombonera, the emblematic stadium of Boca Juniors.
Everybody says that La Boca can be a tad risky outside of the Caminito. We’ve been advised several times not to wander off, so we’ll give the same advice.
- Xul Solar Museum
This small museum is dedicated to Alejandro “Xul Solar”, a plastic artist famous in his country for his colourful and naive paintings. If you are an art museum hopper in South America you surely see his well recognizable, dreamy, cartoon-like works and the Xul Solar Museum offers them to you in piles.
Apart from the paintings, some object artworks are exhibited too, like that modified piano where the notes are substituted with colours. The entry has a cost of $100 and provides also guided visits. More information on the website.
Almagro: go out like a local
If you want to go out in style like a real Porteño, avoid Palermo and hit the bars in Almagro. You’ll find many options for your afternoon coffee, your craft beer or evening cocktail, along with donation-based live tango concerts. We thought it was also a cute neighbourhood for a day stroll and a feel of the real Buenos Aires.
Paula brought us to her favourite bar on the Bulnes street for an evening of live milonga. She knew every word of every song, like most people around us. We felt sorry we couldn’t sing along with everyone!
Anywhere: Attend a free tango class
Anna couldn’t visit Argentina without having a go at tango. It’s very nice to see professionals twirling on the pavement of Plaza Dorrego or on the stage of some fin-de-siècle milonga joint. But nothing beats the exhilarating feeling of kicking up your legs on the bandoneon. Excuse my
There are schools scattered all across the city, and most offer a first introductory class for free. We went to DNI tango in Almagro, which requires an online registration only. But you can find classes anywhere and for every day on this website.
Tigre: Take a boat trip in the Argentine Venice
The town of Tigre is a 1-hour train ride out of Buenos Aires, and a favourite getaway of the Porteños’. It’s built close to the delta of the Paraná river; the usual activity is to take a boat tour on its many canals. Honestly, we weren’t mesmerised by the experience, but it’s a cheap alternative to crossing the river to Uruguay.
Read more: What we thought of Tigre
Learn first-hand about Evita
You might know Evita from a cheesy musical with Madonna and Antonio Banderas. But Argentinians know her as the charismatic wife of ex-president Juan Perón, who was raised in a humble family and fought for the poor and the women, before dying at the age of 33 of an implacable cancer.
Argentinians say people either love or hate her, but we met only love in Buenos Aires. There are many streets named after her, an Evita museum, Evita posters, etc. If that still wasn’t obvious enough, there’s also a huge light picture of Evita on the main avenue. Buenos Aires seems to be obsessed the most, as we haven’t encountered many fan facts in the rest of Argentina.
Our favourite things and places to eat in Buenos Aires
In a country that is famous for its grilled beef, it’s quite surprisingly easy to find vegetarian options everywhere. Not only most restaurants offer several vegetarian options, but even small stalls and bakeries have something veggie.
Empanadas are baked or fried pastries, traditionally filled with minced meat and onions. If you’re familiar with Cornish pasties, they’re very similar. In Argentina, they are declined in a wide range, almost always including “tomato-mozzarella”, “cheese-spinach”, “chard” and “sweetcorn”. We recommend also the torta pascualina, a pie with spinach, ricotta and full boiled eggs.
If you’re not keeping an eye on your figure, get your share of greasy treats at La Americana, a place near the Congress that fills up with business people at lunch time; La Continental, a diner-style restaurants chain provides cheap pizza (pronounced “pikssa” in Buenos Aires and in most parts of Argentina).
We also particularly delighted on the sweets sold in most bakeries. The specialities here are dulce de leche (a caramel-like dip) and quince jam. We loved them so much, we even have a whole post about this deliciousness!
In case of good weather, we would recommend a food trucks place called Patio de los lecheros. Unfortunately, it’s a tad far-off, in the district of Caballito. You’ll find there colourful Mexican food, hipster burgers, delicious French crepes and more.
Time to go!
Of course Buenos Aires is the gateway to the rest of our beloved Argentina and to a fascinating continent; to the mystic Andes and the magical rain forest; to the majestic Iguazú waterfalls and the mysterious Patagonia. But there are many reasons to spend a while exploring, discovering, wandering the streets of the “Paris of South America”.
We hope we managed to convince you and convey the love we have for Buenos Aires and for all the things there are to do there. It remains to this day our favourite city in South America.
Any of these districts attracts you in particular? Why?
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