Wondering about things to do in Buenos Aires? To be sure, Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina and has a metro population of 12 million people, making it the second-largest metropolis in South America. The city is at the mouth of an estuary (the Rio de la Plata) at the junction of the Paraná and Uruguay Rivers. The Paraná is the second-longest river (3000mi+) on the continent after the Amazon. Indeed, the Paraná features a watershed of nearly 2.6M sq. Kilometers.
Buenos Aires has a temperate yet humid climate, making it a comfortable place to visit, year-round. To be sure, it never gets too cold in the winter. Still, it can be undoubtedly hot and sticky from December through February, their summer months.
The city has dozens of unique neighborhoods, known as barrios. For example, Recoleta and Palermo Soho are upscale, while San Telmo and La Boca are colorful.
There is not much colonial-era architecture left, but Buenos Aires’s 19th century, European-style mid-sized buildings are stunning. For example, many feature large windows and balconies with ironwork. And some overlook tree-lined streets.
Two significant passions in Buenos Aires include the Tango, and mate tea, a drink consumed daily by many The tango practiced and performed in many areas. For example, you’ll find the tango in neighborhood tango clubs, known as “Milongas,” local squares (e.g., Piaz. Dorrego), and national competitions.
Dinner hour in Buenos Ares generally starts between nine to ten PM at night. Also, many of the bars, clubs, and restaurants are open as late as 6 am. Indeed, you will often find crowds of young people returning home from a long evening out.
Admittedly, there are numerous towering buildings along the main commercial streets. Notably, there is are several ultra-modern high-rises located along the docks of Puerto Madero. For the most part, Buenos Aires is a dense yet moderately scaled city. Also, the residential and commercial buildings are simple, yet maintain a proportional link with their streets.
How to Get to Buenos Aires: Ezeiza International Airport
Buenos Aires’ principal airport is The Ezeiza International Airport (EZE). Ezeiza is about a 35-minute drive outside the city. It costs approximately 1000 Argentinian Pesos (About USD 16) to get there by taxi. Also, we recommend arriving at the airport 4 hours before departure to avoid long lines at the passport check.
Most taxi drivers are honest folks. However, as in many cities, there are a few opportunistic scammers who will try to pull the old banknote switcheroo. For example, you might offer a perfect 50 peso note to pay your taxi driver, when somehow he gives it back to you with a strange tear. Then, the taxi driver shakes his head and says that he can’t accept this damaged 50 peso note and demands another.
Overall, taxis in BA are cheap and efficient. Also, It is incredibly easy to flag a taxi pretty much anywhere in the central area of the city. However, taxis only accept Argentinian Pesos. For instance, at the time of this writing, taxis only accept cash. So, don’t say we didn’t warn you!
A ticket to anywhere in the subway network costs just 16.50 Argentinian Pesos (Or about 26 US cents at the time of this writing). Amazingly, the price goes down after a certain number of trips. Unfortunately, there are no longer paper tickets available. As a result, visitors have to purchase a Sube smart card in one of the city’s tourist centers or a kiosk (street-side convenience stores).
Buenos Aires Barrios (Districts)
Plaza Dorrego is a square found in the heart of San Telmo. In the 19th century, Plaza Dorrego was its focal point. The Feria de San Telmo (San Telmo Fair), runs every Sunday. Plaza Dorrego is the city’s oldest plaza. It dated to the 18th century and was originally a pit stop for caravans bringing supplies into BA from the Pampas.
Plaza Dorrego is, by far, my ideal place in Buenos Aires. For example, this beautiful little piazza is both friendly and calm. Also, you may sit outside and have a drink while watching dancers both practice and perform the Tango.
San Telmo Flea Market (Feria de San Telmo)
On Sundays between 10 AM and 5 PM, there’s one event you can’t miss in Buenos Aires. Indeed, it’s the flea market at Plaza Dorrego in the barrio of San Telmo. Interestingly, ever since 1970, it’s principal open-air antique market in the Argentinian capital.
Mercado San Telmo
The covered market in San Telmo is gigantic. Indeed, it fills up almost a full city block and borders Estados Unidos, Carlos Calvo, Defensa, and Bolivar streets. Also, you can enter from any of those streets. And, all around, there are places to eat and drink, as well as other shops and grocery stores. Mercado de San Telmo opened in 1897.
Parque Lezama – Lezama Park
You’ll find the Parque Lezama in San Telmo (corner of Defensa and Brazil) and is one of the city’s oldest and private parks.
Today, it’s uneven walkways and dams, and many sculptures offer a treat for sunbathers and amblers. Lezama Park is open to the public, 24 hours a day.
On Defensa, on the western side of the park, you’ll find the National History Museum (Museo Histórico Nacional), which opened its doors in 1897. On its north side, you’ll easily spot the bright blue domes of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity (Brasil 315), designed by Alejandro Christophersen.
Close by, on the corner of Brasil and Defensa, are two of the city’s historic bars, El Británico and El Hipopótamo.
Translated, La Boca means the mouth. To be sure, it speaks of its location at the opening of the Riachuelo river.
La Boca featured the first port in Buenos Aires. However, the port got run down through the 1980s and 1990s. Then, it got reinvented with color.
Nothing in La Boca is either subtle or sophisticated. For example, La Boca offers caricature figurines, brightly painted walls, odd-looking paper shop greeters, and loud graffiti are all front and center. Indeed, this creative license makes it a real treat. La Boca’s streets are alive with performance art in the 21st century. To be sure, no one should leave Buenos Aires without having visited La Boca.
El Caminito, La Boca
El Caminito in La Boca is it’s the most famous and recognizable street. For instance, the street (directly translated) is called “little walkway.” It refers to an alley lined with the restored & colorfully painted window coverings made of wood and zinc. While the area has undoubtedly lost a little of its authenticity (many say it has become a tourist trap), it’s still worth a visit. For example, you’ll encounter elegant dancers tangoing to live music against a backdrop of local artists and stall owners hawking their wares.
Nearby in the barrio, Barracas is a lesser-known street Calle Lanin. Sure, it’s not as busy as El Caminito, but, is way more colorful! In 1990, a local artist named Marino Santa María started painting the buildings in his own bold style.
The Recoleta cemetery is a famous resting place of Argentinian dignitaries, full of luxurious pomp and marble. Indeed, you will find Evita Peron’s grave at Recoleta. However, she is buried under her maiden name: Duarte. Admittedly, the “Familia Duarte” mausoleum is the cemetery’s premier attraction.
The Duarte family mausoleum is easy to find near the entrance of the cemetery. Unfortunately, there is a narrow passage in front with just enough room for a (thin) person to squeeze through. And you’ll want to bring a wide-angle lens to photograph it, as there’s little room.
The Sleeping Boy Angel
On your way to the Duarte family mausoleum, you can stop to admire the statue of the sleeping boy angel. The figure is sure to resonate with visitors. Also, ask around for the other notorious resident of Recoleta: Rufina Cambaceres, who’s depicted opening her own grave door.
There’s a legend that Rufina got buried alive after doctors thought she had died. Apparently, people heard Recoleta screaming a few days after she woke up inside her grave. By the time the gravediggers reached her, she was dead — this time for good.
Since 2002, this enormous silver flower has been opening its 43-foot-long petals every morning to reveal four long stamens. Every night, at sunset, it closes again.
Sitting in a reflective pond outside the National Museum of Fine Arts, the flower provides the perfect photo-op for visitors. Like “the bean” sculpture in Chicago, it’s a reflective, interactive piece, catching the sunlight and mirroring the city in its petals.
The sculpture got created by the famous Argentinian architect Eduardo Catalano. Catalano studied at the University of Pennsylvania and the Harvard School of Graduate Design. Then, he taught architecture in London. Also, during his lifetime, Catalano won praise from Frank Lloyd Wright for his understanding of the relationship between space and structure.
None of his pieces better represent this understanding than the brilliant Floralis Genérica.
The Casa Rosada
The Casa Rosada, the famed Pink Presidential Palace, is the focus of Buenos Aires’s central Plaza 25 de Mayo. Casa Rosada got its name after the date of the first successful revolution in South America that eventually led to independence.
Most visitors are content to just take photos outside. Notably, tourists (with foreign ID) can visit free on Saturdays and Sundays. http://visitas.casarosada.gob.ar/
The only president to live in the Casa Rosada was Roque Sáenz Peña, between 1910 and 1914.
The mothers and grandmothers of people who got “disappeared” by the government during the Dirty War of the 70s and early 80s – Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo – hold their weekly march in the square.
You’ll also find many protests against the British occupation and ownership of the Falkland Islands (“Las Malvinas”).
Florida Street is a famous shopping street (tourist trap) in downtown. A pedestrian street since 1971, some stretches have been made into pedestrian areas since 1913.
One of the most iconic locations in Buenos Aires is the intersections of Florida Street and Diagonal Norte Avenue, built between 1913 and 1943. There are three famous buildings located at this intersection: the Plateresque BankBoston Building (1924), the Art Deco La Equitativa del Plata (1929), and two cupola-topped Bencich Buildings (1927). The intersection forms a triangular plaza adorned with José Fioravanti‘s monument to President Roque Sáenz Peña (1937).
Nuestra Señora de La Merced
One of the oldest churches in Buenos Aires, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Merced. Thousands of tourists visit each year and often take the historic church tours. The religious complex houses the oldest city archives, dating from 1884. Indeed, this is when the Civil Archive got created. While the altar, paintings, ornamental plaster, and other decoration have been damaged by the effects of humidity, water infiltration, and general neglect. Also, the church got some urgent renovations in recent times. For example, its façade got stabilized.
Torre Monumental and before 1982 Torre de Los Ingleses (Tower of the English) is a clock tower located in the barrio (district) of Retiro, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Visitors will find the Torre Monumental in the Plaza Fuerza Aérea Argentina (formerly Plaza Británica) next to the Calle San Martín and Avenida del Libertador. It was a gift from the local British community to the city in commemoration of the centennial of the May Revolution of 1810.
After the Falklands War in 1982, the tower got renamed Torre Monumental. However, some still call it Torre de Los Ingleses.
The tower is built in Palladian style. Also, the building is decorated with symbols of the British Empire. It features the thistle of Scotland, the English rose, the Welsh dragon, and the Irish shamrock.
The building closed to the public in 2006 for technical maintenance. Unfortunately, the building is occasionally painted with anti-British graffiti.
Few steps away from the tower, you can visit the Falkland War Memorial.
Falkland War Memorial
One of the Best Things to Do in Buenos Aires: Take a Train from Tren de la Costa
Take the normal Linea Mitre from Retiro station and transfer to the Tren de la Costa at Maipú station.
Tren de la Costa (“Train of the Coast”) is a suburban 15.5 km, an 11-station light rail line between Maipú Avenue station in the northern suburb of Olivos and Delta station in Tigre, on the Río de la Plata. Also, the route connects directly to the Mitre line at Maipú station for direct access to the Retiro terminus in the Buenos Aires downtown.
DELTA is the final destination for access to Parque de la Costa, Tigre’s Casino and the Delta Handicraft Market, and opportunities to enjoy the river on a catamaran. Several tour companies can guide you through the labyrinth of waterways, or for a cheaper option, just hop on one of the many public boats (AKA Lanchas) leaving from the port.
The Museo de Arte Tigre
Originally a social club back in 1912, this stunning building now houses the Museo de Arte Tigre, the fanciest of Tigre’s museums, hosting famous Argentine artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. Worth visiting purely for the architecture alone, but if you’re short on time, you’ll likely pass it on a boat tour.
Abasto de Buenos Aires
Abasto center is served by the adjoining underground station Carlos Gardel of line B (red) metro (Subte).
The mall was formerly Mercado de Abasto Proveedor (Mercado = market, Abasto = supply), or the city’s central fruit and veg market. Opened in 1934. The large Art Deco structure was formerly Mercado de Abasto Proveedor (Mercado = market, Abasto = supply), or the city’s central fruit and veg market that opened in 1934. Its been a mall since 1999.
Santa Fe Avenue
Everything from small stores, through well-known chains, galleries, and Alto Palermo Shopping Mall are concentrated on this avenue. Indeed, a shopping trip starts at Cerrito Street, going through Callao and up to Scalabrini Ortiz Avenue. Santa Fe has everything for every taste and budget.
What is it? Originally a grand theatre, then a grand cinema, it’s now a great bookstore. In fact, the 99-year-old Grand Splendid is one of the most magnificent stores in the world.
Why go? The bookstore features a frescoed ceiling, elaborate theatre boxes, and even the bold red drapes are all intact. Indeed, the decor offers an opulent backdrop for the books. Take the time to sip a coffee and listen to some live piano on the original stage, with sweeping views of the Grand Splendid in all its splendor and just 25 minutes from Abasto mall.
Palermo Soho is a small area of Palermo Viejo around Plaza Serrano (officially Plazoleta Cortázar) near Palermo’s south-western edge. It is a newly fashionable area for fashion, design, restaurants, bars, and street culture. The atmosphere in many cafés and restaurants strives to be “alternative,” which makes this area of the city, especially popular with young, upper-middle-class Argentines, as well as foreign tourists. The traditional low houses have been adapted into boutiques and bars, creating a bohemian feel.
This vibrant area of the bohemian sub-barrio sits between Santa Fé, Coronel Diaz, Córdoba, and Juan B. Justo streets. This is one of the trendier parts of Palermo (along with Palermo Hollywood) and a favorite haunt of backpackers, hipsters, and designers. It is home to lazy, tree-lined cobblestone streets where new businesses continue to spring up in the old Spanish-style houses and converted warehouses.
Bordering Palermo Hollywood and Villa Crespo, Calle Dorrego has a lot to offer for a quiet, one-way street. One of the most impressive pieces of street art in the city can be found here, a massive colorful portrait of Frida Kahlo. Keep going down, you and Dorrego’ll find a huge flea market, El Mercado de las Pulgas where you can find quirky and cute antiques and housewares. Next to that is Plaza Mafalda, a small park dedicated to the Argentine children’s cartoon character Mafalda. There are paintings of her around the park.
Puerto Madero is a revamped dockside area. It’s converted red, brick buildings contain upscale steakhouses, popular with tourists and business lunchers. Also, neighboring skyscrapers house multinational corporations and high-value apartments. Trails loop around several lakes at the wildlife-rich Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, which draws families and joggers. Spanning the docks, Puente de la Mujer is a graceful suspension bridge.
You won’t find an area less like Buenos Aires anywhere else in Buenos Aires than Puerto Madero.
Puerto Madero is, no doubt, an impressive achievement. For example, the area has gone from post-industrial wasteland to high-rise hoe-down in just 10 years – but that doesn’t mean you should go there. It feels like a giant corporate university campus or a sprawled out shopping center suburb. Buenos Aires is a city with a lot of character, so why would you want to spend time in the one area that has none?
Puente de la Mujer
Puente de la Mujer (‘Bridge of the Woman’) is a stunning feat of engineering as well as a work of art. As you walk through Puerto Madero, you might think the bridge’s design resembles a hook or a tooth of some sort. Still, actually, the architect Santiago Calatrava designed the bridge to look like a couple dancing the tango. The bridge is pedestrian-only and rotates a full 90 degrees to allow ships to pass by.
One of the Best Things to Do in Buenos Aires: See a show at Teatro Colón
Teatro Colón is the main opera house in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is considered one of the ten best opera houses in the world by National Geographic. It is acoustically considered to be amongst the five best concert venues in the world. Teatro Colón began operating in 1857, with the current space opening in 1905.
The Teatro reopened to the public in 2010 following an ambitious restoration and renovation project undertaken by the city government.
Tour Schedule – 9 to 5 – Starting every 15 minutes – Monday to Sunday, including holidays – tour duration 50 minutes.
Reservations: [email protected]
Guided tours are suspended between 10.00 AM and 1:30 PM whenever there are admission-free, 11.00 AM performances at the Teatro Colón.
If performances are held the afternoon (5.00 PM), the last guided tour will depart at 3.00 PM.
Obelisco de Buenos Aires
The Obelisco de Buenos Aires (Obelisk of Buenos Aires) is a national historic monument and icon of Buenos Aires. Located in the Plaza de la República in the intersection of avenues Corrientes and 9 de Julio, it was erected in 1936 to commemorate the quadricentennial of the first foundation of the city.
Construction began on March 20, 1936, and it was finished on May 23 of the same year. It was designed by architect Alberto Prebisch (one of the leading architects of the Argentine modernism).
On December 1, 2005, the obelisk was covered by a giant pink condom to commemorate World AIDS Day.
This is only a short guide to this fantastic city. Stay tuned for more.
Thanks to Ted Mcgrath for assistance on the piece.