There are many fun things to do in Buenos Aires, and visiting Argentina without taking the time to properly explore Buenos Aires (or Baires, as the Porteños call it) would take out from the overall experience of the country.
One of my favorite cities in the world (second only to Tel Aviv), this is the beating heart of Argentina, not to mention its political, economic and cultural center. It’s as charming as the most beautiful European capitals (there’s a reason it’s called “the Paris of South America”), but it has that warm, welcoming vibe that only cities in South America have.
Here you will find colonial buildings and modern skyscrapers; beautiful city parks and so many museums; enormously large boulevards and tiny cobbled alleys.
Curious to know more about Buenos Aires? Then continue reading this post as I take you through the best city in Argentina.
33 Top Things To Do In Buenos Aires
Go on guided tour of Buenos Aires
One of the best things to do in Buenos Aires if you have just arrived or don’t have much time in the city is to join a guided tour. The best are usually bike or walking tours, as you get to see a lot of places in the city in a short time and get a proper feel for it.
I actually jumped on a bike almost as soon as I landed the first time I visited, and loved exploring the city this way!
During a bike tour your local guide will share interesting facts about the Argentine capital, and you will visit the most important landmarks of Buenos Aires: Plaza de Mayo, the Recoleta Cemetery, San Telmo, Puerto Madero. Some tours also go to La Boca and El Caminito.
These are the tours I recommend:
Buenos Aires Bike Tours – You have the option of the north or the south circuit. The north circuit goes to Palermo and Recoleta (this is the one I did when I first visited). The south tour goes to La Boca, San Telmo, and Plaza de Mayo.
Highlights of Buenos Aires – a great small group tour that is highly rated. It goes to all the most important places to visit in Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires By Night – This small group tour takes you to the main landmarks in Buenos Aires, but at night. You will see the famous Casa Rosada in Plaza de Mayo, Puerto Madero, San Telmo and much more.
Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour – This is another great option to explore the city in a short time. The bus goes along an itinerary where all the main attractions in Buenos Aires are located, and while moving you will have an audio-guide describing what you are seeing. You can get on and off as you wish.
Explore the Microcentro
One of the top things to do in Buenos Aires is to explore its commercial heart.
The main street is Avenida Corrientes – probably one of the longest streets in town as it runs all the way from Puerto Madero to Chacarita, where you’ll find a lesser-known (yet interesting to explore) cemetery, the largest in Argentina. This large avenue is named after the city that first supported the country’s independence.
Microcentro is also where you’ll get to see the famous Obelisco, which was built in 1936 to celebrate the founding of Buenos Aires by Pedro de Mendoza in 1536. It’s located on Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest street in town with a whopping 16 lanes.
Finally, here is the building of the Ministry of Health, which has a huge steel image of Eva Peron on both its north and south side, and the large BA sign decorated with flowers.
Spend some time in Plaza de Mayo
Not too far from Microcentro, Plaza de Mayo is another landmark in Buenos Aires you can’t miss. At the center of the square, the Pirámide de Mayo is the oldest national monument in the city, whose construction was ordered in 1811 to celebrate the Mayo Revolution.
But there’s more. This is the square where the mothers of the desaparecidos – the victims of the Argentinian dictatorship – meet regularly to demand justice for the victims of the regime and to protest against the violations of human rights committed by the dictatorship.
Visit the Catedral Metropolitana and the Casa Rosada
Right in front of Plaza de Mayo there are the beautiful Catedral Metropolitana and the Casa Rosada (literally “Pink House”). One of the symbols of Buenos Aires, the Casa Rosada is the seat of the Argentinian President, and the political heart of the city.
Built in Italianite style in the mid 1800s on the site of a 16th century fort, inside, you can spot 1933 murals by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros. There often are interesting art exhibits in the garden, and during the summer people enjoy eating their lunch in the park right outside.
The Metropolitan Cathedral was first established in the 16th century by the Spanish colonizers. Its Neoclassical façade wasn’t initiated until 1822.
The plain exterior is in sharp contrast with the rich interior which is in Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque style. There are many pieces of art inside, an organ that dates from 1871, and the tomb of national hero of Argentina José de San Martin.
Not far from the Cathedral you’ll also spot the Manzana de las Luces (Block of Enlightenment), considered the main center of learning in the city. Here you’ll find the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires and San Ignacio Church, the oldest church in the city.
Pass by Plaza San Martin
This is one of the city’s oldest squares and chances are you will pass by it at least once when in town. It’s where a battle against the British invasion took place in 1807. It’s named after the general José de San Martin, who had a major role in the country’s fight for independence.
Admire Palacio Barolo
Located in the Monserrat neighborhood near Congress, this building was designed for businessman Barolo by Italian architect Mario Palanti. It was inaugurated in 1923, and back then it was the tallest building in South America.
Make sure to observe the references to Dante’s Divine Comedy in the architecture, beginning with the division of the building into three sections – heaven, hell and purgatory. The twin building is Palacio Salvo and it is one of the most notable buildings in Montevideo.
Shop at the Feria de San Telmo
One of the most fun things to do in Buenos Aires on a Sunday is visiting the Feria de San Telmo (San Telmo market). Once a posh area of town where the rich used to live, San Telmo changed after an epidemic of yellow fever in 1870, and the wealthy moved to Recoleta.
The market first opened in 1897, and it has become an incredibly popular place to hang out, packed with artists and a thriving cultural life, a fantastic food market and another market where you can shop for souvenirs and more.
Keep your eyes out for pickpockets when exploring the market.
Make sure to also read my post A Guide To San Telmo, Buenos Aires: 8 Best Things To Do.
Another cool market is the Feria Artesanal de Palermo Viejo.
Visit El Zanjón de Granado
Located in San Telmo there is an 1830s building with the most interesting story.
The owner bought it in the 1980s to turn it into a restaurant, but soon enough discovered that its underground was a series of tunnels and cisterns – it was later established that they had been built in the mid 18th century above a river tributary to fend for what later on became the city’s latest settlement.
You can only visit on guided tours. English tours are offered Monday to Friday and on Sunday twice per day. They last 50 minutes.
Make sure to also spot the Casa Minima of San Telmo – you’ll recognize it easily at it’s a truly narrow building!
Have a drink in one of Buenos Aires oldest bars
Opened in 1858 by a French immigrant, Café Tortoni is the oldest historic café in Buenos Aires, but certainly not the only one. Indeed, there are many other bares notables (cafés recognized as having historical significance by the local authorities) in the Argentine capital.
They are the perfect place for breakfast (eat a medialuna, the local version of croissant, while sipping a submarino, Argentine hot chocolate) or lunch, or to enjoy a drink – locals would have a sidra tirada (cider on tap) at lunch but quickly opt for a glass of wine later in the day.
Another bar notable (and my personal favorite) is El Federal in San Telmo. It first opened in 1864 and still has the original decor.
Finally, there’s La Biela, which used to be Borges and Casares (famous Argentine authors) favorite place in town. Their life-size statues remain to decorate the interior. You can order anything from coffee to a dulce de leche stuffed crêpe.
Visit Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta is the area of Buenos Aires where the wealthy locals moved after the yellow fever epidemic hit San Telmo in 1870. It is also home to the famous historic Cementerio de Recoleta (Recoleta Cemetery), where lots of famous Argentinians are buried – first and foremost Evita Peron.
It’s a pleasant place to spend a couple of hours admiring the artwork of the tombs and petting the random cats that live there.
You may want to consider a guided tour of Recoleta Cemetery – it goes to all the most notable tombs.
Admission to the cemetery is free, but don’t forget to pick a map at the entrance.
On your way out, you can pop into the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar right next door and if you happen to be there during the weekend swing by the Feria de Recoleta – it’s a lovely market right by the cemetery where you can buy all sorts of knick-knacks.
Follow Evita’s trail
To learn more about the life and doings of Evita you should also consider visiting Evita Museum, located where there once was the a temporary home for ill-treated women and children called the Fundación Eva Perón.
Another place you should check out is Peron Peron, a restaurant located in Palermo Hollywood and run by Peronistas – supporters and fans of the prominent political figure of Peron. Inside, there are photos of Evita and Juan Peron everywhere – but rather than feeling overwhelming, you’ll feel entertained. The place is actually very cozy.
Every hour a song is played – the Peronistas anthem, and all locals sing it. It’s quite a show.
You may want to consider this private Evita and Peronism historical tour of Buenos Aires – it will guide you through the history and doings of Evita, and also goes to Evita Museum.
Visit El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookshop
If you are looking for more unique things to do in Buenos Aires, head to this incredible bookshop located in Recoleta. Often referred to as the world’s most beautiful bookstore, you will quickly realize this ought to be true!
A master of 20th century craftsmanship, the building was actually inaugurated as a theater in 1919, and became a bookstore only at the beginning of the 21st century. If you are into photography, you will have a blast here thanks to the great lighting.
El Ateneo isn’t the only beautiful bookshop in Buenos Aires. During my explorations of the city I came across La Librería de Ávila, close to Plaza de Mayo. It’s actually Buenos Aires’ oldest bookstore!
Marvel at the Floralis Genérica
Located in Plaza Naciones Unidas, this massive metal flower sculpture – a gift by artist Eduardo Catalano – became a symbol of the city. It was created in 2002 and placed at the center of a beautiful park.
The statue, which is 23 meters (more than 75 feet) tall, is designed so that the petals open every morning at 8:00 am and closes at sunset, so if you pass by at different times you will have a different perspective.
Explore Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero is one of the coolest places to visit in Buenos Aires. This modern neighborhood was once the place where European immigrants would settle as they arrived in Argentina, and used to be a thriving trade harbor.
As trade decreased after WWII, the area fell in despair but thanks to the efforts of the local authorities it is now an up and coming place in the capital.
Puerto Madero is home of the wealthiest community and a place where locals enjoy running along the waterfront. There are excellent restaurants and pubs along the river, and some interesting art galleries.
It’s also where you will find the famous Puente de la Mujer, a bridge planned by architect Calatrava.
Visit Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve
One of the coolest things to do in Buenos Aires, and particularly family-friendly if you want to spend some time busy in outdoor activities, is visiting the Costanera Sur Reserva Ecologica which – despite being located near the center of town – will give you a respite from chaos.
Close to Puerto Madero (you can see the high rise building from there), you will find several walking trails and three lagoons, and lots of opportunities to admire wildlife and local flora.
The area was declared a reserve in 1986 and recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International in 2005.
Visit one or all the museums
When the weather is not good, one of the best things to do in Buenos Aires is visiting a museum. The following ones are the best in town:
MUSEO NACIONAL DE BELLAS ARTES – It has an impressive exhibit with paintings of – among others – Renoir, Monet, Picasso and Gauguin.
MALBA – Museum of Latin American Art; it is located in a beautiful modern building in Palermo neighborhood. It has a collection of pieces by the most prominent contemporary and historical artists of Latin America, such as Frida Kahlo. There are occasional temporary exhibitions which are very interesting.
MUSEUM OF DECORATIVE ARTS OF QUINQUELA MARTIN – It’s located in what was once the house of the painter which gives it its name, in the area of La Boca.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE CABILDO – Located inside the Cabildo, the 1610 palace that was the seat of the colonial government, this museum sheds light into what the city looked like in the 18th century. You’ll also find an exhibit on Jesuit and colonial art.
MUSEO DE LA CASA DE GOBIERNO – An interesting museum located inside the Casa Rosada, where you can learn more about the history of Argentine presidents until 1966.
MUSEO HISTORICO NACIONAL – The National Historical Museum is located in San Telmo and has an exhibit of more than 50,000 artifacts all related to the history of the country, including paintings by contemporary primitive painter Cándido López.
BERNARDINO RIVADAVIA NATURAL SCIENCES MUSEUM – Another museum located in San Telmo, it first opened in 1826 and it’s entirely dedicated to the flora and fauna you’ll spot in Argentina. An interesting addition if you intend to visit Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and the region of Peninsula Valdes and Punta Tombo.
MUSEO DE ARTE HISPANOAMERICANO ISAAC FERNANDEZ BLANCO – Located in Recoleta, it has an interesting collection of colonial silver, paintings, statues and costumes.
MUSEO NACIONAL DE ARTE DECORATIVO – Located in the gorgeous Palacio Errázuriz in Recoleta, this museum first opened in 1911 and is a great place to visit for architecture enthusiasts. The exhibit includes a collection of French Impressionist and Spanish mannerist paintings, as well as antique furniture, tapestries and decorations.
Take a street art tour of Palermo
Buenos Aires is thriving with street art. The best place for that is Palermo Hollywood, and the best way to enjoy it is on a guided tour where the guide that will explain the historical, social and political reasons behind each mural. It will help you to better understand Argentinian history and way of life.
You may want to consider this guided street art tour of Palermo that shows you the most significant pieces in the area.
You should also read my post A Guide To Palermo Buenos Aires.
Hang out in Plaza Serrano
Plaza Serrano is in the heart of Palermo Hollywood and a nice place to hang out.
It’s a lovely, airy square surrounded by nice cafés, pubs and lots of shops, and there is a market at weekends where you can buy souvenirs at a real steal, jewelry, accessories and what not.
The area is packed with some of the trendies shops in town, and there are some fun places to grab a drink too.
This is where you will find some of the best breweries in the city – there’s the always present Patagonia chain that can be found all over the country, as well as smaller breweries serving excellent beer.
Visit the Carlos Thays Botanical Gardens
Named after Buenos Aires’ important landscape architect and located in Palermo, near Plaza Italia, the Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays of Buenos Aires is an incredibly pleasant place to visit and get a break from the chaos of the city.
You will find around 6,000 species of plants organized by geographic provenience. The gardens, which are free to visit, are open every day but Mondays.
If you happen to visit Buenos Aires in the spring months, and especially in November, you also should visit El Rosedal, part of Parque Tres de Febrero in Paseo. It’s free to visit and a true feast of roses!
Learn how to tango
Buenos Aires is (together with Montevideo) one of the birthplaces of tango, an incredibly sensual dance and learning how to tango – or at least seeing a tango dance show – is one of the unique things to do in Buenos Aires.
There are many milongas in Buenos Aires – places where tango is danced. Some are so famous that they are more like theaters and even require paying a fee and advanced bookings – such is Café Tortoni for example, where tango performer, singer and actor Carlos Gardel was a regular.
Other good places to go for a tango show are Rojo Tango, La Viruta, Café Angelito, Salón Canning and La Glorieta, an open air milonga in Belgrano.
Keep your eyes out for smaller milongas scattered around town and, for something even more spontaneous and completely free, just head to Plaza Dorrego, in San Telmo, on a Sunday. Dancers will pop up top entertain passersby.
For a tango show at Piazzolla, click here.
For private tango lessons, click here.
Attend Opera at Teatro Colón
For a different night out, attend an opera show at Teatro Colón, considered to be one of the best opera houses in the world by National Geographic. The theater first opened in 1857, but the current building replaced the original one in 1905 and was first opened in 1908.
Opera singers such as Luciano Pavarotti, Maria Callas and Caruso all performed there!
If you just want to visit the theater you can go on a guided tour. Tours in English run every day, twice per day; they last 50 minutes. You have to book ahead on the website of the theater, here.
Not far from Teatro Colon you will find Templo Israel, the biggest synagogue in Argentina, reflecting the large Jewish community that lives in the city.
Go to La Boca
La Boca is one of the most popular places to visit in Buenos Aires. Known for the colorful and iconic Caminito, it’s also where the Bombonera, Boca Juniors impressive stadium, is located.
It’s one of those places you shouldn’t miss, but keep in mind that, aside from the Caminito and few other streets that are packed with tourists, this tends to be a dodgy area – even locals will warn you to steer away from the non-touristy areas.
This guided walking tour of La boca will show you around the “conventillos” – the colorful houses in the are, and take you to the Boca Juniors stadium (though tickets are not included).
Watch a fútbol match at La Bombonera
People in Argentina take fútbol really seriously – and even more so in the city of Diego Armando Maradona and Lionel Messi. The best way to understand how important it is to them is to watch a game – best if live at the Bombonera, the famous stadium in La Boca – not far from El Caminito.
Here, the vibe is incredibly lively. For a real treat, try to get a ticket for the superclásico – Boca Juniors v. River Plate. It’s one of the top things to do in Buenos Aires.
If you aren’t in Buenos Aires during the championship, you can still opt for this guided tour of the stadium.
And if you are a massive soccer fan, you can also go on a tour of the River Plate Museum.
Watch a polo match
One of the most popular things to do in Buenos Aires for locals is attending polo matches. For real! Games usually take place between September and November at Campo Argentino de Polo.
You can even take polo lessons if you want. Book yours here.
Eat a good asado
Undoubtedly, one of the best things to do in Buenos Aires is eating a proper asado, a mixed grill with several kinds of meat: beef, chicken, pork and lamb are usually all present, and at times also blood sausage or morcilla.
Granted, the best place to have a good asado is actually at a friend’s place – but if you don’t know locals, go to a bodegon – a local restaurant.
A good bodegon usually serves other traditional dishes too, such as milanesa – Argentine version of schnitzel; or provoleta – a delicious melted cheese served with herbes.
Check out my post A Guide To Food In Argentina.
Gorge on steak
Steakhouses abound in Buenos Aires, and most of them will claim to serve the best steak in town. I have tried a few places – a couple of bodegon and some upper scale restaurants – and in my humble opinion they were all good, in a different way. The places mentioned below are my favorite steakhouses in town:
DON JULIO – A family-run parrilla with an extensive wine list.
LA CABRERA – The most famous steakhouse in Buenos Aires, it’s located in Palermo and the kind of place you have to wait in line for, or book well in advance. It’s worth every penny.
LO DE JESUS – My personal favorite, it is more local than La Cabrera and slightly less expensive, but it has all the quality and an incredible wine list.
Try all the local specialties
One of the best ways of learning about the local culture – anywhere you visit – is through food. I have already told you about the asado and steaks in Buenos Aires, but there’s much more you should try.
First of all, you should try empanadas – a dough that looks a bit like bread and is filled with a variety of ingredients. They are the perfect quick lunch or snack (merienda). The classic empanada is filled is ham and cheese; but you can have it with chicken, beef and a vegan version with lots of vegetables.
One of the best places to try empanadas is La Panaderia in San Telmo Market.
On the other end of the spectrum in terms of flavor are alfajores, cookies filled with dulce de leche – a very thick, sticky spread made with condensed milk and heaps of sugar.
Consider joining this empanadas and alfajores cooking class to uncover the secrets of two local specialties.
Finally, there’s mate – a bitter infusion made of yerba mate. This is a cultural more than a culinary tradition in Argentina, so you have to try it at least once.
Spend a night at The Argentine Experience
If you want to learn a bit more about Argentinian culture in a fun, interactive way and while eating delicious food, spending a night at The Argentine Experience is one of the most fun things to do in Buenos Aires.
The lovely hosts will introduce you to local sign language and basic slang; they’ll teach you how to prepare excellent empanadas; and how to order a steak to your liking. The best part of it? The learning experience all happens while sipping excellent wine.
You can book The Argentine Experience here.
Go wine tasting
Argentines love their wine, and they sure make some excellent ones. The best are produced in the Mendoza and Cafayate regions, where you can visit the various vineyards and go on wine tasting tours.
You can however, start tasting wine in Buenos Aires already! There are many recently opened wine bars that will offer good wine tasting experiences. My favorite is probably La Malbequeria, in Palermo. But you can also go on a wine tasting tour for more guidance.
You can book a wine tasting tour in Buenos Aires here.
Argentina’s favorite after meal drink is Fernet. And the most popular cocktail is Fernet and Cola.
Get out of town in El Tigre
Buenos Aires can get overwhelming, especially in the summer months when the heat becomes unbearable. One of the best things to do in Buenos Aires is getting out of town.
El Tigre, a lovely small city a quick train ride from Retiro Station, is perfect for a day trip. Once there, go on a boat tour around the river delta.
You can book your day trip from Buenos Aires to El Tigre here.
Check out my post 10 Fantastic Day Trips From Buenos Aires.
Experience the life of a gaucho
If you like horses and the idea of getting out of the city, one of the top things to do in Buenos Aires is going on a gaucho experience to fully experience rural life in one of the many working ranches in Argentina. The best place for that is the lovely San Antonio de Areco.
You’ll go riding, enjoy a delicious asado and lots of empanadas, music shows, and drink lots of wine in a gorgeous setting.
The best way to get to San Antonio de Areco is by car.
Alternatively, you can opt for your dia de campo (day in the countryside) by joining this guided tour that includes round-trip transportation to San Antonio de Areco.
Go on a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento
This small city can be reached by a quick (1 hour) ferry ride and makes for another great day trip. Walking around Colonia feels like stepping back in time.
Imagine beautiful cobbled alleys with flowers pouring outside gardens onto the streets; a gorgeous lighthouse with spectacular views over the Rio de la Plata, and vintage cars scattered around town. It’s no wonder that it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Make sure to read my posts 15 Great Things To Do In Colonia Del Sacramento Uruguay, The Best Things To Do In Uruguay and 25 Cool Things To Do In Montevideo.
Spend your Sunday at Feria de Mataderos
One of the coolest things to do in Buenos Aires on a Sunday is going to the Feria de Mataderos. You will find it in the western borders of the city. The feria was founded 20 years ago in an area where slaughterhouses were located.
Go there to experience traditional dances and costumes and a nice open air market, as to try all the delicious local street food.
The best way to get to the Feria de Mataderos is to hop on line E of the metro all the way to the western edge of the city and, once there, get a taxi.
Are you planning a trip to Argentina? Make sure to read my other posts:
- A Guide To The Greatest Things To Do In Argentina
- A Perfect Argentina Itinerary
- A Guide To The Most Fun Things To Do In Mendoza, Argentina
- 13 Fantastic Wineries In Mendoza
- A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Buenos Aires
- The Best Airbnbs In Buenos Aires
- The Best Way To Get From Ezeiza To Buenos Aires
- The Best Argentine Movies