I love Buenos Aires. There are so many things to do in Buenos Aires that a lifetime wouldn’t be enough for me to go through them. So much I love it, that after having been there three times I realized that I could live there. I feel incredibly comfortable there – perhaps the fact that I speak Spanish fluently and that I can easily pass for Argentinian helps a bit (interestingly enough, the only other place where this regularly happens is Tel Aviv!).
This is to say, I think 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.
Buenos Aires is the beating heart of Argentina, not to mention its political, economic and cultural centre. It’s a city that offers a lot in terms of places to visit and activities. It’s as charming as the most beautiful European capitals (they even call it “the Paris of South America”), but it has that warm, welcoming vibe that only South American cities have. It’s easy to fall in love with it.
On any given tour of Buenos Aires you’ll notice that this is a city where old meets new – right next door: gorgeous colonial buildings sit right next to modern skyscrapers. There are some beautiful city parks, and so many museums. The large boulevards give way to tiny cobbled alleys. There are many cafés where the locals enjoy drinking coffee and eat medialunas (which are tiny croissants); there are a multitude of bars and clubs; milongas to practice tango; restaurants and budget eateries; boutiques and flea markets. And since Argentinians are literally obsessed with futból, the Bombonera is the ultimate place to enjoy a great football match.
In this post, I highlight all the things to do in Buenos Aires that are fun, budget friendly and that are simply unmissable.
These are some of the best guided tours of Buenos Aires:
- Buenos Aires half-day sightseeing tour
- The best of Buenos Aires: full day walking tour
- North or south Buenos Aires bike tour
- Buenos Aires private tour with a local guide
25 Fun Things To Do In Buenos Aires
Walk around Microcentro
One of the unmissable things to do in Buenos Aires is to walk around Microcentro, the commercial heart of the city. This is where the trendy Porteños can be seen in the morning, all dressed up on their way to work or jumping from one business meeting to the other. It’s not the most charming area of the city – all large boulevards and crossroads. But here, you’ll get to see the famous Obelisco, and the building of the Ministry of Health, which has a huge steel image of Eva Peron on both its north and south side.
Spend some time in Plaza de Mayo
Not too far from Microcentro, Plaza de Mayo is another must see in Buenos Aires, not only because it is splendid, but also for its symbolic value. I am a former human rights lawyer, so to me visiting 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 is almost a rite of passage. I happened there during the demonstrations a few times, and it is a touching, intense experience. If you have an opportunity, join a demonstration: is what to do in Buenos Aires if you care about human rights.
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, one of the symbols of Buenos Aires! Casa Rosada is the seat of the Argentinian President, and the political heart of the city. There often are some interesting art exhibit in the garden, and during the summer months Porteños enjoy eating their lunch in the park right outside. This is one of the most local things to do in Buenos Aires.
Shop at the Feria de San Telmo
The most charming barrios of Buenos Aires are San Telmo and La Boca. San Telmo used to be somewhat a posh area where the rich Porteños used to live but then, after an epidemic of yellow fever in 1870, they moved to Recoleta. In the last few years, it has become an incredibly popular place to hang out, packed with artists and bohémien. It is known for its Sunday antiques market and for the lively Feria de San Telmo (the local market).
Walking around San Telmo, especially on Sundays during the feria, is one of the most fun things to do in Buenos Aires (and there are lots of good shopping opportunities). The area has a good local feel, there isn’t as much traffic as in Microcentro. And if you hang around long enough, you can even see a tango show in Plaza Dorrego.
Go to La Boca
La Boca is a major tourist attraction with its colorful and iconic Caminito. Walking a bit more into it, there are some interesting finds too. Besides, La Boca is where the Bombonera, Boca Juniors impressive stadium, is located. Visiting is one of the unmissable things to do in Buenos Aires, but keep in mind that, aside from the few streets that are packed with tourists, it tends to be a dodgy area – even locals will warn you to steer away from the non-touristy areas.
Visit Recoleta Cemetery
Visiting Recoleta is one of the most pleasant things to do in Buenos Aires. This is where the wealthy Porteños moved after the yellow fever epidemic of 1870. I particularly enjoy Avenida Alvear with its villas and shops. Recoleta is also home to the famous historic Cementerio de Recoleta, where lots of famous Argentinians are buried – first and foremost Evita Peron.
Walk around Palermo
Palermo is a good place to hang out and walk around. It gets crowded on Sundays, when Porteños go to one of the many parks and they can be seen drinking their mate – a bitter infusion made of yerba mate which they love (they even take the thermos, mate and cup and bombilla, which is the straw they use to drink it, on their travels!). Personally I never acquired a taste for mate, but the social experience of sharing it is one of the nicest things to do in Buenos Aires.
Walk along the river in Puerto Madero
I am a Puerto Madero kind of girl and that is where I love to go for a walk any time I am in Buenos Aires. Lots of Porteños enjoy running along the waterfront. There are excellent restaurants and pubs along the river, and some interesting art galleries. It’s one of the coolest places in Buenos Aires.
Admire the Puente de la Mujer
The famous Puente de la Mujer, a bridge planned by architect Calatrava, is Puerto Madero’s trademark and an unmissable sight. Make sure to stop for a photo. Going to see it at night, when it is beautifully illuminated, is one of the top things to do in Buenos Aires.
Visit the Museo de Bellas Artes and Museum of Latin American Art
When the weather is not good, one of the nicest things to do in Buenos Aires is visiting the museums. I recommend going to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, whose exhibit includes pieces of painters such as Renoir, Monet, Picasso and Gauguin; the Museum of Modern Art and the excellent Museum of Latin American Art (MALBA).
MALBA is located in a beautiful modern building located in Palermo neighborhood. It has a collection of contemporary and historical Latin American artist, such as Frida Kahlo. There are occasional temporary exhibitions which are very interesting.
Take a street art tour of Palermo
Buenos Aires is thriving with street art. The best place to see interesting street art pieces is Palermo Hollywood. I recommend going on a guided tour, with a good guide that will explain the historical, social and political reasons behind each mural; the technique used and who will put everything in context to give you a better understanding of Argentinian history and way of life.
Hang out in Plaza Serrano
Plaza Serrano is in the heart of Palermo Hollywood. 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 lots of nice souvenirs at a real steal. It’s a nice place to hang out – allegedly, one of the most local things to do in Buenos Aires.
Enjoy a craft beer
During my first trip to Argentina, I missed having a good craft beer. Things changed since then and now Buenos Aires is packed with excellent breweries. Some chain ones like Patagonia can be found all over the country. Others are smaller. Either way, having a good craft beer is one of the things to do in Buenos Aires. If you happen to be in Palermo in the summer, you’ll literally find them one after the other, each packed with a good mix of locals and tourists. It’s fun!
Or a glass of Malbec
Malbec is produced in the region of Mendoza, where you can visit the various vineyards and go on wine tasting tours. If you don’t have time to go to Mendoza, the next best thing is to find a good winery in Buenos Aires and pick a good bottle. It’s best done in good company and with a good steak!
Dance tango in a Milonga
Buenos Aires is (together with Montevideo) one of the birthplaces of tango. I am not a dancer at all, but I find tango incredibly sensual and passionate and I enjoy watching the shows. 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 advanced bookings; others are smaller and give a much more intimate feel. I like it either way. Needless to say, watching a tango show is one of the unmissable things to do in Buenos Aires.
These are some of the best tango shows in town:
- Café Angelito tango show tickets and dinner
- Piazzolla tango show with dinner and drinks
- Porteño tango show in Buenos Aires with optional dinner
- Madero tango show with optional dinner
You can even take a private tango class.
Watch a fútbol match at La Bombonera
I have always been under the impression that nobody could be more obsessed with football than the Italians, or the Spaniards. Then I went to Argentina and realized Italians are amateurs. People in Argentina take fútbol really seriously and the best way to understand how importantly they take it is to watch a game with them. And for an even better experience, watch one live at Bombonera, the famous stadium in La Boca. Here, the vibe is incredible, lively. For a real treat, try to get a ticket for the superclásico – Boca Juniors v. River Plate. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Buenos Aires.
Watch a polo match
Did you know that one of the national sports of Argentina is polo? You can go for a lesson, though I should warn you it is very expensive. Alternatively, you can go to a polo match at Campo Argentino de Polo. Games usually take place between September and November.
Eat a good asado
Vegans and vegetarians have a hard life in Argentina (though watch this space, there is an increasing trend in restaurants that only serve vegan and vegetarian food in Buenos Aires). As a proper capital, Buenos Aires has an incredible array of excellent restaurants. Fine Italian dining, sushi, pizzerias, Vietnamese food – name it: Buenos Aires has it all.
Yet, one of the best things to do in Buenos Aires, and that the locals truly enjoy, is eating a proper asado, a mixed grill with several kinds of meat: from the unmissable beef (the favorite local cut is bife de chorizo) to chicken, pork and lamb. Those who enjoy meat should never leave Buenos Aires without having tried it.
There are plenty of restaurants around town where to have asado. Locals typically go to places called “bodegon” – which are a bit cheaper than the restaurants tourists seem to prefer. A good bodegon usually serves other traditional dishes too, such as milanesa – a dish of breaded then fried meat that the Argentinians inherited from their Italian ancestors.
Gorge on empanadas
Few things are as delicious and as satisfying as empanadas, and eating them is what to do in Buenos Aires if you are craving comfort food. These are made with a bready kind of dough which is then filled with a variety of things – they can be nice and simple such as the ones with ham and cheese; they can have chicken and onions; beef and there even are vegetarian versions with eggplant, zucchini and pumpkin. Locals can distinguish the various kinds by the way they are closed. I haven’t been able to learn yet! My favorite place to eat empanadas is in San Telmo Market, at La Panaderia. There is always a line, but it’s worth waiting. Accompany with a cold beer for even better results.
Try dulche de leche and alfajores
I may be killed next time I am in Buenos Aires, but I admit I actually do not really like dulche de leche – a very thick, sticky spread made with condensed milk and heaps of sugar. Besides, I am lactose intolerant so I really can’t eat it. Having said so, locals swear by it, and enjoy alfajores – a cookie sandwich with dulce de leche in the center. Trying it is one of the things to do in Buenos Aires.
Have dinner at Peron Peron
Peron Peron is more than a restaurant: it’s a proper cultural experience. This nice restaurant opened a few years ago in Palermo Hollywood. It’s (obviously) run by Peronistas – Peron supporters and fans. Inside, there are photos of Eva and Juan Peron anywhere – but rather than feeling overwhelming, you’ll feel entertained and actually, the place is very cozy. At about every hour a song is played, the Peronistas anthem, and all locals sing it. It’s quite a show. Oh and food is actually delicious (I tried the empanadas de ossobuco and the milanesa), portions are generous and the prices reasonable. Make sure to reserve a table if you go with friends.
Spend a night at The Argentine Experience
If you want to learn a bit more about Argentinian culture in a fun way and while eating delicious food, spending a night at The Argentine Experience is one of the unmissable 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 they’ll help you order the best steak you’ll have in Buenos Aires. All of this while pouring excellent wine into your glass.
Experience the life of a gaucho
If you like horses and the idea of getting out of the city, one of the things to do in Buenos Aires is going on a gaucho experience. You’ll go riding, enjoy a fabulous meal and drink lots of wine in a gorgeous setting.
These are some good gaucho experiences:
Get out of town in El Tigre
Buenos Aires does get overwhelming, especially in the summer months when the heat is pretty much unbearable. One of the best things to do in Buenos Aires is getting out of town. I recommend going to El Tigre, a lovely small city at about 35 km from Buenos Aires that can be reached on an easy train ride from Retiro train station and where it is possible to take boat tours around the river delta.
These are some of the best guided day trips to El Tigre
Go on a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento
Another good day trip from Buenos Aires is to Colonia del Sacramento, in Uruguay, which can be reached by a quick (1 hour) ferry ride. 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.
These are some good day trips to Colonia del Sacramento:
Practical Information About Buenos Aires
Where to stay in Buenos Aires
There is an abundant choice of good places to stay in Buenos Aires. You should pick your place based on the kind of experience you want, and the area where you want to spend most of your time. I like Palermo, so I usually head there. Here is a short selection of places to stay in Buenos Aires:
- Hotel Clasico is a good boutique hotel in the heart of Palermo Soho. Rooms are small but comfortable, breakfast excellent. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Caravan BA Boutique Hostel is a fantastic hostel in Palermo Hollywood, with great dorms, comfortable private rooms and stylish and cozy common areas. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Master Hostel is a great budget options. Dorms have private bathroom. Breakfast is served in the student dorm on the other side of the street, but it is excellent. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
I will soon be publishing a more comprehensive post about the best places to stay in Buenos Aires.
Getting in and around Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires has two airports. Ministro Pistarini International Airport and it is known as Ezeiza. It’s located at about 1 hour drive from the center of town, and very well connected to the rest of the world. Aeroparque Jorgue Newbery, locally known as Aeroparque, is located in Palermo and connects Buenos Aires to the rest of the country, though there also are some international flights.
The best and cheapest way to move around Buenos Aires is by public transportation. Buses and subway are efficient and easy to use, and connect the various neighborhoods. You need to get a SUBE card to be able to use the public transportation, and regularly top it up with credit.
Taxis are easy to get, and they aren’t expensive. Uber is illegal in Argentina, though some people still use it. It’s better if you actually download the app Cabify which allows you to order a cab telling you the price you’ll be paying by credit card. It’s very easy to use – it works pretty much like Uber.
Have you ever been to Buenos Aires? What are the things to do in Buenos Aires that you enjoyed the most?
Pin It For Later!