There are so many things to do in Buenos Aires that a lifetime wouldn’t be enough to fully appreciate the city, 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 old meets new: 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. It’s a place of milongas (tango dance rooms) and cafés where locals gorge on medialunas (tiny croissants) and drink submarinos (Argentine hot chocolate); it’s a city of flea markets and of excellent futból (soccer).
Curious to know more about Buenos Aires? Then continue reading this post as I take you through the best city in Argentina.
38 Great Things To Do In Buenos Aires
Walk around Microcentro
One of the unmissable things to do in Buenos Aires is to walk in its the commercial heart. This is where the trendy locals can be seen in the morning, all dressed up on their way to work or jumping from one business meeting to the other.
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, 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 landmark in Buenos Aires you can’t miss not only because it is splendid, but also for its symbolic value. 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. You’ll also find people protesting for the British occupation of the Islas Malvinas – the Falkland Islands.
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! 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, this is one of the most impressive landmarks in Buenos Aires.
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 months 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, and an organ that dates from 1871.
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.
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 splendid theater you can go on a guided tour. Tours in English run daily at 1:00 and 3:00 pm; they last 50 minutes. You have to book ahead of your visit 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.
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 who took a major role in the country’s fight for independence.
Admire Palacio Barolo
Located in the Monserrat neighborhood, 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 (the local 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 in the last few years, it has become an incredibly popular place to hang out, packed with artists and a thriving cultural life, a fantastic food market and the artesania market – were you can shop for souvenirs on one of the 270 stalls scattered along the cobbled streets. The area has a good local feel, there isn’t as much traffic as in the center of town.
Keep your eyes out for pickpockets when exploring the market.
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 built above a river tributary to fend for what later on became the city’s latest settlement.
Guided tours for English speakers are Monday to Friday and on Sunday at 12:00 and 4:00. 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
The oldest bar in Buenos Aires opened in 1864 and is El Federal and you will find it in San Telmo, where it has made a point of keeping its vintage decor. For a true local experience, order a chopp de sidra – AKA a cider.
Another famous spot is 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 of 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.
For a guided tour of Recoleta Cemetery, click here. 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 on a Saturday or a Sunday make sure to swing by the Feria de Recoleta – it’s a lovely market right by the cemetery where you can buy all sorts of knick-knacks.
Visit El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookshop
If you are looking for more unique things to do, 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.
Marvel at the Floralis Genérica
Located in Plaza Naciones Unidas, this massive metal flower sculpture became a symbol of the city and a gift by artist Eduardo Catalano. 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.
Walk along the river in Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero is one of the coolest places to visit in Buenos Aires. This modern neighborhood 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.
Visit Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve
One of the best things to do in Buenos Aires, and particularly family-friendly if you want to spend some time busy in outdoor activities, is heading to this 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.
Another nice garden to visit in Buenos Aires is Paseo el Rosedal, a 4 hectares garden where you will be able to admire a multitude of roses. It’s located in Avenida Presidente Pedro Montt and it is free to visit.
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. Head back there at night to admire it when it is beautifully illuminated.
Visit one or all the museums
When the weather is not good, one of the nicest things to do in Buenos Aires is visiting the museums. 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 colonia 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 by 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 – Locarted 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 this form of art is on a guided tour where the guide that will explain the historical, social and political reasons behind each mural; the technique used andwill put everything in context to give you a better understanding of Argentinian history and way of life.
The best street art tours in town are given by Graffitimundo, a non-profit with the aim of supporting this form of art and run by local street artists.
For more information on graffiti tours of Palermo, click here.
Hang out in Plaza Serrano
Plaza Serrano is in the heart of Palermo Hollywood and a nice place to hang out – allegedly, one of the most local things to do in Buenos Aires. 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.
Another cool market is the Feria Artesanal de Palermo Viejo.
Visit the Botanical Gardens
Located in Palermo, near Plaza Italia, the Botanical Gardens are an incredibly pleasant place to visit and get a break from the chaos of the city. A perfect spot for a picnic, make sure not to miss the lake, the lovely fountains, the century-old greenhouse and the butterfly hall.
Mate – a bitter infusion made of yerba mate – is a cultural more than a culinary tradition in Argentina, so you have to try it at least once. Go by any park in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, and you will spot locals drinking their mate – they even take the thermos, mate and cup and bombilla, the straw used to drink it. Personally I never acquired a taste for mate, but the social experience of sharing it is one of the most local things to do in Buenos Aires.
Enjoy a craft beer
The craft beer scene has been thriving in Argentina in the last few years. Some chains like Patagonia can be found all over the country. Others craft beer companies are smaller. Either way, having a good craft beer is a must. If you happen to visit Buenos Aires 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!
Book a Malbec wine tasting tour here.
Argentina’s favorite after meal drink is Fernet. And the most popular cocktail is Fernet and Cola.
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 unmissable 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 advanced bookings – such is Café Tortoni for example, which first opened in 1858 and was were tango dancer Carlos Gardel used to perform.
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, just head to Plaza Dorrego, in San Telmo, on a Sunday. Dancers will pop up top entertain passersby.
Dance the night away in a boliche
If you are looking for something more contemporary, perhaps a boliche (nightclub) may be a better option. The best boliches in town are Bayside, in Punta Carrasco, Rose in Rio, on Rafael Obligado, Jet Lounge, also on Obligado, Crobar, on Avenica Cnel., Marcelino E. Freyre, and Niceto, on Niceto Vega, are also good options. Don’t bother showing up before 2:00 am!
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 in Buenos Aires 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.
For a guided tour of La Boca, click here.
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 incredible, lively. For a real treat, try to get a ticket for the superclásico – Boca Juniors v. River Plate. It’s one of the coolest things to do in Buenos Aires.
Not sure where to start looking for tickets for a soccer game? Click here.
If you aren’t in Buenos Aires during the championship, you can still opt for a guided tour of the stadium. You can book it here.
Watch a polo match
Did you know that one of the national sports of Argentina is polo? You can go for a lesson or attend a polo match at Campo Argentino de Polo. Games usually take place between September and November.
This isn’t a cheap thing to do, but it is a lot of fun. You can book it here.
Eat a good asado
Vegans and vegetarians may have a hard life in Argentina – though watch this space, there is an increasing trend in healthy food options in town. 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.
Check out my post A Guide To Food In Argentina.
Have dinner at a “closed-door” restaurant
Puerta Cerradas (closed-door) restaurants first opened in Buenos Aires in 2001, when local chefs badly hit by the economic crisis thought to open the doors of their private homes to serve gourmet dinners to just a handful of guests. Passed the crisis, the restaurants remained and thrived throughout the country and they are an incredible dining and cultural experience. The best is Casa Salt Shaker.
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.
Empanadas are made with a bready kind of dough which is then filled with a variety of ingredients – it can be a classic ham and cheese; chicken and onions; beef and – my personal favorite – the vegetarian version with eggplant, zucchini and pumpkin. Locals eat them so much that can distinguish the various kinds by the way they empanadas are closed!
One of the best places to try empanadas is La Panaderia in San Telmo Market. There is always a line, but it’s worth waiting. In Microcentro, Güerrin, close to the Obelisco is the best spot. If you are in Palermo, head straight to the tiny Ña Serapia.
Try dulce de leche and alfajores
This very thick, sticky spread made with condensed milk and heaps of sugar may bring your blood sugar to the next level, but locals swear by it so you really need to try it. You can have it plain, on bread or in the form of alfajores – a cookie sandwich with dulce de leche in the center.
Have dinner at Peron Peron
This is more than a restaurant: it’s a proper cultural experience. Established some years ago in Palermo Hollywood, it is (obviously) run by Peronistas – supporters and fans of the prominent political figure of Peron. Inside, there are photos of Evita and Juan Peron anywhere – 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.
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.
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.
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 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 they’ll teach you 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.
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 in Buenos Aires, in Buenos Aires Province, is a perfect place 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 things to do in Buenos Aires is going on a gaucho experience – the best place for that is San Antonio de Areco. You’ll go riding, enjoy a fabulous meal 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 a guided tour such as this one.
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