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 – as in many other cities in South America.
There are many cafés where the locals enjoy drinking coffee and eat medialunas (a medialuna is pretty similar to a small croissant); 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 everything you should do in Buenos Aires that is fun, budget friendly and that is simply unmissable.
These are some of the best guided tours of Buenos Aires:
- Highlights of Buenos Aires small group 3 hour guided tour
- Buenos Aires half-day sightseeing tour
- The best of Buenos Aires: full day walking tour
- Buenos Aires in a day – all inclusive bike tour
- North or south Buenos Aires bike tour
- Buenos Aires private tour with a local guide
You may also want to opt for this hop-on, hop-off tourist bus tour that will take you around the main landmarks in town.
32 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 here 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.
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, exploring Plaza de Mayo is another must-do in Buenos Aires, 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. You see, 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 people enjoy eating their lunch in the park right outside. This is one of the most sights in Buenos Aires.
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. If you just want to visit the splendid theater – which opened in May 1908 – you can go on a guided tour. Tours in English run daily at 11:00 am, 1:00 and 3:00 pm; they last 50 minutes and cost 1400 Argentine Pesos (around $20 USD).
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 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
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 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 unmissable and 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 the center of town. And if you hang around long enough, you can even see a tango show in Plaza Dorrego.
GOOD TO KNOW: A truly cool place to visit in San Telmo is El Zanjón de Granados. It’s a series of tunnels, cisterns built in the mid 18th century built above a river tributary to fend for what later on became the city’s latest settlement. You can go on guided tours from Mondays to Fridays and on Sundays. They last 50 minutes and cost 1000 Argentine Pesos (little over $14 USD) and for English speakers start at 12:00, 2:00 and 3:00 pm.
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 reserve 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 it was recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International in 2005.
GOOD TO KNOW: 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.
Go to La Boca
La Boca is a major tourist attraction with its colorful and iconic Caminito and a must-visit. 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. It’s one of those places in Buenos Aires you shouldn’t miss, but keep in mind that, aside from the few streets that are packed with tourists such as Caminito, this tends to be a dodgy area – even locals will warn you to steer away from the non-touristy areas.
You can book a guided walking tour of La Boca in English here.
Visit Recoleta Cemetery
Visiting Recoleta is one of the most pleasant things to do in Buenos Aires. This is where the wealthy locals 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.
You can take a guided tour of Recoleta Cemetery if you want to make sense of all the tombs. Book it here.
Visit El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookshop
Walk around Palermo
This part of the capital is a good place to hang out and walk around. It gets crowded on Sundays, when locals 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.
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 high, 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
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 locals 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 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.
GOOD TO KNOW: Another cool museum to visit is the Museum of Decorative Arts of Quinquela Martín, which is located in what was once the house of the painter which gives it its name, in the area of La Boca.
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.
These are some of the best street art tours of Buenos Aires:
- Graffiti and street art guided tour in English
- Hidden graffiti tour of Buenos Aires
- Small group Buenos Aires graffiti art tour.
GOOD TO KNOW: The best street art tours in town are given by Graffitimundo, with tours guided by local street artists and the organization run by a non-profit with the aim of supporting this form of art.
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 there 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!
GOOD TO KNOW: Argentina’s favorite after meal drink is Fernet. And the most popular cocktail is Fernet and Cola.
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 – such is Café Tortoni for example; 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.
Other good places to go for a tango show are La Viruta and Café Angelito.
You can even take a private tango class.
GOOD TO KNOW: If you are looking for something more modern, look for a boliche (nightclub). 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!
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 – 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.
If you aren’t in Buenos Aires during the championship, you can still opt for a guided tour of the stadium. Here are a couple of good options:
There even is a Diego Armando Maradona themed tour. 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, 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.
These tours all include polo lessons:
- Polo match and lesson day trip from Buenos Aires
- Polo lessons from Buenos Aires
- Become a polo player: day trip to Puerto Viejo estancia
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
This 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 – supporters and fans of this prominent political figure. Inside, there are photos of Evita 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.
GOOD TO KNOW: Another really cool place to enjoy a glass of wine, eat local food and generally chill in a sophisticated atmosphere is Floreria Atlántico, located on Arroyo 872.
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, in Buenos Aires Province 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
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 well as delicious local street food.
The best way to get there is to hope on like E of the metro all the way to the western edge of the city and from there catch a taxi.
Go on a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento
This small city in Uruguay, which can be reached by a quick (1 hour) ferry ride, makes for a 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.
These are some good day trips:
Check out my post “25 Cool Things To Do In Montevideo.”
GOOD TO KNOW: If you have the means to do it, you may also want to go on a day trip to Iguazu Falls. I honestly don’t recommend it as it deserves way more time, and it’s too costly to do it in just one day, but if you want you can book it here.
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, 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.
Make sure to check out my post “A Complete Guide To Where 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.
To get from Ezeiza International Airport to Buenos Aires city center, you have the option of getting the Tienda Leon bus that takes you from the terminal to various stops around the center of town, from where you’ll have to walk to your accommodation, or take a taxi. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or book your airport transfer.
These are the best transfer services from the airport:
- Private transfer from Buenos Aires airport – it’s not the cheapest option, but definitely the most comfortable.
- Transfer to or from airport with English speaking driver – prices are per group, so it’s convenient if you can share.
- Buenos Aires international airport transfer – it’s the most convenient option.
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 SUBTE 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?
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