Things to do in Buenos Aires

When I arrived in South America I thought I wouldn’t find a city that would equal the European architecture and culture, but I was impressed to learn that Buenos Aires can easily be compared with some of the most beautiful cities from Europe. Argentina’s capital combines the characteristics of a multicultural center with the personality and identity of a latin city.

This map is all you need to get around the city and to find whichever address, transportation method or landmarks:

http://mapa.buenosaires.gob.ar/

The Government’s official site can also come in handy when you’re trying to find something to do:

http://www.turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/es

Also the official site of the gringos from Buenos Aires can help:

http://www.gringoinbuenosaires.com/category/culture/architecture/

If you want to be up to date with everything that`s going this site will be extremely helpful:

http://agendacultural.buenosaires.gob.ar/

 

Here`s a list of the things you should do in this city. These are just some suggestions, but the capital offers unlimited options, so you can find the right things for you.

 

A. Streets and neighbourhoods

 

1. Plaza & Avenida de Mayo

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This street intersects the 9 de Julio Boulevard and it connects the Congress House with the Government`s House, passing through Plaza de Mayo.

Most manifestations take place in this part of the city. As my building was facing this street, I witnessed several syndical protests in just one month. The most interesting event was the National Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice on March 24th when thousands of people marched to commemorate the victims of the military dictatorship.

Plaza de Mayo is the socio-politic heart of the city. If people are going to protest, this is where they are going to meet. It is probably best known for the association of women that was formed during the dictatorship (1976-1983), Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo. More than 30.000 people disappeared during these 7 years. Their relatives would gather in front of the Government`s House to ask about their faith and, as they couldn`t form stationary groups, they started marching in circles. The mothers that are now in their 80s still gather once a week as their questions haven`t been answered yet.

Source: libertadorhoy.com.ar

Source: libertadorhoy.com.ar

 

2. San Telmo

Most hostels, restaurants, bars and cafes are located in San Telmo. It’s one of the oldest boroughs in Buenos Aires, so most buildings are very beautiful, though not necesarily well mantained. Some areas can be dangerous at night. The best part is the San Telmo Arts Fair on Defensa Street. While you’re there, don’t forget to take a photo with Mafalda at the intersection with the Chile Street.

 

3. Boca & Caminito

Source: es.wikipedia.org

Source: es.wikipedia.org

Boca is the italian part of the city and one of the most dangerous areas. It is known thanks to the homonym football team and for hosting the open air museum Caminito. But you can also visit the Cinematography Museum and the Art Factory.

Caminito is a very touristic part of the city, as one would expect. The houses are painted in bright colours, the trees are covered in knitted multicoloured threads and you can admire (and buy) various pieces of art, such as statues or paintings. If you don`t get to spend the week-end in Buenos Aires, this is the best place to buy souvenirs. Also, if you are passionate about football this is the place to go!

The restaurants offer representations of tango, but you can admire the dancers without paying from the street. Also, you can take photos with the tango dancers. The overall atmosphere is very boheme and carefree.

A visit to Caminito shouldn’t take more than a few hours. The few commercials streets are safe, but outside this perimeter there isn’t much to see, so don`t wonder around much.

 

4. Recoleta

I believe that this exquisite neighbourhood is the most beautiful part of the city. The elegant streets show examples of gorgeous architecture and host most of the embassies and consulates. I never got tired of discovering the charming squares, streets, houses and exquisite stores.

If you`re looking to spend a “cultural” day, Recoleta is the the right place for you! You can visit the famous cemetery, the cultural center, the Fine Arts Museum, the Palais de Glace Museum, the MALBA Museum, the Architecture Museum, the Railway Museum and Floralis, the iconic statue.

Like all the important boroughs from the capital, Recoleta hosts a weekley fair in Plaza Francia. The cafes in the area are more expensive.

 

5. Palermo

Source: sobreargentina.com

Source: sobreargentina.com

Palermo is one of my favourite parts of Buenos Aires. It’s known for the design shops, the cafes and restaurants, most of them located around the Cortazar Square, where an artisans’ fair takes place during the week-ends. The small park Compañia del Oriente (ex Armenia) is an ideal place to relax and it also hosts a small fair on week-ends. Close to Plaza Italia you can find cheap used books.

Palermo is best known for its beautiful parks that are referred to as the lungs of Buenos Aires.

 

6. Puerto Madero

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This is the best example of urban rehabilitation that I`ve seen! This part of the city used to be dangerous, like any other slum with industrial buildings facing the canals. But they cleaned the canal and they transformed the barns into universities, museums (The collection of Art Amalia Lacroze) and high-class residencies It is now a pedestrian area with many restaurants and cafes. Both tourists and locals enjoy this promenade. The elegant bridge, as well as the boat transformed into a museum, are the main attraction points.


7. Florida Street

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Best place to exchange blue dollars in Argentina. In order to keep the inflation under control, the citizens don`t have the right to exchange dollars in banks, so they buy it from tourists. The rate you get on the street is far better than the official one, but you have to be careful with the fake notes! So the best option is to go to Argentina with cash and not to use your credit card. In order to benefit from this situation, there are people who cross to Uruguay just to withdraw dollars.

There are literally tens of people on this street exchanging  dollars, euros or reals. One friend came up with the idea of playing a drinking game while passing on this street. You just have to take a shot each time you hear the word “cambio” and you’ll be wasted in two blocks.

You can also buy tango or theatre tickets and book any kind of tour. You could stop by the commercial center to admire the interior.

 

8. 9 de Julio

Huge boulevard in the middle of the city that will be impossible to miss. The overly photographed obelisk can serve as a landmark. Don`t forget to stop by the Colon Theatre.

 

B. Culture

 

Buenos Aires has a lot of museums, cultural centers, theatres and galleries, so the cultural life is very active. If you check the cultural sites you`ll find that there`s always something going on, both in the main locations, as well as on the underground scene.

The city hosts important concerts and music festivals and you can always listen to live music. The “Bomba del tiempo” is a percution show that takes place every week.

Here you can find a detailed list with all the museums: http://www.turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/es/article/museos-de-buenos-aires

 

9. MALBA – Museum of Latin American Art Buenos Aires

This is the best example of contemporary architecture I could find in Buenos Aires. The permanent collection is good and the temporary ones are usually interesting, so it`s worth a visit (at least see the foyer).

 

10. MACBA – Museum of Contemporary Art Buenos Aires

Source: arq.clarin.com

Source: arq.clarin.com

 

11. MAMBA – Museum of Modern Art Buenos Aires

Source: buenosaires.for91days.com

Source: buenosaires.for91days.com

This museum is located right next door to MACBA, so you can visit both!

 

12. Fine arts Museum – free entrance

Source: wander-argentina.com

Source: wander-argentina.com

Interesting collection of European art, completed by examples of Latin american artists and temporary exhibitions.

 

13. Recoleta Cultural Center

Source: disfrutarbuenosaires.com

Source: disfrutarbuenosaires.com

Located right next to the Recoleta Cemetery, this cultural center always hosts some interesting exhibitions and events.

 

14. Recoleta Cemetery – free entrance, free guided tours

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This is the most important cemetery of the city, where you can find the tombs of many personalities. The tombs and crypts are decorated with beautiful statues. Most people just enter to take pictures of Evita`s burial place.

 

15. Government`s House – Casa Rosada – Casa Rosada

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The Government’s House, also known as the Pink House due to the colour of the facades, is probably Buenos Aires’ most emblematic building. Home of the presidents, this building has witnessed memorable events, culminating with the bombing in 1955 when the army raised against Peron. But it is better known for the public appearances at the balcony: this is where Peron spoke his last words as president of Argentina, where Galtieri gave the motivational speech about taking over the Malvine Islands or where Maradona celebrated the gaining of the World Cup in 1986.

 

16. Museum of Architecture

As I procrastinate I didn`t have time to visit this museum, but I think it`s interesting. From outside it looks great!

 

17. English Tower

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18. Floralis Generica

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Iconic statue for the city. The petals close after nightfall.

 

19. Colon Theatre

Source: buenosairessvp1.blogspot.com

Source: buenosairessvp1.blogspot.com

The building is rather massive seen from outside, but the main concert hall can leave you breathless!

 

20. Usina del Arte –Art Factory –  free entrance, free guided tours, free concerts

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The Government offers free guided tours to this old factory that has been converted into a museum. You can visit it only on some specific hours during the week-ends. It was very interesting to hear about the history of the place, especially because the guide was very passionate about his job, but I think the space is being underused. Basically you are entering a huge empty factory where they only have one art installation.

On the other hand, they have two beautiful concert halls where they organize weekly concerts. Usually you can enter for free.

The same building hosts the Museum of Cinematography.

 

21. El Ateneo

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Most beautiful library I`ve seen, located in an old theatre. It is a very good example of a functional conversion that maintains the cultural atmosphere of the original building. The café of the library is located on the scene. From the balconies on the first and second floor you can admire a memorable view.

 

C. Shopping & Fairs

 

Buenos Aires is all about shopping! You can find anything you wish for at very good prices if you know where to look!

Even though the argentine peso is almost worthless in other countries, from inside the country you wouldn`t tell that the things are going that bad. There are coffee shops and restaurants all over the city, especially in the touristic sides, but it`s very common for the locals to eat out or to have coffee in the city. Also the high number of stores indicates that there are people who are buying. On the other side there are many homeless people and beggars, but sadly that`s pretty common in South America.

Avenida Santa Fe is a long boulevard with kilometers of stores of all types. Corrientes is the best place to buy new and used books and also musical instruments. Palermo is known for the designer-stores, as well as Recoleta. In Boca you can buy souvenirs and jerseys. Go to Rivadavia if you`re looking for bargains. Go to Belgrano in the Asian City to get exotic food or typical objects.

The possibilities are endless, especially if you have enough time. But what I really like about Buenos Aires is the arts fairs that prove the creativity and ingenuity of the people. There is a fair or a flee market in every big neighbourhood, but I only chose to describe the more touristic ones.

 

22. San Telmo – only Sundays

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

This is the most important artisans` fair that everyone will recommend. It goes on for 11 blocks on the Defensa street up to the Dorrego square, so you can spend hours browsing. There are also many street artists playing music, joggling, animating puppets or performing other unexpected activities.  If you turn left at the Dorrego square and walk for a few blocks, the music will lead you to  a courtyard where some bands play live music. Here is where people gather to dance chacarera, the traditional folk dance.

At the fair you can find anything related to art, decorations, clothing, jewelry, accessories, mates, musical instruments or toys. It`s like going for a treasure hunt in search for the perfect souvenirs!

 

23. Palermo Fair – Plaza Cortazar – Saturdays and Sundays

This is a quieter and more intimate version of the San Telmo Fair. After browsing you can stop for a drink or dinner in one of the many bars that surround the square. Very close you can find a smaller fair in the Compañia del Oriente square that occurs in the same time.

 

24. Recoleta – Plaza Francia – Saturdays and Sundays

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This fair is a bit fancier. You can find antiques and silver jewelry, other than the things you can find at the other fairs. It is nice because there are many people sitting on the grass, drinking mate and chatting.

 

These three fairs are similar. If you have time, it`s nice to check them all. If not, I recommend the San Telmo fair because it more varied and more crowded.

 

D. Parks

 

Most parks are located in Palermo. This side of the city encloses the main green spaces from Buenos Aires and this is why the Palermo Woods are considered the lungs of the capital. Generally speaking the city lacks green spaces and play areas for children, so most parks are overpopulated. It can`t be considered a “green city” as the water from the river is polluted (so much that they can`t fish) and the ozone layer is particularly thin in this part of the world

 

25. Natural Reservation

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This reservation located behind Puerto Madero recreates the original aspect of the pampas before it was invaded by the Spaniards.  You can admire the wildlife and the plants. There are 2 or 3 swampy lakes, so the mosquitoes will eat you alive if you`re not using protection. Ideal to go for a run or for a bike tour. It’s amazing how a little bit of nature can disconnect you from the city – I was shocked every time I could see the skyscrappers raising above the vegetation, even though I was aware that I was in a big city.

 

26. Rosedal – free entrance

Source: www.jardineriaon.com

This gorgeous park can be considered a huge garden that displays various roses from all around the world.

 

27. Botanical Garden – free entrance

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Beautiful garden full of cats. You can admire the museum that exhibits temporary collections, the statues, the greenhouses and, of course, the plants. There is also a small yard filled with multicoloured flowers  dedicated to observing butterflies. This is the best escape during a sunny day.

 

E. Outside Buenos Aires: Tigre & Tigre`s Delta

 

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Tired of the crowded city? Visit this satellite town located at just one hour away by train from the center. The ticket is less than 1 dollar.

In the city you can visit several museums and a touristic fair where you can find all kinds of souvenirs and home-made goods. It is a very romantic and quiet town that makes you forget from the first steps about the fuss in the big city.

In here you`ll find many agencies selling boat tours on the canals of Tigre`s delta. The length of the trips varies between a few hours and a few days, depending on how much you`re going to visit. You can also chose to go camping and I`m not sure about fishing, but I think you can do that as well.

 

F. Churches

 

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Source: heraldicaargentina.blogspot.com

Source: heraldicaargentina.blogspot.com

Buenos Aires can be proud to show examples of very rafined architecture and the churches are no exception to this rule.

The most famous one is the Iglesia del Pilar from Recoleta, located right next to the cemetery. The most memorable examples are located in the microcenter, especially in San Telmo and Montserrat.

 

G. Notable bars

 

Souce: roundwego.com

Souce: roundwego.com

In Buenos Aires you will find a lot of bars, cafes and restaurants, but some of them really do stand out and contribute to the porteño culture. The authorities elaborated a list of the most important bars that are protected by law. In order to be on this list, a bar has to fulfill at least one of several criteria. Some of the oldest bars in the city are considered cultural heritage, alongside the ones that have an interesting design or architecture. Moreover,  some bars on this list have a political or cultural significance and they are representative for the identity of the city.

Most notable bars are located in the city center, in San Telmo and Montserrat. On this site you can find the official list:

http://www.turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/es/article/bares-notables

You can get a map of the notable bars at the touristic info points and start your own treasure hunt!

 

H. Tango

 

Source: travel.nationalgeographic.com

Source: travel.nationalgeographic.com

Buenos Aires is the capital of the most complex dance in the world. You can watch live shows in theatres, restaurants, cafes and especially milongas. If you’ll visit Caminito you’ll notice that most restaurants offer live shows and that many costumed dancers offer to take photos with you (in exchange for money). There are also many tango schools in case you decide to learn a few steps.

For me it seems that most professional performers dance automatically, without joy. This is why I would rather go to a non-touristic milonga and watch amateur performers. They might not dance perfectly, but I believe that they put more soul into the gestures.

 

I. Football

 

In Argentina football is a religion! In order to understand a bit of the Argentine culture you have to watch a live match. Everyone will tell you that it’s not so much about the game itself as it is about the atmosphere in the tribunes where you can observe the passion of the supporters.

Most touristic guides will recommend the “Bombonera” Stadium, located in Boca. But watching a game at the rivals’ stadium, the River Plate,  can be equally entertaining. Everywhere in Boca, especially in the touristic side, Caminito, you’ll find stores selling jerseys and other related souveniors. You can even take photos with statues of famous players. Also you can visit the museum of “La passion bocuense” or the stadium, but it is probably more convenient to go watch a game.

Warning: don’t wear jerseys of the rival team, River, while you`re in Boca and don’t engage into endless football related conversations with the locals! They’ll never let you let you leave!

 

J. Where/What to eat

Source: lolovera50.wordpress.com

Source: lolovera50.wordpress.com

In Buenos Aires you`ll find thousand of places where you can eat a proper meal or have a snack. The most visited areas of the city are practically invaded by restaurants due to the large amount of tourists. However, when it comes to diversity there aren`t so many options and if you`re a vegetarian you`re gonna have a bad time.

If you want to have a quick snack, the empanadas or the choripan  are the best option because they can be found everywhere at low fares.

If you want to try the famous barbeque, there are hundreds of steak houses where you can also try the world renowned Argentine wines. Most of them are located in the center, in San Telmo, Av de Mayo, Florida or Lavalle. Another option is to have dinner in Puerto Madero, but the rates are a bit higher.

When you’re done with the meat you can try the international cuisine, especially the Peruvian and the Mexican one. If you’re looking for a cheap meals try the ¨Kilo restaurants¨, where you pay for the wheigh of your food.

If you’re going to a fair, such as the one in San Telmo, you’ll have to keep yourself from buying all the goods ’cause temptation is everywhere. There will be people selling everything from barbeque to snacks (pan relleno, empanadas, nachos), tarts, cakes, pancakes and warm and cold beverages.

 

I’ve heard many tourists saying that Buenos Aires is ¨just another city¨, but I completely disagree. It is one of the most diverse cities I’ve been in and I would enjoy living here.

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