Things to see & do in Buenos Aires

The ‘Paris of South America’ hums with an energy born from the rhythms of tango, from streets lined with elegant cafes and from a passion fuelled by great steak and legendary footballers. Buenos Aires, Argentina’s sophisticated, yet bohemian capital is like no other city in South America, where chic European influences are tangled irreversibly into a heady Latin culture.

This is the city where the beloved Eva Evita Perón made impassioned speeches to the city’s working class descamisados from the iconic Casa Rosada in the Plaza de Mayo, the city that gave us Diego Maradona and the infamous Boca Juniors, and where evenings start late and the passionate strains of tango can be heard until dawn.

As the main destination for most international flights into Argentina, spending a few days in Buenos Aires at the beginning or end of your vacation to Argentina is easy and wholeheartedly recommended. Take in a tango show in San Telmo or dance the night away with local Porteños (Buenos Aires’ residents) at a milonga, or tango hall, enjoy a glass of Malbec and a mouth-watering Argentine steak at one of the city’s many asado grills, or take a boat ride up the yawning Rio de la Plata to the tranquillity of the Tigre Delta.

Buenos Aires highlights

San Telmo

By day, lively antiques markets line the cobbled squares of Buenos Aires’ oldest barrio, while dancers tango to busking violins on street corners. This is the heartland of tango and by night, the faded grandeur of San Telmo comes to life with spectacular tango shows. Or, do like the Porteños do and visit a local milonga to dance the night away. The outdoor Milonga del Indio at Plaza Dorrego on a Sunday night is particularly special.

La Boca

The working class dockside district of La Boca is famed for its football, street art and the colourfully painted buildings along its pedestrianised El Caminito. Football is a defining Argentine passion and no visit to Buenos Aires is complete without a visit to La Boca’s Bombonera stadium, home to Boca Juniors and where Diego Maradona honed his craft. Stick to the main tourist areas and refrain from flashing your cash, and this edgy barrio is a beguiling place to explore.

Palermo

One of Buenos Aires biggest neighbourhoods, park-filled Palermo exudes a Parisian charm. Here trendy Palermo Soho is home to eclectic restaurants and chic cocktail bars, while modern Latin American masterpieces are showcased at the Museo del Arte Latinoamericano (MALBA). Alternatively, immerse yourself in local history at the Mueso Evita, which chronicles the life of Eva Perón.

Recoleta

The elegant, tree-lined streets of Recoleta hide a host of boutique shops, cafes and galleries, but this upscale district is more morbidly known for its spectacular statue-lined cemetery. The final resting place of Eva Perón, among other Argentine aristocracy, Recoleta cemetery is a darkly tranquil place to escape the buzz of the city for a few hours. Alternatively stroll past Recoleta’s palacial façades for a taste of Buenos Aires in its early 20th century heyday.

Puerto Madero

The former port district has been refurbished into a modern, buzzing barrio famed for its excellent waterside restaurants. Only a short walk from San Telmo or the central Plaza de Mayo, Puerto Madero has become one of the city’s most exclusive gastronomic destinations, with evenings here filled with fine Malbec wine against a backdrop of original dock installations.

Tigre Delta

Board a boat at Puerto Madero for a trip along the Rio de la Plata – the widest river in the world – to colonial Tigre. Sat on the lush Paraná Delta, Tigre boasts a wealth of riverside restaurants where you can while away the hours watching fishermen at work. Tranquil river cruises explore the delta’s channels and forest-covered islands, while Tigre’s famous fruit market offers tempting treats.

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Practicalities

Most long haul international flights arrive into the biggest of Buenos Aires’ three airports – Aeropuerto Ministro Pistarini, also known as Ezeiza International Airport. From here the journey into central Buenos Aires will take around 40 minutes by taxi or private transfer – or up to an hour and a half in heavy traffic. Public buses also ply the route into the city, but will take around two hours.

All tours, whether small group adventures or a bespoke, tailor made itinerary, will base you in one of Buenos Aires’ most historic or elegant barrios, like San Telmo or Palermo, and usually only a few blocks from some of the city’s main sights. This gives you plenty of opportunity to stroll safely in your free time and soak up the city’s atmosphere. Some tours also include a wlking tour with a local Porteño (resident of the city) for an edgy glimpse into behind-the-scenes life.

For longer journeys around the city take a look at the excellent online interactive map that’s also an app – Comó Llego (in Spanish) – which will plot subway, bus, walking and cycling routes for you across Buenos Aires.

As with any big city – and greater Buenos Aires is a huge, sprawling urban conurbation (the fourth largest in the Americas) – there are areas that are a no-go, and places where you’ll need to keep your wits about you and an eye on your belongings, especially if you’re taking in an evening game at La Bombonera stadium in La Boca. Your guide, hotel or vacation company will be able give you plenty of advice to keep you safe.

Buenos Aires and...

Look beyond the city and Buenos Aires’ position at the center of Argentina’s transport networks makes all kinds of vacations possible. Head out into the Argentine pampas for a stay on a traditional estancia ranch, where you can learn to live like a gaucho or try your hand at polo. For adventures further afield you can hop on a short flight from Buenos Aires down to Patagonia for towering glaciers and spectacular trekking, or head north by bus or plane to the thundering Iguazu Falls on the border with Brazil. From here you can continue north to feisty Rio de Janeiro, famed for its beaches and its colourful carnival. Alternatively, head out west across the Argentine pampas to Salta, where the surrounding desert yields multi-coloured mountains.

Most Argentina small group tours will combine a few days in Buenos Aires with other highlights in Argentina and beyond, all in the company of an expert local guide. Alternatively, vacation companies offering bespoke tailor made tours can weave guided tours of Buenos Aires into longer South America itineraries.

When to visit Buenos Aires

Ultimately you’re going to want to time your stay in Buenos Aires to fit the rest of your vacation plans. November to March or April offers the best conditions for hiking in Patagonia, for example, but the December and January summer brings peak temperatures to Buenos Aires – a humid 30°C. Consider traveling either side of this high season, in the September to November spring, or March to April autumn when temperatures in the city are more pleasant and Patagonia is still accessible, yet less crowded. Between June and August the city experiences rainy days and relatively cold temperatures of around 15°C. October to November, when the jacaranda trees are in bloom, is a particularly picturesque time to visit Buenos Aires.
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: Lilen Scarpitta] [Intro: Deensel] [San Telmo: Hermann Luyken] [Recoleta: Deensel] [Buenos Aires and...: Javier Vidal]
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