Buenos Aires is the capital and most populous city in Argentina. It’s a city well known for football, wine, steaks, tango, European architecture, and much more. Many hikers and trekkers making their way to Patagonia will first fly into Buenos Aires via Ezeiza International Airport before making their way further south. If you have a layover or some extra days in your itinerary, or are just planning to visit Buenos Aires, take advantage of your time in the “Paris of the South America”. Having spent a few months in Buenos Aires, I have a great feel for the “must sees” of the city. Here are my top 15 things to do in Buenos Aires!
1.) Go To La Bombonera To See Boca Juniors Play A Football Match
Club Atlético Boca Juniors is a football club located in La Boca Argentina. Boca Juniors in the most successful club in the history of Argentina football. If you’re a fan of European football, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of players who used to ply their trade at La Bombonera. River Plate is the largest rival of Boca Juniors, which was quite funny, as my apartment was in the area of heavy River Plate supporters. Having seen matches at both stadiums, my nod goes to La Bombonera for energy and atmosphere. If their schedule matches up with yours, make sure not to miss a match!
2.) Visit La Boca
Buenos Aires is made up of 48 barrios that are divided into 15 comunas. La Boca is one of the most popular barrios for tourists, as you get to see the iconic multi-colored buildings and main street, call Caminito. If you’re only in town for a short while, this would be a great spot to walk around and take some pictures.
3.) Visit Recoleta Cemetery And Floralis Genérica
“Don’t cry for me Argentina, the truth is I never left you”. Just about everybody knows the first line to this song by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and are familiar with the name “Eva Peron” or “Evita”. My apartment in Buenos Aires was located in the barrio of Recoleta. Recoleta is a residential neighborhood with beautiful architecture, great restaurants, and is home to Recoleta cemetary, where you will find the grave of Eva Peron. After walking through the cemetery, continue on and you’ll find the basilica, Floralis Genérica, and the UBA school of law.
4.) Take A Spanish Language Class
I traveled down to Buenos Aires without knowing much Spanish, or Castellano. People from Buenos Aires are called Porteños, and like most places, the Porteños have their own dialect that’s different from the same language that others speak. Most notably in Argentina, the “ll” and “y” are pronounced with a “sh” sound and not the “y” sound I was used to from Mexican Spanish. There is also a good deal of slang. I was fortunate to pick a lot of this up in my language class at a school called Ecela. I had the most incredible teachers, Leila (I was her pollito), Juan, and Nadia.
Most importantly, I met a lot of great friends in my language class. We were all in the same boat with our Spanish skills, so we were able to communicate and get by in English until our Castellano improved. I met friends from all over the world in this class, and it is for this reason I’d recommend you sign yourself up!
5.) Learn To Tango And See A Show
Let me just start with a little bit of honesty here and tell you that I’m a terrible dancer. Not only that, I usually hate dancing. I have to admit though, there is something special about the tango. Maybe it was my love for the culture, the consumption of parilla and vino, the need to work off all the dulce de leche, or just the incredible music and atmosphere. Whatever it was, I had a great time taking tango lessons and going to watch a show. I saw a tango show at Cafe Tortoni first, which was great, but pretty expensive. Don’t be put off by this, there are tons of great tango shows to be caught throughout the city.
6.) Take A Trip To Colonia, Uruguay
Colonia is a city in southwest Uruguay, and a short ferry ride away from Buenos Aires. Although I’d recommend a couple of days here, this can easily be done as a day trip. Colonia is one of the oldest towns in Uruaguay, and it shows quite beautifully over narrow cobblestone streets, old buildings, and a feel for walking back in time. There are a number of great restaurants to try, and no shortage of beautiful walking paths to take in the views.
7.) Take A Trip To Iguazu Falls
There is something about waterfalls that can’t be captured in words or a photograph. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to feel the power of water succumbing to the power of gravity, you know what I’m talking about. Get this, Iguazu Falls has a flow rate of 62,010 cu ft/s! Now, this isn’t a short day trip, but you can do it in two or three days if you catch a flight. Take my word of advice on this, a bus may be cheaper, but you’ll spend two whole days getting there! Once you’re in the park, the views are nothing short of spectacular. Along the walkways to each fall, you become immersed in the jungle. I saw monkeys and a tucan in my first hour. The most impressive section of the falls is Garganta del Diablo, as almost half of Parana river’s flow falls into this narrow chasm. It’s a must see. This is a Buenos Aires side trip that gets my highest recommendation.
8.) Enjoy The Great Nightlife
If there is one thing Buenos Aires is known for amongst the younger crowds, it’s the nightlife. It took me some time to adjust to eating dinner at 9pm on a weeknight, but when you see little kids (3-7) getting helado (ice cream) at 11pm, you realize it’s just a part of life. On a side note, the three main helado shops by my apartment were Freddo, Persicco, and Volta…Freddo all the way! Back to the nightlife…there are great places for nightlife to be found all over the city.
For my money, the best is Palermo. After going to just about every barrio to experience the nightlife, my friends and I always found ourselves wanting to go back and hang out in Palermo Soho. During the day, Palermo is a shoppers paradise. During the night, it’s a paradise for good times. The number of bars and restaurants that just “feel right” is off the charts here. If you only have one night in Buenos Aires, take my word for it and head to Palermo Soho!
9.) Eat! Go Out To Dinner And Grab Some Parilla, Vino, And Dulce De Leche Helado
I can honestly say that I never had a bad meal in Buenos Aires. I think a lot of that has to do with the price to value ratio that’s always in my head. At the time of my travels, I received 5 pesos for every dollar. Right now, you’re looking to get close to 9. When the currency exchange is this favorable, it’s really easy to enjoy yourself at a restaurant. Never in my life had I been able to look at a menu and order whatever I wanted for weeks on end. It was majestic!
As for what kind of food to order, you have to start with the Argentine parrilla. Parrilla means grill, and can also mean steakhouse in South America. This is some of the best grilled meat I’ve ever had. The beef is much leaner than what we’re used to in the States, which gave it a very nice flavor. A few times I would order the Parrillada Completa, which is a complete meat mix of everything they have off of the grill. My favorites were the beef, chicken, and sausage. I didn’t like it, but if you go all out, you have to try the blood sausage. There are a great number of traditional Argentine restaurants as well. For the first few nights in town, me and my new friends ate exclusively at these restaurants. We quickly discovered how much more there was to eat! One of our favorites was Olsen, a Scandinavian restaurant. We also enjoyed quite a few meals at Milion.
Every good meal has to be accompanied by a great bottle of wine. Here in California, we’re very aware of the incredible wine coming out of the Mendoza region in Argentina. If you’re not aware, make sure to share a bottle with each meal. Then, to finish the meal, go and get some helado at one of the places I mentioned under nightlife.
10.) Enjoy Mate With Some Friends
You can’t visit Buenos Aires without trying mate. Mate is a traditional caffeinated tea drink made form the leaves of yerba mate. My first purchase in Buenos Aires was an extension cord, my second was a gourd and bombilla (straw). A portrait stays in my mind of every Porteno with gourd and bombilla in hand. Each morning I would see countless people enjoying the drink. The best way to enjoy mate is with friends. You can bring a gourd and bombilla along with a thermos of water, and have yourself a great time.
11.) Visit San Telmo on a Sunday And Grab An Empenada
The barrio of San Telmo hosts the Feria de San Telmo every Sunday from 10-4pm. If you can make it, this is not an event to miss. Not only will you see the beautiful neighborhood of San Telmo, you’ll also get to watch tango in the streets, see street performers, eat great food, and buy antiques, art, and trinkets from vendors. This is a great opportunity to grab an authentic Argentine empanada and take in the beautiful Porteno culture.
12.) Visit Puerto Madero For A Nice Dinner
As I mentioned in the post about dinner above, your dollar will go a long way in Buenos Aires. That comes in handy in places like Puerto Madero. Puerto Madero is a barrio right along Rio de La Plata. If you’re up for a walk, Puerto Madero is a nice place for dinner after seeing Casa Rosada. If you’ve already seen the sights, do like I did many a night, and take a cab. Puerto Madero is where a lot of new buildings are being constructed with quite a few high rise towers. If you’re looking for a romantic place to have dinner, this could fit the bill. Sitting right along the river, quite a few restaurants offer nice views and the perfect place to walk afterwards with the Santiago Calatrava bridge in sight.
13.) Observe A Protest
Okay, so this probably isn’t something that’s going to show up on many lists, and the sheer factor of timing will rule it out for most. Nevertheless, the people of Buenos Aires know how to have fun at a protest. I met a lot of really cool people just walking around trying to understand what was going on. While I was down in Argentina, President Kirschner imposed a massive tax on farmers. In turn, the farmers shut down roads (one was on my way to Iguazu), and descended in mass to La Casa Rosada. I was just wandering around taking pictures one day, with a plan to finish at Plaza de Mayo. Well, when I arrived, there were tens of thousands of people there. It turned out to be quite the spectacle, and I got within 2o feet of President Kirschner.
14.) Ride The Subway
Buenos Aires is a very large city, but still very walkable. For longer distances, the subte lines were a life saver. Some of the lines were jam packed during rush hour, but it still made for a fun experience. Just like visiting in New York, the subway system is a must see for those traveling around the city.
15.) Visit La Casa Rosada, Plaza De Mayo, Nueve De Julio, and Obelisk de BsAs
Plaza de Mayo is to Buenos Aires what the National Mall is to Washington D.C. Walking around the plaza you can see some of the most important Argentine government buildings. This includes Casa Rosada, which is similar to our White House. Casa Rosada is the executive office and presidential mansion. Next to Casa Rosada in the Plaza, you can see buildings for banking, intelligence, and many other federal offices. If you take a short walk away from the Plaza you will cross the massive Ave. 9 de Julio. It is at the intersection of 9 de Julio and Corrientes that you’ll find the iconic Obelisco de Buenos Aires.
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