What to Do in Buenos Aires
On my most recent trip, I ventured down to South America for my first time! Buenos Aires was our first stop and it was incredible. The culture, the colors, the food, the people. I loved everything about it. If you don’t know me, you don’t know my travel style. While I like to relax a little, I can’t do so until I feel like I have had time to see EVERYTHING the city has to offer. It absolutely kills me to go to a city, only to return and have someone ask me the dreaded question, did you see FILL IN THE BLANK, and realize I missed something amazing–especially when the destination is an 11-hour flight away! So that’s what I’m here for, to make sure that you know exactly the stuff to see. After combing through travel books and online articles, consulting with our concierge at the Four Seasons, as well as friends who live locally in Buenos Aires, I compiled a list of what I consider to be the best things to do in Buenos Aires.
1. Sip Coffee and Munch on Alfajores in a Coffee Shop
One of our first stops after our overnight flight was a coffee shop, Havana. They serve the most delicious coffee and alfajores in the city in my opinion. And trust me, I made it my business to try an alfajore roughly every 2 hours. By the way, an alfajore is a soft cookie made from cornstarch with dulce de leche in the middle and covered often in meringue or chocolate.
Take in a tango show. Yes, it’s touristy but that’s like saying don’t see a Broadway show in New York City. This is where the best tango dancers in the world dance so don’t miss it. Most shows are set up the same way, you can have dinner at the theater and then see the show or you can simply come to see the show. We asked around and spoke with numerous people, the best tango shows are: Rojo TangoCafe de los Angelitos and Gala Tango. If you’re interested in saving some money, I’d skip dinner, which is a little overpriced in my opinion at most of the shows.
3. Tango Some More–Late Night
Another essential experience while in Buenos Aires is to visit a milonga (tango clubs). One very traditional milonga is Salon Canning. It takes you back in time about 60 years as many milongas attract older crowds. Tango, however is experiencing a resurgence among hipster youth so many welcome novices. If you’re brave enough to try to tango, call ahead as many milongas offer classes before they open. Other milongas that are popular: La Viruta and Tango Cool.
4. Dulce de Leche Till You Drop
Before I left for Argentina I wasn’t too psyched about Dulce de Leche being that I’ve always been more of a chocolate person. But I am a convert. I am obsessed with this milky caramel now. You can get it in almost anything in Buenos Aires! From ice cream (a must at Persicco and Freddo) to alfajores to flan. I recommend visiting Cafe Tortoni, the city’s oldest cafe, founded in 1858, grabbing a coffee and some dulce de leche dessert!
5. Cafe Tortoni
Just mentioned above, this charming cafe embodies a European appeal that will make you feel like you’re in Paris in the 1920s. A must for everyone visiting.
6. Become a Night Owl
The first night I was in Buenos Aires, I learned that the evening doesn’t begin until at least 9:30 and even that is considered to be on the early side. Restaurants don’t become crowded until at least 10:00 PM. This will give you a chance to go grab yourself a drink before your meal. The city is filled with bustling nightlife and fabulous bars. One of my favorites was Gran Bar Danzon. This bar, which boasts exposed concrete walls, bar food with class and a trendy crowd, it’s a must-try. Cocktails are fabulous and their enormous wine list is for the most part, available by the glass. Other great bars: 878 (whiskey bar) and Isabel, a cool and trendy bar.
7. Become a Beef Connoisseur
Argentina is famous for its delicious, grass-fed beef. Even the strictest of vegetarians would have a difficult time coming here and not trying a steak. My two favorite steak restaurants in Buenos Aires were La Cabrera and El Mirasol. La Cabrera’s professional staff serves enormous portions with numerous complimentary side-dishes. Everything here is so tasty but we especially loved our steak covered in blue cheese! YUM! El Mirasol is a more traditional steakhouse but they do everything right, including the complimentary glass of champagne! Make sure you have a ground beef empanada here, they’re the best! You won’t leave either of these restaurants hungry. Another great place for Argentinean meat is Cabnia Las Lilas.
8. Go Italiano!
I ignorantly had no idea about the vast Italian population in Buenos Aires before my trip. Little did I know that in addition to incredible beef that the city serves up some of the best Italian food in the world. I kid you not, I had three Italian dinners and they all rivaled Italy’s cuisine. I would even argue that it was better. My favorite Italian joints were Piegari and Sottovoce (in Puerto Madero).
9. Puerto Madero
An evening stroll in Puerto Madero and a romantic dinner by the water is a must in this up and coming neighborhood. Check out Museo del Jamon for great apps and drinks.
10. El Ateneo
A grand, splendid bookstore. Just walk in and go upstairs to check out the view, it’s beautiful. You simply must take a shot of this revamped old theater.
11. Recoleta & Cemetery
Recoleta is a beautiful neighborhood in Buenos Aires that takes you back in time to the era when Buenos Aires was at it’s finest. The neighborhood boasts French-influenced architecture and all the fanciest stores. I enjoyed strolling around and ultimately walking to Cementerio de la Recoleta. The cemetery is a labyrinth of above ground tombs and mausoleums, including that of Eva Peron’s, which you’ll recognize by crowds surrounding it. To visit the museum is free, to stay forever though is pretty expensive. The cemetery is the most exclusive resting ground for the elite of Argentina. After you’re finished here, grab a coffee at La Biela. I don’t recommend eating right across from the cemetery because most of the restaurants that we tried here were pretty mediocre (especially Lola & Montana Ranch).
12. San Telmo Market
This antique market along Defensa and Balcarce streets was one of my favorite parts of our trip. The market is every Sunday and opens at 11am. It is filled with street performers and antique dealers lining every inch of the streets. You can get anything from antique seltzer bottles to t-shirts, to paintings by local artists. A must-see in my opinion. Rain or shine.
13. Teatro Colon
While the original Teatro Colon opened in 1857 across from Plaza de Mayo, this one opened in 1908, this opera house is among the most opulent in the entire world. It is from the best days of Buenos Aires. Has some of the best acoustics in the world. If you have a chance, see a show here. If you can’t, you must have take a tour. They only run for an hour.
14. Take in the Arts
I think a visit to the Museo de Bellas Artes, one of South America’s most prestigious museums, as well as Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) are musts. Although I wouldn’t spend too much time at either, they are definitely must-sees. Museo de Bellas Artes contains famous works from 19th and 20th century Argentinean artists while MALBA is a fantastic collection of Latin American Art that includes works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. There is a great cafe here if you’re hungry!
15. Be a Lady Who Lunches in Palermo Soho
Wander through this chic neighborhood filled with trendy shops and cafes. Be sure to pop into Cafe Cluny for lunch while you’re here.
16. La Boca
A visit to this colorful tourist trap is a must. Stroll down the cobblestone strip of shops and quaint cafes. Enjoy the tango shows in the street and the adorable souvenirs. Get out of here though by 6 and don’t venture into surrounding areas, as they are not safe.
17. Become a Football Fan
See the passion in action that South Americans are famous for during a Boca Juniors game. Many fans from other cities take as long as a 14-hour bus for a 90 minute game just to root for their team! Be careful though, it is recommended to visit with a group and to hang onto your wallet! I wasn’t able to attend since football season had just ended. Boo!
18. El Zanjon de Granados
When you need a break from rummaging through antique gems at the San Telmo market, pop into this old restored mansion and learn about the history of the neighborhood.
19. Plaza de Mayo
A visit to Buenos Aires’ oldest, historic square is a must. It’s surrounded by historic, government buildings. While here you can pay homage to Evita at the Presidential Palace (Casa Rosada) and see the balcony where she spoke to her country (and where Madonna sang her famous song in the film Evita). Museo Evita is also located here, I’m not sure it’s a must-see but if you’re into her, you’d probably find it interesting. This square is also the meeting place of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, who claim their children were abducted by the military dictatorship. They still gather here every Thursday at 3pm. The famous obelisk is located here as well.
20. Stroll Down Avenida Corrientes
There are numerous bookstores, cafes, theaters and pizzerias. Some of the city’s most famous bars reside here as well like La Giralda, or El Vesuvio.
21. Take a Day Trip
If you’re here long enough there are some incredible things to do just outside of the city. Take a tour of Tigre, Colonia or visit an Estancia. I highly recommend a guided tour with Guillermo who runs Camino Pampa. Check out his website.