We visited Buenos Aires as part of our 6-month trip around South America, and it became one of my favourite places in the world quite quickly. We booked for 3 nights, stayed for 6. It was gripping. Too beautiful and interesting to leave. The people were amazing. The food outstanding. The climate perfect. It was also the place we met two English lads skiing their way round the world, who fast became some of our favourite people ever. After sharing a corned beef hash made with the corned beef they’d bought back from their day trip to Uruguay and six bottles of wine, we became friends for life. Here are my recommendations for visiting Buenos Aires:
Explore La Boca on a walking tour
The La Boca region in Buenos Aires one of the most interesting and resilient neighbourhoods I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Although we were cautioned not to be in the neighbourhood past dark, La Boca in the day is fascinating. We took a tour with Buenos Aires Free Walks (although the tour was a set price of $400 ARS per person) and was informal and engaging; turning out to be a highlight of our time in BA. La Boca is the place where tango was born as result of the bohemian and artistic culture of the immigrants and is full of life and colour. As football (soccer) fans, it was great to see the Boca Juniors stadium, too. Something to note – there are no ATMs in La Boca, so best to withdraw your cash before you get there.
Indulge in San Telmo’s Sunday Market
We stayed in the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires at the Circus Hostel and Hotel, which meant we were a stones throw from its famous Sunday market. With unique artisans and antiques, the market runs every Sunday from 10am – 4pm. With its base in Plaza Dorrego, the market spills out into the surrounding streets. You can spend hours here browsing the antique wares, tasting the local street food, and indulging in a glass of wine or two. The best part of the market comes once its closed, however. See below for more information.
Watch locals dance the Argentine Tango
It would be criminal to visit Buenos Aires, without lending a few hours to watching the locals dance Argentina’s famous Tango. We browsed online to find a show but our backpacker budget couldn’t stretch to the slightly obscene prices. We’d heard that some local bars and restaurants often had dancers, but in the end, our experience of the Argentine Tango couldn’t have been more authentic.
Once the Sunday market in San Telmo has well and truly closed, you’ll find some locals in the middle of the square quietly and slowly setting up their cardboard dancefloor and donning their dancing shoes. While we were there, a couple of regulars kicked off the proceedings, before locals and a few travellers began to join in. We saw all ages and genders dancing with one another, and it was beautiful. A truly heart-warming and wholesome experience.
See the Recoleta Cemetery
It seems like a really odd thing to put in a ‘must-see’ for any city, but the Recoleta Cemetery is absolutely fascinating. The Culture Trip sum it up perfectly, but my takeaway from our visit here is that some of the tombs are bigger than houses I’ve been to in the UK. Declared the city’s first official public burial place in 1822, the cemetery is now home to over 6,400 graves including Evita herself. Be sure to pick up a map on entry and explore these incredibly beautiful tombs for a few hours.
Visit the Japanese Garden
It was absolutely scorching the day we headed to the Jardin Japones, and after paying our $150 ARS to enter, we were quick to find shade amongst its low-hanging trees. We spent a few hours gently exploring the garden, with a mandatory ice cream stop midway to cool off. I’m far from a horticultural expert so won’t go into detail. All I know is that the place is stunning, extremely tranquil, and feels like a little slice of paradise in the centre of a very busy Buenos Aires. Also, the Coy Carp are HUGE.
Visit the Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur
We were extremely lucky with the weather during our time in Buenos Aires, and a planned museum day turned into a trip to the ecological reserve to enjoy the sun. Full with families, joggers, bikers and friends, it seemed as though this large green space on the east side of the city was popular with all walks of life. We just walked the marked circular path which took about an hour, but people were stopping for picnics and afternoon naps. A good place to enjoy the sun!
Wander the San Telmo district
San Telmo turned out to be my favourite district in Buenos Aires. It is less commercialised and feels more authentic and local that a couple of the other districts we visited. There are amazing places to eat for a fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere, lovely little streets to roam, and small plazas to sit and watch the world go by. It has great transport links to all other parts of the city including Palermo and Recoleta, so is a good base from which to explore Buenos Aires.
Get lost in a beautiful bookshop
I am a book nerd. Always have been and always will be. But you don’t have to be a book nerd to appreciate the grandeur of El Ateneo. Opened in 1919 as a theatre, and then used as a cinema, El Ateneo Grand Splendid is now home to the most impressive bookstore that I have ever seen. Pick up a book (you’re allowed, even if you don’t intend to buy it); head up on stage and behind the curtain to its in-house coffee shop and park yourself there for an hour or two.
See a soccer match
We tried and failed to get tickets to a soccer match, but our new friends as mentioned in the intro managed to bag tickets to a Racing game. It was actually the Buenos Aires derby, meaning the opponents were Boca Juniors themselves. We’re told the atmosphere was electric.
The interesting thing about Argentinian football, is that only the home side are granted fans in the stadium. The opposing team’s fans are no longer granted access due to the high tensions between them and the danger it causes. It’s a sad truth that many football fans in Argentina lost their lives before the ban was put into place, so this is how games have been played out since 2013. Though we didn’t catch a match here, we did in Mendoza, as we wanted to experience this strange side to Argentine football.
Buenos Aires Street Art
The Argentinian capital is fit to burst with street art on almost every corner in some districts. Buenos Aires Free Walks also offer a street art tour for the same cost as the La Boca tour ($400 ARS), though to be honest, we just took a walk around to see what was on offer.
Eat and drink your way around Buenos Aires
Argentina is a food lovers mecca. We ate (and drank) a considerable amount in Argentina – when the wine is that cheap, it’s hard not to. To keep it cheap, buy wine and beer from the supermarket to drink in the plazas during sociable hours, or buy wine by the bottle when dining out as this works out considerably cheaper. In San Telmo, the Mercardo San Telmo offers street food traders, artisan wine and beer, and bakeries all under one roof. It’d be easy to spend the day in here, working your way through the food and drink. El Banco Rojo was a tasty cheap eats place in San Telmo which we frequented on two occasions due to its incredibly tasty, affordable food, and its great atmosphere. It’s also where we watched the Boca Juniors vs Racing match when we couldn’t get tickets. Craft beer is ace here, too.
We filled our days in Buenos Aires to the brim, and even then we only scratched the surface. It’s a place full of character, history and charm and I’d return in a heartbeat. If you’ve been to Buenos Aires, what was your favourite thing to see or do?