Buenos Aires is a mixed up, or more like a joining of the new and old worlds. There is definitely the European influence with the colonial buildings and the people but also the South American wildness. In Buenos Aires you find tango on the streets, more meat than you can eat in a parrilla, an extravagant cemetery, beautiful buildings and high end shops, football crazed fans in dilapidated areas and as late (early) as you want nightclub scene. Hopefully this ‘what to do in Buenos Aires’ list captures that essence and helps you when visiting Argentina. It is a huge city full of attractions and sightseeing opportunities with the sound of buses flying by a constant. Unlike some other Latin American countries there are no native Argentineans and especially in Buenos Aires such is the European influence on the country. Even Che Guevara’s grandfather was Irish! You can even notice when in Argentina that the people are very European and you could easily be in Spain or Italy. Buenos Aires is an expensive city by South American standards and although not as expensive as Europe or North America it is not too far behind
Time to Do: The places mentioned should take approximately 2 days to do depending on how many parks (and bars) you visit.
Although BA is a huge place I’ll try and pick out my top 5 things to do in the city which should hopefully help you on your trip. It should be possible to do most of them in 2 days depending on how many plazas or pubs you intend to visit!
What to do in Buenos Aires – La Boca
The colourful area of Buenos Aires in every sense. The legoland colour of the houses to the colourful tango and Boca Juniors fans. The ‘Caminito’ street is packed with arts and crafts on a background of brightly coloured houses. There are often tango dancers performing in the street which are a joy to watch especially if you taking a break at an outdoor cafe. Its looks to me like an incredibly difficult and emotional dance that there doesn’t seem to have any structure to it. The caminito ends with the river that gives La Boca (the mouth) its name and a view of the port with an ugly industrial steel bridge across the river.
Boca Juniors are one of the most famous football clubs in South America and their ‘La Bombonera’ (the candy jar) stadium of blue and yellow is only a 5min walk from el caminito on Brandsen street. La Boca is one of the poorer areas of Buenos Aires and they are very proud of their most famous son Diego Maradonna with a bronze statue adorning the reception area. An experience of a lifetime would be to join the 49,000 fanatical Boca fans for a home match or even better for the superclassico against local rivals River Plate. The museum (35pesos) has a club history and murals splashed on the walls spread over 2 floors. A tour of the stadium can be taken where you get to onto the pitch, into the stands, the changing rooms and the press areas (Museum and tour, 50pesos). Open 11:00-18:00 and tours are from 11:00 – 17:00 hourly except when Boca play at home. www.museoboquense.com
Need to Know
La Boca is in a working class area of Buenos Aires and although packed with tourists, straying from that area is not advisable. I was walking from the bus to the stadium and although very close and could see the stadium I wasn’t on the main street. A police officer was on the street and told me to go immediately to another street parallel and do not go off it as it was ‘muy peligroso’ (very dangerous) so make sure to only stick to the tourist trail. La Boca is south of the city centre (microcentre) and 30min walk from San Telmo. To get to La Bombonera and to La Boca you can take any of the following colectivos (buses) southbound: 10, 20, 22, 24, 25, 29, 33, 39, 46, 53, 54, 64, 70, 74, 86, 93, 102, 129, 130, 152, 159, 168, or 186. These buses will bring you within a 5min walk of the stadium and the caminito.
What to do in Buenos Aires – Recoleta Cemetery (Cementerio de la Recoleta)
Covering 14acres in one of the richest parts of Buenos Aires gives you a sense of the importance of the site. The huge entrance gates is a sign of the importance (or self importance) of the people inside. The elaborate tombs can look like small stone prairie houses, Greek temples, Egyptian monuments and anything else you can think of. 70 of the tombs have even been declared historic monuments. The most famous international star in the cemetery (and the most visited) is Eva (Evita) Peron although her big tomb is nothing out of the ordinary. Anybody who had money a century ago is buried here including dictators, writers, scientists, generals, politicians and people with power. There are lots of spooky stories and strange statues around the place as well as a lot of cats to keep you entertained. The place is fairly easy to get lost in with the maze of little lanes everywhere but because of all the tourists it doesn’t really feel like you are in a graveyard surrounded by dead people.
Surrounding the cemetery in Recoleta there are several other attractions that are worth a look such as the 18th century Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Pillar and the little festival at Plaza Francia near the cemetery gets packed at weekends with artist selling their wares.
Need to Know
Admission is free and the cemetery is open from 07:00-18:00. Free guided English tours take place at 11am on Tues and Thurs and in Spanish from Tues to Sun at 09:30, 11:00, 14:00, 16:00. All tours start at the entrance. Colectivos 61, 62, 67, 92, 93, 124, and 130 stop near the cemetery in Recoleta. The closest subway (subte) is Pueyyredon on Line D and is a 20min walk away up Avenue Pueyyredon.
What to do in Buenos Aires – San Telmo
One of the oldest barrio’s in Buenos Aires with cobbled streets and crumbing facades, San Telmo has a street market every week that is not to be missed. It is a market area all week but it really comes alive on Sundays. Plaza Dorrego is a shady and dusty most of the week but on Sundays it is pumping with life with stalls selling antiques and tango dancers doing mesmerising loops in the shade of the trees. You can pick up musical instruments, painting, boxes, tins, chandeliers, fruit and almost any useless pieces of holiday junk you want. It’s not just Plaza Dorrego that gets full, all the narrow streets surrounding it are packed with traders with the main drag being Defensa. Even getting a bite to eat can take some time with the swarms of people there. During the week the market is in a wrought iron hall and there are still plenty of tango dancers to entertain you. San Telmo always gives me good memories mainly because of a very random incident I had when I was there which you can read in my Shakespeare post.
San Telmo also houses the National Historic Museum on 1600 Defensa open from noon -18:00 except on Monday. Not the best museum and admission is a donation. Another attraction that I didn’t really see the point of was the narrow house on Pasaje San Lorenzo just off Balcarce Street. It is narrow, I’ll give it that. Walking down the street and admiring the old plaster peeling houses though it pleasant.
Need to Know
San Telmo is very central and is only 10 blocks south of Plaza de Mayo.
What to do in Buenos Aires – Parks and Plazas
- Plaza de Mayo: Over 400 years old and still the centre of attention. This plaza has seen joyous celebrations and uprisings. It is in fact named after the uprising in May of 1810 against the Spanish. Surrounded by historic monuments of which one of the most famous is Casa Rosada (tours on Sat-Sun 10:00-18:00) where the president works and the balcony where Eva Peron, Maradonna and Madonna all addressed the crowds from. There is also the National Historical Museum as well as the Pyramide de Mayo all of which have long and interesting stories of how they got be what you see today. A strange ,interesting and sad sight used to take place every Thursday at 15:30 when Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (mother of the May Square)marched. They did this every week for 30years demanding justice for ‘the disappeared’ during the military’s rein from 1976-83. They stopped this march in 2006 but vowed to continue to march for other social causes. You can get there by the subway (subte) by using Line A to Plaza de Mayo, Line D to Catedral or Line E to Bolívar.
- Plaza San Martin: Located in the salubrious Retiro this very pleasant small plaza dedicated to General San Martin was designed by Carlos Thays (who seems to have designed most of Argentina’s parks). Also beside it is the red bricked clock tower – Tower of the English, changed to Torre Monumental after the Falklands war.
- Plaza Naciones Unidas / Plaza Justo Jose de Urquiza: More parks than plaza’s on either side of the road and contains the ‘Steel Flower’ only a short walk to the north east of Recoleta cemetery. This 23meter high stainless steel space aged flower opens during the day and closes at night is kept immaculately clean due to the fact it is in the middle of a pond and no vandals can get near it. This is also the home of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts)
- Park Thays (Parque Thays): A small park with lots of weird statues only a 5 min walk from Plaza Naciones Unidas south on Avenida Figueroa Alcorta. Named after its French designer Carlos Thays.
- Parks together in Palermo (Zoo, Japanese, Carlos Thays Botanical Gardens, Plaza Holanda): All these parks and plazas are connected to each other in some way and are well worth the visit from the nifty Japanese Gardens to the well regarded zoo all the way to the tranquil lake of Plaza Holanda. The two furthest points of these parks are about a 25min walk apart. A great place to take a relaxing stroll.
- Plaza de la Republica: One of the widest streets in the world (although it is more like a combination of streets) where the main arteries of Buenos Aires combine. Contains the 68mtr high Obelisk of Buenos Aires that was built to mark the 400th anniversary of the city in 1936.
What to do in Buenos Aires – Nightlife
Possibly one of the best cities in the world to go out in but make sure you’re ready to stay up until sunrise.7am is not an unusual time to go home at. Porteno’s (people from Buenos Aires) take starting late to new levels. It is not unusual to see people only arriving to restaurants for their dinner at midnight on a Saturday or having main course at 1am. To me coming from Ireland this sounds ridiculous as I would nearly be going home at 2am but in Buenos Aires things don’t really get started until you hit a boliche (nightclub) and have some cocktails. You can talk to anyone and plenty of randomers talk to you, it’s just the way it’s done in BA. When people talking about going to boliche’s early they probably mean before 2am which to most of the world is not early. You can get in for free in some if you get on their email list and be there ‘early’ but if you are only there for a few days that is not practical. There are a huge amount of bars and nightclubs to choose from and I won’t claim to have been to all of them but a quick list from my own experience and a compilation of others:
- Ocho7Ocho (bar): An underground ‘secret’ bar that makes most lists with its unfinished decor. Number 878 Thames,(between Loyola and Aguirre) in the Palermo District. Happy hour Mon-Fri from 22:00-21:00.
- Congo (bar): No sign and you may wonder why there are so many people queuing to go in a little door. Very hip place even though it let a tree up through the roof! On Honduras 5329 (between Godoy Cruz and Juan Justo)
- La Cigale (bar): One of the newer bars but has been around a while now that mixes locals, expats and cheap cocktails. Has a big night on Tuesdays. On 25 de Mayo (between Viamonte and Cordoba)
- Roxy Disco (boliche): A rock and roll sort of club that plays the classics as well as the new age stuff. One of the best in BA. More like a bar with loud music. On Av Niceto Vega and Humboldt. Open from 01:30am.
- Niceto Club (boliche): A club with club music that’s big nights are Thursday and Friday. Directly opposite the trendy ‘Carnal’ bar that has a very cool rooftop terrace. Open from 00:30am on Thurs, Fri and from 01:00am on Saturday. On Av. Niceto Vega and Fitzroy.
- Basement Club (in Shamrocks Bar): Yes it is a dance music playing club in an Irish bar but it doesn’t stop the locals from going. A small boliche on Rodriguez Pena 1220 north of crossing Avenida Santa Fe. Open 21:00 on Thurs and 01:00am on Fri and Sat nights.
Practicalities – About Buenos Aires
€1 = 7.00 Argentinean Peso, US$1 = ARS 5.40
- Language – Spanish. English widely spoken by hotels, tour operators, restaurants and broken English by the general public.
- City Buses – The buses in Buenos Aires are called Colectivos and are the most popular mode of transport in Buenos Aires. The buses are very frequent but can sometimes be difficult to find out where they go and where to get them. MetroBus also opened in 2011 which is a two lane corridor on Juan B. Justo Avenue which crosses both the B and D subway lines.
- Long Distance Buses – The main distance bus station is Retiro Bus station near Retiro Railway station where you don’t usually have to book in advance except during peak holiday season.
- Boat – Ferries to Uruguay (Montevideo and Colonia among others) are common and are done with Buquebus with the ferry across and then a bus to Montevideo. One way tickets can be from A$760 but are usually more expensive. The crossing of the River Plate can be bumpy. Even the cabin crew were getting sick when I was on it! www.buquebus.com
- Subway (Subte): A useful but not extensive system containing 6 lines, A-E and H). One journey costs A$2.50 with discounts only happening if you take 48 or more journeys. www.subte.com.ar
- Flights- International airport is Ezeiza which is 35km south of the city centre while domestic and shorter flights land in Aeroparque Jorge Newbery closer to the centre. Buenos Aires is a major South American hub so any long distance carriers fly there. The national airline is Aerolineas Argentinas. www.aerolineas.com
- Accommodation – $30 per night for an average double room. Dorms for $10
- Population of Buenos Aires: 3 million in centre, 15 million in greater BA area.
What to do in Buenos Aires – Map of Buenos Aires
|Caminito - La Boca|
Caminito, Buenos Aires, Argentina
|La Bombonera, Boca Juniors - La Boca|
Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Recoleta Cemetery (Cementerio de la Recoleta)|
Recoleta Cemetery - Azcuénaga, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
|Plaza Francia - Recoleta|
Plaza Francia, Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Plaza Dorrego - San Telmo|
Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Plaza de Mayo|
Plaza de Mayo - Hipólito Yrigoyen, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
|Plaza San Martin|
Plaza San Martín Suites, Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Plaza Naciones Unidas|
Plaza Naciones Unidas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Parque Thays, Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Palermo Zoo, Botanical, Japanese Gardens|
Zoo Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
|Plaza de la Republica|
Plaza de la República - Avenida Corrientes, Buenos Aires, Argentina
OCHO7OCHO - Thames, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Congo Bar - Honduras, Buenos Aires, Argentina
|La Cigale Bar|
Bar La Cigale - 25 de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
|The Roxy Bar|
the roxy bar, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
Niceto Club - Avenida Cnel. Niceto Vega, Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Basement Club - Shamrocks Bar|
Rodríguez Pena, Buenos Aires, Argentina
What to do in Buenos Aires – My Photo Gallery