Buenos Aires is a huge city, with noticeable European influence, a city divided in to many neighbourhoods, each with their own personality. Many other cities I love have this common feature, and it’s great as there’s a different vibe and culture in each neighbourhood. Seeing any big capital city takes time, and if you come here make sure you try to do all of my things you MUST DO in Buenos Aires. Don’t think about it, get a pen, write them down, pin the image on the right, and tag me in a post when you’ve done them!
1. Take a Tour
Okay this might sound obvious, but Buenos Aires is huge, and most people come here without enough time. Taking a tour will give you a quick overview of the city, you get a feel for what you like and what you don’t like, and it’s really important to get your bearings. If you want to see everything on my list, you’ll need to walk, take the metro, buses, taxis and even cycle. My tour suggestions are as follows:
Bike Tour: I took a tour with BA Bikes, they’re based in San Telmo and offer a Downtown Tour which includes La Boca, Plaza de Mayo & Puerto Madero and a Palermo Tour covering Recoleta, Plaza Francia and Floralis Generica (see below). I can honestly say the guide covered the history and facts better than any tour I’d been on, and was a massive Boca Juniors fan!
Free walking tour: Most cities have free walking tours, with the assumption that you’ll tip if you enjoy it. Free Walks Buenos Aires meets at 10:30am for the Recoleta Tour, and 3pm for the City Centre Tour. Why not take both? You can take the tour in English or Spanish.
Bus & Minibus: Buenos Aires has the usual open top bus tour, which I didn’t take, and also minibus tours which can usually be organised by your Hostel or Hotel. I’d suggest doing this outside of rush hour or if possible at the weekend when there is far less traffic than the week.
2. Recoleta Cemetary
Even if you see it on a tour, I’d suggest putting aside a couple of hours to explore Recoleta Cemetery and its mystical atmosphere. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, I wandered around for ages taking photos and exploring. The cemetery is home to graves of ‘notable people’, and includes that of the famous Eva Peron (Evita) which is a must see. You’ll also find the tomb of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak and her dog, where you should rub the nose for good luck! Which I did, and I got lucky (not in that way!).
3. San Telmo Market
The weekly Feria de San Pedro Telmo market on Plaza Dorrego is hugely popular and somewhat famous in Buenos Aires. It takes place in one of the oldest neighbourhoods every Sunday from 10am until 4pm. You’ll find antiques, souvenirs, artisans, trinkets and delicious food. I seriously recommend Asado, a traditional Argentinean barbeque with incredible meat and the famous Argentinean steak. Leave a lot of time to wander the streets and relax with a drink and watch live bands or a tango performance.
4. Learn to Tango
Nothing is more famous here than Tango, okay maybe Diego Maradona! So if you want to really experience Argentinean culture, then learn to Tango. There are a number of lessons available, or you could just give it a go. Having no previous dancing experience (unless drunken nightclub fist pumping counts), I chose a Tango evening which included a lesson, dinner and Tango show with Complejo Tango. And I thoroughly enjoyed it! First off, I was a bit of a natural, and secondly going solo you’ll find no shortage of partners especially as a guy, as there were far more ladies at the lesson. The lesson was followed by a delicious steak and really entertaining show that covered the history of Tango. And if you’re feeling really confident why not find a public Milonga and join in?
5. The Palermo Nightlife
Palermo has a reputation for its nightlife; the area has a cool and laid back feel to it and is a perfect mix of backpackers and trendy locals. There are a few squares or Plazas which act as central points including Plaza Serrano, but you’ll find some of the best spots in the surrounding area, along with some brilliant Street Art. Just be warned many locals say this is not the best place for food. Feeling risky? Find a speakeasy, ask around for one, you’ll probably need a password or a cheeky smile to get in (I used the latter). I didn’t get a good photo of the Nightlife, so this is some of the Street Art in Palermo!
6. El Ateneo Bookshop
The El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookshop is kind of as the name says, a grand and splendid bookshop! You’ll find it on Sante Fe Avenue in Barrio Norte, and was formerly a theatre for over 1000 people before being converted to a bookshop. The building keeps the original features including the impressive ceiling, but now there is a café on the stage and bookshelves replaced the seats. You can find plenty of cosy places to read a book you brought along yourself or one you plan to buy or borrow. My further tip is to head to El Club de la Milanesa round the corner, which serves amazing Milanesa another popular dish in Buenos Aires.
7. Take the ferry to Colonia
Buenos Aires is great, but it’s a very hectic and busy city which can get a bit much. A great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle is to take the ferry to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. The ferry itself takes one hour, but the journey is longer as you need to go through immigration and security. I went for the day which was enough to see everything, but if you do have longer I’d suggest also considering Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city. Colonia really was a breath of fresh air halfway through my stay in Buenos Aires. You can see most of the sites in one afternoon, and even hire a golf buggy to fit more in (it was great fun!). And I highly recommend staying for the gorgeous sunset from the Old Town, a sunset I won’t forget in a long time.
8. La Boca
A visit to La Boca is a must in Buenos Aires, it’s the home of the colourful houses you’ve seen in photos! Okay it’s all a little cheesy, and make sure you only visit in the daytime, and stick to the main streets including Caminito. There are plenty of restaurants for lunch, and tango performers or Maradona lookalikes willing to take a photo with you (for a tip!). But don’t go there after 6pm or wander too far from the centre as it’s still a very poor neighbourhood and not safe, many also suggest you don’t walk there. And of course La Boca is the home to Boca Juniors and La Bombonera, one of the most famous clubs in the world.
9. Watch Football
If there’s one thing Argentinean’s are passionate about, it’s their football. As a country they’ve produced some of the world’s best players, including Messi, Batistuta, Aguero, Zanetti, Crespo, Di Stefano and of course Maradona (to name just a few). In Buenos Aires, it’s mostly about two teams; River Plate and Boca Juniors. And amazingly I saw them play each other at El Monumental! That’s not going to be possible for everyone, but either way go to a match, soak up the atmosphere and feel their obsession with the game. There will be a further blog about the Superclasico coming later, watch this space.
10. Drink Mate
Mate is a traditional tea drank in Argentina, it’s an infusion of dried leaves of yerba mate, and is definitely an acquired taste. You drink it through a ‘bombilla’, a stainless steel straw and a wooden or metal cup. Drinking mate has many rituals, and certain rules in which a group of you drink mate, and the caffeine makes it far more popular in the morning. Another popular drink is Fernett and Coke, which at first I didn’t like, after trying it in a bar. Then later round a local’s house, I tried the real deal, which was much nicer.
I didn’t include it above because most tours will take you to these places. But make sure you see Plaza de Mayo and the Pink House and learn about the history, including the monument to Argentinean independence, the civil war and Evita’s place in history. Close to here you’ll also find the famous Obelisk (in the cover photo) and the Eva Peron wall art.
KLM flies to Buenos Aires, using Amsterdam as a hub, along with many other destinations in South and Central America, meaning you can fly in to one city and out of another, making your own way between them. Going via Amsterdam allows you to fly from 17 UK based airports, and from May 2016, Southampton will be added to this list. Changing at Schiphol (Amsterdam) is quick and easy, and they will often tell you your gate from the plane.
I flew to Buenos Aires as part of the KLM Music Guide campaign. My flights to Buenos Aires were complementary, but return flights from the UK start at £589, including taxes. All of the content, opinions and photography are my own, and I have not been paid for this article. Please take time to visit KLM’s website to support me on more adventures like this one!
Hostels: There’s a number of hostel options to chose from in Buenos Aires, but the Art Factory stood out as the trendy and fun place to hang out. There is one in San Telmo and one in Palermo. San Telmo is more spacious and relaxed, and perfectly placed for the San Telmo Market, bike tours, Plaza de Mayo and La Boca. The Art Factory Palermo is smaller but just as friendly, and right in the middle of the Palermo nightlife and a short walk from Recoleta where you’ll find the cemetery and Floralis Generica.
Hotel: I only stayed in one hotel in my time here, the relatively new Novotel on Avenue Corrientes, a short walk from Obelisk. The hotel has a relaxing sauna and pool, refreshing after a long day exploring! And I can honestly say the reception staff are some of the most helpful and knowledgeable I’ve experienced in a hotel, so I highly recommend Novotel if you’re not a hostel goer.
Pin for Later
Support Intrepid Escape by adding this article on Pinterest to read later and share with your friends. Is there something you’d like to add to my 10 things you must do in Buenos Aires? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy travels!