Buenos Aires is Argentina’s capital city and the second largest city in South America. I was born and raised in Buenos Aires and put together this complete guide to the city, including useful information, tips and personal recommendations based on local knowledge. My Buenos Aires Travel Guide is aimed at travelers who want to experience the city as a local.
Anything can happen in Buenos Aires. Sometimes it is completely chaotic, and there are moments where the city is peaceful, people sit in cafés reading the newspaper as if time stood still. Buenos Aires is electric but also melancholic. You wil love this city and you wil hate it too. Buenos Aires does not go unnoticed.
Buenos Aires city (and Argentina) is commonly associated with tango, great steak and red wine. And it is true, but also Argentina’s capital city has so much more. Buenos Aires is not a city where you need to rush from one main attraction to the other to see them all. There are no top 5 museums or things to see. Visiting Buenos Aires is more about experiencing the different neighbourhoods, enjoying great food, the bars, the parks, the coffee, and just walk around.
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina. It is an autonomous district, this means it is not part of Buenos Aires Province, although it physically is. It is also named like Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (Autonomous City of Buenos Aires) or Capital Federal (CABA). Greater Buenos Aires (In spanish: Gran Buenos Aires) is the urban agglomeration comprising the autonomous city of Buenos Aires and the adjacent districts over the Province of Buenos Aires. If you visit Buenos Aires, you’ll probably visit the barrios(neighbourhoods) marked in the map: Belgrano, Palermo, Recoleta, Retiro, Puerto Madero, San Telmo, La Boca, San Nicolas and Monserrat.
When to go
The best months to visit Buenos Aires are from September to November, during spring. It never gets super cold here (around 10°c in July) but summers can be really hot and humid. December and January are the hottest months.
Minimum stay: 3 nights – Ideally: 7 nights. Buenos Aires is a huge city, so I suggest you stay for at least a few nights as there’s no way of seeing everything in one day or two. After visiting Buenos Aires you could visit other regions in the country like the beautiful Patagonia Argentina.
The currency in Argentina is Argentine Pesos ($1 usd = $16/$17 pesos).
Spanish. Well, it’s actually Argentine spanish.. we use so many unique words and phrases that you probably won’t hear in any other spanish speaking country. It’s not TU, it’s VOS.
Public transport is the most common way to get around Buenos Aires. You will need a magnetic SUBE card to get on buses (bondis or colectivos), subways and trains. The SUBE is a rechargeable card available at post offices, kiosks and tourist assistance centers. The cost of the card is $25 pesos (1.6 USD) and they can be reloaded at subways stations, national lottery spots,convenience stores, etc. The subway ticket costs $7,5 pesos, while bus and train fares vary between $5-10 pesos.
Buenos Aires is known as the “Paris of South America” because of its beautiful European-style. The architecture of the city was influenced by European immigrants that came in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, in search of a new home. Immigration came mostly from Spain, Italy, Britain, France and Germany. You will find all styles of impressive buildings in Buenos Aires, from neoclassical to modern and contemporary, just remember to look up. In the last 20 years large immigrant crowds have arrived in the country from Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, China and other countries so the city is a blend of Latin lifestyle with a strong European influence. If you like to see cities from above, there are some buildings in Buenos Aires you should visit. My favourites are: Galería Güemes (entrance is $50 ARS/$3 USD) and Palacio Barolo (tours available from $245 ARS/$15 USD).
Things to do in BA
- Avenida 9 de Julio and Calle Corrientes
Take a stroll along 9 de Julio Avenue. It is the widest avenue in the world! Located in this avenue is the Obelisco, the icon of the city and a postcard you can’t miss. From the Obelisco, stroll down Avenida Corrientes, an emblematic street of BA. It’s full of cafés, theaters, pizzerias, and bookstores.
- Colón Theatre
Teatro Colón is one of the world’s best opera houses, prestigious for its exceptional acoustics and architectural features. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. I really suggest to do the guided tours.
- Casa Rosada and Plaza de Mayo
Casa rosada (pink house) is the office of the President of Argentina and one of the most emblematic buildings in Buenos Aires. Tours in English are available on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 12.30 and 2.30 p.m. Casa Rosada is located in Plaza de Mayo which is the city’s most famous square, being the scene of the 25 May 1810 revolution that led to independence. Plaza de Mayo is often used for local protests, so I suggest you check the news before you plan your visit.
- Recoleta Cemetery
Are graveyards on your list of “places to see” when visiting a city? They should if you’re visiting Buenos Aires. Recoleta Cemetery is home to Buenos Aires’ most famous tombs including Evita’s. The cemetery is located in the neighbourhood of Recoleta, one of the most beautiful and also priciest in the city. Floralis Genérica is located in this barrio: a giant flower made of steel that closes its petals at night and opens up again in the morning.
- Puerto Madero
Puerto Madero is one of the newest barrios of Buenos Aires. It used to be a port and now it’s the area where all the modern offices and luxury buildings are located. The landmark of this district is the Women’s Bridge, designed by Calatrava. Puerto Madero is also the location for Buenos Aires Ecological Reserve: A 865-acre reserve bordering the Río de la Plata River which shows a great contrast.
- MALBA Museum
The Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires is the best art museum in the city. It owns a unique collection of work by artists such as Antonio Berni, Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo and Fernando Botero. It also houses pretty good temporary exhibits and the building itself is worth a visit.
- San Telmo
Along with La Boca, San Telmo is one of the most traditional barrios in Buenos Aires. This historic neighbourhood is really worth a visit: colonial houses, quaint paved streets, street antique markets, vinyls and tango. Every Sunday an antiques fair takes place in San Telmo, where you can find the most weirdest objects(and people). It is definitely one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the city.
- La Boca and Caminito
This neighbourhood is famous for its colorful houses which are probably one of the most popular attractions for tourists. La Boca beautiful houses have a story behind: it was the place where immigrants first established themselves when they arrived in Buenos Aires around 1830. They didn’t have much money so they lived in these shared houses called “conventillos” which were made of sheet metal mainly. The most famous street in La Boca is Caminito, a pedestrian street bordered by many colorful houses. La boca is mainly a place to walk, enjoy some food, buy souvenirs and see tango artists perform on the street. La Boca is immersed in fútbol (soccer) because of Boca Juniors Stadium. This was Maradona’s local team. Its main rival team is River Plate (Monumental stadium). If you’re into fútbol, you should try to catch a match between these teams, a “superclásico” as we call it.
Palermo is the bohemian, chic neighbourhood of the city. It’s a great place to enjoy cool restaurants, bars, open- air markets, fashion boutiques and street art. Palermo is also home to a series of immense gardens worth checking out: Botanical gardens, rose garden, Japanese gardens and Palermo woods. Palermo is awesome for foodies, street art lovers and digital nomads!
- Planetario Galileo Galilei
When you visit Palermo woods, stop by the planetarium, which is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Inside the Planetario visitors have the opportunity of contemplating simulation of eclipses and meteor showers. Tip: see it from the outside at night, when all the stars turn on.
- El Ateneo Gran Splendid
I know you’ve probably been to many bookstores before but have you ever visited a book shop inside of a theatre? El Ateneo Gran Splendid is a unique bookstore, located in a building that used to be a theatre. You can choose a book and read it while you enjoy a coffee.
Buenos Aires is full of big parks where you can just sit and relax. Take a break from the city sounds at Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur or meander through Palermo woods or Jardín Botánico. My favorite park is Plaza San Martin in Retiro, which is sorrounded by many emblematic buildings like Kavanagh, which was once the tallest building in the world.
- Other Museums
Other museums in the city which are worth visiting are: MAMBA (modern art museum, located in San Telmo), CCK (A cultural centre located in the former Buenos Aires Central Post Office) and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (An art museum that contains paintings from the most famous painters in the country).
Where to stay
Microcentro is a neighbourhood with plenty of places to stay. As it’s a financial area it is really crowded during daytime and there’s no one after 8 pm. The positive point is you will be within a walking distance to many main attractions. If you want to stay in a quieter neighborhood I suggest to look for a place in Palermo or Recoleta. Here are my recommendations:
- Hostels: Hostels start at about 150 ARS (8 USD). I recommend Caravan BA, a boutique hostel located in Palermo or Benita Hostel, located in the heart of Recoleta.
- Budget Hotels: Hotels start around 300 ARS (18 USD) for a twin/single room. I recommend Hotel Viejo Telmo located in the historic neighborhood of San Telmo or Hotel Prince, which has an excellent location in Recoleta.
- Mid Range Hotels: There is a great variety of mid range hotels in the city, prices go from 900 ARS (50 USD)to 2000 ARS (115 USD). For modern comfort I recommend Pulitzer Hotel, located in the heart of Buenos Aires. I also recommend L’adresse Hotel Boutique, which is located in modern Puerto Madero and Esplendor Plaza Francia in Recoleta. There’s also a good amount of Airbnb hosts in the city, you can get a private room from around $400 ARS (20 USD).
- Luxury Hotels: If you’re looking for a luxurious experience there are some amazing hotels in BA. Palacio Duhau is an exclusive hotel located in Recoleta inside an actual palace. Alvear Palace is another unique luxury hotel in the city, decorated with french style. And if you want to have the best view of the city, you should stay at Hotel Panamericano, a hotel located just 300m away from Obelisco.
What to eat
Argentina has delicious food, and you can’t leave the country without trying the following:
- Asado – It may look like a barbecue but it isn’t! Meat is cooked in a “parrilla”(grill) using carbon and wood. The best place to eat an asado is in a house really, because it is a social gathering for us, but there are many “parrillas” that also serve good asado.
- Dulce de leche – A thick caramel, result of condensed milk. We put it in everything. Try dulce de leche ice cream.
- Empanadas – A typical food served as entry. A pasty stuffed with beef, chicken, veggies, cheese, etc.
- Alfajores – Sort of a biscuit, usually made with chocolate and dulce de leche. Try it in Havanna Coffee with a submarino (Argentine hot chocolate).
- Milanesa – Basically breaded beef, chicken or soy. Everyone loves milanesas.
- Mate – A herbal drink, typical from latin america. We drink mate everywhere: at work, in the park, at university,etc.
- Ice-cream – If you thought Italian gelato was the best, you need to try Argentinian helado! My favorite ice cream shops are: Rapanui and Freddo.
- Pizza – We have an amazing pizza culture in Argentina. You should try it at least once. One of the most popular pizza places in Buenos Aires are Guerrín and Kentucky.
The best neighbourhoods to eat are Palermo and Belgrano, there are plenty of restaurants to choose. I know you probably think we eat meat all the time but it turns out there are a lot of healthy food restaurants so don’t panic if you’re vegetarian! Some of my favourite healthy restaurants are: Ninina Bakery, Green Eat and Birkin Café. I will write a post exclusively about places to eat in Buenos Aires so stay tuned.
Where to shop
Buenos Aires is a really expensive place to do shopping compared to other countries. But I still suggest you visit Galerías Pacífico shopping centre, at least just to see the beauty of its beaux arts building. You can also go shopping at Av Cabildo or Av Santa Fé, Alto Palermo mal and around Palermo Soho area.
Buenos Aires is also known for it’s nightlife. If you still have the energy after visiting every neighborhood, coffee and bookstore during the day, you can go to a boliche (disco club) and dance until 7 am. You should know that we start our nights really late. If we are going out, we usually gather with friends for the “previa” around midnight and go to the boliche around 2 am. Yes, for real. There’s a craft beer revolution happening in Buenos Aires and the city is full of bars offering really great beer, specially in the neighborhoods of Belgrano and Palermo. Plaza Serrano is a notable spot for bars and restaurants in Palermo Soho. One of the most known attractions for young travelers in Buenos Aires is Bomba de Tiempo (The Time Bomb), a percussion show with unique environment and an awesome party that happens every Monday.
Take a day trip
I strongly suggest you get outside the city and go north to Tigre, San Isidro or Vicente López. Just an hour away by train, you can escape from the hustle of Buenos Aires and enjoy a lunch by the river, or visit Puerto de Frutos in Tigre (a local market with crafts, furniture and food). Another day trip could be getting a one hour ferry to the beautiful city of Colonia in Uruguay.
Have you been to Buenos Aires? What did you like the most? Is there anything else you want to know about my city? Please let me know in the comments.