Since I moved to Buenos Aires I’ve written dozens of articles about this city. All of these articles were published on this blog. As time passed (and as I learned how to write tour guides) I started to dislike my old articles. So now I present you with THE COMPREHENSIVE BUENOS AIRES TOUR GUIDE.
In this guide, you can find out all about the places you can visit, find the related links and some information you should know before you visit. As for food, I will direct you to my article called “Argentine Cuisine”. (in translation process right now.)
- Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina. It is located in the central-eastern part of South America.
- There are two different sized areas. These are the city of Buenos Aires (CABA – Ciudad Automa de Buenos Aires) and Buenos Aires Province.
- Spoken Language is Spanish. Even though the young population knows English it can be hard to find someone to understand you in English. So, it’s an advantage to know Spanish.
- The currency is Argentina Peso (ARS).
- You can see the currency exchangers that shout “cambio” all over the city. These people will give you a better exchange rate than banks but it is very risky to exchange currency on the streets. You need to take into consideration that your Peso can turn out to be fake. If you don’t know one or don’t have a reference for a cambio person you are better off using an exchange office or a bank.
- You may have heard some information about how cheap Argentina is but since 2016 Argentina started to do some economic reforms and life has gotten more expensive because of these reforms. Since its economic condition isn’t stable yet, the exchange rate of ARS is changing constantly. But I can say that Argentina is not a cheap place.
- Cold and rainy winter is in June, July, and August and the summer is in December, January, and February. BA has a mild climate and it doesn’t snow in winter.
- International flights usually land in the larger International Ezeiza Airport (EZE). If you’re flying domestically or if you’re coming from a close-by country it is possible for you to land in Aeroparque Jorge Newbery Airport (AEP) which is closer to the city center.
- SUBE cards are used in public transportation in BA. You can Use SUBE cards in the subway, buses, and trains. Public transportation is really advanced. There are some bus lines that run 24 hours a day.
- You can buy SUBE from subway stations or the kiosks that have SUBE written on them.
- When you get on the bus you have to say where you are going (Recoleta, Palermo, etc.) before you use your SUBE card.
- Tipping is expected. Generally, it is appropriate to tip in the amount of 10% of the bill. Some restaurants can add a service opening fee and still expect you to tip.
- The service is really (and I mean reaaaly) slow in Argentina. I would advise you not to go out eating when you’re really hungry. Because it can easily take up to 30-40 minutes for your meal to be ready.
Places to Visit
Microcentro is the name given to the city center where both busy business centers and some important historical sites are next to each other. This area that covers a few districts is one of the most dynamic places in the city.
Plaza de Mayo is one of the oldest and most important squares of BA. It has been the administrative center of the city since it was established. Today, important structures like Casa Rosada (Office of Argentina’s President), Cabildo de Buenos Aires (historical city hall), and Cathedral Metropolitana are located in this historic square.
One of the busiest shopping streets of the city Calle Florida is also located here. If you walk straight down Avenida de Mayo that is located right across the Casa Rosada, you will find Congreso (the parliament building) at the end of the road. Right before you reach Congreso, you can see Palacio Barolo on the left side of Av. De Mayo. You can visit this building that was inspired by Dante’s divine comedy by attending the hourly tours.
If you choose to go across Diagonal Norte that lies in front of Cathedral Metropolitana (official name: Avenida Presidente Roque Saenz Peña) instead of going straight through Av. de Mayo, you will first reach Obelisco (obelisk) and then to the courthouse. These three structures are positioned in a way that face each other on purpose so they can remember their responsibilities to each other.
Obelisco is located on Avenida 9 de Julio. This street that has 20 lanes, is the widest street in the world. The famous Teatro Colon is also located on this street. Teatro Colon that is famous for its European architecture and its perfect acoustics is the eight biggest on earth and the biggest opera hall in South America.
You need to make a reservation 15 days prior to visit Casa Rosada. You can reach the website here. And you can find Palacio Barolos’ website here. Some nights there are tango shows, you can see the tours that include tango shows on the website. If you don’t have time to watch a show you can go on these tours. I think they are really good. You can check for Teatro Colon tours here and you can check for the show tickets here.
La Boca is one of the oldest historical sites in the city. After all, La Boca (it means mouth in Spanish) is a natural harbor that has formed in the mouth of the Matanza-Riachuelo river. Immigrants came into the country from exactly this point. This district is famous for its colorful houses and the iconic stadium of the Boca Juniors football team, La Bombanera.
The touristic part of La Loca is not that big. The renovated area that’s located right next to the river is really the place worth seeing. One of the best spots here is the Caminito street named after the song of Juan de Dios Filiberto. In this street, you can take pictures with the colorful houses and see the old houses called convetillos that have been turned into gift shops. Another must-see is the statues that have been placed on the balconies of the renovated houses. In one of the balconies at the end of Caminito, you can see Juan de Dios Filiberto, Eva Peron, and Maradona next to each other.
The clearing right across this balcony is known as Cuartel de Bomberos Voluntarios de La Boca. It means The Volunteer Firefighters Area. Here you can see the wall decorations that were made in the honor of the heroic and brave people who are volunteer firefighters. And don’t forget the statue of Benito Quinquela Martìn next to the river. Benito Martin is the famous painter who made La Boca the vibrant place it is today.
In La Boca all the shops close at about 6 pm and it suddenly becomes very unsafe. So, it’s better if you plan your trips in the daytime. Also, it’s wise to be careful when you’re taking pictures because pickpocketing is very common since it’s a touristic area.
San Telmo is also one of the oldest historical sites in the city. The immigrants settled in La Boca and San Telmo when they first arrived. San Telmo is a dynamic place filled with cafes and restaurants. It’s especially famous for its antique galleries and its flea market named Feria de San Telmo that is open every Sunday. So, San Telmo is very crowded on Sundays. The flea market is a really impressive place with various handcrafts but if you aren’t fond of crowded places you should visit San Telmo another day. This area is sure to impress you every day of the week with its galleries and Argentina’s oldest market Mercado San Telmo.
Another must-see stop in San Telmo is the Mafalda Statue. Mafalda is a source of pride for Argentineans since it’s a cartoon character that became famous worldwide. You can see the statues of Mafalda in many spots in the city (generally around San Telmo and Puerto Madero). Mafalda herself is located in front of her creator’s house in San Telmo.
Lastly, Plaza Dorrego is the small square of San Telmo. Most of the time you can see the street performers who are doing a tango show. So, you can try your luck to watch free tango at Plaza Dorrego.
San Telmo is a place that’s active day and night. But since it’s also a touristic place, you should be very careful with your prized possessions, especially on Sundays.
In my opinion, Recoleta is the most worth-seeing place in Buenos Aires. While it makes you feel like you’re walking around in Paris with its European architecture it also houses many important spots.
First and the most important of these spots is Cementario de la Recoleta. Recoleta Cemetery, which is a very interesting place with its different architectural structure, houses the graves of some of the most important people in Argentina. The most visited grave is, of course, Eva Peron. Since Evita’s body was moved here later and was buried in the family cemetery, it’s not in a place that catches people’s attention and it’s really difficult to find. I know people that left the cemetery without seeing her grave because they just couldn’t find it. So, you may want to download the image below to your phone before you go visit.
Located right next to the cemetery is the historical church Basilica del Pilar. It is one of the oldest buildings in Argentina so it is under protection and it has been taken care of very well. You can go up to its tower and look at the cemetery from above but you have to pay an entrance fee.
When you pass the Libertador Avenue (Avenida del Libertador) you will see Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) and when you pass Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta street you will see UBA Facultad de Derecho (Buenos Aires University, Law Faculty) and Floralis Generica right next to it. Floralis Generica is the first moving sculpture in Argentina. It is shaped like a flower and its petals open when the sun comes out and closes when the sun goes down.
Palermo is the biggest district of Buenos Aires. It is a place where daily life is always vibrant and dynamic. It also has many great parks. Also, it is one of the most preferred districts to rent a house. Besides being a touristic place, Palermo is the place that reflects the soul of Buenos Aires the best.
We can split the district into two sections to explain better. North of Santa Fe Avenue is the part that’s filled with parks and gardens, and the south part is more focused on fun and shopping with its great cafes and shops.
Between the beautiful gardens of Palermo, I suggest Jardin Japones, Jardin Botanico which is the botanical garden of Argentina, and one of the local’s favorites Bosques de Palermo where you can always see an Argentinian lying on the grass holding their mate tea.
Jardin Japones is an award-winning garden and its famous for being the biggest Japanese garden outside of Japan. It has an entry fee. You can check the website from here for visiting hours and entry-fees. You won’t have any trouble buying your tickets at the gate. Also, they sometimes go crazy and they lift the entry- fees for specific days. Maybe you’ll get lucky and come across one of these days.
Jardin Botanica is a public park however it has limited visiting hours. The park usually closes at 6 pm but this changes depending on the season. You can check the current visiting hours here. By the way, I wouldn’t keep my expectations too high. Argentina’s botanical garden is not such a different or a spectacular botanical garden. But it is a nice park and I think it’s worth seeing if you have some extra time.
Bosques de Palermo
Bosques de Palermo is the place to go if you want to experience a typical Argentina day. You should buy mate and a mate cup from the shop. Don’t worry, there are usually vendors who sell hot water around. Lastly, you should find a place to lay down on the grass and you’re all done. You are experiencing an Argentinians favorite weekend activity.
In addition to these Bosques de Palermo is a really nice park. Don’t forget to see the rose garden that is part of the park. Every year one of the rose types grown in this garden is chosen as the winner and it is planted in a designated area for the winner. Then the preparations for next year begins. This part of the park is really beautiful when the roses start to blossom in October and November and when they fully blossom in December and January. But if you go in July you won’t be able to see the roses since it’s not the season for it. So, the park is not as great in the summer months. You can also go through Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta to check out the Planetario de Galileo Galilei (The Galileo Galilei planetarium) while you are so close by.
Fun in Palermo
Now it’s time for the south part of Palermo. Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood are the most dynamic parts of the area. You can find really good restaurants, cafes, bars in here. Also, if you like shopping you can find many stores of big brands.
One of the most interesting things in Palermo is the fact that it’s filled with beautiful murals. Artists only need to get permission from the city hall to use the walls around the city. This has turned the streets of Buenos Aires into a visual feast. These mural filled streets are especially around Palermo. Here are some spots you can go to see these murals:
- Russel Street. It is located in Palermo Soho. You can find it by looking for the Russel x Gurruchaga intersection on maps.
- The brunette girl mural in front of Bartola. On Maps: Costa Rica x Gurruchaga
- Sta Rosa Street. On Maps: Sta Rosa x Gurruchaga, two streets below Russel
- The famous Hipster Frida Mural. It is located in front of a night club named Fridha. On Maps: Av Dorrgo x Conde
Puerto Madero which houses the marina is one of the most modern districts of BA. This district that is very close to the city center is actually an island. It is connected to the city by the bridges that are on top of the same canal the marina is located in. You can find really good luxury restaurants around the canal.
The iconic Puente de la Mujer bridge is also located here. Puente de la Mujer can be translated as The Woman Bridge. All the streets and main roads in the Puerto Madero district are named after the women that played an important role in the history of Argentina.
Also, another one of the parks that locals love like Bosques de Palermo is located here: Reserva Ecològica Costanera Sur (Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve). This ecological park is under protection just like the botanical garden and it has limited visiting hours despite being a public park. The park is open every day of the week. It opens at 8 am and closes at 6 pm between April and October and at 7 pm between November and March. It can be closed during special dates like new years eve. Also, it can be closed to visitors when rainfall is really heavy.
If you have time you can go a little deeper into the city. As I’ve mentioned earlier the city of Buenos Aires (CABA – Ciudad Automa de Buenos Aires) and Buenos Aires Province (Provincia de Buenos Aires) are different administrative districts. The areas I will talk about next are the cities that are outside of CABA but are connected to Buenos Aires province.
Tigre is a nice town next to the river that’s located 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away from CABA. It’s a popular place amongst the locals for weekend getaways. It’s roughly a 50-minute trip with the suburb trains that depart from the Retiro train station. Apart from trains, you can go to Tigre by bus or your own car. Since it takes one and a half hours (or more) to go from BA city center to Tigre with a bus it is not the best option. However, (when you calculate from the city center) you can reach Tigre in about 20-30 minutes with a car.
You can go on a boat trip in Tigre. If you’re going to be staying in Argentina for a long time and you enjoy camping, you can take advantage of the campsites around Tigre.
You can visit the Tigre Art museum (MAT). While it’s not that big, MAT’s collection includes some good pieces likesome of Benito Martin’s work. Even if you don’t go inside, the architecture and the beautiful garden of the museum is worth seeing.
The only amusement park in Buenos Aires is located in Tigre. Also, it has a beautiful outdoors market named Puerto de Frutos. Puerto de Frutos means “fruit harbor” in Spanish but it is a flower and furniture market. You can think of it as an outdoors home decoration fair. You can find anything from wooden furniture to accessories and many small shops from little kiosks to restaurants to flower shops.
There many great free or paid tours you can choose from. My choice is usually the free city tours. You can find many free tours in Buenos Aires. Some of the good ones are:
- You can find the tours organized by the Ministry of Tourism here. I tried out most of the ministry’s tours. I especially liked the Recoleta tour a lot. Our tour guide’s name was Mercedes and he was definitely a very successful guide. You find the link for the tour here.
- One of the most preferred free city tours is the Buenos Aires Free Walks.
- Alternatively, BA Free Tour is a generally liked organization.
There are over a hundred museums in Buenos Aires. So, you can’t possibly go to all of them even if you tried. However, you can find the links for some of the best museums below:
- Museo de Bellas Artes
- Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires
- MACBA (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Buenos Aires)
- MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires)
- Museo de Evita
- Every year in August the International Tango Festival is organized in BA. In these two week-long festivals there is an international tango championship beside the public activities.
- Other than the festival, you can always find a tango show in the city. You can see the semi-professional dancers who dance on the streets in all of the touristic spots in the city. Or you can go and watch the professional tango shows. There are many venues that host these shows. But you can check these ones for the best shows:
- Esquina Carlos Gardel (best stage & show!)
- Tango Porteño
- El Viejo Almacen
- La Ventana Tango Show
- You can watch opera or ballet in the Teatro Colon. If your Spanish is good you can consider watching a good musical in one of the theatres on Corrientes Street. (There are many theatres on Corrientes Street. It resembles Broadway with its flashing signs)
- Polo is a popular sport in Argentina. You can make room for a polo match in your plan for a local experience. However, I can’t say the same thing for football matches because it can be very hard to find tickets for them.
- You can find a fair about food in different parts of the city nearly every day. You can visit these street fairs for home-made local delicacies. You can find the dates of these fairs from the Buenos Aires Market’s Facebook page.
What To Do vs What Not To Do
(+) Eat meat
(+) Buy leather products
(+) Whether it’s on a stage or on the street, do not go back without watching a tango show
(-) do not buy textile products! They are really low quality and very expensive.
You may have heard many things like “Latin America is very dangerous, it’s deadly!”. And these probably scared you. But you can visit Bueno Aires with ease as long as you’re careful of your surroundings. Since 2015 the police force has been enforced and since streets are filled with police, the crime rate has gone down quite a lot. In many parts of the city, you can walk around safely day and night.
But mugging is still a very common problem. You need to be careful with your possessions especially in very crowded places like the San Telmo Market or touristic spots like La Boca. You should trust your instincts, you shouldn’t go into dark and sketchy alleys, you should stay on busier streets.
Original posting date: September 12, 2018
Translation Date: December 15, 2019
Translated by: Dilan Şen
This blog is voluntarily translated by students who are eager to improve their translation skills! If you’d like to share your feedback with these hard-working students, please leave your thoughts in the comments! Also, if you’d like to contact them, please send a message to Ters Mevsim through the Contact Page. Thank you!