With underground galleries, unexpected theatres, rich cultural centers, and eye-catching street art, Buenos Aires has one of the most vibrant arts and culture scenes in the world. There are so many things to do, it can be overwhelming. To help you put together an itinerary, we've rounded up the best places to get the most out of your stay in Argentina’s capital city.
The Best Theatres in Buenos Aires
This is a city that respects theatre. At the beginning of the 19th century, theatre exploded on Avenida Corrientes when it became accessible to the masses. Many entertainers grow up dreaming of being able to perform on the avenue, Buenos Aires’s version of Broadway. From stand-up comedy to underground shows, visitors can catch all types of live shows here—but the most common type is teatro de revista, revues that mix comedy, music, and dance.
- Teatro Colón: This is by far the grandest, most elegant and famous theatre in the city. A national treasure, it's a must-see tourist attraction for anyone into the arts. Its 2,500-seat auditorium is said to have the fourth best acoustics in the world. Tickets to shows can be expensive, so if you are on a budget, consider signing up for one of the frequent guided tours of the building instead. For shows and prices, check out their website.
- Teatro Nacional Cervantes: A famous opera house and comedy hub, this National Stage is one of Buenos Aires’s most historic theatres. It was built with help from Spain, and despite being devastated by a terrible fire in 1961, it’s still managing to go strong as one of the most important performance halls in the country. One of the halls has 860 seats and a revolving circular platform on the stage.
- Teatro General San Martín: It's not that pretty or refined, but Teatro General San Martín is an affordable theatre for “the common people”—in fact, it was commissioned by none other than socialist leader Juan Perón. It’s currently one of the most important cultural centers in Latin America. The 13-story complex has a cinema as well as multiple exhibition halls and workshop spaces. Of its three main performance stages, the largest holds 1,000 people.
Where to Go for Tango
If you just want to watch, check out the open-air milonga at the Glorieta de Barrancas de Belgrano, where there's dancing at the gazebo on Saturday and Sunday nights. In La Boca, you can watch street performances in Caminito, but know that these shows are very touristy. Plaza Dorrego (San Telmo), and Florida Street (Microcentro) also have street shows.
Where to Experience a Peña (Folklore Show)
Folklórica (folklore) is a huge part of regional identity, and was around way before tango came to Argentina. It's really popular in rural areas of the country and in small corners of Buenos Aires. There’s the Cuarteto from Córdoba, the Chámame from Corrientes, and the Chacarera from Santiago del Estero. While most styles of folklore make heavy use of the guitar, violin, and drums, some include indigenous Andean instruments such as the quena (wooden flute) and the charango (small banjo).
While tango can be intimidating for newcomers, folklore listeners often cheerfully join in—often drunk on red wine—with clapping or singing. Pa'l Que Guste was the first bar in the city to dedicate itself to Criollo culture and has street cred among serious lovers of folkloric music. Folkloric dance classes are offered on Mondays between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. La Casa de los Chillado Biaus is an intimate Palermo venue run by two brothers who often play before the night gets rolling. Behind the closed, unmarked door on the street is a rowdy vibe filled with locals genuinely appreciating the music. Crowd participation is actively encouraged here, even if you don’t know any of the songs.
Buenos Aires is one of the most revered cities in the world to see street art. Tour companies like graffitimundo and BA Street Art are set up to take tourists on an exhaustive adventure, from Colegiales to Palermo, or from La Boca to San Telmo. You can also plan your own street art tour with Google Street Art Project. To bring some prints home from famous street artists (and help support them while you do), UNION gallery has been tirelessly championing the street art scene for over a decade. If buying original works by some of the city’s most renowned urban artists isn’t enough, you can take one of their stencil workshops and make your own artwork to take home.
The Thelonious Club is an intimate atmosphere for the city’s best jazz. Open every day, it always has an interesting lineup of classic and contemporary Argentine concerts, with the occasional international act. In the past, Luna Park hosted important boxing matches, but it is now one of the main venues for big music concerts. La Bomba del Tiempo is the prized hippie hangout for massive percussion circles every Monday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.; you must be over 18 years old to go.
Buenos Aires is a city that takes its fashion seriously. At smaller theatres, experimental performances, or rock and pop concerts, casual attire is fine, so feel free to be as flamboyant or edgy in your dress as you want. At more traditional shows or events, decent shoes go a long way—flip flops are looked down upon even in the hottest of summer weather.