Porteños, as the locals are called in Buenos Aires, do love their green spaces. On any sunny day, you will find people lounging while sipping the national drink mate, sunbathing, biking, or walking their dog through one of the city’s 250 parks within city limits. As a refuge from the commotion that comes with any major city, these parks are a great place to unwind and connect with a bit of nature (if possible, visit the city in November when thousands of jacaranda trees bloom into a stunning violet color). Bikers will be pleased to hear that many parks are crisscrossed with cycle paths.
Paseo El Rosedal
Also known as Bosques de Palermo (Palermo Woods), this 63-acre patchwork of groves and gardens is the city’s largest and most important green space. It has a rose garden with over 18,000 roses, several lakes (you can even rent a pedal boat)m and a magnificent white bridge forming a beautiful backdrop for picnics—just be careful to keep your food away from the geese. The park has many pedestrian and bike paths and on the weekend, the main loop within the park closes off to traffic. Near the rose garden is the Jardín de Los Poetas (the Garden of the Poets) with busts of famous literary heroes—including Jorge Luis Borges and Dante Alighieri. The park often hosts events all throughout the year, including live jazz music and food trucks. The park is open 24/7, but as in any major city, caution should be taken at night.
More of a bluff than a full-on proper square, Plaza Francia spreads out right in front of Centro Cultural Recoleta, which always has visual and performing arts. During the week it's mostly a picnic spot for workers on their lunch break, but on the weekends it comes alive with a midsize artists market.
This ecological reserve on the city’s eastern edge along the river (in the swanky Puerto Madero neighborhood) is the perfect place for wildlife lovers. Even though it’s just blocks from the financial center of town, it’s somehow manages to feel completely disconnected from the city. The reserve is home to iguanas, foxes, and more than 200 bird species. (On the off chance you travel with binoculars, this would be the time to bust them out.) Bikes are available to rent at the entrance of the park.
Barrancas de Belgrano
In the upscale and residential neighborhood of Belgrano, this green hillside park is popular with neighborhood dog walkers and picnickers. It is filled with towering trees that shelter the park from the outside noise and traffic. In the evenings there are open-air milongas and chill folk concerts where locals practice their dancing skills.
Built in 1910 to commemorate the centennial of Argentine independence, this is one of Buenos Aires’ biggest parks. On the weekends, masses of locals come to Caballito to stroll around the artificial lake or sip yerba mate beneath the jacaranda trees. For those looking for cheap clothes or household items, the weekend flea market held in the park is the place to go for great deals. There are also many secondhand book vendors. Make sure to plan a visit to the Bernardino Rivadavia Museum of Natural Sciences (open daily from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.) which is at one end of the park.
Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays
Many of Buenos Aires’ streets are lined with trees, but at this shaded park near Plaza Italia, they are grouped into nice little categories and labeled. More than 5,000 species of flora fill the garden, from the native ceibo to the Chinese loquat. There’s a botany museum, multiple glass greenhouses scattered throughout the property, and a library dedicated to the study herbaceous plants. Of all things, though, this park is probably most famous for its large community of locally-protected and adored feral cats. Ask any local for directions to the “park with the cats” and they will immediately know which one you are talking about.
Quite possibly the most zen place in the city, the Jardín Japonés (Japanese Garden) is located in the northeast corner of the larger, Bosques de Palermo. This is a beautifully-planned garden that was built by the Japanese Embassy as a gift for the city in 1967. It has a koi pond, a tiny, picturesque island, bonsai trees, Japanese-style bridges and gazebos, a Japanese cultural center and to round out the experience, a sushi restaurant. The park is managed by the Argentine Japanese Cultural Foundation and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (the restaurant is open until midnight for dinner). There is an entry fee, but all proceeds go towards the meticulous park maintenance that makes the place such a sanctuary.
Most tourists head to San Telmo for the Sunday market, but they're missing out on one of the city's oldest parks. A favorite among locals, Parque Lezama is open 24 hours a day. The National Historical Museum (Museo Histórico Nacional) is on the west side of the park and on the north side (Brasil Street) are the bright blue domes of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. This park is ideal for hitting up two historic bars nearby, Bar Británico and El Hipopótamo, to try fernet, an Italian liqueur that Argentinians love. After your drink, come to the park to spend a lazy afternoon relaxing.