When it comes to what Buenos Aires has to offer, it's absolutely impossible to scratch much of the surface during one trip to the city. From shopping boutiques to watching operas and dancing the tango, you'll find a little bit of everything here. Some of the items on this list are admittedly touristy (here’s looking at you, El Caminito), but there’s a reason that travelers still go there in droves. Balance the tourist traps with a bit of local flavor by exploring exclusive speakeasies and tranquil nature trails. Make sure to fuel up for the manic pace that Buenos Aires runs on with a questionable-yet-traditional diet of Malbec wine, dulce de leche gelato, massive cuts of red meat, and café con leche.
This isn't just an ordinary cemetery. Recoleta Cemetery is the final resting place for the richest, most famous and powerful figures of Argentina. It’s so big they even give you a map to navigate the labyrinth of ornate mausoleums. The most popular site by far is the grave of beloved Eva Perón, the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 to 1952. While the graves are cool, there are some freaky stray cats wandering around that give the cemetery an extra haunting vibe.
Chow Down on the Best Steak of Your Life
Red meat —and the act of getting together for an asado, or barbecue—is a central part of Argentine culture. Popular places to eat your first Argentine ojo de bife (ribeye) include Don Julio, La Cabrera, and La Brigada. Don't expect to dine before 9 or 10 p.m., and be sure to pair your meal with Malbec from Mendoza for the true dinner experience. Argentines in general like their meat well done, so if you prefer yours less cooked, order it jugoso or bien jugoso.
Kayak Through Lesser-Known Channels of Tigre
Buenos Aires can be overwhelming, so a nearby escape is welcome at times. There are convenient train lines that go straight to Tigre, a region about an hour outside of the city center that has one of the world’s largest delta systems. The best day to visit is Sunday when you can check out the area's Puerto de Frutos, a large market with affordable crafts and food. It’s easy to rent a kayak here—right at the main dock there is a lineup of agencies that can help you. If you aren’t feeling quite so ambitious, book a regular boat tour and relax while you enjoy the peace and quiet.
Get Passionate About Tango
Consider booking a dinner-and-tango-show at Rojo Tango at Hotel Faena—it's pure sensuality and perfect for a romantic date. Want to get in on the action? Check out a milonga, a place where people go to dance tango. There’s a Sunday night milonga in San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego, a perfect way to end the day after hitting up the San Telmo antique fair. Salón Canning offers classes in addition to shows. La Glorieta is an open-air milonga in Belgrano that holds free events on the weekends, but La Viruta, located in the basement of the Armenian Cultural Center, is one of the most welcoming spaces to learn to dance. The crowd is a mix of tourists, expats, and locals. Sign up for a lesson earlier in the night so you're ready when the more experienced dancers show up after midnight.
The gorgeous National Museum of Fine Arts is easily among the best in the world, with works by Latino artists and big names like Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso. The best part? It’s free and easy to get to with public transportation.
Touristy to the max but somehow still charming, Café Tortoni is a great place to sit down and grab a snack. Opened in 1858, this café has been a meeting place for famous writers, artists, and musicians over the years, including José Luis Borges, Alfonsina Storni, Carlos Gardel, and Benito Quinquela Martín. While it’s a bit pricey compared to most, do other cafés have Tiffany glass ceilings?
Buy Super Cool Antique Knickknacks You Don’t Really Need at San Telmo Market
This colorful and crowded Sunday street fair draws over 12,000 people each week. Along the pedestrian street of Defensa, you'll find stalls upon stalls of antiques, artwork, knickknacks, and other treasures. If antiques aren’t your thing, grab a glass of wine at a restaurant and people watch, or meander around the 10-block radius for some great street performer shows.
Established in 1928 and known as "The Cathedral of Polo," the Palermo Hippodrome hosts some of the most important events in the polo world, including the annual Argentine Polo Tournament. The stadium holds 30,000 spectators, but keep in mind that tickets can get expensive for major matches. If you're on a budget, go at a time when the local clubs are competing.
Want to learn how to play? Many estancias an hour outside the city offer a “Polo Day,” where you can get a lesson or two and try your hand at an actual match.
Dance 'til Dawn (and Then Some)
If tango isn’t your thing, party hardy with the locals in one of the city’s boliches (nightclubs). Don't bother showing up before 2 a.m. or you will be sitting there awkwardly in the club by yourself. Most people leave after sunrise and fueled on not much alcohol—while the locals dance the night away and appreciate a good buzz, most are not there to get drunk. Check out Pacha, go see big name DJs at Crobar, or hit the ever-popular Niceto for a packed dance floor.
One of the most important opera houses in the world and a Buenos Aires landmark, the history of Teatro Colón goes back to 1857. Now fully restored to its former glory, tourists come here to see orchestral symphonies, operas, and ballets. If you can’t get to a show, you can always sign up for a guided tour of this gorgeous seven-story building.
Embrace Your Inner Hippie at La Bomba de Tiempo
Every Monday evening around 7 p.m. (and sometimes a bit later), all the hippies come out of the woodwork to go to this massive weekly percussion event at the Konex Cultural Center. You have to be 18 to enter and not mind the scent of marijuana. The communion is real—by the end of the event everyone is ecstatically dancing together to the beat.
This lively folk market and gaucho (cowboy) fair is situated in the very blue-collar neighborhood of Mataderos. Taking place on Sundays, it’s an ideal place to try regional foods like locro (a meat and corn stew), empanadas, and humita (a cheese and corn mixture wrapped inside husks). Dancers, folk singers, and gauchos on horseback are there to entertain the masses, and you can shop lots of leather goods, silver jewelry, knives, and mate gourds.
The botanical gardens in Palermo are the perfect place to unwind. There’s a butterfly hall, 100-year-old greenhouse, small lake, a few fountains, and an herbal garden. There’s also lots of shade, so bring a blanket, snacks, and a thermos for yerba mate to lounge the afternoon away like a local.
Sip Cocktails at a Speakeasy
Buenos Aires loves its speakeasies, so there are plenty to choose from. The most famous is arguably Floreria Atlántico, which masquerades as an unassuming flower shop. If you're looking for a chill vibe, check out Victoria Brown Bar in Palermo. There's also the romantic and exclusive Bar 878, hidden behind two unassuming wooden doors in Villa Crespo.
graffitimundo offers the best walking tours in town, with many artists themselves stepping up to guide. They know the most efficient routes to see as much as possible in a short amount of time. Tours end at a studio where you can help support the artists by buying prints to take home.
Up Your Instagram Game in La Boca
Stroll through La Boca, an Italian-influenced neighborhood that's home to beloved local football team Boca Juniors. Fandom hits a cult-like level here, so it’s a must-see for any soccer lover. A street and open-air museum, El Caminito is dotted with colorful houses you'll want to stop and take pictures of, and tango music often fills the air. It’s touristy but memorable. Don’t veer too far from the tourist tracks, as the outskirts of the neighborhood can get a bit sketchy.
Immerse yourself in nature at the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur, an oasis of lush flora and abundant wildlife in the middle of the city. There are trails for walking, running, and biking (you can rent a bike at the entrance), as well as four lakes and more than 200 types of birds.
Eat Gelato for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert
Locals love their gelato—the Italian heritage in Buenos Aires is evident as there is a gelato shop everywhere you turn. Freddo is one of the most affordable and popular chains. Volta is pricey but darn good, although Jauja is where it’s at for gelato with no conservatives or artificial flavors. If you are feeling extra fancy and indulgent, head over to the Four Season’s restaurant to try Dolce Morte. Keep in mind that gelato here is not saved just for dessert or special occasions. You can walk the streets at 10 a.m. with a massive cone and no one will give you a second glance.
Watch the Sun Set Over the River
The Río de la Plata separates Argentina from nearby Uruguay, whose shores you can vaguely make out on a clear day. Take the train to San Isidro and kite surf at Perú Beach. Later, kick back riverside with a cold beer and watch the sunset. In Olivos, a bit to the south, you can even sail.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid is not just any bookstore. Once a glamorous theatre, it has retained its original frescoed ceilings, graceful rounded balconies, and plush red stage curtains. The entire place will make your jaw drop as you wander the shelves for hours. Stay for a coffee at the café, located on the converted stage.