Each neighborhood of Buenos Aires has its own personality. Puerto Madero, Recoleta, and Palermo are the posh ones. San Telmo is artsy and eclectic. Microcentro is a cacophony of foot traffic, merchants, and businessmen. Almagro keeps things low-key, but throws a good party. Constitucion is the dodgy creative. Barrio Chino is small but feisty, and Villa Crespo likes its leather and astronomy clubs. Read on to learn more about each Buenos Aires' distinct and what to do while you explore.
You could easily spend your entire trip to Buenos Aires exploring all that Microcentro has to offer. See some of the city’s best plays, big name concerts, and stand-up in the theater district on Avenida Corrientes and take a picture with the city’s most iconic landmark: the Obelisco. Watch the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo march around the Plaza on Thursdays or enjoy a tango performance in one of the city’s oldest buildings, La Manzana de las Luces, then head to the nearby Teatro Colon for a tour. In the evening, go high above the city streets for a romantic dinner at Zirkel for some of the best panoramic views of Buenos Aires and the winking lights of the Uruguayan coast across the river.
The colorful La Boca neighborhood has plenty of local and international art spaces like the revamped power plant turned cultural center, Usina del Arte, and the Proa Foundation. While Caminito is great for taking a picture with a tango dancer, it’s also quite touristy. Calle Suarez or Pinzon are more authentic streets with the same painted wooden and corrugated metal houses. Some still have the original paint from the Italian immigrants who constructed them nearly 100 years ago. Snap a picture in front of Bombonera stadium, home of the Boca Juniors, then head across the street for a meal at Don Carlos, a local watering hole with no menu but a string of A-list celebrity recommendations to its name.
Polished and beautiful, Recoleta is fancy but with an alternative streak. Walk its gorgeous, tree-lined streets while looking at mansions turned embassies and luxury hotels. Wander the maze of crypts and tombstones at Recoleta Cemetery, then, check out the neighborhood's weekend handicrafts fair. Alongside beautiful architecture, Recoleta is a cultural center. You can go to a concert, see art exhibits, or watch break dancers on Sundays on the roof of the Centro Cultural Recoleta, all for free. Soak up some rays in Plaza Francia then cool off in one of the many surrounding museums, like the MALBA or el Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. If you so please, bring your skateboard to ride down the hill behind Plaza Mitre.
Here you'll find Parque Centenario: a giant city park and meeting ground for group athletic training, outdoor yoga and dance, and bands of mate-drinkers. Other popular activities in this barrio include: buying leather on Calle Murillo, seeing street art murals, and chowing down on Middle Eastern cooking at Sarkis. Villas Crespo has a large Jewish population whose influence can be felt in many of the restaurants, like La Crespo. For a good time, check out one of the boisterous capoeira groups, stargaze through the telescope at the Association of Argentina’s Friends of Astronomy’s observatory, or go to a concert at Club Silencio where everyone gets blindfolded to heighten their senses.
For a small-town, bohemian vibe with a whole lot of history, go to the cobblestone streets of San Telmo. Head to the San Telmo Mercado to have your pick of international cuisine, third wave coffee shops, record stores, or fruit stalls all jumbled together. See professional tango dancers whirl around in Plaza Dorrego, pick up some good reads in English at Walrus Books, or buy antiques. You can really see the heartbeat of San Telmo on Sundays, when Defensa Street turns into a giant street fair where artisans sell their wares, musicians play, and street performers pose as living statues.
A mixture of green spaces and skyscrapers set along the water, Puerto Madero has a high-class feel and is super safe. A large canal, where yachts and sailboats are docked and the occasional kayaker paddles, splits the neighborhood in half. Walk along the water to the Puente de la Mujer to see a bridge designed to look (abstractly) like the body of a women. Continue over the bridge and keep walking until you get to the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. There you can run on dirt trails, see wetlands birds and plants, or serenely sit by the Rio de La Plata.
Whether you want to run along tree-lined paths in stunning parks, eat at a classic parillas like Don Julio, drink good coffee, bar hop in Plaza Serrano, or take a yoga class in English, Palermo offers all these comforts and more. As Buenos Aires’ largest barrio, be prepared to walk a lot while exploring it, or just rent a scooter with your smartphone to save time and your feet. If you time your visit right, make sure to join the unofficial monthly full moon party on the grounds of the planetarium.
This barrio is for the tourist who wants something gritty. Constitución has a bad reputation, but it’s also been home to many of the city’s most creative and alternative projects because of cheap rent. (It’s where chef Gonzalo Aramburu started experimenting with molecular gastronomy). Experience the city's circus subculture at weekend variety shows showcasing aerial artists and unicyclists at Centro Kultural Trivenchi. Check out Bachillerato libertarian secondary school for lively talks and community activists. Food-wise, you have your pick of Peruvian or Paraguayan restaurants, or go Extrawurst for German fare.
With a giant Chinese-style archway and stone lions in front to greet you, Barrio Chino is not easily missed when disembarking from the Belgrano C train station. Here you can find dim sum, Taiwanese street food, noodle houses, and bubble tea. Several import grocery stores like Tina & Co. stock items otherwise hard to find in the city. Sundays are packed with street performers, and businesses even celebrate major events from different Asian countries as well as K-Pop stars' birthdays. Across the street at the park Barrancas de Belgrano, take a nap in the sun or see if a concert, show, or mediation gathering is happening on its bandstand.
In Almagro you’ll find all kinds of music and dancing. Tango at the hip milonga La Cathedral or head to Amerika, Buenos Aires’ largest and oldest gay club for a pop, electronic, and cumbia-fueled party with live dance performances. If loud music and sweaty locals aren’t your thing, go to Acuña de Figueroa during the day to walk through one of the largest flower markets in the world, or visit Las Violetas, a cafe with classic Porteño ambience and large stained-glass windows. If it’s a Monday night and you want a to see a rocking drumline, head to the nearby Abasto for Bomba del Tiempo.