8 Must-do Activities in Bustling Buenos Aires

Considered the Europe of South America, Argentina's capital offers countless opportunities to eat, drink and shop in a cultured and welcoming environment

Credit: Natalie Walters

The second-largest city in South America, Buenos Aires can be a bit overwhelming to the ambitious traveller. Here are 8 activities that will give you a taste of the continent’s most visited city

Buenos Aires is a vibrant city that perfectly pairs its charming European influence with a fun-loving flavour all its own. Boasting a wealth of history, culture, cuisine and entertainment, Buenos Aires offers visitors multiple reasons to fall in love with the Argentinian capital city.

While the breadth of the city itself can be a bit overwhelming, there are a few special neighbourhoods and experiences that capture the character of this dynamic capital.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Start in the Centro

The business centre of this sprawling city has a little bit of everything to offer the passing traveller – from food to fashion, to theatre and history – and you’ll get a good overview by starting here.

Centro’s main drag, Av de Mayo, is bookended by two important plazas: Plaza del Congreso, where the country’s green-domed congress building Palacio del Congreso is found, and Plaza De Mayo where the presidential palace Casa Rosada sits.

Nearby you’ll find many museums as well as the opulent neoclassical Catedral Metropolitana. For musicals and theatre head to Av Corrientes and further along this street you’ll find the towering Obelisco, an iconic symbol of Buenos Aires.

Lined with affordable shops and department stores like the glitzy Galerias Pacifico, Av Floridia is where you can satisfy your shopping fix and browse local brands. Av Santa Fe offers similar shopping delights.

And throughout this bustling part of town you’ll find casual cafés where you can grab a quick café con leche (latte) and a mediluna (an Argentinian croissant), as well as many family restaurants and empanada shops.

Credit: Flickr / Joel Mann

Shop in Palermo Viejo

It doesn’t take long to notice that Buenos Aires takes its fashion seriously. You’ll see well-dressed men and women strutting fresh and fierce outfits, and can pick one up for yourself in the trendy Palermo Viejo district.

You’ll find authentic Argentinian style in Palermo Viejo’s two smaller neighborhoods aptly named Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. Shaded by tall trees and dotted with cafés and bakeries, Palermo Soho is the city’s fashion hub. Its neighbour, Palermo Hollywood, is where you’ll retire for a glass of wine when you’re all shopped out. Home to some great outdoor patios and funky restaurants, this part of town is also worth a second visit after the sun’s gone down for a taste of Buenos Aires’ infamous nightlife.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Go Antiquing in San Telmo

While San Telmo‘s narrow cobble-stoned streets and aging architecture has its own old-world charm, the real reason to visit this neighbourhood is for its weekly market.

Every Sunday, Av Defensa is lined with stalls selling crafts, antiques and local goods. You’ll find everything from jewelry and clothes, to ceramics and artwork. In addition to picking up some souvenirs, you can also catch a free Tango show. San Telmo is considered Buenos Aires’ Tango district and you’ll find vendors advertising evening Tango shows while street performers give you a taste of what you’ll witness later on.

With so much to see it’s easy to while away the hours visiting the market. The area’s ample cafés, outdoor restaurants and street food vendors will keep you fuelled the whole day through.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Stroll through the Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta is one of Buenos Aires’ ritzier parts of town and is home to the famous Cementerio de la Recoleta.

This is where Argentina’s highest and mightiest have come to rest, and the opulence of a life well lived is maintained even in death. Stroll through the narrow streets in this cemetery city and gaze up at the towering sarcophagi gilded in marble and decorated in ornate statues and carvings.

Argentina’s beloved Evita is buried within Recoleta’s high walls. Look for the grave permanently covered in flowers.

Outside the cemetery, and much in contrast to its classical elegance, you’ll find a winding hippy market of local crafts and street performers. Grab a snack and perhaps a souvenir before wandering through the rest of the neighbourhood.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Catch a Tango Show

Tango’s sultry steps are an inseparable part of Argentinian culture, especially in Buenos Aires where the dance is said to have begun. It captures the passion and intensity between two lovers, expressing the gamut of emotions from anger and frustration to lust and loss – thereby making it a captivating dance to watch.

Sign up for a show through your hotel or tourist agency, or haggle for a good price with a vendor in San Telmo. Depending on the type of show, dancers perform as a solo pair, in groups switching partners or a mixture of both. Most shows are led by a live band and accompanied by a live singer (this is a must) and the pricier ones include a three-course meal and plenty of wine.

Try to find a performance that chronicles the history of Tango from its humble beginnings to today’s modern interpretations, which can include breathtaking lifts, spins and, of course, kicks.

Some shows even include a brief lesson on the basics of Tango at the beginning of the night so you can appreciate the complexity of the dance even more when you watch it. Try Complejo Tango for the full experience.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Tour Colourful La Boca

The crooked cobblestones and brightly painted buildings that make this neighbourhood famous occupy a three-block radius known as Caminito worthy of an afternoon stroll. While it can feel a tad touristy, especially as you are ambushed by restaurateurs and shopkeepers trying to coax you into their storefronts, once you get past that, the area really is a picturesque part of town.

Be sure to visit the iconic Havanna Cafe where you can try an original alfajorés – a traditional Argentinian treat consisting of a huge dollop of dulche de leche sandwiched between two soft cookies and covered in chocolate.

Besides this colourful corner, the neighbourhood is also known among locals for its all-star soccer team; Boca Juniors. If you have the time, attending a Boca Juniors game will be one of the most exciting and unique experiences you can have in Buenos Aires. One could argue that Boca fans are some of the most enthusiastic and committed soccer fans out there, who´s energy is so contagious it will have you on your feet chanting and trying to sing along like a proper Argentinian. Each game is accompanied by fireworks and a live band to keep the crowd pumped.

Credit: Natalie Walters

Chow Down on World-class Street Meat in Puetro Madero

If you walk past Plaza de Mayo and down to the docklands you’ll find a modern neighbourhood on the rise. Puerto Madero is a recently renovated part of town directed at a more affluent crowd.

Here you’ll find sleek cafés and restaurants, lofty apartments, upscale hotels and none of the charm and character of the city’s older districts. But the best kept secret of this otherwise not-too-exciting neighbourhood is the street meat. To find it, follow your nose past the pedestrian walkways and high-rise hotels in the direction of the Ecological Reserve and you’ll encounter a street clouded in barbecue smoke and lined in plastic chairs and tables.

Here you can feast on some truly amazing steak (lomo), pork (bondiola) or sausage (choripan) sandwiches. Choose from a plain or completo sandwich, which includes ham, cheese and egg, and then pay a visit to the condiment table, where you’ll find a diverse and overwhelming assortment of sauces, spreads and toppings, including the staple Argentinian chimichurri sauce (a mixture of herbs and oil) to dress your sandwich. Once you’ve seasoned your sandwich to your heart’s content, find a seat overlooking the park and enjoy!

Credit: Natalie Walters

Wine and Dine the Whole Time

It’s no secret that Argentina is home to some divine wines – Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, or Torrontés from Salta to name a few. So any trip to Buenos Aires (or anywhere in Argentina for that matter) should include an ample supply of wine. Top notch bottles range from 40-100 pesos, which is the equivalent of $8-$20CAN, and even the cheaper wines go down deliciously.

Everyone knows nothing pairs better with a full bodied glass of a wine than a juicy steak. This classic Argentinian combo can be found across the city as each neighbourhood has a plethora of restaurants serving up some sumptuous asado (barbecue).

Three good cuts to look for are Bife de Chorizo (sirloin), Vacio (flank steak) and Bife de Lomo (tenderloin). A word to the wise however, Argentinians like their steak well done, so if you’d rather it medium rare, be sure to ask for it apunto.