Buenos Aires is a large metropolis and the capital of Argentina, which can make it a daunting city to visit. There is a LOT to see and do. Below, we’ll help by presenting you with the 10 best things to do in Buenos Aires. From dancing tango to visiting speakeasies, enjoy!
Take a Walking Tour
This is usually one of the first things we do when we get to a new city, as it helps you understand the layout and can give you a good idea of what other things you may want to do with your time there. A good guide will also give you tips on any Do’s and Don’ts and answer any questions you may have about the city’s culture or any important current events.
The Recoleta walking tour we took with Buenos Aires Free Walks was the best free walking tour we’ve ever taken. Our guide (who may only do the tour on Sundays) was an art history professor and gave us so much information about not only the history of Buenos Aires through its architecture, but also the political and cultural state of Buenos Aires today. He led us through the period of colonization, the golden age, military dictatorships, and the democracy, and even recommended relevant documentaries we could watch on Netflix (Nisman: The Prosecutor, the President and the Spy and The Official Story in case you were wondering).
The Recoleta tour is every morning at 10:30am and the Historic Center tour is every afternoon at 3pm. Check out their website (linked above) for up-to-date schedules and make sure to bring cash to tip! The suggested tip will be around $10USD and can be paid in pesos or dollars.
Taking a tango class in Buenos Aires is OF ESSENCE, and it’s really fun. That is not a subjective statement. All you have to do is find a good milonga, that is, a party or venue where people go to dance tango. There are many milongas in Buenos Aires and many offer tango classes. Lucky for you, we’ve got just the one to recommend where you’re bound to have a good time regardless of your dancing experience.
La Viruta is a big milonga that is very conveniently located in the nice neighborhood of Palermo and has social classes for all levels (including a class specifically for first-timers!). The beginner level is super fun and you’ll be with many other people who are trying tango for the first time, too.
While there are many different milongas in Buenos Aires, we recommend La Viruta because it’s easy to get to, cheap (entrance cost was 300 pesos, ~$5USD), and open every night. They teach tango, salsa, bachata, and even rock (!), and they have a restaurant and bar. Pop in after 7pm to ask for their schedule. We went to La Viruta almost every night that we were in Buenos Aires and loved it. Most people are locals who have been attending for years, though you will undoubtedly also meet other tourists.
Note: there are two companies that share the venue (La Viruta Solanas and La Viruta Tango Club – I know, so confusing!). If you’re only going once, it may not make a difference, but if you plan to go more than once, make sure you check both their schedules!
Go to a Tango Show
You will probably see tango performances on streets, squares, markets, and milongas. Still, a proper tango show is a must on your trip to Buenos Aires. Choosing a place is hard, because there are a lot, they can be very expensive, and the reviews online are nearly always mixed. Tango shows generally try to sell you on dinner, which is always optional, and your ticket will usually include drinks and transport. For the best price, get in contact with the company directly and ask what is optional.
We chose to go to El Viejo Almacen, which is one of the oldest spots in the city. For $50USD per person, we saw a world-class performance by tango dancers, an amazing tango orchestra, and 2 well-known singers of the genre. The singers came on at different times and it seemed that all the Argentinians in the crowd knew their songs! Transport and 2 drinks were included in the cost of our ticket.
Try a Parrillada
What do you think of when you hear Argentina, if not tango, steak, and wine?
Back home, I’m not a big meat-eater, but when in Buenos Aires, I might as well. A parrillada is a mix of many different cuts of meat served on one hot plate – disclaimer it includes some interesting organ meat! If you’ve already tried a parrillada or just want to hit PASS on those organ meats, you should still go to a steakhouse for an Argentine steak experience. Ask for bife de chorizo, a thick, juicy cut that’s similar to a ribeye. It’s by far the tastiest option! Check out El Refuerzo in San Telmo or La Carniceria in Palermo!
And remember Argentinians eat SUPER late – the kitchen doesn’t open until 8pm. Don’t be afraid if you show up at 7pm and its only you and the maitre-D
If you are (better than me) vegetarian, you can opt for a vegetarian or vegan option at a plant-based restaurant in Palermo or San Telmo. We went to Estilo Veggie in Palermo.
Eat Wonderful Italian
Excluding the Spanish, Buenos Aires has more Italian immigrants than any other. This doesn’t mean that all their Italian food is on point (I’m looking at you, Argentine pizza that I DO NOT LIKE). That’s why I specify *wonderful* italian food. Just sayin’, you may have a hankering for Italian food after seeing all these Italian looking people talking with their hands and pizza signs everywhere. If you do, the place to go to is in Palermo, my friend. Cosi Mi Piace won’t let you down and will leave you drooling for days on end thinking about their delectable plates.
So the first thing to know about Argentines and their meal times is that they eat dinner ungodly late. I mean, 8pm is EARLY. Restaurants don’t even open until 8pm for dinner, and you’ll be lucky to eat by 9pm. And the only way they do this is by having merienda. Which, to an American, is essentially breakfast or dessert for dinner. You can have coffee with bread, butter and jam, yogurt, eggs… and a lot of Argentines love… PANCAKES. Yes, sweet, scrumptous, fluffy, stacked pancakes at 5 or 6pm, just enough to hold off dinner for another few hours.
Seems to me like they just wanted a reason to eat more food, so they created a new meal. I’m here for it. But why can’t I eat all the pancakes and not look like an Argentina goddess like them? Not built for it, I guess.
A LOT of places serve merienda. If you’re staying in Palermo, you’ll notice the restaurants packed with people. At a cafe, you’ll note lots of coffee and stacks of pancakes. La Panera Rosa is a popular chain and we can vouch for their pancakes! At the bars, people will be drinking beer with an order of fries.
Like I said, here for it, but it’s so not cool that they can still look so good.
Go to a Bar Notable
Buenos Aires has over 70 historic cafes/bars that have been deemed barres notables for their notable importance to the city’s history and culture. They’re a blast from the past and surprisingly versatile. You can visit for breakfast, lunch or simply a drink. Cafe Tortoni is the most popular and therefore almost always packed with tourists, but you can find many throughout the city, mostly in the older neighborhoods. Check out Los Galgos or La Poesia, or for a full list, go here.
Go to the San Telmo Market
This market is only open on Saturdays and Sundays and it’s full of unique items! After traveling for 6 months, we’d seen MANY markets, and they all started to blend together. Not so at San Telmo. We even purchased a cute little empanada key-chain that is now our travel companion! Prepare to be entertained by unique vendors and even street tango.
Visit the Recoleta Cemetery
I’m not much of a cemetery person, but if it’s nice out, it’s a good option: You don’t need a guide and it’s free. Walk in and spend as much or as little time as you want (you’ll probably be within the cemetery less than 2 hours). Look for Eva Peron’s mausoleum, but don’t expect much. It’s a small, black mausoleum in a side alley usually surrounded by a group of tourists. Way smaller than we expected. I for one spent most of my time pondering about cemetery business models…
Visit a Speakeasy
Celebrate your time in Buenos Aires with a toast at one of the city’s fanciest bars! The only question remaining is, which will you choose?
A handful of bars in Buenos Aires have won international acclaim and for good reason! Head to Floreria Atlántico, which is underneath a flower shop (and it won #3 best bar in the world in 2019!). Or Frank’s if you want a challenge (you have to figure out the password from their Instagram account). Then there’s Uptown, which replicates a subway station. Or The Hole Bar, which offers a twist on Alcatraz. The options are many and you cannot go wrong! Go to one or go to them all!
Looking for More?
Planning a trip to Buenos Aires? Check out this post on Where To Stay in Buenos Aires.