Buenos Aires Travel Tips, Attractions & More
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America, even the world, Buenos Aires, which means “fair winds”, is a vibrant and colorful city bursting with life, energy, and personality. Here, there’s no room for the timidity or shyness. Buenos Aires is a city for the bold and the daring.
It’s probably why so many adventurous souls immigrate here from other cities all over the world. Transplants, as well as travellers, are drawn here like moths to a vibrant dancing flame. Over the years, so many porteños or “people from the port” have made BA their home, making this second biggest city in South America a melting pot of cultures with a strong European vibe.
A city that really caters to those who are looking to have the time of their lives, BA has everything from impressive religious sites to busy shopping districts, from a fantastic gastronomic scene to the tango, and a visit here is an experience you will never forget.
Season Suitcase Essentials
City Logistics – Getting Around the City
Buenos Aires is a major city in South America and it is conveniently accessible by plane from its neighboring countries and from many other countries in the world. It has two airports: the Ezeiza International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini), where all the international flights land and take off, and Aeroparque Jorge Newbery Airport, where many domestic flights and flights from neighboring countries like Brazil and Chile go.
Both Ezeiza, 20 miles south of the city, and Aeroparque, 20 minutes from the downtown area, are serviced by coaches (Manuel Tienda León), private cars (SilverStar Transport), prepaid taxis, and buses that take you to and from the city.
If you are travelling from neighboring countries, you have the option to travel by car or by bus and go on the road. Just be ready for a long road ahead since BA is not close to any borders.
Once you get to BA, it’s easy to get around. The city has a very good underground railway system called Subte that runs from 5 am to 10 pm and it takes you to most of the city’s attractions. It is cheap – around P2.50 per day for unlimited transfers – but can be very crowded during rush hour. You should definitely factor that in during your daily excursions.
There are a lot of buses as well. In BA, they are called colectivos. They are even cheaper at P1.70 per ride. Best of all, they run 24 hours a day and are painted differently according to their routes to make them easily distinguishable. If you’re planning on going around mainly by bus and Subte, you should use their interactive map.
Walking around the city is easy, safe, and quicker during the day. You don’t have to deal with traffic, first of all, and second, because it uses a grid system similar to that in NYC, it’s easy to find your way around. Another option to get around that’s becoming more and more popular is on a bike. While BA’s traffic is crazy, with its motorists treating traffic rules more like suggestions than actual rules to be followed, the bike culture in BA is steadily becoming a big thing. For an extensive map of their bicycling network, visit their website.
Being in the Southern Hemisphere, BA’s seasons are opposite to that of the Northern Hemisphere. Winters here, which can get rainy and dreary, are from June to August while summers, which can get cruelly hot and humid, are from December to February. Summer, despite its intense weather, is still the high season. However, the most ideal times to visit are in the fall from March to May and in the springtime from September to November.
Where to Stay?
If you really want to be economical, you can choose to be hosted by like-minded locals in Buenos Aires through Couchsurfing. It is great a way to not only save money in accommodations but also meet BA locals and other travellers. This, along with Airbnb, is a terrific option if you’re on a budget.
But really, budgeting is not something you have to worry about in Buenos Aires. The city has a lot of cheap but nice and comfortable places to stay in during your visit so while it has its share of expensive hotels, guaranteed you won’t have to splurge to have a warm bed to sleep in.
For cheap to mid-range places, some of the best ones the city has to offer include Pop Hotel, B&B Ada y Valentyn, Abode, Lola House, Hotel Claridge and Petit Hotel El Vitraux. These offer lovely rooms for under P100. For high-end places, Four Seasons Buenos Aires, Faena Hotel Universe, and Alvear Palace Hotel are the top favorites.
Another thing that’s becoming big in Buenos Aires, aside from its expanding bike culture, is this culinary trend called the puertas cerradas (literally “doors closed”). This closed-door dining trend involves an invite-/reservations-only dining experience where passionate and talented food lovers (whether they be established or amateur chefs) prepare a multi-course dinner in the intimate setting of their homes for a group of about 12 people. It’s a nice and open way of enjoying a home-cooked meal with strangers whom you may have things in common with. Perhaps the most famous of these puertas cerradas are Casa SaltShaker and Jueves a la Mesa.
Free Stuff in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is already an affordable place to visit but it’s always good to know its free attractions, which include…
Free admissions to art spaces and museums like Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and Musea de Arte Latino Americano de Buenos Aires during La Noche de los Museos when for one night every year from 7 pm to 2 am, cultural spaces open their doors for free to the public.
Free city tours given by a fun local group who run the Buenos Aires Free Tour,
The Bosques de Palermo, an extensive and beautiful park with rose gardens and lakes in the barrio of Palermo,
Free classical music concerts hosted by the University of BA’s School of Law,
Free tours on Fridays at 1 pm of the Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays, home to around 6,000 flora species and different themed gardens.
Explore – Best Neighborhoods
In many South American countries, neighborhoods are called barrios. Buenos Aires has 48 of them but the most important ones to see and explore during your visit are:
Microcentro, the city’s downtown where you can find the famous obelisk, Plaza de Mayo and Florida Street, a famous shopping street in the city.
Palermo, a hip neighborhood that is further divided into sub-neighborhoods like Palermo-Hollywood, Palermo-SoHo, and Palermo-Viejo,
Recoleta, where you will find La Recoleta Cemetery as well as first-class restaurants and French-style buildings and the weekend craft fair in the beautiful Plaza Francia, located just outside the cemetery.
Puerto Madero, the old city port that has been renovated and turned into a trendy place full of Skyscrapers, apartment buildings and restaurants. Its also a favorite haunt for night owls looking to party.
Almagro, where you can find cheap empanadas and grilled meats cooked on parillas, a Sunday book fair and Chinese supermarkets.
Boedo, a barrio famous not only for its historical spots but also for its Tango house, pubs, and porteño-style cafes.
Tribunales, home to many theater shows and the impressive Colon Theatre, a world-famous theater.
In Buenos Aires, there are a couple of pedestrian-only streets that cater primarily for retail therapy. These are the famous Florida Street and Lavalle Street. Here shoppers of all ages can go on a spree and enjoy everything from department stores and luxurious shops to bookstores (like the beautiful El Ateneo Grand Splendid) and coffee houses. These two streets, as well as their connecting streets, are a must-visit event when you don’t plan on splashing the cash.
Avenida Santa Fe is another shopping area in the city. This avenue is known for its clothing boutiques that range from hip and edgy to classic and elegant and has since been dubbed Buenos Aires’ “Avenue of Fashion”.
The city is also known for its many markets, which are usually open on Saturdays and Sundays, so make sure to allot some time during your stay to explore them as well. These markets have everything, and I mean everything! You will find anything from spices and produce to books, leather goods, and art. Check out our top 6 favorites here.
Foodies – Where to Eat & Drink
In this city, eating is a serious affair that should not be taken lightly. Food and drinks here are like art pieces that stir the soul and they are only made better by the city’s multi-cultural scene. Indigenous food fused with European blends make BA’s gastronic scene one of the most exotic in the world.
You definitely must try fantastic restaurants like Salgado Alimentos, Don Julio, El Cuartito and Mercado Central for delicious sit-down lunches and dinners with your friends and families, but you also shouldn’t miss the city’s terrific authentic street food scene.
Chow down on pan rellenos (cheesy stuffed bread), facturas, and empanadas during your daily excursions and then head to Costanera (and maybe Bosques del Palermo) for the ultimate mobile parilla (“grill”) experience. Spots like Alameda Sur, Mi Sueño, El Parrillón, Puestito del Tio, and El Cocacolero serve the best meat street dishes in the city. These savory dishes include choripan (bread and chorizo), bondiola (pork shoulder), vacíopan (flank steak sandwich), pizza with fainá (chickpea bread), and fried bread with chicharron bits.
And if you still have room for dessert (or even if you don’t really), the city has a lot of amazing confiterías (confectioneries), bakeries (panaderias), and French boulangeries whose gorgeous displays will make your mouth water. Bröet, Guber Patisserie, Hausbrot, L’épi Boulangerie, and Cocu Boulangerie are just some of the best. And make sure you remember to try the alfajores, which are traditional pastries of dulce de leche goodness!
As for drinks, try the traditional mate for a boost, Quilmes, the most popular Argentine beer or a bottle of Malbec, Argentina’s most famous wine.
Late Night – Nightlife in Buenos Aires
For a great night in town, head to the neighborhood of Palermo SoHo, Recoleta, or San Telmo. There you will find great and swinging bars and pubs where you can spend the night drinking or partying with your friends. For the best bars, consider Dill & Drinks, Carnal Bar, Floreria Atlantico, Antares, and Milion.
Buenos Aires is a city of passion and love, so much so that it has been aptly dubbed the “Paris of South America.” In fact, it has been named by many as one of the most romantic cities in the world. So if you’re looking for an exotic place to spend a few sizzling and passionate days in with your lover, look no further than BA. Go for a late night out together and dance the steamy Tango at a milonga (Tango club) until the early morning hours. Gaze in wonder at the amazing intricate architecture of the Dante’s Divine Comedy-inspired Palacio Barolo. Breathe in the colorful sites in La Boca. Walk hand-in-hand in one of the city’s weekend markets and buy each other trinkets of affection. And last but not least, have a relaxing picnic and commune with nature at the Costanera Sur Nature Reserve.
It seems that parties and celebrations never stop in Buenos Aires. Even its streets are busy with tango dancers and street performers on a regular day. And just when you think the streets couldn’t get more animated, BA’s annual festivities even add to the existing flurry. Here are BA’s best festivals:
Fiesta de las Murgas. Celebrated every weekend in February, this is BA’s version of Mardi Gras.
Buenos Aires Fashion Weeks. The city’s fashion week happen twice a year, in February and in August.
Feria del Libro. The city’s Book Festival is one of the world’s largest and is celebrates from late April until early May.
Buenos Aires Querible. During this July event, all the neighborhoods celebrate the city’s history in festivities.
Festival Internacional de Buenos Aires. September is the best month to visit if you love the theater as the city hosts performing art shows for 2 weeks.
World Tango Festival and El Dia Nacional de Tango. These two Tango celebration festivals are held in October and December respectively.
Noche Buena. Like in some Catholic countries like the Philippines, Christmas Eve is a very important time during the holidays in BA. Families walk to their churches together to attend Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass) then have late Christmas dinners at home.
Best Day Trips Outside the City
Take some time off from your city excursions to go on a day trip outside the city limits for a change in pace. Take a break from frenzy and breathe some fresh rural air in San Antonio de Areco and its neighboring estancias (“ranches”) where you can have a barbecue and watch Argentinian cowboys as they try to impress the public with their impressive horseback skills. Or head out on a ferry across Rio de la Plata to Colonia del Sacramanto, Uruguay’s oldest city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can walk up and down its charming streets lined with old ruins and ivy-covered colonial buildings.
If you love the water, why not go on a peaceful boat or canoe ride along the Tigre Delta, which is lined with beautiful resorts, or head out to Mar del Plata, a famous beach resort town in Argentina.
These are but a fraction of the many things you can see and do in Buenos Aires, a city full of life and buzzing with activity. The complete list is endless and at your disposal. Whatever you decide to do with your time there, whatever you choose to see isn’t as important as this: partake in the city’s passion, in its never-ending bustle. Then and only then can you truly enjoy Buenos Aires.
If you have cool tips and suggestions to add for an even awesome holiday in Buenos Aires, we’d love to hear from you!