Known as the “Paris of South America”, Buenos Aires is a fascinating city. Walk down Avenida de Mayo with its grand buildings and you will see why. Buenos Aires has a distinctive style, vibe and appeal. There is an air of faded grandeur to the city and plenty of things to do in Buenos Aires to keep you busy.
As its the country’s capital, spending time exploring Buenos Aires is one of the top things to do in Argentina for most visitors.
The city’s heart and soul is in its tango clubs, street markets, museums, parks, barbecue restaurants and, of course, its people.
Porteños, as people from Buenos Aires are called, are friendly, passionate and love life.
Whether you are in Buenos Aires for a weekend on the way to Patagonia, a week for a vacation or a month to soak it up, there is plenty to do. So, here are my top 15 things to do in Buenos Aires to get you started.
15 Fabulous Things To Do in Buenos Aires
1- Experience the Argentine tango
Tango is the lifeblood and passion of Argentina and there is no better place to experience tango than in Buenos Aires.
There are several ways to experience tango in Buenos Aires:
Take in a Buenos Aires tango show (it is worth the money).
Seeing professional dancers perform elaborate and passionate tango dances is a highlight of any visit to Buenos Aires.
I saw the show at El Viejo Almacen in San Telmo and would recommend it but there are many others to choose from. Here’s a list of tango shows you can book online.
Many include dinner (which is usually average at best) but it is possible at many venues to see the show itself and have dinner elsewhere if you prefer.
El Viejo Alamacen, Av. Independencia 299, C1099AAC CABA
A milonga is a tango dance hall or event where people go to dance the tango.
Many have classes early in the evening, then have open dance floors later at night.
Some have performances but milongas are mainly places to go and dance the tango with porteños.
On the street
You can easily see tango performed on the streets for tips or as part of an outdoor milonga.
El Caminito in La Boca (daily) and Plaza Dorrega in San Telmo (Sunday evening) are popular places to see street tango.
2- Admire the coloured houses of El Caminito
The coloured houses in La Boca neighbourhood are a common visual symbol of Buenos Aires.
La Boca is a working-class neighbourhood and some parts of it can be dodgy, so it is best to go straight to El Caminito (literally “Little Path”) by taxi or bus.
It’s quite safe when you get there.
This short street is lined with brightly painted houses.
There are lots of cafes, populist museums and street tango to keep visitors entertained, however, mostly you will come here to photograph the houses.
This area was traditionally the working-class port area (La Boca means “The Mouth” on Spanish, for the mouth of the river) and locals painted their houses with paint left over from painting ships, which is why they are so brightly coloured.
Today, it is has a fun, touristy vibe.
3- Catch football fever at the Boca Juniors Museum
Argentineans are crazy about football (soccer) and football fervour reaches its peak at the Boca Juniors stadium and museum.
Boca Juniors is one of two Buenos Aires teams and was home to the legendary footballer, Maradona.
The museum has memorabilia, photos, etc., and you can visit the stadium, plus buy blue and yellow souvenirs at the gift shop.
Don’t wear red and white (the colours of the other Buenos Aires team, River Plate) in the La Boca neighbourhood or you will be very unpopular – the two teams are fiercely competitive!
Museo de la Pasion Boquense, Brandsen 805, C1161 AAQ
4- Be awed by the artistry and technology of Floralis Generica
In 2002, the architect Eduardo Catalono created a giant metal flower.
The 65-foot flower blooms daily – the petals open at sunrise and close at sunset.
Try to see it as it is opening or closing, though it’s impressive at any time of the day.
It’s located in the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas.
Floralis Generica, Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 2301, C1425 CABA
5- Live out your Evita fantasy at Casa Rosada
The Casa Rosada (literally “Pink House” but more commonly called “the Pink Palace” by non-Argentineans) dominates the end of the Plaza de Mayo.
The building is a pink confectionary sheltered behind iron bars.
It is officially the Government House but is most famous for its balcony.
It is here that Eva Peron (Evita) and her husband gave their famous speeches.
If you’re a fan of the Broadway musical Evita, you can reenact her grand speech in front of the actual balcony.
Even if you’re not a Broadway aficionado, this place is steeped in history, as well as being an architectural gem.
There is an iron fence half way down the plaza (presumably to help control rowdy crowds that still assemble here for political rallies) but you can go around the side and get much closer.
Plaza de Mayo is a major site in the city and at the other end are the neoclassical cathedral – worth a quick look inside – and the classical Spanish colonial Cabildo (government building).
Casa Rosada, Balcarce 50, C1064 CABA
6- Shop till you drop at the Feria de San Telmo
The San Telmo neighbourhood was once home to rich porteños.
They moved out for another neighbourhood decades ago and today it has the distinct air of faded grandeur.
The neighbourhood has a lot of character any day of the week but positively bursts to life on Sundays, when it hosts the Feria de San Telmo (San Telmo Fair).
This is a weekly antique fair that sets up in Plaza Dorrega, the centre of San Telmo.
The fair spills out of the square and turns into a craft fair that lines the entire length of Defensa street from Plaza Dorrego all the way north to Plaza de Mayo.
There are fun antiques to be found and loads of modern crafts that make perfect souvenirs.
Feria de San Telmo, Defensa 120, C1065 CABA
7- Pose with the Mafalda statue
As you walk along Defensa, the main street in San Telmo, you will see a short line of people waiting on the corner of Chile Street.
Look a little closer and you will see a statue of a small girl sitting on a bench.
The people are lining up to have their photo taken sitting on the bench with the statue.
The little girl is Mafalda, a comic character drawn by Argentinean comic strip artist Quino in the mid-1960s.
The comic strip ended fifty years ago but the anti-establishment six-year-old girl has captured the imagination of Argentineans and you will see her image on T-shirts, souvenirs and even graffiti.
The folks back home probably won’t know who she is, but you will have connected with a little slice of local culture when you have your photo taken and buy a T-shirt for your edgy niece (as I did).
Mafalda Statue, corner of Chile and Defensa streets
8- Learn about Eva Peron at the Evita Museum
Eva Peron, commonly called Evita, was the actress turned dictator’s wife who wowed the world and eventually became the titular character in a Broadway musical and Madonna movie.
She is still very popular in Argentina today.
The museum was created by Eva Peron’s family, so you’re not exactly getting a balanced picture of her legacy, but you will get insights into this fascinating woman’s life.
There are outfits she wore and other interesting displays.
Time your visit for lunch at the indoor/outdoor café with its lovely garden setting.
It gets busy on the weekends with porteños coming just for a meal, so get there early to grab a table.
Museo Evita, Lafinur 2988, C1425 CABA
9- Enjoy the old-world grandeur at Café Tortoni
Café Tortoni is a Buenos Aires institution.
Since the mid-1800s, porteños have been coming here to see and be seen.
It is modelled on French cafes that were all the rage at the time and its old-world grandeur is still evident today in the lead glass ceiling, aged wood detailing and ornate fixtures.
Supposedly, the hot chocolate and churros are to die for. I tried them and didn’t think they were all that great but the overall experience was fun.
Get there early. It opens at 8 am.
I got there at 8.15 am when it was pretty empty but it filled up quickly.
By 9 am there was a line at the door that lasts throughout much of the day.
Café Tortoni, Av. de Mayo 825, C1084 CABA (an easy walk from the Casa Rosada)
10- Find your favourite Argentina graves at La Recoleta Cemetery
There are bigger cemeteries in Buenos Aires but none more famous than The Recoleta Cemetery (Spanish: Cementerio de la Recoleta), located, unsurprisingly given its name, in the Recoleta neighbourhood.
It is a walled cemetery with narrow streets between the elaborate mausoleums, where famous people including former presidents and Nobel prize winners are buried, but perhaps the most famous is Eva Perón (Evita).
Her body has been moved around a few times but this is her final (or at least current) resting place.
Read the inscriptions (in Spanish) and on the plaques on the walls of the mausoleum she is resting in and you will recognize a version of Andre Lloyd Webber’s lyrics for her famous song “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” in Evita.
There is a map on the wall just inside the cemetery with her mausoleum marked. The cemetery closes at 5 pm.
About a two-minute walk away from Recoleta Cemetery is another famous café (this one outdoors), La Biela.
There is an indoor section but when the weather is nice, sit outside and admire the enormous rubber tree and the cute colonial church opposite.
Cementerio de la Recoleta, Junín 1760, C1113 CABA.
La Biela, Av. Pres. Manuel Quintana 596, C1129ABO CABA
11- Pose for photos in front of BA sign
On the Plaza de la República at the intersection of Avenues 9 de Julio Corrientes and Corrientes is a large obelisk.
In front are large “B A” letters covered in green vines.
The obelisk is 220 feet tall and was erected in 1936 to commemorate the quadricentennial of the foundation of the city.
Today, it makes a fun Instagram photo stop.
Obelisco, Av. 9 de Julio s/n, C1043 CABA
12- Get a taste of art at the Fortabat Museum
This museum was custom built to house the large art collection donated by Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat.
There is an international section and exhibition spaces at the top for temporary exhibits, but it is the Argentinean section that is most interesting.
An entire floor is devoted to Argentinean art and it is a wonderful way to connect to the art and culture of this country.
The museum is located in Puerto Madero and is open Tuesday – Sunday, 12 pm to 8 pm. Admission is AR$140.
Follow a visit with a walk along the canal of Puerto Madero and stop off at one of the restaurants there for a snack or meal.
Coleccion de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, Olga Cossettini 141, C1107CCC CABA
13- Walk over the Puente de la Mujer
After visiting the Fortabat Museum, walk the short distance to this bridge designed by the Spanish architect, Calatrava.
He is famous for designing narrow cantilevered bridges, and this is no exception.
The Puente de la Mujer (“Woman’s Bridge”) has an interesting asymmetrical shape that makes for beautiful photos.
It is also a swing bridge – when boats need to pass, it swings open to let them by.
It’s a beautiful bridge that is a highlight of a visit to the Puerto Madero area of the city.
Puente de la Mujer, C1113 Buenos Aires
14- Eat the best steak ever at a Parilla
Think of Argentina and you probably think of steak.
The wide-open plains of the Pampas are home to a huge cattle industry and beef is almost a national dish in Argentina.
If you are not vegetarian, you must try a Parilla (literally ‘grill’ or ‘barbecue’, this is synonymous for a steak house).
These are meat-heavy feasts.
Often multiple meat dishes are served throughout the meal and restaurants vary in quality.
For a cheerful, OK-quality Parilla, try El Disnivel in San Telmo, where you can see the meat being barbecued in front of the restaurant.
Tables have plastic tablecloths and are crammed close together, creating an intimate, relaxed atmosphere.
El Disnivel, Defensa 855, C1065 AAO, Buenos Aires
Gran Parilla del Plata
For a more upmarket option, I highly recommend Gran Parilla del Plata in San Telmo.
There are two rooms – the backroom is smaller and cuter, with cured meats hanging over the bar.
This was, quite simply, the best steak that I have ever had in my entire life.
I am not exaggerating.
The desserts were also delicious and they serve a free glass of sparkling wine with dessert.
This restaurant is especially popular after Michelle Obama visited in 2016, so reservations are necessary.
Keep in mind that porteños dine late, so don’t expect to eat at 6 pm!
Gran Parilla del Plata, Chile 592, C1098 AAL, Buenos Aires
Other parillas that come recommended (but I didn’t try) include Don Julio in Palermo Soho, El Pobre Luis in Belgrano, Cabana las Lila in Puerto Madero, and Parille Pena in Recoleta.
15- Visit the Teatro Colón
This is the most beautiful theatre in all of South America.
The current building dates from 1908 and was fully renovated in 2010.
To see the lobbies and inside the theatre and learn about the history and architecture of this incredibly beautiful building, take a 50-minute tour.
Tours run every 15 minutes from 9 am to 5 pm except when performances are happening, though there is usually one English tour an hour.
Even better – check their website to see if a performance is happening when you are there.
The acoustics are perfectly balanced (our guide was an opera singer and gave us a short demonstration so we could hear the sound quality), making this one of the best theatres in the world for sound quality.
Inside is a confection of multi-layered boxes in the tradition of many European opera houses.
Teatro Colón, Cerrito 628, 1010 CABA
There you have it! 15 fun and fabulous things to do in Buenos Aires! Enjoy your trip.
Resources to help you plan your visit:
James Ian at Travel Collecting has travelled to 78 countries (including Argentina three times) and all seven continents. Through his blog, he helps people to have fun, meaningful and interesting experiences when they travel by giving inspiration and the practical information needed to turn that inspiration into reality.