A Guide to Buenos Aires: The Vibrant City in Argentina
Our comprehensive Buenos Aires travel guide features the best things you can see and do in the capital city of Argentina. You can find here tips on must-visit places, where to stay, how to get around, how to stay safe when traveling on a budget.
Buenos Aires is not the classic destination where people flock to admire the must-visit places like in popular European cities.
Yet, we were pleasantly surprised by the city's vibrant atmosphere, and during three days in Buenos Aires, we quickly found out that there are plenty of worthwhile things to see and do.
When looking back at a couple of days we spent in Buenos Aires, we cannot help it, but instead of architectural highlights and tourist attractions, we rather recall the feeling we had when wandering the streets in the city center.
It was pure joy.
The city center was clean, alive, and the atmosphere vibrant, buildings around us were well-kept, insanely massive, and high - it was quite a difference when we compare it to other capital cities in South America, and Buenos Aires quickly became our favorite capital on the continent for no particular reason.
Maybe we got drunk by the omnipresent scent of sensual tango in the air.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN BUENOS AIRES
Although we don't mind to go with the flow when exploring a new destination if you are looking for an inspiration for your Buenos Aires itinerary, here's a list of best things to see and do while in this metropolitan city.
The impressive building of the Teatro Colon is one of the most famous opera houses in the world.
The building is photogenic from the outside, but if you want to see the majestic interior, you need to either buy a ticket for opera which is expensive, or you can take a city tour which includes the visit of the theatre as well.
Teatro Colon lies on Plaza Lavalle where you can find other beautiful buildings and greenery in the middle of the square where locals like to sit down, take a rest, or have a picnic.
It might seem weird to put a cemetery among top-things to see in Buenos Aires, but Recoleta Cemetery is an exceptional place (overall cemeteries in South America are worth checking, a cemetery in La Paz, for example, is interesting as well).
Not only the architecture of tombs and crypts is impressive, but important people who lived in Buenos Aires are resting here.
Among them, one of the most outstanding artists of Argentina history, Eva 'Evita' Peron has a grave here. The grandeur of the cemetery is simple - people wanted to be appreciated even after death, and they wanted to everyone know they belong among the elite of society.
If you want to know more about statues and architecture in Recoleta Cemetery and hear more stories, you can book a guided tour.
PLAZA DE MAYO
Plaza de Mayo is the main square in Buenos Aires built by Spaniards during colonial times.
When walking in the city center, you cannot miss the square, where many important events in the country's history took place. It is a place of power because you can find here many government and administration buildings.
One of the most notable buildings on the square is Casa Rosada alias Pink House, which also serves as the seat of the president.
On the other side of the square, you can find other famous buildings such as The Metropolitan Cathedral or Historical Museum.
Because Argentina as a county has been experiencing many economic issues in the past few years (Argentinian Peso has decreasing value because of the inflation), lately Plaza de Mayo is also a place where many protests against the government are held.
OBELISCO ON AVENIDA 9 DE JULIO
Obelisk of Buenos Aires is an iconic national monument standing in the middle of the widest streets in the world, Avenida 9 de Julio.
This attraction is hard to miss, and we believe you will see the pointy obelisk many times when walking in the center, and you will cross the street named after Argentina's Independence Day more than once as well. The street has 14 to 20 lines depending on if you count lines for pedestrians in the middle. The avenue is so wide that is not possible to cross the avenue during one green signal, and it is not because the green light shines shortly.
One of the most touristy parts of Buenos Aires is La Boca neighborhood.
This part of the capital city was once one of the poorest areas, and although La Boca became popular and people living here make money out of tourism, it is still not recommended to wander off the main tourist street, and you should not even think to walk around at night.
La Boca is a traditional neighborhood with a few colorful photogenic streets, hipster coffee shops, shops with art, tango, and football.
The community is also a home for Argentina's most famous football team Boca Juniors, and true fans can visit the stadium on a guided tour.
PLAZA GENERAL SAN MARTIN & TORRE MONUMENTAL
Plaza General San Martin is another notable square in Buenos Aires in Retiro district.
Rather than an official square, this plaza looks more like a park, and we noticed that many people decided to take a rest under trees which provide shade during insanely hot summer days.
You can find many fine buildings around Plaza General San Martin such as 33-story Art Deco Kavanagh building, back in times the highest building in Latin America or an equestrian statue, but our favorite monument on this square was Torre Monumental, a high white-red clock tower.
BANCO DE LA NACION ARGENTINA
When walking the streets of Buenos Aires, you can only for a while stop in front of the fine neoclassical building of the National Bank, and take some photos of a place which should represent the country's financial stability.
Hopefully, this will be the true again in the near future.
PUENTE DE LA MUJER
Puente de la Mujer alias Women's Bridge is one of the most stunning examples of modern architecture in Buenos Aires.
There are several bridges you can use to cross Rio Dique, but if you can, head to this asymmetrical rotating footbridge. The unusual shape of the bridge is very photogenic, so bring your camera. You can enjoy crossing the bridge together with a pleasant walk along the river, where you can also find many restaurants and coffee shops, when having a rest after all day exploring the city.
ARA PRESIDENTE SARMIENTO
Ara Presidente Sarmiento is a navy museum located on a boat you can see when approaching the Women's Bridge, and it is an interesting sight even when you don't plan on going inside.
The ship was originally built as a training ship, that's why it remained intact, and visitors can admire the unbelievably good condition of this ship when we consider it is more than 120 years old.
EL ATENEO BOOKSHOP
One of the top world's bookshops (in 2019 the bookshop was voted as the most beautiful), El Ateneo is a real treat for eyes.
The store is located in a converted theatre, so space is unique and eye-catching.
Even when you do not plan on buying a book, you can walk inside and have a look.
MERCADO SAN TELMO
San Telmo is a beautiful district of Buenos Aires well-known for its market.
The official market day is on Sunday when the market double or triple its regular everyday size. You can find vendors on the streets selling everything you can think of, and the place transforms into an outdoor stage where you can watch tango dancers and singers.
We happened to be in Buenos Aires during weekdays, so the market was still open, but did not sprawl across the streets of the quiet neighborhood.
To be completely honest, we did not enjoy the visit of the Mercado that much, because we found it way too touristy and overpriced.
The building of Palacio Barolo is inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, so when you go inside, expect to climb from hell to heaven. But even from the outside, you can tell this piece of architecture is outstanding.
Palacio Barolo can be visited only with a guided tour.
ESTACION RETIRO MITRE
When we were on our way to buy bus tickets to Paraguay, we accidentally stumbled across one of the largest Argentina's railway stations.
The building stands on the opposite side of Plaza General San Martin, is more than 100 years old, and when in the area, you should not miss having a look inside, because the interior is worth seeing.
ONE-DAY TRIP TO COLONIA DEL SACRAMENTO
If you have one day to spare in Buenos Aires, we recommend you to take a one-day trip to UNESCO city in Uruguay, Colonia del Sacramento.
The picturesque city featuring pretty cobblestone streets and the historical center is worth visiting. Some people travel to Colonia only to get a passport stamp from another country, but we think the town deserves at least a couple of hours of your time.
Uruguay is only a short boat ride from the capital city of Argentina, so it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
Here is a guide How to get to Colonia from Buenos Aires by ferry.
RESERVA ECOLOGICA COSTANERA SUR
Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, but it can get overwhelming after some time.
If you feel you need a short city break, head to Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur, which is a large park, where you can walk, jog, cycle, soak in nice views, observe wildlife and admire the modern skyline.
When you ask a random person to name one thing he imagines when you say Argentina, we bet he will respond tango.
Tango dance is a synonym to Argentina, and where else should you watch the passionate dance than in the country where it was born. Although when reading guides you might get a feeling that you will meet hundreds of dancers on the streets every day, it is not the truth, and you need to know where to go.
Your best bet will be to go to La Boca neighborhood if you want to enjoy a free tango show or you can attend one of the more fancy shows in a theatre.
FACULTAD DE INGENIERIA
Without knowing it, one day we accidentally emerged in front of a massive building with large columns. When we looked into a map, we found out it is a building of the Faculty of Engineering.
We are not saying this is a must-do, but when in the area, you can take a detour to have a look.
Avenida Florida was one of the busiest streets we walked in Buenos Aires.
The avenue is pedestrian-friendly, so we did not have to worry about traffic which was a nice change, although the traffic in Argentina is by no means that crazy as in other countries in South America.
The street is full of shops (you can find here both reputable and no name brands), cafes, money exchange offices and touts.
Although your budget is small or you do not have enough space in your backpack, you can go inside Galerias Pacifico, which is a large shopping mall in the center of Buenos Aires.
The mall is located in a well-preserved building, but the main feature here is colorful facades and painted murals on the ceilings.
WHERE TO STAY IN BUENOS AIRES
Buenos Aires is the second largest city in South America by population, so it cannot take you by surprise that there are hundreds of accommodation options for every budget. We've handpicked three best hotels in the city center for every type of travelers.
Budget | Hotel Siena - Perfectly located hotel offers simple but clean accommodation with private bathrooms and air-condition for travelers on a budget
Mid-range | Own Recoleta - Hidden gem within walking distance from the city center has spacious rooms with comfortable beds. Best value for money you can get.
Luxury | Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires - Excellent hotel offers luxurious rooms and perfect service, delicious breakfast, spa, outdoor swimming pool, and gym. This is the best place you can stay in Buenos Aires.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
HOW TO GET AROUND BUENOS AIRES
Buenos Aires has an extensive system of public transport, and you can use bus or metro when you need to get from one place to another. We were able to walk everywhere on foot, except for when we traveled from the airport, and when we needed to get to the bus station.
When using public transport, you need to buy a SUBE card and load it with money, because unlike in other cities in South America, it is not possible to pay for a ticket to a driver.
You can purchase the card in almost every newspaper kiosk or at metro stations.
HOW TO GET TO BUENOS AIRES
If you are backpacking around South America, you can for sure get to Buenos Aires by bus from a large number of destinations, because the capital city of Argentina has one of the largest bus stations on the continent. We, for example, traveled from Buenos Aires to Encarnacion in Paraguay.
Buenos Aires has a large international airport, so it is easy to reach the city from every place around the world. We traveled to BA from another Argentinian city, Ushuaia. You can also rent a car there.
When looking for flight tickets you can search Skyscanner to find the best price.
When you want to go to the center from the airport by public transport, you need to buy the SUBE card first. We forgot to do so, and when the bus was arriving, we could not find a kiosk where to buy it, and the driver couldn't receive money, but he was very kind and gave us a ride for free.
Alternatively, you can reserve a private transport to get from the airport to the city center more comfortably.
WHAT TO PACK FOR BUENOS AIRES
Seasons in South America are opposite, so keep that in mind when traveling to Buenos Aires. What to pack depends on when you plan on visiting the city, because winter from June to September can be quite cold, autumn and spring have mild temperatures while summer from December to February is hot and humid.
Here are five essential things you should pack for Buenos Aires
Camera | It was pleasant to take pictures of Buenos Aires while wandering its grand streets.
Ultralight Packable Daypack | When walking around the city, we found these small foldable backpacks great.
We've also written an in-depth South America packing list where you will find more useful tips and advice on what to pack.
SAFETY IN BUENOS AIRES
As every larger city in South America, Buenos Aires has safety issues, and you should keep eyes on your belongings all the time, especially when walking around places with large concentration with people where you can easily be a target for pickpockets.
We felt safe in Buenos Aires, but some areas on the outskirt, even touristy La Boca is better to visit during the day.
Check out our post Is it safe to travel South America? for more safety tips and advice.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!