You can almost hear the collective sigh. The air is drier, the day’s are brighter. Everyone steps a little more lightly. There’s even a joyous cadence to the incessant honking of car horns. The guy at my local kiosko actually smiled at me for once, or it might’ve been just a facial twitch. But I’m looking in a positive light because Primavera, Spring, has (finally!) arrived. The entire mood of the city has changed overnight. Once more, the parks and plazas are filled with families and dogs. Young couples passionately making out in public. Buenos Aires has finally come out of hibernation, and there is really no better time in the year to visit than during Spring.
Parks and Plazas
Sun and mild weather – it’s the perfect time to pack a picnic and head outdoors.
For picnic supplies, hit up Bodega Amporo for cheese, cured meats and wine (Darwin 1548, Palermo), Le Pain Quotidien for fresh baked goods (Amernia 1641, Palermo or Vicente Lopez 2050 in the Recoleta Mall beside the cemetery) and Pain et Vin for (more) wine and tasty sandwiches (Gorriti 5132, Palermo).
The best place to start are the Bosques de Palermo, a huge expanse of leafy grasslands where locals go to picnic, walk their dogs or exercise. It’s the perfect place to people watch and catch some sun. In this huge expanse of greenery are the Botanical Gardens, the Planetarium, the Japanese Gardens and a man-made lake around which you will find many image-conscious Porteños jogging, roller-blading (like it’s 1996, not 2016…), and cross-fitting.
If you prefer not to pack your own food and booze, visit Los Arcos (Avenida Libertardor 3883, Palermo) a complex of bars and restaurants in the middle of the park. The venues are built inside of the supporting arches holding up a beautiful railroad bridge (still in use!) – you can drink a cold cerveza and watch or listen to the train to Tigre rumble overhead. We recommend Avant Garten, a craft beer bar with a sleek design and comfortable outdoor areas for sitting and soaking the late afternoon sun.
Only a short walk or bike ride away from Bosque de Palermo, the famous Recoleta Cemetary and the surrounding parks and plazas are wonderful to explore on foot (or bike) and with a camera – its an area full of fantastic monuments, outdoor sculptures and architecture.
We suggest you begin with the Floralis Genérica (Corner of Avenida del Libertador and Dr Carlos Vaz Ferreira), a 23 metre tall steel and aluminium flower with mechanical petals that open during the day and close at night. Beside it, the Acropolis-esque Universidad of Buenos Aires Law School (Av. Presidente Figueroa Alcorta 2263) with its majestic columns and wide steps. Across the street is the Museo Nacional de Bella Artes (Av. del Libertador 1473), which has a free and excellent collection of classical Argentine paintings and European masters such as Monet, Manet, Gauguin, Toulouise-Lautrec and Rodin. A short walk away is the space-age Biblioteca Nacional (Aguero 2502), a stunning example of Soviet-era style brutalist architecture. Over looking all this is the Plaza Mitre (cnr Aguero and Av. del Libertador) with a truly magnificent statue of one of the country’s founding fathers, Bartholome Mitre on horseback.
Last on the itinerary is the famous Recoleta Cemetary (Junin 1760) itself, and by the time you’ve seen that you’re about ready for an coffee or an apertif. For that, relax in the shade of the giant tree in the outdoor terrace of La Biela (Manuel Quintana 596 – just across the plaza from the entrance of the Cemetery) one of the cities most famous cafes (a former hangout of literary greats Adolfo Bioy Casares and Jorge Luis Borges – their very *ahem* life-like statues greet customers as they enter the main door).
Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve is a nature reserve on the riverbanks just outside of Puerto Madero, home to many species of bird life. It’s another popular escape for Porteños, a popular spot for jogging and biking. After a little hearty exercise, eat a steak or choripan at one of the many carts that line the promenade outside the entrance of the reserve.
The paved promenade of Puerto Madero is also a great place to stroll and people watch, but you should be warned that prices there are much higher than anywhere else in the city.
Chacarita Cemetery – for the cemetery enthusiasts, the Chacarita Cemetery in Villa Crespo is also beautiful, less touristy and greener – there are grassy and leafy spots perfect for picnicking. It is also conveniently connected to Recoleta and Palermo by bike lanes, which brings us to…
A great way to explore these parks and plazas is via the city’s extensive network of bicycle lanes (rated in the top 20 in the world) that connect all of these locations. Bicicleta Naranja has convenient locations in Palermo (Nicaragua 4817) and San Telmo (Pasaje Giuffra 308, nearby to Puerto Madero and the Ecological Reserve), while Bicis Ltau is conveniently located in Recoleta beside the cemetery (at the Buenos Aires Design Shopping Mall, Av. Pueyrredon 2501). Just remember to bring some form of identification to use as a security deposit.
If you prefer a guided biking tour (which will save you a lot of time and hassle on planning and bike hire), a graffiti tour of the city’s many impressive outdoor murals is a great way to explore. For more information about the graffiti tour go here or for other biking tours here.
For those who love the absurd and the bizarre, the Vatican funded Bible theme park, Tierra Santa (“The Holy Land”)(Avenida Costanera Rafael Obligado 5790) is the place for you.
How to describe Tierra Santa – in a nutshell, it is this – a miniature, reproduction of a Jerusalem in the first century, complete with actors dressed as Roman soldiers and slaves, as well as the many, many fibreglass figures depicting scenes from the Bible and ordinary life two thousand years ago. There are shows – a Nativitiy scene with some of worst (best) B-movie special effects this side of the Plan 9 From Outer Space, and an epic (and quite moving actually) re-enactment of The Last Supper to a soundtrack of classical music. Located near the water by the Aeroparque Jorge Newberry airport, it is possible to see planes fly over a the park’s showpiece – a 59-foot tall mechanical Jesus that pops out of a fiberglass mountain every hour (to music). Now that’s a something you don’t see everyday.
Afterwards, take a stroll along the seawall of Costanera Sur and eat a choripan or bondiola sandwich at one of the many parrilla carts by the water.
Eat, shop, stop for a coffee. And repeat. Here’s our list of the markets of Buenos Aires you ought to visit.
Buenos Aires Markets is a weekly food market that takes place at a different park or plaza each time. It’s a good way to check out a neighbourhood that’s not in the usual tourist spots. While a lot of the outdoor markets are catered for tourists, the Buenos Aires Markets are mostly aimed at locals. For those interested in gastronomy, the markets is a good place to eat and find locally crafted products (craft beers, condiments, baked goods, cheeses etc).
Spring Cultural Activities
Every Spring (October 29, 2016) the city hosts La Noche de los Museos, where over 100 museums and art galleries will be open to the public, admission free, running late from 8pm until 3.00am. Each location will host a series of cultural events – poetry readings, theatre, dance and musical performances and more. Note that some of the more popular locations such as MACBA, MALBA and the Casa Rosada will likely have long lines and waiting times. With over a hundred venues, we suggest you pick two or three, factoring in the travel and waiting time (check out the interactive map for here). We can recommend the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires Nacional (the most prestigious and beautiful high school in the country), the recently refurbished and world class Centro Cultural Kirchner and the Centro Cultural Recoleta which will have bands and DJs from 8pm until 3am. Whatever your itinerary, there is sure to be a healthy and lively crowd in the city that night.
For lovers of architecture, Open House Buenos Aires is a can’t miss. The annual event which runs for two days over the weekend of 3-4 December, is a free festival that offers the public a chance to tour many of the city’s architectural gems, many of which are private homes and offices not usually accessible to the public. This is a fantastic way to see parts of the city not usually in the guidebooks.
For music lovers, the annual Buenos Aires Jazz Festival will runs in late November (from 23 to 28 November 2016). There are ticketed and free events, taking place at various clubs, cultural centres and parks throughout the city. The schedule has not been published at the time of writing, but you can keep up to date on the Festivales de Buenos Aires Facebook page here.
Buenos Aires prides itself on tolerance and diversity. The 25th Marcha del Orgulla (LGPT Pride Parade) will take place from 1pm on Saturday 26 November 2016 at Plaza de Mayo. This is a huge event, drawing 200,000 participants last year. For more information, see the official Facebook page here.
Take advantage of the good weather and head out of the city. Get a little fresh air and head to Tigre, a quaint little township upriver. Or head to the countryside to visit an estancia (a gaucho ranch), do some horse riding or take up some polo lessons. To find out how to get to Tigre and what to do, see our guide. For estancia visits, horse ridding and polo lessons, see here.