Here is your list of things that you must do in Buenos Aires. The sights to see, foods to taste and some of the more unusual things to do that you may not have considered. Enjoy!
Food and Drinks to Try
It is debatable who holds the #1 title for ice cream worldwide, Italy or Argentina. You be the judge.
Home to some of the finest beef in the world, it makes sense that Argentina would also have excellent dairy. Their cheeses come up very short when competing internationally, but their sweet-tooth obsession has led to the world’s finest frozen treats.
Munchis, Freddo, Persico and Volta are the biggest name chains that have developed some of the top Argentinian ice cream. Each boast that their selection of the highest quality cream make their ice cream the front runner. Don’t be shy in trying some of the local mom and pop ice cream parlors in your neighborhood. Ice cream is often the most overlooked thing to do in Buenos Aires. *Keep an eye out for smaller chain stores like LadoBueno and Juaja. The latter originates out of Patagonia and has a massive stock of flavors ranging from sarsaparilla to cucumber and strawberry sorbet.
Let’s get right to it- the average steak in Buenos Aires is ridiculously good. Eating a tasty cut of Argentine beef is a given on your things to do list while in Argentina. For those of you with adventurous palates, there are several choice cuts that are not often found outside of Argentina in restaurants including our personal favorites entraña (skirt steak) and vacio (flank steak). These are somewhat tougher and less sought after cuts, but offer sensational flavor.
Must try’s: Lomo (tenderloin), bife de chorizo (NY Strip steak), chorizo (beef and pork sausages) and the famous tira de asado (a thin cut of beef ribs)
Don’t skip the local delicacies: Morcilla (blood sausage), chinchulines (small intestines), riñones (kidneys), molleja (sweet breads). Ask for them to be cooked crocante (crispy). For more on these cuts, what they are and how to pronounce them read our article on Meat in Buenos Aires
The most famous steakhouses in Buenos Aires are Don Julio’s in Palermo, Cabana de las Lilas in Puerto Madero (they have their own cattle ranch!), La Brigada in San Telmo and La Cabrera in Palermo. Be sure to make a reservation or show up early by Argentinean standards (8:00 pm for dinner). Ideal dining times for Argentina target the 9:00 to 10:00 pm slot. For more steakhouse recommendations in Buenos Aires.
A massively important Argentinian past time is the coveted Sunday asado (BBQ). A slow, relaxing time to share with friends and family typically occupy the majority of the day with multiple stages of gluttony. Lots of wine, cheese, aged sausages, salads and of course multiple courses of meat. It may be quite a challenge to not only befriend, but be invited to a family’s asado within your time here so consider the traveler’s short cut, Frank’s Asado Adventure.
Mate and Fernet
Mate (general term for this South American tea) is the most commonly drunk tea in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil. Drinking this just looks cool and is one of the more unusual things you can try in Buenos Aires. You will be armed with a bombilla (bomb-bee-sha) or metal straw, mate (mah-tay) which is a hollowed out gourd and yerba (shur-bah) or ground up tea leaves and stems. The taste is on the bitter side, but can be cut with a teaspoon of sugar.
Although this is normally consumed in groups relaxing in parks, in the office or sitting around a kitchen table you can find this served in some restaurants. Try La Cholita in Recoleta, La Pena Colorado in Palermo, Mama Racha in Palermo Soho, Cusic on El Salvador or Las Cholas in Las Canitas.
Fernet…is the coveted herbal liquor that is massively popular in Buenos Aires and throughout the country. To read a bit more about Fernet’s origin, taste and variety of brands we’ve done our research. You will likely see this liquor mixed with Coke, creating it’s signature frothy head and being drunk anywhere there is a party going on. Generally a bitter spirit- it can be an acquired taste.
For more unusual drinks to try out in Argentina.
You have to eat some empanadas if you are visiting Buenos Aires. They are a staple of the Argentine diet. Chicken, beef, spicy beef, ham and cheese, onion and cheese, vegetable, everything- they all come in a savory pastry about the size of one’s fist. We recommend Cumana, Sanjuanino (for Northern style empanadas), Ña Serapia or El Cuartito, all of which are in or near Recoleta and are yum-yum tasty.
Tango things to do
It’s no surprise that Buenos Aires is internationally famous for it’s tango. What is a shocker for most newcomers is that the different styles and options for what to see can seem endless! Here’s a quick breakdown of the tango related things to do.
Tango shows: If you are short on time and want to see the professionals in action, check out a tango show. Almost all shows make it pretty easy with transportation to and from the show, a nice dinner with wine and of course the professional show. We’ve trimmed the selection down to what we believe are the best value tango shows with optional dinners. Feel free to let us know if you are having trouble choosing which venue to go to. We’ve been to them all and can help you make an educated decision.
Milonga: A milonga is where people who actually dance tango go. Some are underground, some are members only, some welcome all. This is a good place to see what tango actually looks like in the real world. Milongas can be tricky- if you show up to a real traditional milonga, you’ll probably notice that no one will want to dance with you, women and men are seated separately like a middle school dance and all sorts of subtle nods are taking place! Just plan on observing, having a drink and seeing real enthusiasts do what they love to do.
If you would like to check out a milonga here is a handy calendar guide with listed days and times, updated regularly.
Sports: Football (Soccer) aka futbol and Polo
Soccer/Football: Like most countries in the world, futbol is the dominant sport here in Argentina. The fans are absolutely crazy for their teams and this can spark serious family issues (not kidding), tears and even mental breakdowns (really not kidding, see exhibit A of this viral video of a River Plate grandpa).
There are 5 main teams in Argentina dubbed the “big 5” and all are located in Buenos Aires (River Plate, Boca Juniors, San Lorenzo, Racing Club and Independiente).
Seeing a soccer game where the legions of loyal fans/fanatics chant and dance and jump around for 2 hours straight is unreal! River Plate and Boca Juniors are the two most well known teams internationally. San Lorenzo, Racing Club and Independiente make up the remaining 3 of the “big 5” Argentinean clubs and are very good teams to check out while you are here. They tend to offer more affordable prices as the demand for tickets at River Plate and Boca Juniors are often restricted to members driving supply down and demand up. All 5 have legions of fans and rich futbol histories so seeing any of them should be on your check list of things to do in Buenos Aires. My personal preference is for San Lorenzo. Here you can see why
Note: The AFA or Argentinean Futbol Association is sloppy when it comes to scheduling games. They will mark each game down under fechas or games to be played during that week and set the exact time and date about 7-10 days before. Example: Boca Juniors vs River Plate, fecha 9 (October 9-16). So planning to see a particular match can get tricky when creating itineraries with more than a couple of weeks advance notice. Most games are played on Saturday and Sunday though so aim to leave your weekend’s late afternoons open.
Check to see what soccer matches in Buenos Aires are happening during your time here or feel free to send us an email at LandingPadBA@gmail.com. We’re happy to help out. Attending futbol games in Buenos Aires is our specialty.
Most regular season games are between August to early December and following summer break pick back up in February to late May. There are often exhibition matches and world cup qualifiers in January, June and July and some big cup tournaments that randomly take place throughout the year.
Polo: Polo tournament season tends to run between October to December. You may find some exhibition games happening from time to time, but the Spring/Summer in Buenos Aires is the season for polo games and tournaments. The calendars are released in typical Argentinean fashion, about a month before they play. The main polo tournament is played in Palermo in late November to mid December and very accessible to all except for advanced stages. Tickets can be bought at the gate for about $20-$30 USD.
Alternatively, one thing to do that many do not consider is trying to learn how to play polo! The sport of kings is available to complete beginners (novice to experienced riders are welcome). Puesto Viejo estancia puts together a nice full day of transportation to and from, asado lunch, snacks through out the day and 2 polo lessons (morning and late afternoon). Many of the days you can catch a scrimmage match up close. Polo lessons in Buenos Aires are about as unique of an activity as you can get!
Leather jackets, purses, pants, belts, shoes- you name it and they sell it here. Now about that quality…trust your instincts. If it looks shabby (plastic or vinyl like appearance) or has a price tag that is too good to be true then it is. What I often tell people is that buying a top quality leather jacket in Gucci or Christian Dior would run you well over a thousand dollars. That same jacket without the recognizable name brand stitched into the lining will cost you about $400 USD here in Buenos Aires.
For more info and a handy map on tips and where to buy leather in Buenos Aires.
Areas around Florida pedestrian street are conveniently located and vary in quality. Shop around and don’t be pressured into buying a jacket in the first store you enter.
Alternatively, for those that are feeling more adventurous, check out the leather district at the intersection Murillo and Scalabrini Ortiz.
The Sites to See (“the things you are supposed to do” quick list)
-La Casa Rosada in Centro: The presidential pink house
-Recoleta Cemetery in Recoleta: A massive cemetery with detailed mausoleums, crypts and vaults. Evita Peron is buried there amongst many famous founding fathers, generals and politicians of Argentina
-El Caminito in La Boca: A very colorful tourist trap. It can be entertaining for an afternoon, but watch your wallet and where you explore.
-Cafe Tortoni in Centro: An elegant, “old wood and leather” cafe. Many famous authors once visited frequently here. Tango shows, good coffee and snacks.
-Plaza de Mayo in Centro: The plaza in front of the presidential house where large protests and political gatherings have taken place.
-Puente de Mujer in Puerto Madero: A modern bridge that crosses the port area. It hardly seems feminine with a fairly phallic extension.
-Teatro Colón in Centro: One of the greatest theaters in the world. Fantastic acoustics, recently refurbished, great ballets, operas and orchestras are played here regularly. Teatro Colon’s schedule is shown on their website and we have an article about how to get tickets to Teatro Colón to help make the process easier.
If you want to see some or all of these sites, learn the country’s history, hear about Argentina’s current pop culture with a guide in group or private style check out the variety of Buenos Aires City Tours.
The Street Fairs
In many of the plazas of Buenos Aires there are street fairs where artisans bring their art, silver, leather, cheeses, unique clothing and so much more. The items you will see are quite varied and the entertainment can be quite random. Don’t be surprised to see your first taste of real tango at one of these fairs along side the amazing dancing robot-man.
A good way to hit two birds with one stone is to go to the Recoleta fair on Saturday or Sunday. The fair wraps around Plaza Francia which is conveniently in front of the Recoleta cemetery, also an internationally famous site in Buenos Aires. The resting place of many of the founding fathers of Argentina and the most famous Argentinean politician Eva Peron.
Here is a complete list of the ferias or street fairs in Buenos Aires that we recommend. Note the times and days.
Other fairs you should consider visiting are the San Telmo fair on Sunday which focuses on antiques, but also has a strong showing of street performers, tango dancers and artisans. Also the Mataderos fair on Saturday and Sunday is an off the beaten path fair. It has a tendency to feel a bit more “local” and is light on tourists especially compared to the San Telmo fair. Be careful in this area at dusk and night hours. Also, double check to make sure the fair is open (Mataderos website), it closes during the hot summer months.
Last, but not least- going out.
Buenos Aires is internationally known for its nightlife for all ages. You will see 3 year old kids with their families exiting a restaurant at 1:30 in the morning and 80 year old couples strolling casually down the street with ice cream at midnight. Mainly you will see the teens, 20’s, 30’s and 40’s whooping it up at bars, clubs, gathering in the streets and enjoying their free time until 8 a.m. Try it, you might be amazed at your own stamina.
Note: Do not drink like you may drink in England, Ireland, the U.S., Australia, Germany, Russia…we are alcoholics comparatively. There is no rush here with late closing times. Pace yourself if you want to make it past 3 a.m.
Where to go, generally speaking…
Plaza Armenia (aka Plaza Palermo Viejo) in Palermo Soho
Plaza Serrano in Palermo Soho
Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo
Intersection of Niceto Vega y Humbolt in Palermo Hollywood
Intersection of Honduras y Bonpland in Palermo Hollywood
Recoleta Cemetery area
Have fun! It’s hard not to here!