Here is your list of things that you must do in Buenos Aires. The sights to see, foods to taste and things to do. We hope there are some suggestions that you may have not considered or read about anywhere else!
It is debatable who holds the title as #1 in ice cream worldwide, Italy or Argentina. You be the judge.
Home to the finest beef in the world, it makes sense that Argentina would also have excellent dairy. Their cheeses come up very short of competing with France, but their creams and sweet-tooth obsession with dulce de leche combined make for some serious frozen dessert.
Munchis, Freddo, Persico and Volta are the biggest name chains that have developed some of the finest Argentinian ice cream in the world. Each boast that their selection of the finest Argentinean creams make their ice cream the best in the business. Don’t be shy in trying some of the mom and pop ice cream shops in your neighborhood. Ice cream is often the most overlooked thing to do in Buenos Aires.
Despite much of the highest quality beef being exported, the average steak in Buenos Aires is ridiculously good. Eating a tasty cut of Argentine cow is a must on your things to do list. 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 “entrana” and “vacio”. These are somewhat tougher and less sought after cuts, but offer sensational flavor. Vacio is sandwiched in two layers of fat that are easily trimmed off and holds fantastic flavor. Entrana is on the chewy side, but equally tasty.
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), rinones (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!), Desnivel 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). For more steakhouse recommendations in Buenos Aires.
May 10, 2012 poll on our Facebook page we asked where was the best place to get a great steak and drink malbec wine. The top answers in addition to the above were: Rio Alba, La Brigada, Juana M, Parrilla Rolaso, El Establo.
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) or a hollowed out gourd and yerba (shur-bah) or ground up tea leaves and stems. The taste is fairly bitter, but can be cut with a teaspoon of sugar.
Although this is normally consumed in groups relaxing in parks, chatting on the balcony or sitting around a home you can find this served is 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.
We created a video about general rules, etiquette, how to prepare and drink mate.
Fernet…the coveted herbal liquor that is massively popular in Buenos Aires and through out 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.
You have to eat some empanadas if you are visiting Buenos Aires. They are a staple in the Argentinean 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 or El Cuartito Both are in Recoleta and are yum-yum tasty.
Buenos Aires is internationally famous for it’s tango. When dissecting the different styles and options they can seem endless! Here’s a quick breakdown of the tango things to do.
Tango show: If you are short on time and want to see the professionals in action, check out a tango show. Almost all shows offer transportation to and from the show, a nice dinner with wine and of course the professional show. Venues have nicely decorated show rooms, professional dancers, live musicians, singers and quality acoustics. 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! There are several guides that take you to the best milongas and teach you all about the proper etiquette and codes.
If you would like to check one out on your own here is a handy milonga guide with listed days and times, updated regularly.
Sports: Football (Soccer), Polo
Like most countries in the world, football is the dominant sport here in Argentina. The fans are absolutely crazy for their teams and this can even spark serious family issues if one sibling has chosen team loyalties unwisely.
Seeing a soccer game where the legions of loyal followers chant and dance and jump for 2 hours straight is a sight! River Plate and Boca Juniors are the two largest teams, but some of the lesser known teams can really pack a punch! Estudiantes, San Lorenzo, Racing and Independiente are good teams to check out while you are here also and tend to offer more affordable prices.
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 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.
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.
Most regular season games are between August to early December (Apertura tournament) and February to late May (Clasurada tournament). There are often exhibition matches and world cup qualifiers in January, June and July and some big cup tournaments that randomly take place through out the year.
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 $500 here 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 “C” marks the tip of the area.
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 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 Colon 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.
Here’s our hard sale! If you want to see some or all of these sites, learn the country’s history, hear about Argentina’s current pop culture and custom make your tour, let us take you on a Buenos Aires City Tour with our semi-famous LandingPadBA City Tour!
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 king for polo games and tournaments. The calendars are released in typical Argentinean fashion, about a month before they play. We do have tours and sell tickets from time to time. Click here to see if any polo games in Buenos Aires are being played or to make a reservation. We usually offer tickets with transportation, bilingual guide and some snacks and drinks.
Alternatively, one thing to do that many do not consider is trying to learn how to play polo! A well known local instructor, Fernando, teaches complete beginners with little to no riding experience. He also has a track record of helping train and instruct professionals from around the world. If you are interested let us know with as much advance notice as possible- all the big hotels send their guests to him.Polo lessons in Buenos Aires are about as unique of an activity as you can get!
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 very 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 mainly displays antiques, but also has a strong showing of street performers, tango dancers, artisans and an indoor flea market. 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, 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. It is not unusual to find 80 year old couples strolling casually down the street after enjoying some ice cream. 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. Pace yourself if you want to make it past 3 a.m.
For the most up to date list for Monday through Sunday places to go that are reputable now, in May of 2012 check out Alli’s article Going Out in Buenos Aires
Where to go:
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!
Updated May 14, 2012