7 Buenos Aires Highlights You Won’t Want To Miss
The lively city of Buenos Aires has so much to offer a first-time visitor, choosing which sights, activities and events to see first is no easy task. Sensual tango shows, the world’s tastiest steak, touring the Boca Juniors Football Stadium, and visiting infamous Evita’s tomb, are just a few of your options.
I recently had the fortune of spending five glorious days in Buenos Aires, and it fast became one of my favourite cities in the entire world thanks to its variety, beauty, history and beyond welcoming Argentinian people.
So, based on those five days of walking tours, evenings on the town, and general exploring, here are my recommendations of the highlights you should not miss…
Visit an authentic Milonga
A Milonga is a social event, held late at night in red-lit halls around the city, full of incredible dancers. Now, there are dozens of opportunities to see tango dancers in action while in Buenos Aires, and I’m sure whatever hotel or hostel you choose to stay at will be quick to offer you spectacular tango show excursions complete with a three-course meal upon arrival, but for me, the Milonga is the best option.
Why? Because the dancers at a Milonga are ordinary people; they aren’t putting on a show for the benefit of tourists (well, most of them aren’t), and they’re in the venue for pure dance enjoyment. As a spectator, this makes watching the tango live even more exciting and mesmerising.
Men and women dressed in tight-fitting clothes twirl and stride around a square dance floor, while you nurse a drink on the sidelines in darkness, captivated track after track. Of course, if you’re brave enough, it is an open floor, so you’re welcome to give it a go! Maybe take a couple of lessons first though…
Stroll the San Telmo Sunday Market
This one’s only possible if you’re in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, but if you can time it that you are, definitely hit the San Telmo Market. It’s a place where local vendors line cobbled streets for miles, displaying bright and cheerful objects, from shoes, hats and jewellery, to masks, toys and pottery. The smells of deeply marinated barbecued meat, fresh crepes, and red wine, follow you as you browse from stall to stall – my mouth is watering just remembering those scents!
In the midst of the stalls, live performers soothe out a mixture of latin, jazz, and rock music, which locals dance and sing to behind their items for sale. No one is pushy and you are not made to feel obligated to buy something, you simply move from stand to stand, taking it all in, and if you’ve got the room in your backpack, picking up a few unique pieces along the way.
Who could possibly visit Buenos Aires without sampling some incredible beef steak? Well, a vegetarian maybe, but if you’re not vegetarian you simply have to take advantage of steak that is so well-prepared, so well-cooked, and such good value for money. I haven’t eaten steak in every single place I’ve travelled to, so when I say it’s the world’s tastiest steak it’s a bit of an assumption, but I’ll tell you one thing; the steak in Buenos Aires is the best steak I have eaten anywhere, ever.
In particular, the restaurant Des Vivel in San Telmo was A-class. Bustling and busy, you may have to wait a little for a table, but it’s worth it when your knife slices into gorgeously tender meat that simply falls apart in your mouth. Wow, writing this blog post is making me hungry.
La Boca for football and bohemian vibes
La Boca is a neighbourhood known as home to both the Boca Juniors Football Stadium, and Caminito; streets containing delightfully colourful houses. The first piece of advice I’ll give you for visiting attractions here, is to make sure you know where you are going, and the second, is to not stray from your route. La Boca is renowned for being a tourist mugging hotspot. When I visited with my boyfriend, we naively decided to stroll through the neighbourhood and take a look around, only reading after we’d made it to our destination that you absolutely should not do this – woops! While we weren’t mugged (thankfully), the vibe was not a good one and we both felt uneasy.
Having said this, once you reach Caminito a bright bohemian atmosphere takes over completely. Spend time posing outside houses made up of yellow, blue, green, red, and orange paints, then head to the Boca Juniors Football Stadium and take a tour to learn about Argentina’s legendary football team and the likes of Diego Maradona.
If you’ve ever visited the Soho of London, you’ll feel right at home in vibrant Palermo Soho. Come late afternoon, bars, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs spill out onto squares, lit by yellow luminescent lightbulbs as the sky darkens. A favourite haunt for backpackers, holidaymakers and locals alike, this young and lively area is less about traditional Argentinian culture, and more about the thrive of young, fashionable crowds, socialising over casual beers and food. You’ll find an array of trendy options here, enough to keep you out ’till late, that’s for sure!
Palermo is also the neighbourhood in which I encountered a true stranger’s generosity, so let me take a moment to shout out to the lovely guy that paid for mine and my partner’s bus fare back to San Telmo, without you we’d have been stranded!
Take a walking tour
The history of Buenos Aires is incredibly interesting, and by taking a walking tour around the city each building and barrio is given a much deeper meaning than you’d assume at first glance. From the days of Evita and the politics that surrounded her husband’s rule, to stolen children actively being traced in an effort to reunite families, decades after their disappearance, Buenos Aires cannot truly be experienced until you’ve absorbed the volatile yet incredible history of the country. I took a walking tour arranged through America Del Sur Hostel, in San Telmo, which I’d highly recommend.
Evita, actually named Eva Perón, was First Lady of Argentina, and adored by many Argentinian people for her controversial support of both poor people and female voting rights. Her body now sits in a grand tomb twice the height of an average person, and surrounded by hundreds of equally impressive but hugely spooky tombs.
Walking through La Recoleta Cemetery is like walking through a city of death. Full of alleyways and terraced stone buildings, many of the tombs are home to whole families of wealthy deceased. Many of the tombs actually contain windows and simple doors, some half ajar with smashed glass. Cobwebs are clearly visible within the tombs themselves and across the ageing wooden entrances. It’s a strange experience, but one that shouldn’t be missed.
Of course, there are dozens of other activities, and things to see and do within Buenos Aires, without even considering day trips to nearby towns and landmarks. For me though, the five above struck a chord and will be forever be engrained in my memory.
Throughout the whole of Central and South America, I didn’t encounter such an open warmness and willingness to help foreign strangers as in this wonderful city. From the woman who noticed us peering closely at a map while taking the tube and offered to help with directions, to another that urged me to keep my camera close while strolling by The Pink House, the friendliness myself and my partner received is just one of the reasons my love of Buenos Aires is strong. If this post has given you the inspiration to visit, I hope yours will be too.
Want to know more about any of the highlights mentioned above? No problem, just leave me a comment below, and don’t forget to share this post with any travel buddies destined for Argentina!