You’ve got 3 days, you want to make the most of them and like all Globetrotters you want to make sure you see the “must do” attractions but you also want to explore the unique things that are not necessarily on the main tourist path. This new feature will highlight the must do’s, what to eat and drink when you’re here, and unique areas to explore.
Where to wander, what to explore?
Cementerio de la Recoleta
The number one attraction in Buenos Aires is this world renowned cemetery where past presidents, military heroes, influential politicians, the rich and famous and most notably Evita Peron are all buried. This grandest of cemeteries in the world is a city of the dead with endless streets that are lined with impressive statues and marble sarcophagi. You can peek into the crypts and see dusty coffins and attempt to decipher the history and lives of the occupants. A camera is a must and there are some excellent photo ops. You most definitely want to pick up a map of the cemetery from one of the numerous touts selling them at the entrance. You can take a free tour in English if you are here at 11am on a Tuesday or Thursday.
A Tango Show
Not just a tourist attraction by any means. Argentinians are almost as passionate for the Tango as they are for football (otherwise known as soccer). A Tango show is a must for every first time visitor. We work with a few, but the shows themselves can vary from street performances to multiple act theatre performances. There are a few great Art Deco theatres, and with dinner and wine included, the shows are actually a fun night out in BA.
Museo Nacional de Belles Artes
Argentina’s most impressive and most important arts museum is the Museo Nacional de Belle Artes or the National Art Museum. Housing numerous key works by native Argentinians Xul Solar, Benito Quinquela Martín, and Edwardo Sívori. There also have an impressive collection of international works by European masters such as Cézanne, Degas, Picasso, Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. The pieces are well displayed in a building that was once a pump house for the city waterworks and was designed by Julio Dormala before being modified by famed architect Alejandro Bustillo who is famous for designs the civic centre in Bariloche. The museum also houses a cinema, a concert venue and classes. As best with any museum it is always recommended to invest a few extra $$$ and take a tour. You are guaranteed to learn so much more. There are English speaking tours available.
Plaza de Mayo
Anchored by the impressive Banco de la Nacion, built in 1939 another work by Alejandro Bustillo to the North and the city’s main cathedral is the Plaza de Mayo. Teeming with tourists all snapping pics of the Piramide de Mayo, a white obelisk that marks the anniversary of Buenos Aires independence from Spain. The Plaza is where all protests start and the locals certainly love to protest (peacefully).
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The Unique, the unusual and the unexpected
What makes travelling best is wandering away from the must sees and simply immersing yourself into what the locals do every day. We recommend that everyone leaves one day entirely free of preset plans.
Ride The Subte
The subte (subway) is an inexpensive and easy way to move around Buenos Aires, not to mention fast as anyone who has tried to drive around can quickly attest to. Few tourists realize that Line A was built in 1913, is the oldest subway in South America and is an attraction in itself. You can ride original cars with wooden benches and panels, and a conductor who opens and closes and manual doors. If you’re in BA on a Sunday you can ride the Line A to Almagro a Barrio famous for its book fair.
Meet Gauchos at the Fería De Mataderos
For those that are not going to have a chance to see Gauchos in the countryside there is indeed the possibility of meeting them in BA. Every Sunday in the winter (June to September) from 11am to 8pm and on Saturday nights in the summer one can head to the Feria De Mataderos where gauchos of all ages gallop past crowds of locals at ferocious speeds to compete in traditional contests. Colorfully dressed dancers perform country dances known as chacareras to lively folk music and local women serve up locro, a traditional and delicious meat stew as well as the must try homemade empanadas with a wide range of fillings. If BBQ is more your style then you’ll be in heaven as you catch a waft of beef and sausage slowly cooking and permeating the air in a smoky haze. To round out the experience take a stroll past the 100 or so stalls selling everything from jars of dulce de leche (famous caramel crème sauce) to metalwork and handicrafts.
A barrio is a neighborhood and BA is made up of numerous diverse barrio that are well worth the visit. Each barrio has its own unique atmosphere and is best explored on foot with plenty of time to wander through boutiques and sip coffee or wine at sidewalk cafes. There are super cool cafes and small boutiques selling trendy clothing that you won’t find at home in the Palermo Soho. Old colonial buildings line the cobbled streets of San Telmo, in Abasto houses are decorated with lyrics and portraits of tango maestro Carlos Gardel (a testament to how passionate the nation is to tango). A visit to at least a couple of barrios away from the crowded city centre is necessary to understand the heart and soul of this city full of music, art, food and a bit of chaos.
What to eat and drink, and some suggestions as to where to find it:
Well what to eat is easy: steak! And to wash it down? A large silky glass of Malbec. Vegetarians don’t despair, there is a small but growing vegetarian restaurant scene in BA. The Argentines do not even consider eating before 9pm. As a result you will not find much trouble with crowds if you stick to the typical 7pm North American meal time. BUT if you want to experience the real atmosphere of a parrilla (steakhouse) then you must do as the locals and dine later.
Don Julio, Palermo
There’s a ton of restaurants that vie for the title of best parrilla in town, and this one is consistently at the top of the list. By striking an excellent balance between the indulgent and traditional. The dining room looks right into an open kitchen and the waiters will give you a full run down on all the cuts of meat, how they are prepared and suggest what you might like. You won’t be disappointed and the place smells heavenly. Argentinians eat the entire cow so you can get anything from sirloin and tenderloin to sweetbreads (a local fav and delicacy) to chitterlings (intestines…and not for everyone!). Of course it goes without saying that there are copious amounts of red wine available to wash it all down with. At the end the staff hand you your wine bottles to write messages on – fun to read and of course lots of celebs have dined here.
El Cuartito, Recoleta
There are ample pizzerias in BA and there is no doubt that after steak pizza is a favorite of locals and the El Cuaritto in Recoleta is one of the best. Established in 1934, this classic is dressed up like an Argentinian-themed diner (white-and-celeste flags, football memorabilia, photos of old tango crooners). There is no thin crust pizza here, expect thick bases, loads of gooey mozzarella and only a touch of tomato. The cost is dirt cheap and it is very casual but well worth the effort.
Take a break from steak
Buenos Aires is famous for its high quality, affordable steaks but after a while all that meat gets a bit much. Luckily there are some excellent, healthier alternatives including delicious Armenian mezze at Sarkis restaurant – we loved the flavour-packed dishes including mashed red peppers with walnuts, grilled aubergine in herbs, and feta cheese with olives.
There’s also a growing vegetarian restaurant scene where you can sample pear, goats cheese and rocket bruschetta at Artemisia and inventive dishes like mushroom and sundried tomato ceviche at Kensho.