While the leaves are changing colour and people are taking out their warm clothing in anticipation for the cold months ahead in Canada, here in Argentina I’m wearing sundresses and studying outside while summer quickly approaches. As much as I love the beautiful sunshine, it’s a reminder that my year abroad in this amazing country is coming to an end. I have had an incredible year exploring Buenos Aires. With the abundance of activities the city has to offer, I think it’s about time I shared my bucket list of the best things to do in the city!
- Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada
Plaza de Mayo is the political centre of Buenos Aires. I highly recommend visiting on a Thursday afternoon to witness the Madres (‘mothers’ in Spanish) in Plaza de Mayo. During the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983 (also known as the Dirty War), the government kidnapped many people. Censorship prevented communication of what was happening, so mothers of “disappeared” children began to meet in the Plaza de Mayo each Thursday in front of the Casa Rosada and marched while asking for their children back. Today, they still gather every Thursday afternoon to march for human, political and civil rights. It was a wonderful experience to witness the Madres marching and chanting and really brought to life the long-term impact the military dictatorship had in Argentina, only a few short decades ago.
- Show and Guided Tour at Teatro Colon
This impressive opera theatre is renowned for having some of the best acoustics in the world. Sitting in the balcony looking down at the stage is breathtaking. I highly recommend taking a tour of the theatre to learn more about the materials used in its construction and the symbolism behind it all. Tickets can be pricey depending on your seat but there are free shows on Sunday afternoon so you can take advantage of to experience the theatre’s full effects.
- La Boca
A quick google search of things to do in Buenos Aires will always suggest a visit to La Boca. Its main attraction is the colourful buildings that populate the area. They reminded me of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Be warned, La Boca is a tourist trap! Regardless, it is still worth it to feast your eyes on the bright colours. I recommend buying your souvenirs elsewhere though, as they are expensive here.
- Recoleta Cemetery
Another primary tourist attraction is the cemetery in Recoleta, which has the graves of pertinent people from Argentina’s history. Most notable is the resting place of Eva Peron, a central figure in Argentine politics. People pay their respects by placing flowers and notes on her plot in the cemetery. The cemetery is free for visitors.
- Find the best empanadas
Regardless of who you ask, they will be able to tell you where (in their opinion) the best empanadas are. These delicious treats are similar to turnovers; they’re pastries filled with meat and vegetables. Common flavours are meat, like ham and cheese, corn or chicken. Personally, I think the best empanadas are at Origen del Sabor in Recoleta.
- City Zoo
I can honestly say it was my first time visiting a zoo in the middle of a city. The City Zoo is located next to the Plaza Italia. If you have the chance, you should visit a zoo in South America as they have animals not commonly seen in North American zoos. For instance, I saw a spectacled bear for the first time, the only bear species native south of the equator. There are other animals like giraffes, rhinoceros, hippos, tapir, and monkeys too.
- San Telmo Market
There are a TON of markets in Buenos Aires. San Telmo, held on Sundays, is probably the largest and in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. It features a vast array of products such as bags, mates (a tea-like drink), clothes, souvenirs, antiques, food and so much more. The streets are shut down to accommodate the market and its visitors. It is very crowded but well worth the visit.
- Feria de Mataderos
Further outside the city, the Feria de Mataderos is another large market. It has the same variety of products as other markets in the city. The main attraction at the Feria de Mataderos is the entertainment. People are dancing and singing, while dressed up in traditional cowboy attire all day long.
The Obelisk is a towering white structure you will certainly see at some point if you’re in the city. It is located on Avenida 9 de Julio, the largest street in Buenos Aires. I dare you to try and cross the entire street in one go! I managed to do it by running.
- MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinamerica Buenos Aires)
There is no limit of museums to visit in the city. Personally, I really like the MALBA. There is a permanent collection of work at the museum and a rotating collection as well. I visited it twice for the Experiencia Infinitiva and for Polesello Joven. During the second visit, the top of the Obelisk was displayed outside the museum with a video feed where the windows are to show what the view is like from the top of the Obelisk.
- Los Porteños Tango Show
While you’re in the area, you should watch a Tango show at Los Portenos. Although there are more authentic experiences in the city, Los Portenos offers a wonderful show with both group and couple ensembles. You can go for a meal too, but I suggest going only to the show to keep costs down.
- Parks in Palermo
Take advantage of the green space in Palermo to sit down, have a picnic and drink mate. Maybe you would prefer going out on a paddle boat or biking through the parks? Regardless, you are guaranteed to find families here on the weekends relaxing and enjoying the sun.
- Secret Bars
Hidden away in the city are secret bars. For instance, La Floreria in Recoleta is disguised as a flower shop from the outside. Customers descend down to the basement to reveal a classy bar perfect for good conversation and drinks. Some secret bars even require a password to enter!
- Hipódromo Palermo
Spend a Friday afternoon at the horse races in Palermo. Watch the horses being shown off and place your bet. Personally, I thought it was more fun watching the winning horse’s sponsors’ excitement over their success! If you’re not a fan of horse racing, there’s also a casino located inside.
- Polo Match
I was fortunate to attend a polo match at the Hurlingham Club thanks to Universidad de San Andres. Polo is really fun to watch and the experience at Hurlingham Club is uncomparable.
If you’re tired of the city, Tigre is the perfect weekend getaway! Take a train and relax by the river with a picnic. The Puerto de Frutas market also offers a wide array of products and souvenirs. Don’t leave without buying a mate set. You can also take a boat tour up the river. I took a boat tour from the city centre to Tigre at sunset and it was beautiful!
- Spend an afternoon in a Cafe
One thing I am going to miss a lot is the abundance of cafes. I love spending an afternoon studying or reading in a cafe. The welcoming atmospheres and coffee are the perfect combination for getting school work done. Furthermore, most cafes have free wifi for its customers. Argentines love their cafe con leche (coffee with milk).
- Atereo Bookstore
This opera theatre has been converted to a bookstore. With three levels of books, this store is every book lover’s dream come true. In the back, where the stage would be located, is a small cafe for customers to sit down and read.
- Graffiti Tour
Unlike Canada, graffiti art in the streets is allowed in Buenos Aires. Taking a tour is the perfect way to gain a deeper understanding of the symbolism and stories in the street art. Many reflect important political events in the country’s history.
- Ferry ride to Uruguay
Finally, take a long weekend in another country! Hop on a ferry from Buenos Aires’s centre and spend the weekend touring the old city of Montevideo, Uruguay or relaxing on the beach in Punto del Este. You’re so close that you may as well check off another country on the bucket list!
While there are many more things to do in Buenos Aires, these are my top choices from my year abroad. Without a doubt, this city has something for everyone. It has been incredible living in this city and I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. If you have any questions about the places I’ve visited, please do not hesitate to ask!
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