Long considered the "Paris of South America," the stunning cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires blends European grandeur with Latin spirit. A mix of grit and glamour, bright colors butting up against concrete greys, greenscapes and hardscapes, old and new, Buenos Aires is a city full of character where its unique energy and passion are palpable. Although there are key sights and destinations to check off your list, the true spirit of the city is found by lingering over a leisurely, Malbec-filled lunch, strolling through one of the numerous parks, or living late into the night as the Portenos (people from the port city of Buenos Aires) do. Here is the mini guide to one of my favorite cities in South America.
THINGS TO KNOW
Public Transport: The city of Buenos Aires and its surrounding Metropolitan area have an extensive and efficient public transportation system. To use the system, simply purchase a SUBE card in any of these locations throughout the city. Notably, all Loteria Nacional shops and Correo Argentino outposts sell them for 25 pesos. Top up the card with as much money as you'd like (most rides currently cost about 7 pesos), but cards can be topped up with more funds easily online or in any of the sube supporting kioscos throughout the city. Use the Como Llego website or app to quickly determine which bus or metro line you need for any of your destinations and zoom away.
Taxis: In general taxis are easy and safe to flag down throughout the city. Make sure to check your change as sometimes counterfeit money is passed off as real (typically waxier than the regular bills). For extra security, summon taxis using the Easy Taxi app so you have your driver's info on hand.
UBER: As usual, UBER is a reliable option for quick/cashless travel throughout the city.
Much of Buenos Aires is safe, but as with any city in South America or in the world, one must exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings. Don't walk around with your phone out and if you find yourself alone and uncomfortable at night, call an uber or hop in a taxi.
Buenos Aires and Argentina as a whole are a cash or efectivo society. Many restaurants and activities will require cash for payment, so make sure to keep a stash on hand. ATMs have notoriously long lines and often run out of money, so don't wait until your last pesos to stock up.
Another good option for getting cash is wiring money from your bank account through Xoom and picking it up at one of the designated pick up points in the city (I like the Santa Fe location in the Recoleta area). It sounds sketch, but I did it many times with no problems.
WHERE TO STAY
1| HOME Hotel, Palermo Hollywood
Mid-century chic meets colorful Argentina at the cozy HOME Hotel, a favorite boutique hotel in Palermo. Rooms are quiet, there is a lovely garden courtyard, the staff is friendly, and breakfast is included. The hotel also has a spa, so enjoy a service during your stay.
2| Mine Hotel Boutique, Palermo Soho
Another charming boutique hotel in centrally located Palermo Soho. With a range of comfortable rooms, breakfast, and a small courtyard pool, Mine is the perfect base for a visit to Buenos Aires.
WHAT TO EAT
See my Buenos Aires Food Guide for a full list of restaurants and dining options throughout town. Some off the beaten track options as well as some hidden bars and speakeasies can be found in my Hidden Buenos Aires Guide.
WHERE TO COFFEE
My 10 Favorite Buenos Aires Cafes can be found here.
WHAT TO DO
Buenos Aires has no shortage of things to see or do. Although this isn't even an exhaustive list of sights in the city, don't feel the need to do them all. As mentioned previously, truly getting to know Buenos Aires is an exercise in patience, leisure, and simply enjoying the city.
1| Walk through the architecturally stunning Recoleta Cemetery.
2| Visit the Feria de Mataderos, a lively Sunday market for the locals.
3| Buy antiques or a myriad number of other items at San Telmo's Sunday Market. Grab lunch at Hierbabuena before strolling the streets.
4| Casa Rosada & Plaza 25 de Mayo give you an insight into politics and civil unrest as protests and demonstrations often take place here.
5| Take a sunset tour of Palacio Barolo, designed in homage to Dante's Divine Comedy. The building offers stunning views of the surrounding city.
Photo by Stephen Walsh
6| Get out in nature with a leisurely walk (or run) through the Ecological Reserve (del Sur). Have a picnic or just enjoy lying under the trees near the waterfront.
7| See the world's widest avenue and the obelisk on 9 de Julio. Stop for a decadent slice of pizza before or after at Guerrin.
8| Explore the city's numerous parks - personal favorites include the Rosedal (Rose Garden) or the Botanical Garden.
9| Do as the fashionistas do and shop in Palermo Viejo & Palermo Soho, or go on a curated shopping expedition with Crem de la Crem.
10| Even if you don't typically like theater productions (like me), an absolute must while in Buenos Aires is catching a Fuerza Bruta show, a crazy mix of acrobatics, water, lights, and drama. I have never seen another show quite like it.
11| Learn how to make empanadas with a Tierra Negra cooking class in the home of a lovely Argentine couple.
12| Dance at a Milonga. Local favorites include La Viruta & Tango Cool.
13| Explore the city's museums - MALBA, Bellas Artes, Evita Museum, etc.
14| See Santiago Calatrava's Puente de la Mujer and stroll the modern Puerto Madero neighborhood & waterfront.
15| Take a tour of Teatro Colon or see a show.
16| Read a book! Enjoy a glass of wine or a coffee at the hidden Falena bookstore or see a once theatre, now bookstore at the posh El Ateneo Grand Splendid.
17| Many come to the city to see the bright/colorful buildings of La Boca. Although this is something you can do if you want, it takes no more than 30 minutes and is a total tourist trap. If you have a finite amount of time, I would give it a miss.
18| Explore the river delta on a boat for a day up north in Tigre.
19| Visit the weekend craft markets in many of the parks throughout the city. Notable ones include the Recoleta Feria and the Parque Centenario Feria.
20| Take a day trip to the charming colonial town of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.
21| Enjoy an authentic Argentinian Asado, typically an all day affair full of meats, potatoes, fire, and fun.
WHAT TO PACK
The weather in Buenos Aires changes dramatically with the seasons - hot and humid in the summer months while cold and brisk in the winter. Here are a few items to bring regardless of the season: a light raincoat (you never know when a downpour is coming), comfy shoes for walking, a timeless leather jacket, a scarf or wrap, and sunnies.