Updated: Feb 25, 2022
Last time when I was here, a teenager wing-ing it alone - a last minute trip during a University of Washington college spring break. Back then intimidated by this city - now as a well-seasoned traveler, Buenos Aires seems easy now with a familiarity and welcoming that is as slipping into a perfectly hot bath after a long weary trip!
Beautiful people everywhere - super nice and friendly, European in looks and Parisian in style, Porteños (as locals are called here in the Argentinian capital) are easy-going without the aggressiveness that is so prevalent back home in the US (no Anglo-Saxon attitude and not BITE here, thank Gosh for latin culture)!
I arrived at 5am, after an evening flight and no sleep - energized by the early clear morning and chill of the morn, I quickly check-in to the Marriott next to the Obelisko and enjoy fresh coffee with a wonderland view of the heart of Buenos Aires! Nothing opened so early but for the cemetery - so I Uber to the famous Recoleta cemetery to say ‘hi’ again to Eva Peron of Evita fame … As I feel the cold black marble surrounding her musoleum, I imagine her talking or me casually and asking - “long-time no see Ricky, how have you been? And what other places hav you visited….”. I imagine looking back at her (picturing Madonna in my mind’s eye) and relying “todo bien linda, have been so lucky to visit 162 countries now and met tons of people, left my heart in several places and also broke a few ones too lol - got 32 countries left to go bella, so close!”. As she stares back at me sitting on a granite grave - she takes a long smoke, looks up at me sideways and smiles …
BIENVENIDOS a Buenos Aires chicos ( with an Argentina sing-songs Spanish accent) 🇦🇷, welcome home!
So let me tell you about this city muchachos … encapsulating the very essence of Argentina - South America's second largest city, Buenos Aires is the political, economic, and cultural capital of Argentina, as well as the gateway to the rest of this large nation!
Its compact tree-lined center is reminiscent of Paris, with many charming corners where tidy high-rise apartments are interspersed with attractive 19th-century buildings. Most first-time visitors are surprised to find that this big city has managed to preserve its old traditions. Each of its 47 "barrios" boasts its own distinct character, and you'll never tire of exploring these delightful neighborhoods.
Among the most popular are Palermo, La Recoleta, and Belgrano, with their wide boulevards lined with palatial mansions, luxury high-rises, and large parks. Also fun to explore are San Telmo and La Boca with their distinctively colorful artistic flair. In the downtown core, the Plaza de Mayo is the traditional focus of entertainment and activity, while Avenida Santa Fe is the city's most fashionable shopping area.
To learn more about these and other places to visit in the Argentinian capital, be sure to read through this list of the top tourist attractions and things to do in Buenos Aires.
1. Plaza de Mayo
Buenos Aire's Belle Époque is evident in the splendid old colonial buildings found in Plaza de Mayo. Established in the 16th century, this delightful two-block-long plaza has been the stage for many important events in the city's history, from the uprising against Spain in 1810 to the continuing vigils held by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of Plaza de Mayo) whose children "disappeared" during the military junta's reign from 1976 to 1983.
Much of the area is now entirely pedestrianized, including popular Florida and Lavalle Streets, and numerous attractions can easily be included in a fun walking tour of the area. As a result, Plaza de Mayo is the perfect place to begin your Buenos Aires sightseeing adventure, getting your bearings as you take in such important landmarks as Casa Rosada. This famous pale pink Presidential Palace was the place from which Eva Perón would address the enormous crowds eager to see her.
Also worth exploring is the splendid Avenida de Mayo. This splendid wide avenue is famous for its fine buildings with their attractive façades and domes, along with such landmarks as the famous Café Torton. Established in 1880, it's considered the heart of tango (the National Tango Academy is next door and continues to welcome visitors).
2. Casa Rosada
The most famous of Plaza de Mayo's many fine buildings, Casa Rosada was built in the mid 1800s and stands on a site known to have been occupied by an old customs house and fort dating back to the 16th century. Literally translated as the "Pink House," Casa Rosada - officially known as Casa de Gobierno, or the government house - is the official residence of the President of Argentina.
Built in Italianate-style, this fine mansion dominates the eastern end of the historic square, and makes for a splendid selfie backdrop. In addition to housing the President and state offices, this immense building is also home to the Casa Rosada Museum. Established in the 1950s, the museum's impressive collections include exhibits and artifacts dating back as far as colonial times when Spain ruled much of the continent.
Other notable highlights include murals by famed Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, painted in 1933 with assistance from some of Argentina's most prominent artists from that period.
3. Recoleta Cemetery
Fashionable Recoleta takes its name from the Franciscan convent that was built here around 1716, but is perhaps best known for its astonishing burial ground. The Recoleta Cemetery (Cementerio de la Recoleta) has long been popular among locals and tourists alike, drawn here for the many elaborate mausoleums that serve as final resting places for a veritable Who's Who of famous Argentines, including such illustrious souls as Eva Perón, now embalmed in the Duarte family tomb.
Although somewhat ostentatious, these beautiful crypts are a testament to the national interest in death, something so important that Argentinians continue to honor their family members' birthdays and death-days alike.
Afterwards, be sure to explore the rest of Recoleta with its many public gardens, cafés, and craft shops, as well as other attractions, including the Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernández Blanco with its extensive collection of colonial silver, wood carvings, paintings, and costumes, and the National Library where literary great Jorge Luis Borges served as director in the 1950s.
4. Explore La Boca and the Caminito Street
Undoubtedly Buenos Aires' most colorful neighborhood, La Boca is a favorite haunt for artistic and creative types, many of whom take their art outside and onto the streets, decorating balconies and patios with amusing sculptures of tango dancers and other characters.
Much of the fun here for visitors is exploring the Caminito Street Museum, a colorful pedestrian-friendly zone that has functioned as an open-air museum and art market since 1959. Painted a patchwork of colors, this string of bright and extremely photogenic buildings offer quality crafts and souvenirs, sculptures, and, for the footloose, free open-air tango demonstrations (the area is in fact named after a tango).
A little more formal is the Museum of Decorative Arts of Quinquela Martínwith its excellent collection of works by notable 20th-century Argentinian artists.
5. Buenos Aires Cabildo
Located in Plaza de Mayo, the beautiful Cabildo served as the seat of the colonial government and was at the epicenter of the May 1810 revolution against Spanish rule. It dates back to 1610 and was later expanded throughout the 18th century.
These days this splendid building houses the National Museum of the Cabildowith its numerous exhibits relating to the city during the 18th century, including a replica of the city's first printing press, an exhibit of Jesuit and colonial art, and numerous old maps and photos of the city.
Another museum of interest in Plaza de Mayo is the Museo de la Casa de Gobierno inside the Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace, providing a chronology of Argentinian presidents up to 1966 along with related artifacts and memorabilia.
Address: Bolívar 65, 1066 Buenos Aires
6. San Telmo and the National Historical Museum
San Telmo is well known as one of Buenos Aires' more colorful districts, its narrow cobblestone streets and old colonial style buildings home to numerous art studios and interesting galleries. The area is also popular for its cafés, tango parlors, and boutique shops and is a delight to explore, particularly during the San Telmo Sunday Fair (Feria de San Telmo), an antiques fair that draws crowds of eager shoppers and sightseers alike.
The biggest attraction in San Telmo, though, is the excellent National Historical Museum (Museo Histórico Nacional) with its displays relating to the history of Argentina. All told, the museum houses more than 50,000 artifacts, the most important being its collection of paintings by Cándido López, a forerunner of contemporary primitive painting.
Another museum of interest is the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum, opened in 1826 and now boasting 13 exhibition halls bursting with displays of Argentinian flora and fauna, along with an on-site aquarium.