Buenos Aires: tourism, culture and life
January 1, 1970
by Natasha Trech
Buenos Aires is a city of variety, and ‘varietés’. As many tourists and locals call it the most European city in South America. From someone that has lived in Buenos Aires for 25 years, I can tell that is not so European in the whole, but it has some corner which does look like. But there are two qualities that for sure identify such an international city as Buenos Aires, the first one is that the city never sleeps. It does not matter how late it is, you can always find some place where to spend some time, to do some activity, dance, sing, shows, whatever. And the second one, the city has as many options as you can ever imagine.
Let’s go topic by topic.
Where and what to eat?
You should know before visiting Argentina, in general, and Buenos Aires, in particular, Argentinian people love eating meat. And you can find meat in every form, size, and way of cooking possible. Another thing that you should take into consideration is Argentinian people eat pretty late, so if you came from Europe, and you are really used to eat at 6-7 o’clock in the evening you might find hard to get used to eating at 9-10 o’clock in the evening.
If you want to go for the traditional dishes, you should ask for “asado”, is an enormous amount of meat cooked on the fire normally with some potatoes on the side, it can be fried or boiled, or salad. This is the main dish, that normally is complemented with an entry, that might be “empanadas” (a dough filled up with either meat or cheese and ham) or “picada” (a plate full of different tips of cheese and ham, with some bread). Usually locals eat it with quite a lot of red wine (if you like wine, try an Argentinian Malbec if you haven’t tried it already) because it much very good the taste of the meal and it also helps to digest all the food and the fast on it (if you are not used to eating too much take it easy). But if you are not into wine, I must tell you it doesn’t match beer very much, neither I recommend you to eat with some kind of soda as Coke because it would be too much. You can always take water, it would help you also.
But you can find one of the most international cuisines, mostly because of immigration in the 18th century, Argentinian people have a strong European influence, in general, and French and Italian influence, in particular, in their cuisine. So lots of pasta, lots of delicious sweeties, and tones of coffee. Buenos Aires is known for the amount of coffee shop of very good quality. Even though you can find nowadays a Starbucks almost every ten blocks, I strongly recommend you to go for the traditional coffee store is very good and part of the city spirit. In addition, you have 19th and 20th-century immigration that keeps on bringing new staff to the variety of restaurant in Buenos Aires. Nowadays, you have lots of Armenian-Arabic and Chinese restaurants of great qualities and amazing prices. You can find the first one in the neighbourhood called ‘Palermo Soho’ near to the main street Cordoba, and the second one, you can find it in ‘Belgrano’, a neighbourhood called also the “Chinese town” by the locals.
Where to stay?
After all this eating you will need to sleep. Take it easy, the city is very big and you can not know it in one day, neither you should. When it comes to picking a place to sleep in, I recommend you to remain in the central part of the city. The city is big and the cross it over with the public transport it might take you too long in order to appreciate the city properly.
Best locations for lodging
When it comes to location, I would stay near to one of the main roads, or near a subway, that can provide you with an easy and fast way of transport to everywhere. Some nice neighbourhoods are Palermo (be careful is one of the biggest in the town and some part of it are hard to reach, stay as near to Santa Fe Avenue as you can), Belgrano, Caballito, Recoleta (beautiful but also quite expensive), San Nicolas and San Telmo (cheap and artistic neighbourhoods, related to the underground culture of the city). Try to avoid as much as you can staying near to Constitución (one of the main train station in the city) and Once/ Miserere Square (the other main train station).
Artistic and cultural activities
The city stands up for his cultural life, from theatre, cinemas, museums, festivals. The list is quite long, but most of them are quite near to each other. I leave you a list of the most known ones:
List of best museums
MALBA (Museum of Latinoamerican Arts of Buenos Aires), Address: Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Beauty Arts Museum), Address: Av. del Libertador 1473
Museo de Arte Popular ‘José Hernández’ (Popular Art Museum), Address: Av. del Libertador 2373
Museo de Arte Decorativo (Decorative Arts Museum), Address: Av. del Libertador 1902
Museo de Historia Nacional (National History Museum), Address: Defensa 1600
Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano ‘Isaac Fernández Blanco’ (Spanish American Art Museum), Address: Suipacha 1422
Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (Modern Art Museum of Buenos Aires), Address: Av. San Juan 350
Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum), Address: Defensa 219 / 223. Alsina 412
Museo del Cine ‘Pablo Ducrós Hicken’ (Cinema Museum), Address: Agustín R. Caffarena 51
Museo de Artes Plásticas ‘Eduardo Sívori’ (Plastics Arts Museum), Address: Av. Infanta Isabel 555 (in middle of the Palermo Woods)
MuHu – Museo del Humor (Humour Museum), Address: Av. de los Italianos 851
Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales (Argentinean Natural Science Museum), Address: Av. Ángel Gallardo 490
Museo Xul Solar (Xul Solar’s Museum – postmodern artist), Address: Laprida 1212
Planetario Galileo Galilei (Galileo Galilei Planetarium), Address: Av. Sarmiento s/n
Usina del Arte (Art Factory), Address: Agustín R. Caffarena 1
Manzana de las Luces (Block of lights), Address: Perú 272 (funny fact: Manzana is apple, but it also the way Argentinean people call the block)
These are just some of the many museums that you can find in the city. You can even found a Holocaust Museum, many of the immigrants join in between them and get together a museum of their own culture, that later become part of the national culture. If you like the guided tours they are many of them, one of the most beautiful in the night shift one, the city shines with the night lights. You can check some of the tours most recommended on the link below: https://turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/es/article/visitas-guiadas
Other cultural options
Museums are just one little part of what you can do. If you interested in architecture, take a camera and look up. You will find yourself with amazing buildings, an example of that is the so-called “Water Palace” (Palacio de la Aguas Corrientes in Spanish / address: Av Cordoba 1950). You can also enjoy some green places, there are two very famous, the “Palermo-Woods” and the Ecological Reserve of Buenos Aires. The first one is a very big place with a little pound where you can even go in with a boat, you will find some people running and jogging, and the second one is more relaxing place by the river.
On the last but not the least, you should visit the Colon Theatre, it is an Opera theatre from the 19th century. It is a piece of art itself, it is the theatre where the President receive the most important guest of the State. Go for the full tour, on which you are introduced to the costume department, you would never regret. I leave a link below with the information about it and the guided tour of it: https://turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/es/otros-establecimientos/teatro-colon
If you want to get some more information for a tour in the city, you can approach one of the tourist centres of the government and ask for some more information. A list of them here: https://turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/es/recorrido/atencion-al-turista
If you are on a low budget journey do not worry. The city government in the last years has promoted quite a lot some cultural activities that you can enjoy for free. One of the most interesting is the collectivities days. Almost every month you have a festival of some of the collectivity of the city: Armenian, Chinese, French, Spanish, Basque, Italian, Brazilian, German, in between some others. In those festivals, you have music, dance, food, and many things that can make you enjoy the day. You can check the activities for your date of travel on the following link: https://disfrutemosba.buenosaires.gob.ar/
Buenos Aires is known in between the tourist and the local as the city that never sleeps. If you enjoy yourself in the discos, pub or something like that, you will find yourself in the proper city. As the locals are used to have late dinner, normally the party time starts around 2 am.
If you want to go for an early party, the best options are the After-Office pub, in the main centre of the city next to all the work office, there are many bars, and pub, that start from 7-8 pm until 1-2 am. You can eat, drink, and even dance a little of Latin music. Most of them are located on San Martin Street.
Other pubs, bars and discos
Most of the pub, bars and discos outside this area, open in between 8 and 9 pm, you can go for dinner or some drinks, and around 2 am the music start to raise up, the tables are off and disco time is on. There are two big areas where you can find these pubs, Palermo Soho and Cañitas. (Important detail: This pubs and bars are not experts on the cooking skills, the kitchen is just a secondary activity of most of them, so don’t expect big variety on the menu, but you can expect delicious one among many of them.)
Comedy and Stand-up
The city has flourished in the past years with comedian and stand-up shows. If you are not very fond of the loud party, and you prefer a more relaxing time in between friends to enjoy yourself, this for sure is a good option for you. Most of the big theatre is located on the Avenue Corrientes, but the new comedy world is located in areas like Palermo Soho and San Telmo. You can easily find some program for the date you are in the city. Of course, you will need to understand Spanish quite well to be able to actually enjoy the jokes.
Besides the regular shops, one of the most appealing and picturesque activities of the city is his fairs. You can find many hand-made unique pieces of arts from the locals that can be beautiful souvenirs to give or keep for your self. One of the most well-known fairs is in Recoleta, on the park known as French Square (Plaza Francia). Even if you are not going buy anything, don’t go away without visiting them. In the next link, you can check a list of them: https://turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/es/recorrido/ferias-mercados-y-paseos-de-compras
Travelling in the city
Some important things that you should know as a tourist is how to travel on the city. One of the fastest was is the subway. But you should not use it on the peak hours (7-9 am or 5-7 pm) because it might be too crowded to breath. You can purchase a ticket once in the subway stop. Other main of transport are the buses, there are about 200 different lines in the main city, with some variation on the road, each of the lines, so be careful, and if you are not sure check on Google Maps, this app is very accurate and works in any language, avoiding you the travel of translation. For taking any bus you should have a “SUBE” card per person, you can find this card in the post office and even in some candy shops, (called Kiosco in Argentina). It doesn’t cost more than 1 dollar (25 ARS in the local currency) each and then you can top up the money that you want. The minimum recommended per day per person is about 25-30 ARS.
Getting to and from the International Airport (EZE)
The International Airport is in the countryside, 23 km apart from the main city. For getting into the city, you have one public bus (cheap), but you should know that it is a two or three-hour travel to the centre. There are some other options, as private transfer offer from the airport, more expensive but they can get to and from in about twenty minutes, or half an hour tops (in an off-peak hour).
Enjoy the city!