What are the best things to see and do in Buenos Aires?

From green spaces to historic buildings, there's plenty to keep travelers occupied while they're getting to know Buenos Aires. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best things to see and do.
 
1. Casa Rosada. Immortalized in celluloid during the film version of Evita, it's the perfect place to channel your inner Madonna standing on the balcony. Fun fact: This White House of Buenos Aires is pink because the building was originally painted with cow's blood.
 
2. Cemetario Recoleta. The most famous final resting places in Buenos Aires are gathered here, which means this cemetery is worth a visit for those who want to explore the history of the city's biggest families and some of its most well-known residents, including Mrs. Perón.
 
3. Cemetario Chacarita. Though it's not as well-known as Recoleta, this cemetery is actually the better bet if you're choosing between the two; its scale and the tombs of Argentine luminaries such as tango god Carlos Gardel, whose life-size bronze statue still prompts female fans to climb up and hug it on occasion, make it well worth a visit.
 
4. Xul Solar House. The former residence of Argentina's answer to Salvador Dalí, this is a great place to see Solar's work, as well as comb through his personal effects. Informative, engaging and a great choice for art buffs, it's a perfect choice on hot days due to its powerful air conditioning.
 
5. Reserva Ecologica del Sur. On a sunny day, there's nowhere better to be — especially if you have one of the city's free bicycles in hand. Opt for a picnic, people-watch or work on your tan alongside the locals who flock here to worship the sun during the warm months.

  • On July 24, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What are the best local dishes in Buenos Aires?

    Argentina’s most popular dish undoubtedly is the asado, or barbecue. Many tourists come seeking the perfect steak, which in Argentina is cooked slowly over burning coals and flavored with little more than salt, and perhaps once on the plate some chimichurri. A barbecue meal often starts with chorizo, or sausage, and provoleta, which is a thick slice of melted cheese often topped with oregano and olive oil. Both also are prepared on the grill and cook more quickly than thick slabs of steak, so they are consumed first. Chorizo often is served as choripan, which sandwiches the sausage in a roll of white bread. Choripan also is the street food of Buenos Aires and can be purchased from carts along the coasts, such as by the Ecological Reserve in Puerto Madero and the Costanera Norte.

    Empanadas are another favorite local dish. Empanadas can be baked or fried and eaten as an appetizer or a main meal. They come stuffed with meat, cheese, vegetables or some combination thereof, with their fillings denoted with how the crust is folded. Pizza parlors commonly prepare both pizza and empanadas, since similar ingredients are used to make both. Pizza also is a local specialty, and in Argentina slices are thicker and breadier than elsewhere. Fugazzeta pizza, which is stuffed with onions and cheese, is a dish unique to Argentina but demonstrates the Italian influence on the local cuisine, which also includes many pasta dishes. (For example, it is tradition to eat ñoquis, or gnocchis, on the 29 of every month.)

    It also should be noted locro, a meaty stew with corn, beans and potato, is a national dish and traditionally consumed on May 25, the anniversary of the revolution.
  • On July 24, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What are the best places for breakfast in Buenos Aires?

    Household breakfast fare in Buenos Aires (and Argentina as a whole) is generally light and simple, consisting of some coffee and toasted bread topped with jam, a cheese cream or sweet dulce de leche spread. Bakeries throughout the city open their doors early to satisfy early birds looking for baked goods, and Domani and Los Molinos bakeries pull some of the best medialunas (sweet, small croissants) out of their ovens. Most bakeries are set up for stopping in and taking food to go, though.

    While sweet-looking, sit-down cafes throughout the city offer full breakfast (or brunch) menus, the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood is home to some of the cutest and tastiest breakfast spots. There is Oui Oui, which always has a wait on weekends, as well as Pani and Bartola. All serve traditional breakfast dishes like platters with eggs, as well as sandwiches and salads. Porota is a tiny café with some of the best homemade dishes and baked goods to be found in the city. In the Villa Crespo neighborhood, Café Crespin and Malvón Café in Villa Crespo always are bustling around breakfast time, as well.
  • On July 24, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What are the best coffee shops in Buenos Aires?

    Buenos Aires coffee shops are a mix of the old and new, and both are done spectacularly well.

    Of the classic cafes, Café Tortoni is one of the oldest and most famous. Tiffany lamps adorn the top of the bar, which is made of the same dark oak that runs throughout the café and gives the place a feel of old-world splendor. The fare is simple but satisfying and the coffee strong, and attentive bow-tied waiters tend to tables, which are always full.

    For the more of-the-moment coffee shops where people hang to sip good coffee and work uninterrupted, the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood is café central. Decata merits making it out to the edge of the neighborhood for the homemade pastries and sweets, while In Bocca al Lupo Caffé is a cheery, bright restaurant has some of the best Italian-style coffee in the city, and Full City Coffee House, while more off the well-trodden tourist path, brews some of the only Colombian coffee in Buenos Aires. Le Blé has a few locations in the city, though concentrated in Palermo Hollywood, and serve some of the biggest (and best) mugs of coffee in the city, as well as tasty, fresh baked goods.
  • On July 24, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What are the best places to see a play in Buenos Aires?

    The best place to see a performance in the city is Teatro Colón, one of the grandest venues in the world both for its opulent décor and acoustics. The opera house is so stunning it is worth even just a daytime tour or visit, and its programming includes some of the worlds’ top productions, including touring musical performances, operas and ballets. 

    Buenos Aires also is a South American and—even greater—Latin American hub for theater. Musicals, dramas, variety shows and everything in between go up on Corrientes avenue, which is dubbed the “Broadway” of South America. While Teatro Colón stages more classic productions, Corrientes is where to go to see the best contemporary theater.
  • On July 24, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What are quirky local customs in Buenos Aires?

    The first thing to know about Buenos Aires’ customs is how to greet people. Across Argentina, all people greet each other with a kiss (just one) on the cheek, including men. People are receptive to handshakes, but they are considered a bit stilted and people meet and greet each other with a cheek-to-cheek kiss, even in business settings.

    Another local custom that seems at first a bit confusing to outsiders is mate. Mate is a loose-leaf, caffeinated tea that people pack into a gourd, sip with a metal straw (bombilla) and commonly share, passing it around in a circle. A whole formula of traditions come with drinking mate, but the basic know-how for participating in a mate circle is to sip the entirety of the tea in the gourd, then pass it back to the preparer to serve for the next person.
  • On July 24, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What are the best restaurants for a business lunch in Buenos Aires?

    Buenos Aires is a city of people that like to take their time at meals, enjoying the food, drinks, company and conversation. Business lunches can be lengthy affairs, so it is best to choose a comfortable venue. Since most companies and offices in the city are concentrated in the downtown “Centro” and Puerto Madero waterfront neighborhood, most choose to lunch nearby. Puerto Madero has far more attractive options, plus the added bonus of a riverside view. Cabaña Las Lilas in Puerto Madero is a spacious parrilla, or steakhouse, popular for business lunches. Also off the main drag 9 de Julio is Juana M, a more modern take on the classic Argentine steakhouse with art decorating the walls and a fresh salad bar. A bit farther from the downtown concentration is Kansas, a sleek and spacious gourmet restaurant popular with locals. For an upscale business lunch befitting of foodies, there is Hernán Gipponi in the Fierro Hotel in the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood.
  • On July 22, 2013
    Sebastián Fernández answered the question: Sebastián Fernández

    What is the one must-do activity when visiting Buenos Aires?

    Experience Tango!

    This worldwide known dance, original from Rio de la Plata basin, was declared by Unesco as part of humanity's intangible cultural heritage. Developed by the lower classes and then danced by everyone, this intimate and elegant dance can be experienced in many ways.

    Tango shows
    There's a reason why they're called shows: costumes, live music, drama and sensuality are some of the ingredients of this approach to tango. There's a broad variety of shows, going from traditional to contemporary dancing, big to medium sized theaters to small cafe-like restaurants. Most of the shows will give you the option of having dinner (which takes place before the actual show) or just drinks during the performance, everyday. Transportation is usually included for most hotels (return). You should allow a good three hours if having dinner or two for just the show.
    I suggest you have a talk with your concierge about your knowledge and interest in tango for an appropriate recommendation.

    Milongas
    Where locals actually dance! Starting late in the evening (usually after 10.00pm, though you might find matinees during the weekend), attending a milonga doesn't mean you have to dance, in fact, locals are used to meeting tourists who want to experience another approach to tango and just admire the dancers from a (not so) distant table. You might not see costumes, and live music is not always the rule, but the local flavor of seeing different generations dancing to tango is what makes this experience so charming. Venues go from elegant cafes to simpler dancing halls to cultural centers.
    In opposition to tango shows, milongas do not take place everyday, what's good today might not be open tomorrow, so talk to the concierge for a recommendation depending on which exact day you want to go. Reservations are usually not necessary and since milongas last for a few hours, you have the freedom to stay for as long as you like. If food is served, it's usually snacks.

    Lessons
    Want to give it a try? Tango may look quite difficult to dance, but learning the basic 8 steps (and playing around a little bit) is not so challenging. You can go for a group lesson for beginners or a private one. In fact, milongas are often preceded by a lesson, so you learn first and you practice after, and trust me on this: porteños (a common term for people from Buenos Aires) are always delighted to take a newbie to the dancefloor!
    As mentioned before, tango is for everyone, so no matter your age, knowledge or marital status, we like to see foreigners give it a try. Lessons for same-sex couples (or even single and looking) are also an option, when we say for all, we mean it.

    Tango can also be seen on the streets of Buenos Aires (on pedestrian street Florida, on Caminito in La Boca, by the antiques market in San Telmo every Sunday) and if you're ever in Buenos Aires in August, check the dates for the Tango festival and world championship which offers shows, milongas and the chance to see the competition, usually for free, and for everyone.

    Make Tango part of your experience while in Buenos Aires, there's plenty of options to discover it, your way.
  • On June 26, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What is Buenos Aires’s dining scene like?

    The Buenos Aires dining scene is just now beginning to emerge as a top international culinary destination with the diversity, quality and inventiveness to rival the world’s top cities for gastronomy. Generally speaking, though, the city’s restaurants can still be classified under a few categories.

    There are the classic steakhouses—and it is really hard to go wrong here—which Buenos Aires has down to a science, serving juicy slabs of meat in a rustic, convivial atmosphere. Italian with an Argentine twist also is done well here, with fresh, homemade pastas and thick, bready slices of pizza. There also are closed-door restaurants, which is where foodies flock and chefs are cooking up and serving some of the best, most inventive cuisine in Buenos Aires. For those looking for brunch or daytime dining, the city is dotted with supremely cute cafes, many with tasty light fare on the menu, particularly in the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood.

    Keep in mind people go out to eat late, usually starting around 9:30 pm, and meals are relaxed, unhurried affairs that last for hours. No one will rush you no matter how many people are waiting, either, so feel free to nurse that bottle of wine or order another. You only receive your check when you expressly ask.
  • On June 26, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What are the most unusual dining experiences in Buenos Aires?

    The most unusual dining experiences—or those meals that are unexpected, interesting and surprising in the best possible way—take place behind closed doors. Closed-door restaurants, or puertas cerradas as they are called, are a popular way to for top chefs in the city to operate intimate restaurants. Closed-door restaurants generally operate out of a chef’s private home a few nights per week, with just one seating. Reservations are a must, and the multi-course menu is usually fixed and accompanied with wine pairings. In short, closed-door restaurants tend to be the places offering the finest dining experiences and most inventive and tasty meals in the city. Some like Adentro Dinner Club offer communal dining; others like Cocina Sunae fill a void offering the tastiest ethnic food in the city. Other top closed-door restaurants include Paladar Buenos Aires, I Latina, NOLA and Casa Felix. All are hours-long dining affairs to remember.
  • On June 26, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What are the best steakhouses in Buenos Aires?

    The steakhouse, or parrilla, is the bread and butter of Buenos Aires’ dining scene. Argentines love all their cuts of red meat and spending hours at a parrilla, as the steakhouses are called here, with family and friends, as well as making sure tourists have the best steakhouse experiences. Here are some of the most highly recommended for visitors to the city. 

    Reservations fill quickly and tourists queue at La Cabrera, and while the predominant chatter in the restaurant might be in English, the steakhouse is well deserving of its popularity. Expect a fine dining, tasty steakhouse experience with attentive service.

    Don Julio is a little simpler in style than La Cabrera, but the ambiance is still upscale yet comfortable. As for the steak? It is some of the best you will find in city, and therefore, probably anywhere.

    Miranda in Palermo Hollywood is a more contemporary take on the traditional steakhouse, and the people watching here is as prime as the food off the grill.

    Over in San Telmo, La Brigada has its contingent for fervent red meat-loving fans, who frequently feast atop its white tablecloths and claim it as the best steakhouse in the city.

    Another parilla that knows how to wine and dine tourists is Cabaña Las Lilas in the riverside Puerto Madero neighborhood. A reservation is necessary to snag a table at dinnertime, and though many say it is pricey, they also say it is well worth it for food and ambiance.
  • On June 26, 2013
    Karina Martinez-Carter answered the question: Karina Martinez-Carter

    What is Buenos Aires’s dining scene like?

    The Buenos Aires dining scene is just now beginning to emerge as a top international culinary destination with the diversity, quality and inventiveness to rival the world’s top cities for gastronomy. Generally speaking, though, the city’s restaurants can still be classified under a few categories.

    There are the classic steakhouses—and it is really hard to go wrong here—which Buenos Aires has down to a science, serving juicy slabs of meat in a rustic, convivial atmosphere. Italian with an Argentine twist also is done well here, with fresh, homemade pastas and thick, bready slices of pizza. There also are closed-door restaurants, which is where foodies flock and chefs are cooking up and serving some of the best, most inventive cuisine in Buenos Aires. For those looking for brunch or daytime dining, the city is dotted with supremely cute cafes, many with tasty light fare on the menu, particularly in the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood.

    Keep in mind people go out to eat late, usually starting around 9:30 pm, and meals are relaxed, unhurried affairs that last for hours. No one will rush you no matter how many people are waiting, either, so feel free to nurse that bottle of wine or order another. You only receive your check when you expressly ask.
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