Buenos Aires Travel Guide
This content was last updated on 24.09.2023 19:20
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Buenos Aires, often called Capital Federal or BA, is South America's most cosmopolitan capital. It blends European elegance and Latin vibrancy, creating a city that's sophisticated yet lively. Here, tango music echoes in historic squares, modern culture mingles with diverse cuisine, and the legendary nightlife never stops until morning.
Situated along the southwest banks of the River Plate, Buenos Aires comprises distinct neighborhoods, or barrios, each with its unique allure. San Telmo exudes bohemian charm with historic streets and a lively antiques market. La Boca, a working-class area, boasts colorful houses and Argentina's cherished football club. The modern Puerto Madero contrasts with Recoleta's old-world elegance and Palermo's tree-lined streets, which host trendy cafes, boutiques, and bars popular among a youthful, carefree crowd.
Despite its vast size, Buenos Aires is easily navigable using the Subte underground system, but strolling along the grand colonial avenues can also be enjoyable. Short-term visitors can check off essential attractions like Plaza de Mayo and explore Recoleta Cemetery's towering tombs. However, Buenos Aires is a remarkably livable city, and those with more time can immerse themselves by savoring mate in charming cafes, indulging in leisurely asados (traditional barbecues), or engaging with the friendly Porteños, the local residents.
No matter your preference in Buenos Aires, bring an open mind and a sense of adventure, and you'll be captivated by this city.
Buenos Aires: History
Buenos Aires, founded in 1536 by Spanish explorer Pedro de Mendoza, received its name from the patron saint of sailors, who was believed to bring good winds, or "buen aire."
After Mendoza's initial settlement (now San Telmo) was abandoned, another Spanish adventurer, Juan de Garay, successfully founded the city in the late 1500s.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Buenos Aires experienced rapid growth, driven by increased trade through its port. The British attempted an invasion at the beginning of the 19th century but failed to capture the city. In 1810, Argentines launched a campaign for independence from Spanish rule, achieving it six years later.
Mass immigration to Buenos Aires occurred in the late 1800s, mainly to support agriculture and railways. However, development slowed in the mid-20th century due to the country's economic decline, exacerbated by Europe's post-war lack of investment. Immigrants from other parts of Argentina settled in shanty towns, known as Villas Miseria.
One significant event in Buenos Aires's history was the election of President Juan Peron in 1946, supported by strong socialist roots and his celebrated wife, Eva Peron (Evita). Anti-Peron forces, including Argentina's own army, attempted to remove him, even bombing Plaza de Mayo. Though these efforts failed, Peron was ousted twice, with the final removal in 1976, leading to a brutal military dictatorship that lasted until 1983.
After their defeat in the Falklands War, Argentina returned to democratic government. In 2001, a devastating economic crash left Buenos Aires in turmoil, resulting in violent protests. Today, the city is much more stable.
Did you know?
- The tango dance originated in the late 19th century in the city's immigrant ghetto, particularly in present-day La Boca.
- Avenida 9 de Julio is the world's widest street, spanning 16 lanes.
- The use of fingerprinting in forensic evidence was first successfully employed in Buenos Aires to convict a woman of a double murder in the late 19th century.
Buenos Aires: Weather, Best Time to Visit
Buenos Aires boasts a pleasant humid subtropical climate, making it a year-round vacation destination.
- Spring (September to November): This is an ideal time to visit, with temperatures ranging from 15°C (59°F) to 20°C (68°F). The city comes to life after winter, and the blooming jacaranda trees add to the charm. Don't miss La Noche de los Museos (The Night of the Museums) when over 250 museums and galleries stay open late.
- Summer (December to February): It gets hot and humid, especially in January, the warmest month at 25°C (77°F). Many locals head to the coast during this time.
- Autumn (March to May): This season offers the best weather. Days are sunny without oppressive heat, and crowds are manageable. Plus, you'll find plenty of art and film festivals to enjoy.
- Winter (June to August): Buenos Aires experiences a mild winter with minimal chance of snow. Days can be overcast, and nights get chilly. June is a good time for hotel and flight deals, but July and August see an uptick in visitors, as it's summer vacation season in North America and Europe. Winter temperatures range from 11°C (52°F) to 15°C (59°F).
Things to See in Buenos Aires
Museo De Arte Latinoamericano De Buenos Aires (MALBA)
This impressive museum, housed in an ultra-modern building, showcases the finest Latin American art from the 20th century to the present. Notable pieces include works by Argentine artist Antonio Berni and Mexican portraitist Frida Kahlo. The museum also features dynamic temporary exhibitions, art-house films, discussions, lectures, and includes an onsite gift shop, library, and a stylish café.
- Address: Palermo, Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 3415, Buenos Aires.
- Phone: +54 11 4808 6500
- Opening Hours: Thurs-Mon 12:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Wed 12:00 PM - 9:00 PM (closed on Tuesdays).
Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes
Housed in a majestic neoclassical structure, the National Fine Arts Museum boasts an impressive array of international and Argentine artworks, encompassing paintings and sculptures. The collections span from the Middle Ages to the 20th century and feature dedicated galleries for Impressionist masters like Renoir, Monet, and Degas, as well as contemporary masterpieces by artists such as Rubens, Rothko, and Pollock.
- Address: Recoleta, Avenida del Libertador 1473, Buenos Aires.
- Phone: +54 11 5288 9900
- Opening Hours: Tues-Fri 11:00 AM - 8:00 PM, Sat-Sun 10:00 AM - 8:00 PM.
Plaza De Mayo
Plaza de Mayo, marked by its pigeon-covered square, holds historic significance as the site of the May Revolution of 1810, a pivotal moment in Argentina's quest for independence. The square's centerpiece is the iconic dusty-pink Casa Rosada, known for its famous balcony where notable figures, including Evita and Diego Maradona, have addressed the masses. Every Thursday, the mothers of those who disappeared during Argentina's military dictatorship march around the plaza.
- Address: Monserrat, Plaza de Mayo (Eastern end of Avenida de Mayo), Buenos Aires.
- Opening Hours: Open daily, 24 hours.
San Telmo epitomizes a charming, weathered beauty. This historic Buenos Aires neighborhood boasts cobbled streets lined with dilapidated buildings, housing atmospheric cafés, bookshops, and artist studios. On Sundays, the main street transforms into an enchanting outdoor antiques market that spills onto Plaza Dorrego, a lively square featuring tango dancers and street musicians.
- Address: San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
- Opening Hours: Open daily, 24 hours.
This vibrant neighborhood, known for its passionate football team, Boca Juniors, is famous for the La Bombonera stadium. The main street, Calle Caminito, is lined with multi-colored corrugated-iron houses, bustling with street performers, artists, and tango dancers. These humble houses were constructed by Italian immigrants who are rumored to have adorned them with paint "acquired" from the nearby docks where they worked.
Cementerio De Recoleta (Recoleta Cemetery)
Recoleta's cemetery resembles a city of the deceased, featuring numerous towering tombs that hold the remains of Argentina's most esteemed figures, including the infamous First Lady, Eva Perón. Established in 1822, the cemetery houses tombs, crypts, and striking statues dedicated to revered writers, national heroes, and former presidents, showcasing various architectural styles. Guided tours are offered on-site.
- Address: Recoleta, Calle Junín 1760, Buenos Aires.
- Phone: +54 11 4803 1594
- Opening Hours: Open daily from 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM.
Buenos Aires' newest neighborhood, Puerto Madero, is a transformative project that has revitalized a former industrial dock into a vibrant waterfront destination, ideal for a weekend walk. The red-brick warehouses have been converted into art galleries, upscale bars, and restaurants. Alongside the dock, old cranes stand as a reminder of its industrial past, and the Puente de la Mujer (Woman's Bridge) gracefully spans the water.
- Address: Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires.
- Phone: +54 11 4515 4600
- Opening Hours: Open daily, 24 hours.
Opened on the 50th anniversary of Evita's passing (July 26, 2002), this captivating museum recounts the life of Eva Perón, Argentina's First Lady from 1946 until her sudden demise in 1952. It honors the enigmatic heroine with a collection of her personal belongings, including well-preserved dresses, historic photos, and immersive audiovisual exhibits.
- Address: Palermo, Calle Lafinur 2988, Buenos Aires.
- Phone: +54 11 4807 0306
- Opening Hours: Open Tues-Sun from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
Jardín Japonés (Japanese Garden)
Jardín Japonés, situated in Palermo Park, offers a serene escape from the city's commotion. A gift from the local Japanese community in 1967, this garden features tranquil landscapes with Asian flora surrounding a serene lake teeming with large carp. Additionally, there's an onsite Japanese restaurant worth visiting for lunch.
- Address: Palermo, Avenida Casares 2966, Buenos Aires.
- Phone: +54 11 4804 4922
- Opening Hours: Open daily from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur
Established on reclaimed marshland from the River Plate, this 360-hectare (890-acre) ecological reserve has transformed into a lush park abundant with native plants and regional wildlife. The park features paths for both walkers and cyclists, with bikes available for rent at the entrance. Numerous viewing platforms offer excellent opportunities to observe hundreds of bird species.
- Address: Costanera Sur, Avenida Tristán Achával Rodríguez 1550, Buenos Aires.
- Phone: +54 11 4893 1853
- Opening Hours: Open Tues-Sun from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM (Apr-Oct) and 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM (Nov-Mar).
Things to Do in Buenos Aires
Experience Buenos Aires from a different perspective by taking a hot-air balloon ride above the city
For an unparalleled escape from the bustle of Buenos Aires, consider a serene hot-air balloon ride above the city. These balloon adventures take off from Capilla del Señor, located 80km (50 miles) outside the city. As you glide above the picturesque countryside, you can spot wildlife and relish the stunning vistas. The ideal time for this one-hour flight is in the evening, just before sunset. Tangol (contact at +54 11 4363 6000 or visit www.tangol.com) offers tours that include hotel transfers, making it easy to get off the ground and experience this unforgettable journey.
Immerse yourself in the excitement of a polo match
Polo has been deeply ingrained in Argentine culture since English cattlemen introduced the sport. It remains a vibrant part of high society, and catching a polo match in Buenos Aires is readily accessible, with numerous events held year-round. The renowned Hurlingham Club (contact at +54 11 4662 5510 or visit www.hurlingham-club.com.ar) is the most famous association in the region, but options like La Tarde Polo (contact at +54 11 4798 9231) also offer one-day lessons for those interested in trying it out.
Discover the Argentine love for horseback riding by exploring an estancia (ranch)
Explore the Argentine passion for horse riding with plenty of opportunities available in and around Buenos Aires. Consider visiting one of the picturesque Estancias (ranches) located conveniently close to the city, offering horseback riding experiences on their vast grounds. El Ombu de Areco (contact at +54 11 4737 0436 or visit www.estanciaelombu.com) is one of the country's oldest ranches and can be visited in a day. Alternatively, Dos Talas (contact at +54 22 4544 3020 or visit www.dostalas.com.ar) provides the opportunity for sunset rides around a scenic lake.
Enjoy a round of 18 holes at one of Argentina's premier golf courses
Golf is a rapidly growing sport in Argentina, and Buenos Aires boasts some of the country's top-notch courses. Consider trying your hand at the challenging Jockey Club (contact at +54 11 4815 0022 or visit golf.eljockeyclub.com) in San Isidro, renowned for its picturesque greens and tricky water hazards. Alternatively, test your skills at the elegant Buenos Aires Golf Club (contact at +54 11 4468 1737 or visit www.bagolf.com.ar), characterized by undulating fairways and formidable bunkers.
Explore Buenos Aires on a bicycle tour
Buenos Aires continues to enhance its cycling infrastructure, making it an excellent way to explore the city, especially when time is limited. Consider BA Bikes (contact at +54 11 6698 5923 or visit www.babikes.com.ar) for guided rides that cover major attractions. They also offer specialized tours focusing on food, the thriving street art scene, and even a photography tour to capture the best shots of Buenos Aires in all its splendor.
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