What to Do in Buenos Aires

Between glorious parks and gardens and the remarkable street art here, you may never want to head indoors...but then you’d miss the shopping (vintage in Recoleta, wine in Palermo Soho), the historical sights, and museums. Viva Buenos Aires!

165 Florida
Buenos Aires lies on the edge of flat pampa, so even a gentle incline is rare—you’ll have to take some stairs to get a view. The 16-story Galería Güemes, built in 1915, was the city’s first skyscraper, and its top-floor mirador offers great downtown vistas. This restored gallería shines as a spectacular example of art nouveau architecture, complete with glass-domed ceilings, ornate metalwork, and gilt sculptural details. Not surprisingly, legend surrounds the building, including that the writer of The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, once lived in an upstairs apartment with a pet seal cub.
Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear 1355, C1058AAU CABA, Argentina
The Juan Pérez superstore, in the posh Recoleta neighborhood, is your one-stop shop for fine vintage clothing. The well-organized racks are jammed with glamorous men’s and women’s fashions from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, all in excellent condition. There’s even a VIP section stocked with items purged from the closets of the city’s wealthiest residents. You’ll find clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories from labels like Hermès, Chanel, Gucci, Prada, and Dior. The collection is expansive; go with plenty of time to dig up a treasure only you can pull off.
Av. Alvear 1680, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Take home the essence of Argentina with a fragrance inspired by pampas grasses, the northern desert, or Patagonian lupine blossoms. Fueguia 1833, a perfume lab on ultra-chic Avenida Alvear in Recoleta, creates scents from all-natural ingredients. Only the best-quality plants and spices available at production time make the cut, meaning aromas vary from batch to batch. Each bottle bears an engraved lot number, and large flagons come in handsome handmade boxes. Even better: A Fueguia scent does more than make you irresistible—a portion of all proceeds goes to the NGO Help Argentina, a fund-raising organization that supports environmental, human-rights, and public education charities.
Agüero 2502, C1425 CABA, Argentina
One of the more jarring building styles you’ll find in the city’s architectural mishmash is brutalism, and Argentina’s National Library is an iconic example of the movement. The imposing structure rises like a mammoth tree in the park that surrounds it, and its design seeks to suggest expansion: A root-like system of underground book depositories can be enlarged without changing the building’s intended aspect. When readers request titles, these come up through the building’s central trunk to a fifth-floor reading room, open to the public and featuring an unobstructed view of the Recoleta neighborhood and the river. Check the library’s website for information on talks, concerts, and events.
Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415, C1425 CLA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Like any great city, Buenos Aires has its Museum Mile. For art, standouts include the National Fine Arts Museum (MNBA), with its mix of Argentine and European pieces, as well as the Buenos Aires Latin American Art Museum (MALBA), highlighting the works of Latin American artists. Walk the boulevard between the MNBA and MALBA to see some of the city’s most luxurious real estate. From the MNBA, cross Figueroa Alcorta and swing by the University of Buenos Aires Law School and Floralis Genérica, a 65-foot, stainless-steel kinetic sculpture representing a massive flower. Follow Figueroa Alcorta to Castilla, then turn left into Grand Bourg Park, a stately, if petite, plaza surrounded by imposing palaces, or take a right into Palermo Chico with its circular streets, grand mansions, and palaces.
Buenos Aires, C1425 Buenos Aires, Argentina
The red-gravel paths that wind among 6,000 plant species, past a babbling stream, and into deeply shaded areas may make you forget you’re in the center of a loud, bustling city. That said, many visitors don’t know that the Botanical Garden includes a small butterfly garden. It’s closed during the week, but you can still peek over a low wall to watch some 50 butterfly species flit about their business. And for one glorious hour, from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, the gate is thrown open and the public is free to walk sunny paths among shoulder-high flowering hedges as colorful, flirtatious butterflies alight on amused visitors’ heads, shoulders, and arms.
Av. Santa Fe 1860, C1124 CABA, Argentina
Buenos Aires is a city of readers—it supports more bookstores per capita than any other place in the world. The crown jewel of the librerías here is the Ateneo Grand Splendid. Housed in a theater where music legends such as Carlos Gardel once attracted vast crowds, the store features shelf after shelf of tempting volumes on its rounded balconies. Italian frescoes on the domed ceiling and plush red-velvet curtains are from the theater’s original 1919 design. The four-story space carries over 120,000 books and a local-music selection, and there’s a café on the erstwhile stage.
2729 Avenida Santa Fe
Support local artists and designers at the Patio del Liceo. The namesake courtyard, tucked away from Avenida Santa Fe’s hustle and bustle, connects art galleries, clothes and shoe shops, and, notably, boutiques selling eco-friendly home decor. Walk to the end of each gallery level to watch designers at work: Many of the spaces also function as workshops where the goods on offer are made. Pick up a beautiful book at Brezal, the glassed-in stall in the main entry hall; get a customized gift for your pet at Think Animal; or take home some local music from Mercurio Disquería. Afternoon visits are recommended, as many shops don’t open until 4 p.m. or later.
Paraguay 4979, C1425 CABA, Argentina
Once-abandoned railway sheds have been repurposed to create an open-air outlet mall in Palermo, one of the city’s buzziest neighborhoods. Clothes are expensive in Argentina so don’t expect rock-bottom prices, but you’ll appreciate discounts on local brands like Las Pepas. In addition to clothing retailers, there are several food carts, plus pop-up restaurants, here and there beneath a redbrick viaduct that supports the General San Martín commuter train. Large flowerbeds and the trains’ overhead comings and goings make Distrito Arcos a pretty spot for snacks or browsing the racks.
1072 Avenida Lisandro de la Torre
Argentina is too vast a country to see on just one trip. But there’s a taste of real gaucho (i.e., Argentine cowboy) culture at the Mataderos Fair on the edge of town. For many, the main attraction is the various food stalls that hawk yummy, traditional comfort food. Try different versions of the ubiquitous empanada alongside delicacies from the provinces you won’t see on many in-town menus, like locro, a hearty stew with beans, corn, squash, and meat; or humita, a kind of Argentine corn-and-cheese tamale steamed in a corn husk; or the more familiar tamal, with meat instead of cheese. The fair runs on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. most of the year, or on Saturday nights starting at 6 p.m. in hot, sunny January and February.
Lafinur 2988, Buenos Aires, Argentina
No woman—or man—has come to symbolize Argentina more than Eva Perón, the country’s first lady from 1946 until her death at age 33, in 1952. Learn about this iconic figure at the Evita Museum, where photos, videos, and numerous personal effects (including dresses and even shoes) provide an intimate, in-depth chronological view of Evita’s life. The museum site was once the headquarters of the Eva Perón Foundation, which helped women who came to Buenos Aires from the provinces; the ornate structure, originally built in the early 1900s, is a marvelous backdrop to the small museum. Perhaps even more popular than the exhibits is the on-site restaurant, which serves delicious food on a gorgeous plant-filled patio.
Av. Juan B. Justo 2650, C1414CXP CABA, Argentina
With its innumerable acres of grasslands that are perfect for raising cattle, Argentina is not surprisingly known for top-quality leather goods. Murillo Street, in the Villa Crespo neighborhood, is lined with outlets where you can purchase bags, shoes, jackets, and belts at discount prices. For higher-end leather, however, Palermo boutiques are your best bet. Near Plaza Armenia in Palermo Soho, Humawaca showcases stunningly unique handmade purses and accessories. For men’s shoes, belts, and wallets—all of spectacular quality and sure to make any guy a touch more dapper—stop by Apuesto Hombre in Palermo Hollywood.
Nicaragua 4880,Cdad. Autónoma de Buenos Aires, C1414 CABA, Argentina
Facon presents exquisitely handcrafted goods from all around Argentina. Look for baskets by the Matriarca women’s collective; Siwan’i natural, handwoven textiles produced by Wichí-nation women; and Warmi scarves and blankets the women of that Andean ethnicity also create. All items are fair-trade products that constitute an important source of income for the indigenous communities. Additionally, the store showcases contemporary design with an ecological spin, alongside leather goods, objets d’art, and a selection of local boutique wines. Facon is also headquarters to Salú, a club that hosts cooking classes, wine- and cheese-tastings, and talks by local chefs on topics like the origins of the Argentine mixed-grill known as asado.
República de la India 2905, C1425 CABA, Argentina
This handpicked collection celebrating top local designers is the place to go for innovative Argentina-made fashions. The owners, also clothing designers, select the most interesting and iconic pieces from each of the 50-plus creators they showcase in their upscale Palermo Chico showroom. Popular local labels include JT by Jessica Trosman, Tramando by Martín Churba, Sette, and Vanesa Krongold. In addition to clothes, the shop features pieces by local jewelers, handwoven accessories from Argentine indigenous communities, Juan Gatti’s bold silk scarves, and Andean-accented felt hats by Made in Chola.
San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The attractive San Telmo barrio began as an upscale area before tenement living took over. It’s back big-time now, helped by its famous antique flea market. On Sundays tourists and locals descend upon the Plaza Dorrego and its side lanes for silverwork, vintage clothing, art pieces, furniture and colorful old seltzer bottles. Cafés and bars are packed and the streets fill with tango dancers. The fine old late-19th-century wrought-iron market is great for foodstuffs.
C1427BXE, Charlone 201, C1427BXE CABA, Argentina
The bricked-over windows of the bookstore/wine bar Falena may have you worrying the place has closed. But the isolation from the street that the bricks provide is part of what gives Falena the feel of a hidden sanctuary. Ring to enter and step into what could be some bookworm’s particularly inviting minimalist home. Downstairs, floor-to-ceiling shelves hold books handpicked by local independent publishers; a basement wine cellar safeguards a carefully curated selection of boutique vintages. And the rooftop terrace is the perfect spot to enjoy a glass—or pore over newly acquired volumes.
Elortondo 1837, B1643 Béccar, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Escape the city’s honking horns and revving motorcycles by traveling on the Tren de la Costa to Villa Ocampo, once the home of writer Victoria Ocampo and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the short trip, the train’s large windows frame river views as you pass through the city’s shady northern suburbs and disembark at Punta Chica Station. Tours of the mansion lead to rooms where Ocampo entertained literary lights such as Graham Greene, Albert Camus, and Federico García Lorca. Allow time for exploring the estate’s marvelous gardens and to have a bite at the on-site restaurant. Trains leave every 30 minutes from Maipú Station, connecting to the Mitre line that leaves from Retiro.
11 de Septiembre 1901, C1428 CABA, Argentina
La Glorieta attends to those attracted to tango’s drama but who eschew slick, three-hour dance extravaganzas in downtown cabarets. Free and open to the public, this gazebo, in a plaza near Belgrano’s Barrio Chino, transforms on weekend evenings into an open-air gathering place for tango dancers—young and old, experienced and rookies alike. If you’re looking to learn the dance’s steps (as well as its complex etiquette), go early for classes (5–6:30 p.m.) before the dance floor opens. Dancing goes on until 11 p.m. and is canceled on rainy nights.
Av. Hipólito Yrigoyen s/n, C1087 CABA, Argentina
On every Thursday for the past 40 years, women have walked a picket line around Buenos Aires’s most politically significant plaza. They call themselves Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, and each mother present has lost a son or a daughter, presumably “disappeared” at the hands of the nation’s 1970s-era military dictatorships. Some days only a half-dozen mothers lead the march; though increasingly elderly, they are still determined to carry on the fight against all forms of oppression. You’d expect it to be a depressing affair, but in fact it’s quite moving to see the crowd of 50 or more supporters march beside the original mothers as they chant, demanding accountability for one of Latin America’s most shameful and violent historical episodes.
Av. Alvear 1680, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The boutique known as Fueguia 1833 is a true surprise from the perfume industry; specifically musician Julian Bedel’s highly personal, one-of-a-kind tribute to Argentina, botany, and nature in general. The collection showcases sustainable, limited-edition fragrances, made from the rare ingredients the nation’s biodiversity provides. All scents are clean, and elegant, yet moods move from sweet to earthy. Bedel’s creations have hit stores in Tokyo, Milan and New York, but a souvenir from the Buenos Aires outlet is a true remembrance indeed.
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