The Quintessential Experiences of Buenos Aires

Tango lessons, steaks, day trips and more: Get into the spirit of Argentina's larger-than-life capital with these top things to do.

Argentina's cosmopolitan capital city is larger than life, from its impromptu tango sessions in cobbled market squares to the rocking crowds in soccer stadiums and a frenzied nightlife. Immerse yourself in a city that is rich in designer boutiques and lively fleamarkets, European faded grandeur and slick renovated dock-side barios, all wrapped up in a tango slinkiness. But whatever you do, don't miss out on these top things to do while visiting Buenos Aires.

#1) Get into Tango

It’s the rhythm that sets the city alight; a smouldering, passionate dance forming Buenos Aires’ soundtrack. You’ll find dance shows from top performers in milonga (traditional tango halls) throughout the city, mainly in Palermo, which are often accompanied with dinner. Or why not try it for yourself and take a lesson from an expert. If you take to it like a duck to water, head to the specialist shop Tangoleike to buy your own pair of high-quality tango shoes. Keep a look out for free, outdoor tango sessions in markets and squares.

Showroom Sarmiento 1947. T: 011 4953 0360. 

Tango performers in Buenos Aires
You'll find performers on the street, and in milongas (©Kobby Dagan/Shutterstock)

#2) Sample the Soccer Scene

Even though Argentina lost the 2014 Fifa World Cup against Germany, little will dampen the nation’s obsession for the game. In fact throughout certain neighborhoods you'll always see young boys practicing their soccer skills on the streets with passion. The two main teams here are Boca Juniors and River Plate and even if you can't get to a match, you'll no doubt hear locals following the games on TV.

#3) Pay Homage to Evita

Forget Madonna’s portrayal of Eva Peron in the movie. There are plenty of ways of honouring the former First Lady and national heroine in the city that is synonymous with her life and work – there’s even a Museo Evita, on the site of the women’s shelter she set up in 1947.  Take a tour of the dusky pink Casa Rosada and step onto the famous balcony from where she addressed the masses, the location of which was used for the song ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ in the musical. Lastly, visit her flower-strewn tomb at Recoleta Cemetery is a simple black affair, where huge crowds gather on 26 July on the anniversary of her death.

#4) Browse for Books in El Ateneo

You don’t have to be a bibliophile to enjoy a visit to El Ateneo, one of the world’s most famous bookshops in a city where digital technology has not seen the tablet overtake the popularity of the humble book. It’s in a converted luxurious theatre, built a century ago and then converted to a cinema in the late 1920s, and you can still see the crimson velvet curtains, the ornate boxes—which are now reading nooks—and spectacular cupola, exuding nostalgic elegance. There are some non-Spanish titles, although you may well be gazing at the views so much you wouldn’t notice. 

#5) Take a Trip to Tigre

Enjoy a quick day trip out of Buenos Aires to the little town of Tigre, 32km northwest, lying on the lush jungly banks of the Río Luján with the scattering of islands. A popular weekend jaunt for wealthy Porteños, there’s a funfair, relaxing walkways, an excellent fruit and handicrafts market and restaurants on the waterfront. Head a little further north to the delta of the Río Paraná with innumerable canals and rivulets, with holiday homes and restaurants on the banks and a fruit-growing centre. The fishing is excellent and the peace is only disturbed by motorboats at weekends. Once inhabited by tigers, the area now exudes a very British feel.


#6) Mingle with the Fashionistas

Buenos Aires fashion-conscious folk just love to shop... The city’s traditional shopping centre, Calle Florida, is reserved for pedestrians, with clothes and souvenir shops, restaurants and the elegant, unmissable Galerías Pacífico. You can take guided visits from the fountain on lower ground floor of this beautiful mall with fine murals and architecture, home to many exclusive shops and good food outlets. 

#7) Dine on Argentina’s Finest Food: Steak

So why is Buenos Aires such a good place to eat steak? Thanks are due to the terrain. Argentinean cattle reared in Las Pampas, a huge farming area ten times the size of the UK, with high moisture levels and rich soil, producing fine pampas grasslands. The cows find it easy to eat, resulting in happy, healthy and fatter beasts with fully toned muscles. It’s no wonder that Argentina is the world’s capital of beef. Try these tender morsels of steak in one of many top parrillas (steakhouses) in the city but be prepared for the beef to come accompanied by chorizo (spicy sausage) or achuras (innards).

Polo field in Palermo, Buenos Aires
The polo field in Palermo, Buenos Aires, where The Argentine Polo Open Championship is held. (©Shutterstock)

#8) Watch the King Of Games, Then Learn It

 The noble sport of polo has an unclear history – did its roots in ancient warfare originate in Persia, India or China? What is clearer is that since the British adapted what they saw in the 19th century in tribal India, they introduced it via their cattlemen to Argentina where it flourished from the 1930s. Watching a polo match in Buenos Aires today (there are many clubs and festivals) is a noble, wealthy pastime, a dashing heroic sport with the rushing of fine steeds and thwak of the polo stick on ball. If you’re inspired, look out for beginners classes in the city.

Information for this guide has been sourced from Footprint Travel Guides.