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The 10 best things to do in Buenos Aires

Whether you want football, food or tango, the best things to do in Buenos Aires will sweep you off your tapping feet

Written by
Duncan Madden
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Buenos Aires is a chaotic melting pot, that is for sure. Argentina’s premier metropolis is all culture and colour, a city obsessed with tango, food, football, history and tango. No, that isn’t a typo, the capital’s obsession with tango deserves mentioning twice. Don’t believe us? You wait and see.

This city isn’t for the meek. The best things to do in Buenos Aires give visitors a taste of the madness that sweeps people off their feet daily. The restaurants are elite, the local markets are as bustling as the word allows, and the hotels are stunning. Don’t forget your dancing shoes, because this place is obsessed with tango. Yes, it deserves a third mention.

Best things to do in Buenos Aires

Cementerio de la Chacarita

1. Cementerio de la Chacarita

What is it? A nineteenth-century necropolis sprawled across the BA suburbs that’s home to the statues and mausoleums of Argentina’s most revered tango icons.

Why go? While most tourists head for the Cementerio de la Recoleta to take in the grave of Argentina’s most famous first lady, Eva Perón, the enormous Cementerio de la Chacarita is less crowded, and arguably more interesting. Head for the mausoleum of Carlos Gardel, light a cigarette, place it in his hand and pay your respects to one of the founding fathers of tango.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

2. El Ateneo Grand Splendid

What is it? Originally a grand theatre, then a grand cinema, it’s now a grand bookstore. In fact, the 99-year-old Grand Splendid is one of the grandest stores in the world.

Why go? Revelling in its history, the frescoed ceiling, elaborate theatre boxes and even the bold red drapes are all intact, casting an eye-wateringly opulent backdrop for the books. Take the time to sip a coffee and listen to some live piano on the original stage, with sweeping views of the Grand Splendid in all its… splendour.

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El Caminito
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. El Caminito

What is it? Hidden away amid the brightly painted streets of the La Boca neighbourhood, El Caminito is an artist-lined alleyway and street museum with a history as colourful as its buildings.

Why go? The ‘little path’ was the inspiration for the famous tango Caminito and is a cultural cauldron of BA history. Browse the local artists’ wares, take snapshots of the madly coloured conventillos and keep an eye out for the bizarre figures of Che Guevara and Diego Maradona waving from the balconies above.

La Biela
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Eric B.

4. La Biela

What is it? Preferred haunt of literary giants Borges and Casares, 150-year-old Café La Biela is a BA landmark. Pull up a seat next to them – their lifesize statues still sit at their favourite table – and indulge in dulce de leche-infused treats.

Why go? A staple for the sweet-toothed and perfect treat post-meaty feast, the milky caramel syrup is infused in everything from cakes to crêpes to coffee across the city. Order a café con leche and a dulce de leche crêpe for the quintessential Argentine sugar hit.

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Tierra Santa
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jennifer K.

5. Tierra Santa

What is it? Contender for the world’s most kitsch theme park, the Holy Land of Tierra Santa blends religious icons with liberal doses of animatronics, neon and, well, tack.

Why go? Among the many unique spectacles from the Last Supper to Adam and Eve frolicking in Eden, the half-hourly resurrection of Christ steals the show. Seriously. Stand in bemused awe as the 18-meter plastic Jesus rises from a plastic Calvary Mountain before opening his eyes and turning his palms to the heavens.

Boca Juniors

6. Boca Juniors

What is it? BA’s number one soccer team, once home to the legendary Diego Maradona, plays out of the talismanic Bombonera stadium in the La Boca neighbourhood.

Why go? Visiting BA without embracing its soccer is like heading to Paris and eating only McDonalds: a crime. Throw on a bit of blue and yellow (Boca Juniors’ team’s colours), take in a match and, no matter how engaging the game might be, wonder at the excitement and mayhem of the most passionate fans in the world.

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Eat at a parrilla
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Eat at a parrilla

What is it? The parrilla, or steakhouse, is the classic Argentine eatery and can be anything from a fine-dining restaurant to a street-side vendor with a makeshift grill.

Why go? For the meats – all the meat! That means not just the classic Asado barbecue steak and ribs, but the parrillada mixed grill replete with offal turned into culinary wonders like chorizo, morcilla (black pudding) and chitlins (small intestines). Delicious but often gruesome to look at, trust your tastebuds over your eyes, and you won’t regret it. For fancy try La Cabrera, for street-side head to Parrilla Mi Sueño.

Tango at a milonga

8. Tango at a milonga

What is it? The life and soul of Buenos Aires. In the grand halls and on the street corners, everything moves to the beat of tangoing feet. A milonga is the place to see this in action and, if you’re brave enough, join in.

Why go? To mix with the locals and get a feel for how tango intoxicates the crowds. Head to La Milonga del Indio on Sunday evenings to dance al fresco with energetic septuagenarians in the historic Plaza Dorrego, or for a younger crowd, get ready to sweat at La Viruta.

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Bar Isabel
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Bar Isabel

What is it? BA’s latest late-night drinking spot is a lush, seventies-inspired cocktail bar and nightclub catering to a stylish and thirsty clientele.

Why go? Think Studio 54 for South America, and you’re on the right track. Dress to impress (door staff can be picky), sup on glorious martinis and cosmopolitans and drink in the glamour from the oyster-shaped booths. And if the cocktails take their toll, order caviar and sushi to soak up the spirits.

Malba
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Cátia S.

10. Malba

What is it? Argentina’s leading contemporary art museum, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (now you know why they just call it Malba) is a who’s who of leading Latino modern artists.

Why go? These works by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and lesser-known locals are fine examples of Latin American art.

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