I only knew of a few things when I had plotted visiting Buenos Aires; Evita, good steak, and the Argentine tango. What I ended up getting out of the trip was so much more. It was a fantastic place to visit; a place where Europe collided with South America to make a city that’s the best of both worlds.
Visiting Buenos Aires
David and I flew to Buenos Aires in the middle of December. There was a lot we loved and a few things we didn’t. Spoiler alert – one of the things we didn’t like was the steak. I’m sorry – we just didn’t go to a good place. Outside of that, the city itself was nice and it was one of the best winter trips that we’ve taken.
Hailed as the Europe of South America, 89% of Buenos Aires’ population descends from Europeans. It was common to see natives walking around with light skin and eyes. I sort of knew that before I went, but didn’t realize how striking it would be once I was there.
Being candid, Argentinians were some of the most attractive people that I’ve ever seen. From the hotel concierge to the waiters and waitresses I was like what is this place of beautiful people.
When to Visit Buenos Aires
This is one of the biggest travel tips I’ve given on this blog. Go to Buenos Aires in the middle of December before Christmas. It is summer there and the fights are incredibly cheap! No one really does a vacation right before Christmas. They’ll do it after or fly for the holidays, but not before. It’s the best time to go.
What to Do in Buenos Aires
There were not many tours to choose from when we were in Buenos Aires. There was the obligatory city tour, tango tours, a few day trips, food tours, wine tours, and pub crawls. It sounds like a lot but it really was a lot less in volume when compared to other cities we’ve been to. But that was fine! It made choosing easier.
The tours that we were most interested in were the ones unique to the city, such as the tango show (a MUST), the Tigre Delta boat ride, and the Guacho ranch. The Guacho ranch we ran out of time to do, but you should try to. Otherwise, here are some highlights from what we saw on our tours.
The Tigre Delta Tour
Replace the bustle of Buenos Aires with the green countryside of the Tigre Delta. A popular weekend getaway for Buenos Aires locals, the delta offers lush scenery, a relaxing atmosphere, boat rides, and a chance to see another way of Argentine life. You can choose between a full-day and half-day tour, both of which include a cruise on the delta. It’s also Argentina’s rowing capital.
That all sounded wonderful when we booked it. Although the Tigre Detla tour took us through Puerto Mordero, the delta, and Rio de la Plata (one of the world’s largest rivers), what it really was, was just a tour of a suburb in Buenos Aires.
We also had free time at a train station shopping mall and then another shopping area on some random street before taking a boat through the canals of the delta. We hated the free time. There was nothing to do, the shops were lame, and it was uncomfortably hot.
On the water we passed yacht clubs and residential waterfront houses that were both modern and 19th century inspired. It was cool but I was tired and hot, i.e. I fell asleep on the boat. So unless you’re from a land-locked area, this was missable. Sorry.
Museo de Arte Tigre
I loved this building. Finally, we had found an intact, old-fashioned looking building. It opened in 1912 and sits on the end of Victoria Avenue next to the Luján River in Tigre.
As one of our stops on the Tigre Delta tour, the dome was the first thing we had saw from the distance. When we got closer we noticed the garden, the sculptures, the large terrace, and the lovely balustrade. It was extremely European looking.
Built during the Centennial, it was originally meant to be an entertainment center, the Tigre Club. The ground floor held the casino and the huge oval room held the ballroom. Today, it’s a museum housing the permanent Argentinian figurative art collection.
The Buenos Aires City Tour
I loved the architecture in Buenos Aires. Like most cities it has a myriad of styles that make up what looked like a former grand city waiting for a comeback. Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and French-inspired, to name a few, all help to form the lovely Buenos Aires. It inspired me to go home and redo my interior design. From buying elegant curtains to new linens, I want my place to be chic, but warm so that it resembles a mini Buenos Aires.
On the tour of the city we hit up the highlights. The guide was extremely friendly and had to repeat everything in three languages; impressive. The only downfall of that type of tour is that you don’t get as much information since the guide is busy translating most of the time. So as the bus rolled passed the sites we only got tidbits of history; “this is the University building to your right.” Not much context beyond that. Be picky about which tour you choose so that you get the most out of it.
Overall, the city tour was rough for us because the bus broke down in La Boca, not the nicest area. This of course was the tour we took on the morning we landed and we already hadn’t slept for over a day. Simply put, we were exhausted.
This was David sleeping outside of the hotel as we waited for our room to be ready. We figured we’d book a tour to kill time.
We ended up spending much longer than we needed to in El Caminetto and the La Boca soccer stadiums. So although they were worth seeing, just note that you don’t have to spend a long time there. I am glad we got to see it despite that.
La Boca Soccer Stadium Tour
Known as La Bombonera, the stadium houses the Boca Juniors, one of Argentina’s top football clubs. We had just missed seeing a game by a few days! It would’ve been so awesome. I’m a huge fan of seeing soccer games abroad.
But we made the most of our time, since we had so much more of it thanks to our bus breaking down, and toured the interior of the stadium.
There was an entrance fee, but there was a “kind of” cool museum inside which was interesting to look at for a little while.
El Caminetto was cute but too touristy. Go, though. It’s like Times Square, you just need to check it out once.
El Caminto is a street turned pseudo museum in La Boca. It’s famous for the plethora of restaurants with live tango dancers performing and luring you inside, as well as the colorful buildings. It started as a tiny walkway where Italian immigrants lived (immigrating from 1880 through 1930).
Unless you plan on eating there, you should be able to get through El Caminito in about 40 minutes.
The Food in Buenos Aires
The olive oil was terrible and the meat was overrated. Before you get angry with me about the meat I’ll admit that it was probably just because we didn’t find a great restaurant. On the other hand, I don’t know what was up with the olive oil. It was nasty.
Outside of that, the food in Buenos Aires is good. It’s hard not to be good when you’re a city of immigrants. But don’t fall into the trap that we did – make sure to eat at places that aren’t too touristy.
Argentinean food is known for its blending of Mediterranean and Indigenous foods. Some of the most famous cuisine includes dulce de leche, sliced pizza served over fainá, and Carbonada Criolla.
One of the best meals we ate at was in an Italian restaurant in Puerto Madero. This is an up-and-coming area that was somewhat recently renovated. It reminded me of the restaurant strip in DUMBO in New York City, except no bridge.
La Recoleta Cemetery
You wouldn’t normally think that going to a cemetery would be a top tourist attraction to visit. Located in the Recoleta neighborhood in Buenos Aires, the La Recoleta Cemetry is a must-do. BBC called it one of the best cemeteries in the world and CNN listed it as one of the 10 most beautiful.
La Recoleta Cemetery has over 6,400 mausoleums and houses some of the most controversial and wealthy military generals, politicians, entertainers, intellectuals, and presidents in Argentina’s past. The most famous resident is Eva Perón, the former First Lady who died in 1952.
The cemetery was very lovely in a macabre way. Elaborate architecture in the form of Greek temples, grandiose statues, and decorative chapels created an enigmatic and ghostly charm. It would be an ideal spot for a night tour. All the little alleys formed a labyrinth, which was easy to get lost in too.
We really could’ve spent hours wandering this city of the dead. Besides wondering who the people behind the statues were, the most intriguing part of the cemetery was that fact that it was sort of falling apart.
It was obviously one of the top tourist attractions in Buenos Aires, and yet many of the tombs and mausoleums are being left to fall into ruin. If we wanted, we could’ve easily push passed the doors to the mausoleums. They were falling off their hinges and were completely accessible. But who would want to go down there? Between the ghosts and the spiders, no thanks.
Looking back, I wish I had taken a formal tour of La Recoleta. It would’ve been interesting to learn more about the lives of the people laid to rest there. For example, people around us seemed to be most fascinated by this one of a lady and her dog.
After doing some research when I got back home, I found out that it is of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak, who was only 26 when she did by an avalanche when visiting Innsbruck, Austria in 1970. Liliana wears her wedding dress and stands adjacent to her dog, Sabú.
Someone really should make a movie of this place. To visit, it’s helpful to note that there are free tours offered in Spanish here on Tuesday and Sunday.
Cafe de Los Angelitos Tango Buenos Aires
We had bought tickets to the Argentine tango show and dinner at Cafe de Los Angelitos and I was so excited. I had told David before we left New York that the number one thing we had to do in Buenos Aires was see a tango show. I love the Argentine tango and if I had more time in life I would take lessons.
This place was recommended by our hotel concierge and it did not disappoint. The dining room was elegant and the food was very good.
The dancers were the highlight of the night without a doubt. This was the first tango show that I’ve seen in Buenos Aires, but I couldn’t have imagined a better tango show than this. The costumes were well-made, the live music was beautiful, and the dancers were talented. I loved it!
Buenos Aires was an amazing city and a great place to escape the cold New York winter. If I could go back in time, I wish that I could’ve studied abroad there.
What are your thoughts on Buenos Aires?