There are many ways in which you can enjoy a cosmopolitan city like Buenos Aires. Here are just a few ideas you can use as the starting point of a memorable trip.
Since cafe culture is a prominent feature of local life, go cafe hopping. Cafes are a time-honoured institution where friends meet to discuss politics or pick their football team apart, where business deals are closed, where love affairs begin and end. There are a handful of cafes dating from the turn of the twentieth century, or even before, where you can bask in old-world charm. Cafe Tortoni (Avenida de Mayo 829) is the best known and most popular with tourists. In its 150 year history, the cafe has been a meeting point for artists, politicians, writers, and tango singers. Other cafes that have been declared part of the city’s cultural heritage are Miramar (Sarandi 1190, San Cristobal), El Preferido de Palermo (Jorge Luis Borges 2108, Palermo,) Cafe de Garcia (Sanabria 3302, Villa Devoto,) Bar Britanico (Brasil 399, San Telmo) and Confiteria Ideal (Suipacha 380), which was established in 1912 and where you can also take tango lessons.
Be a local for a day
There is another way of feeling like a local apart from cafe hopping, and that is having a picada washed down with an ice cold beer. A picada is the local version of Spanish tapas. It is a collection of different nibbles like cold cuts (ham, Serrano ham, salami, etc), olives, potato chips, pickled pearl onions, peanuts, liverwurst and lots of fresh bread. It’s ideal for sharing with friends.
Be a culture vulture
If you’re a “culture vulture”, head to MALBA, the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 3415 – Thu-Mon 12:00-8:00, Wed 12:00-9:00, Tue closed). The museum houses a permanent collection of modern Latin American art, as well as temporary exhibitions. The building alone is well worth a visit. The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum – Av. del Libertador 1473. Tues-Sun 12:30-7:30pm) houses a vast collection of 19th and 20th century Argentine sculptures and paintings, in addition to European art dating from the pre-Renaissance period to the present day. The collections include pieces by Renoir, Monet, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, and van Gogh, as well as a surprisingly extensive collection of Picasso drawings. Alternatively, you can take a guided tour of Teatro Colon (Cerrito 618), one the greatest opera houses in the world.
No visit to Buenos Aires is complete if it doesn’t include the tango in some way. You can plan a tango themed day, beginning with a breakfast of cafe au lait and croissants at Cafe Dorrego in San Telmo, the oldest neighbourhood, take a leisurely stroll around the Plaza Dorrego (there is an antiques market at the weekend), located at the corner of Defensa and Humberto Primo streets, and take in the atmosphere. Then go to the Museo Vivo del Tango, the city’s tango museum (Piedras 720, within walking distance from Plaza Dorrego) and learn about tango legends like Carlos Gardel, Anibal Troilo, Astor Piazzolla and Roberto Goyeneche. Then head to Abasto, the neighbourhood where Carlos Gardel grew up. There will probably be street performers dancing tango on Carlos Gardel Street, a pedestrian thoroughfare. In the evening, you can catch a tango show. There are many options, most of which include dinner. Michelangelo (Balcarce 433,) Taconeando (Balcarce 725,) El Viejo Almacn (Independencia corner Balcarce,) Piazzolla Tango (Florida 165) are just a few.
Shopping can be a rewarding experience too. Calle Florida is a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with shops selling everything from traditional knives with hand-carved bone handles to leather jackets to silverware. There is a wide array of goods for sale but it can be a tourist trap too, with prices to match. Leather goods and shoes are a great buy. Head to Paseo del Cuero (Murillo 550 and 624) for good quality and modern design at affordable prices. There are a handful of malls too, like El Abasto (Avenida Corrientes 3247,) Alto Palermo (Avenida Santa Fe 3253) and Paseo Alcorta (Salguero 3172,), where you can find mainstream labels. Both Patio Bullrich (Avenida del Libertador 750), which is more up market, and Galerias Pacifico (corner of Florida and Avenida Cordoba) are located in beautiful historic buildings. Patio Bullrich’s building dates from 1867 and the one that houses Galerias Pacifico is from 1890 with a central cupola sporting murals by great Argentinean painters.
There are plenty of things to do in Buenos Aires to cater for all preferences. All you need to do is ask yourself what you’re interested in and plan accordingly.