Buenos Aires: A Complete Guide

It’s nearly impossible to write a mini Buenos Aires guide with all the city has to offer. Here we make our best effort to show you the city we love with a short but good selection of information. We hope you enjoy it and find it useful!

The mechanical flower in Buenos Aires is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city

The mechanical flower in Buenos Aires is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city

This Buenos Aires guide is starting with some general information…

Elevation: sea level

Population: An estimated 3 million people and a total of 13 million if we include the greater Buenos Aires area.

Why is it called Buenos Aires?The first Spanish conquistadors who arrived in the city were devoted to the Virgin Candelaria, who was also called Señora del Buen Aire (lady of the good air). Real de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Aire was the first name of the city.

It is also often referred to as “the Paris of Latin America”, “Baires”, and “Reina del Plata” (Queen of the Silver, in reference of the Rio de la Plata, Silver River)

Is the water drinkable? Yes

Banks: Open daily from 10 hrs to 15 hrs. Not all the banks change foreign currency however there are many currency exchange shops.

Phone call centers, public telephones and cyber cafes: Everywhere in the city.

9 de Julio Avenue with the famous Obelisk of Buenos Aires

9 de Julio Avenue with the famous Obelisk of Buenos Aires

Tips!

Security: In Buenos Aires, as in every big city you have to be aware of pick pocketing and bag slashing. Try to be careful with your valuables. The use of a money belt under your clothes is recommendable. But also have always some cash in your wallet, so that you don’t need to open your money belt in public when you want to pay.

In order to change money you will be asked to show your passport. Most of times they accept copies also.

In the city most of the blocks are 100 meters each. That is why porteños measure the distances in blocks.

To get to know the city, it is always helpful to start with a city tour. They usually visit center, La Boca, and Recoleta neighborhoods. They give you a better idea about what to see and where to go.

Taxis are cheap compared to other cities in the world. A taxi in the city shouldn’t cost you more than ar$150 (usd15) from corner to corner.

There is a useful governmental tourism website where you can check for free activities each week- www.bue.gob.ar You find often guided tours, exposition, festival and events organized for free or for very cheap tickets.

The Colorful Buildings of La Boca

The Colorful Buildings of La Boca

Our choise of museums

Museo Evita: Lafinur 2988. Tel. 4807 0306. This interactive museum shows videos, objects and magazines of one of the most emblematic political figures.

Museo de Arte Decorativo: Av. Del Libertador 1902.  Tuesdays to Sundays in the afternoon (except January and February when it closes on Sundays too). Open from 14 to 19 hrs. This mansion, once a family house, shows how the aristocracy used to live in the country at the beginning of the 1900s.

Museo de Bellas Artes: Av del Libertador 1473. Tuesdays to Fridays, 14:30 to 20:30- Saturdays and Sundays 12:30 to 20:30. Our major art collection on the first floor holds excellent argentinan art. There are also rooms dedicated to European and pre-Columbian art. Free entrance.

Malba: Figueroa Alcorta 3415. Open from Thursday through Monday and Holidays from 12:00 to 20:00. Wednesday till 21:00. Closed Tuesday. If you like modern art, you will love this museum. It is consider the best modern art collection of Latin America.

Museo de Ciencias: Prohibido No Tocar (Science museum: Forbidden to not touch). Centro Cultural Recoleta, Junin 1930. Monday to Friday 10 to 17 hs. Saturdays, Sundays and hollidays from 15:30 a 19:30 hs.(includes school holidays from December to March). This science museum is mainly for kids, but also to anyone interested in science. This museum shows in a very interactive way that science can be easy understood if you can touch it!

Ferias

San Telmo: Every year this Feria becomes bigger and bigger. Now it takes place on Defensa street from Plaza de Mayo to Parque Lezama. It began as a flea market, but now has a mixture of paintings, purses, antiques and handicrafts making it more chaotic and fun. On Sundays from midday.

Recoleta: Much more organized than San Telmo, in order to have a stand in this Feria you are evaluated by an Admission Office, so the handicrafts tend to be original and of higher quality. It is very hard not to buy something.

The area gets full on Sundays, when locals go to the park to drink mate and play guitars! On Sundays and Saturdays from midday until 20:00 hrs aprox in front of Recoleta Cementery.

Mataderos: It is a one hour bus ride to get to this Gaucho Feria, very different from those downtown. You will see gauchos, horse competitions (in a very local game called Sortija), regional foods (cheeses, organic wine, home made breads and huge empanadas) made with local products from the farms nearby. If the weather is warm, there will be many people and bands playing folklore. Go by buses 55, 63, 80, 92, 126, 141, 155, 180.

La Feria de los Mataderos

La Feria de los Mataderos

Tango

Outside of the big tango shows there are many ways to enjoy the tango experience; milongas, classes, street dance or just listening to the music!

Here some recommendations to make your choices easier!

Milongas

If the tango shows show you the dance in its most professional way, the milongas will show you ordinary people that just go to dance. They are the discotheques of tango. Usually they offer classes first and with the same ticket you can stay to enjoy the Milonga. Entrances around ar$30.

Here is a selection of the ones we highly recommend you to visit!

La Viruta. Tel 4774-6357. Armenia 1366 Downstairs. A must for starters, classes are everyday from early afternoon to 22 hrs. You pay once and can stay for all the dance classes of the day and the milonga (usually gets good around midnight and lasts until 6 or 7am!). Teachers are friendly, and although the class is in Spanish they are happy to try to use their English!

La Catedral. Tel 1553251630; Sarmiento 4006. The rough and tumble warehouse space gets full on Tuesdays. Surrounded by a bizarre decoration of old artifacts, colorful lamps and accompanied by vegetarian menu, it gets full and vibrant. Classes held everyday 19:30 or 21 hrs. The milonga starts after 22:30 goes until the dancers decide to go home.

La Ideal. Tel. 15-4526-7580. Suipacha 384. The old confiteria, just one block from the obelisk, has a good mixture of locals, tourists and old fashion architecture. It has been going on for the last twenty years, long before the young people rediscovered tango. Maybe that is why you will find many white-haired ladies taking their high heels from their bags while the DJ plays the first tango. Sunday afternoons are one of the best days, but check their schedule at the entrance of the Confiteria as they change it quite often.

Salon Canning. Tel 4832-6753; Scalabrini Ortiz 1331. A great dance floor and some of BA’s finest dancers grace this traditional venue’s stage. It gets very full and stays open very late. Milongas and classes everyday, but the most popular one is on Fridays.

Niño Bien: Tel 4147-8687. Humberto Primo 1462. Takes place on Thursdays at the Central Regional Leonesa, attracting a large variety of aficionados- some consider it the best milonga in town. It has a great atmosphere, large ballroom and good dance floor. Take taxi to go and come back.

Tango dancers on stage

Tango dancers on stage

On the Streets

Some shots to catch live tango outdoors:

Be always careful about your belongings while watching tango, as this spots are popular for pick pocketing!

La Boca. Usually everyday in the cafes in Caminito. They use dancers to attract people to sit at their tables (there is a lot of competition between bars and restaurants at this touristy spot).

San Telmo. On Sundays in Plaza Dorrego. It varies from Sunday to Sunday, not always the same couple and not always in the Plaza. Sometimes at any of the corners on Defensa Street.

Downtown. Everyday in the afternoons at the corner of Lavalle and Florida, or in front of Galerias Pacifico.

The couple dancing in front of Galarias Pacifico is amazing. Never starts before 15 hrs.

Milongas versus Peñas

While tango is the Buenos Aires dance, Folklore is the national one. As tango in its beginning had to do with the port and prostitution, Folklore had to do with the countryside and gauchos.

During the last ten years Peñas, places where you can listen to live folklore music, and also dancing, became more popular in Buenos Aires. Now these hot spots bring to the city a little of the interior of this huge country.

Here our recommendations!

Los Cardones: Tel.4777-1222. JL Borges 2180. In Palermo’s heart. After the show the entrance is free. During weekends it’s full of people dancing zamba, chamamé and chacarera. Very vibrant!

La Peña del Colorado: Tel. 4822-1038. Guemes 3657. Go early to get a seat, as it gets full. This popular peña gets full of young adults looking for a table. It is so busy not just because of the music groups and the dancing after the shows, also for its great menu with typical dishes from the north of the country. They have also folklore classes in the afternoons. Call to ask what is going on today.

Restaurants & Bars

We could write a book with all the variety that Buenos Aires has to offer. You can find Asian, Chinese, Peruvian, Brazilian, and even African dishes on the city streets.

A good on-line guide is www.guiaoleo.com.ar

Here a short selection of our favorites in every neighborhood. We have very proudly chosen just local cousine…

Buen Provecho!

Downtown & San Telmo

El Establo. Paraguay and San Martin. Tel 4311-1639

This parrilla is popular with tourists and locals because of its huge portions, their great high quality of beef and the nice home made lemoncello that you get as a courtesy. (Shhh…but if you ask as an aperitif they also give you some tasty Jerez!) Don’t forget to taste the cream spinach…yummmy.

Granix: Florida 165, 1st floor. Just for lunch from Monday to Friday.

This vegetarian all you can eat is one of the healthiest and delicious options in downtown. Very busy with office people, completely hidden, not even a sign, but always full.

1880: Defensa 1665. Tel 4307-2746.

In the south of San Telmo, a non-fashionable parrilla has been the chosen as a favorite by locals for the last 23 years. Not just good grilled meats but also for typical dishes such as Puchero. Big portions, friendly staff and good ambiance. The space is not big so it is better to make a reservation, as it gets full quickly.

El Palacio de la Papa Frita: Av. Corrientes1612 Tel: 4374-8063/ 4374-0920

A classic. They have been cooking the best soufflé potatoes in the country for the last fifty years. Good variety of dishes: beef, chicken and pastas.

El Cuartito: Talcahuano 937. Tel 4816- 1758.

It sounds bad to eat pizza in Buenos Aires, but you have to keep in mind that the Italian influence in this country has also affected their food. Porteños love to say that their pizza is better than the Italians.

Definitely the best pizza in the country. Also delicious tuna empanadas and fugazzeta.

El Desnivel: Defensa 855 Tel.4300-9081

This is a bizarre parrilla, you either love it or hate it. The beef is good, full of young people, and gets packed. Portions are huge.

Puerto Madero

Bahia Madero: A.M. de Justo 430. Tel. 4319- 8733. Nice terrace with canal views, white table cloths and dressed up waiters. This restaurant serves excellent pastas, enormous and delicious salads, good fish and beef. The Ensalada del Diablo with smoked salmon melts in your mouth.

Cabaña Las Lilas: A.M. de Justo 516. Tel. 4313-1336. It used to be the best parrilla in the city, and many said in the country. Nowadays too many guidebooks have recommended it and it became extravagantly expensive, despite the fact is very hard to find anyone speaking Spanish in their room. Still the beef is to die for. You can cut it with a fork.

Siga la Vaca: A.M. de Justo 1714. Tel. 4315 6801 / 6802. Porteños love it! An all you can eat with excellent parrilla. Good value, excellent if you are hungry!

Palermo

Crizia: Gorritti 5143. Gabi Oggero has been cooking killer dishes for the last ten years, and every day he cooks better. In a modern room, accompanied by an oyster bar, you can have also cocktails and excellent wine. The dessert tasting: too good to be true.

La Cabrera: Cabrera 5099. Tel. 4831-7002. It is so popular nowadays that if you go without reservation you will have to wait for ages, not so bad as they offer champagne and tapas on very busy days!

The beef is excellent and the best sweetbreads of the galaxy.

Bio: Humboldt 2199. Tel. 4774-3880. Organic and vegetarian, in Bio you can even try their best organic wine. Small and casual.

Rave: Gorriti 5092. Tel 4833-7832. Attractive red outside and inside very cozy, this restaurant offers mostly pasta, meats and fancy salads. The shrimp, spinach and ricotta ravioli is delicious! Good value.

Recoleta

El Sanjuanino: Posadas 1515, 4924-0888. If you want to feel like a local, join them and enjoy one of the best empanadas in a warm ambience. We recommend you to try this small hidden spot, just a couple of blocks of Alvear Palace Hotel, you can forget about the aristocracy in the surrounding area.

El Club de la Milanesa: Las Heras 2101. Tel 4776-3122. This club that owns many restaurants in the city offers “milanesas” big as a pizza and with all sort of combinations: with mozzarella on top, spinach, bacon, french fries, pumpkin or any other topping you can image. They have base options of chicken, beef, soya or fish and can be shared between two, three or four people.

The Cafeterias

There is a national institution that is the Cafeteria; a traditional social meeting spot. In the first years as a Republic these places were where the revolutionaries used to meet to discuss their political ideas. Later on in history, these were where the new ideas were born, where most of our writers used to spend their inspirational hours, and where nowadays Porteños start or end the day.

The oldest ones have been declared by the city as “Bares Notables” (Notable Bars) as a way of promoting people to keep going. Many of these have been serving customers for more than a hundred years.

Tomamos un café?

Café Tortoni: Av. De Mayo 825. The oldest Café of Buenos Aires, still popular with porteños in the early mornings, although tourists cue outside in the afternoon to grab a table. Old wooden chairs, vitró lamps and a sculpture with the most characteristic characters of the Argentinean art make for a classic ambience. But, don’t expect too much of the waiters: they seem not to like people.

El Federal: Carlos Calvo 599. Tel. 4300-4313. This bohemic café in the heart of San Telmo opened in 1864 as a bar to become a brothel later. Nowadays you can listen tango while you taste their delicious home made beer, as well as their picadas (try the one with fried ravioli).

Lo de Roberto: Bulnes 331, Almagro. Tuesdays to Fridays, 19 to 4 hrs. If Buenos Aires can be bohemic and bizarre, this is the place to feel it. Wine and tango, around 22 hrs they start playing, until someone decides to close.

Las Violetas: Medrano and Rivadavia. It was the first bar in this neighborhood, born for the high class, and came down during the 90’s when it almost closed. Actually, it did close, but had to re open, as the neighbors went to the streets in protest. Since then it is always full, and overpriced, but still has its character. English tea includes cakes, croissants, bread, butter, marmalades and anything else you can image, good to share in a hungry afternoon!

El Britanico: Defensa and Brasil. Similar story to Las Violetas, but on the other side of the city. El Britanico was the first 24 hrs bar, managed by three Spanish friends who came 50 years ago, opened the café, and never left. Good for an early coffee after the discotheque, or the last beer with views to Lezama Park, on the south end of San Telmo.

La Giralda: Corrientes 1453. The waiters might be as old as the place. Here people come for their hot chocolate and churros in cold days. As soon as you cross the door you feel definitely in the 70’s.

Gato Negro: Corrientes 1669. Need a tea? In Gato Negro you will find their own blends and also exquisite herbal varieties in a cozy atmosphere.

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