Let’s begin with what has long been the national dance of Argentina, tango. The spirit of tango oozes from every corner of the city. Milongas (tango nights) blend the familiarity of a social club with the elegance of a 1930’s ballroom dance. You only need a vague sense of rhythm and, more importantly, etiquette to bask in the groove of venues such as Tango Cool and Viruta which welcome all abilities. The more confident character may dare to enrol in clubs like La Calesita where congregations are slightly more unforgiving and acquiring a partner involves an elaborate code of subtle nods and eyebrow twitches.
However if cutting shapes in a silk shirt and suspenders isn’t your thing, perhaps you are more easily swayed by football. The city hosts the two most acclaimed sides in the Argentine premier division, Boca Juniors and River Plate, as well as a generous assortment of other big clubs. These two teams accommodate a sporting rivalry so fierce and an atmosphere so explosive on meeting that the fixture has been labelled ‘one of the 50 sporting things you must do before you die’. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on a ticket to the ‘superclasico’ then bear witness to a sea of colourful banners and revel in the excitement of a stadium bouncing with the simultaneous jumping of the supporters. The chanting never stops nor does the dancing or the fireworks. But any visit to these stadiums is worthwhile, particularly to the Bombonera (Boca’s home ground) which prevails in the battle for prestige. The enormous blue and yellow structure has seen the likes of Maradona grace its field and maintains a frantic buzz for each game coaxed by fans that do not disappoint week in, week out.
Even just to see the area surrounding the Bombonera is an afternoon well spent. The Boca, as it is named, boasts a district unique to the rest of the city. To say this neighbourhood has character is a huge understatement. Built up by early Italian settlers, its bright, colourful houses, often decorated with portraits, and its pedestrian-friendly walkways are testament to a European flavour. Take a stroll down El Caminito, its main stretch, and indulge in the charming street side tango shows and showcasing of local artwork.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to leave the city to explore Argentina’s gaucho culture. Yet few tourists make it to the Feria de los Mataderos, one of Buenos Aires’ best-kept secrets. If you are looking for things to do in Buenos Aires and are interested in a real South American experience this is the place to come. Located in one of the poorer parts of the city, an interesting mix of cultures (locals, gauchos and migrant workers from Bolivia and Paraguay) unite to present a vibrant combination of traditions, dancing and artwork. Wonderfully costumed locals perform chacareras (folkloric dances) whilst gauchos gallop alongside competing in traditional contests at ferocious speeds. The festivities are accompanied by live music and a large market exhibiting a range of conventional expertise from metalwork to handicrafts. Argentina is world-renowned for its quality of meat, and, if that wasn’t enough, an asado (Argentine barbeque) is ever-present smoking up huge chunks of beef and sausage to spoil your taste buds.
Fancy a break from the big city, yet do not want to venture far to find one? Only an hour’s train journey out of the hustle and bustle of downtown, Tigre is the perfect getaway. Consider an almost unspoilt subtropical delta of densely forested islands and sparkling waterways. Hop on a river bus, take a picnic and enjoy the ride into the delta’s peaceful waters. Alternatively you could make your own journey and rent kayaks or canoes. Do not be put off by the murky brown water; the rivers’ sediments are what give it its unique smell and colour. In fact locals use the water for bathing, doing laundry, watering plants and even cleaning furniture, so do not forget your swimming costume. While it may sound like a while away from civilisation, you can soak up the beautiful scenery from the comfort of the restaurants, bars and beaches dotted around the delta.
It is safe to say Buenos Aires offers a myriad of pleasures and something for everyone. You can follow a guidebook and seek out tried and tested locations and events. Or you can just follow your nose (which will undoubtedly lead you to an asado) and discover the many things to do in Buenos Aires for yourself!
For more information on things to do in Buenos Aires or to start planning your trip to Argentina visit www.sayhueque.com