Last winter I took a few weeks off from work and headed to South America with my sister. The main part of the trip was going to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival but we decided to add a couple days in Buenos Aires prior to heading to Brazil. I usually “judge” a city based on if I could see myself living there and Buenos Aires definitely felt like a place I could live. If you’re a fan of the Bachelorette, you may remember Buenos Aires as the city where Jojo went on some pretty awkward dates last season.
The weirdness of last season’s Bachelorette aside, Buenos Aires is an amazing city to visit. If you like steak and Malbec, tango dancing, and empanadas, Buenos Aires is the place for you!
- Planning and Logistics
- Things to Do in Buenos Aires
- Final Thoughts
Planning and Logistics
I flew on LAN from Boston to Miami to Santiago to Buenos Aires. Not the best route but it was the cheapest for cash (I didn’t have enough miles). If I were to do it again, I would save up on American Airlines miles. Depending on how far ahead you book, you can find round trip economy flights for 60,000 points plus fees. From Boston, there would have been one layover in Miami and fees less than $100.
There are two airports in Buenos Aires, but coming from the United States you’ll most likely fly into Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE). I took a taxi to my hotel by buying a ticket at a kiosk. There are also bus kiosks if you want a cheaper alternative.
Argentina previously charged Americans a $160 reciprocity fee to be able to enter the country. This fee was removed in 2016 which is great news for new tourists, but unfortunate for anyone who already paid to get one. Make sure to check the U.S. Passports and International Travel site for the most up-to-date information on visas and fees.
Booking a Hotel with Points in Buenos Aires
If you are looking to use points for a hotel in Buenos Aires, here are some recommendations with point values per night:
- Intercontinental Buenos Aires for 30,000 points
- Anselmo Buenos Aires, Curio Collection by Hilton for 50,000 points
- Hilton Buenos Aires for 50,000 points
- Sheraton Libertador (Starwood) for 7,000 points
- Park Tower, A Luxury Collection Hotel (Starwood) for 12,000 points
- Sheraton Buenos Aires (Starwood) for 10,000 points
- Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires for 20,000 points
Of these hotels, the Park Hyatt is the most intriguing. The exterior is gorgeous and I’d love to go back and check out the interior. If you want to use as few points as possible, Sheraton Libertador is a good choice.
Things to Do in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, A City of Neighborhoods
It’s fun to visit cities where you get distinct vibes in different neighborhoods. Buenos Aires has a lot of areas to explore. Here’s a rundown of some top neighborhoods and sights.
San Telmo is one of Buenos Aires’ oldest neighborhoods with narrow cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. Tango is a large part of San Telmo’s identity with many shows happening on the main square, Plaza Dorrego. You can even book tickets to an evening tango show.
If you’re in Buenos Aires on a Sunday make sure to stop by the Sunday Feria (Fair) at Plaza Dorrego. You’ll find all sorts of antiques and souvenirs and might even see a tango show!
This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Buenos Aires, known for its colorful houses and cobblestone streets. This area was largely settled by Italian immigrants from Genoa who worked in the nearby shipyard. Following tradition, these settlers used leftover paint from the shipyard for the outside of their houses. What was a means of saving money created a colorful neighborhood with a unique feel.
I recommend checking out the houses in the area called Caminito. After walking around and shopping for souvenirs, stop for lunch at one of the outdoor cafes. Many have small stages with tango shows to entertain you while you sip on wine and enjoy empanadas.
Puerto Madero is an up-and-coming area along a former port on La Plata River. One side of the river features warehouses converted into restaurants and apartments while the other side is home to high rises and green space.
Walking along the river is one of the best spots to catch a breeze on a hot summer’s day in Buenos Aires. Make sure to stop at Puente de La Mujer, a modern footbridge whose name translates to Woman’s Bridge.
San Nicolas is basically the city center of Buenos Aires and referred to as El Centro. The neighborhood is bisected by the world’s widest avenue, Avenida 9 de Julio, and it’s famed Obelisk. Stop by Teatro Colon, the world’s third best opera house. In San Nicolas you will also find Florida Street, a pedestrian only street filled with shops, street vendors, and cafes. Also check out Plaza de Mayo where you’ll find the president’s house, Casa Rosada.
Retiro is a busy area thanks to the train and bus stations but also boasts some of the nicest apartments, hotels, and shopping in Buenos Aires. Spend some time relaxing in Plaza San Martin, a park at the end of Florida Street.
The main draw for Recoleta is Recoleta Cemetery, the burial site for people including Eva Peron (Evita). It’s considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. Prepare to spend at least an hour walking around the cemetery.
When I was in Recoleta we stopped by an outdoor market with homemade crafts and delicious street food (more empanadas!). We also wandered by Floralis Generica, a massive metal sculpture that resembles a flower (maybe a hibiscus?). The flower opens and closes depending on the time of day.
We spent most of our evenings in Palermo. I’m not sure if I would want to stay here because it’s a little out of the way for all the touristy stuff but if I moved to Buenos Aires, this is where I’d want to live.
Palermo has several parts with distinct feels. Palermo Chico is the smallest and home to some galleries and museums including the MALBA (Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires) and the Evita Museum. I definitely recommend visiting the Evita Museum especially if you don’t know much about Eva Peron (I admittedly knew nothing).
Palermo Soho is part of Palermo Viejo (Old Palermo) with lots of outdoor eateries, bars, and shops. Plaza Serrano is a great spot for people watching and grabbing a bite to eat. If you continue walking past the plaza, you’ll end up in Palermo Hollywood which is known for its restaurants and nightlife.
Day Trips from Buenos Aires
If you’re in town for a while, you may want to venture out of the city on a day trip.
We did a half-day trip to the Tigre Delta, a river delta spanning over 5,000 square miles. The branches of the river form sedimentary islands. On our tour of the delta we saw a boat delivering groceries and another collecting trash.
One of the most popular day trips from Buenos Aires is to Colonia, Uruguay. I unfortunately missed out because my sister went with friends the day before I arrived in Buenos Aires. There are several ferry options for getting to Colonia.
Food / Bars
Known for its steak and Malbec, Argentina is one of the culinary centers of South America. Here are some highlights:
Siga La Vaca
This all you can eat steak restaurant is Argentina’s answer to Brazilian churrascarias. For a fixed price, you get all you can eat salad bar and Argentine-style meats, and an included drink and dessert. Siga La Vaca is located in Puerto Madero.
I don’t normally think pizza when I think of Argentina, but Pizzeria Güerrin gives Chicago deep dish a run for its money. It has a thinner crust than deep dish but a rival amount of cheese and toppings. Pizzeria Güerrin is located in El Centro.
The Argentine Experience
The Argentine Experience is a dinner experience with several courses and wine pairings and plenty of opportunities to learn more about the culture of food in Argentina.
We started with a small ceviche appetizer (not a fish eater here but I tried it and the flavors were good). Next we learned how to stuff our own empanadas. The main course was steak (of course). I ordered it medium rare per the chef’s recommendation and it was the best steak I’ve ever had. So tender and flavorful.
For dessert, we learned how to assemble alfajores. We also got to try mate, a drink made by steeping leaves in hot water. You drink it through a metal straw with a filter on the end. It turns into a thick herbal sludge that tasted like smoke. Not a fan but I’m glad I got to try it.
This was one of the highlights of my time in Buenos Aires. It fills up fast so book tickets in advance!
Floreria Atlantico is a hidden bar located in Retiro. From the street, it looks like a little flower shop. And yes, they actually do sell flowers! When you walk in, look for the large refrigerator door on the left. No password needed, just walk down the stairs and you’ll find yourself in a crowded basement bar with delicious cocktails. Much cooler than some other speakeasy type places I’ve been to.
With limited time in Argentina, we didn’t get a chance to head to the country’s wine region. Anuva Wines is a great way to explore Argentine wines without leaving the city! The tasting room located in Palermo Soho is a beautiful, modern space. We tasted five wines with food pairings. I enjoyed the wines so much I ended up shipping a case home! I learned that Argentine wines are not all Malbecs. Two new wines for me were Bonarda and Torrentés. Bonarda, also known as Douce noir, is an Italian grape that is becoming increasingly popular in Argentina. Torrentés is a white grape mainly grown in Argentina. The most memorable pairing from this wine tasting was a bold Malbec paired with an equally bold dark chocolate. Yum!
Buenos Aires was at the top of my bucket list for a while. I can see why people chose to study abroad here in college! From its neighborhoods, delicious foods, and romantic culture, you’ll never run out of places to explore. Buenos Aires was a great introduction to Argentina but I have a few more places on my bucket list (Ushuaia, Mendoza, and Argentinean Patagonia to name few!) so I know I’ll be back sometime soon.