I’ll admit it: when Adam and I decided to spend a few days in Buenos Aires on our way to Antarctica, we prepared for our trip by watching Evita.My fascination with Argentina’s history dates back to the 1990s, when Madonna and Antonio Banderas brought Buenos Aires to life for me through color, music, and songs. The cinematic adaption of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical arrived in theaters when I was in the seventh grade, and for close to a year my weekends were spent sitting shoulder to shoulder with my best friend as we watched and memorized the songs and dances. I cheered when Evita moved to the city, I worried when she fainted on the Rainbow Tour, and I wept when the light went out in her room in the Casa Rosada, indicating her battle with cancer was over. We must have watched the musical 100 times that year, cramming two or three viewings into our sleepovers, and I listened to the soundtrack on CD so many times I had to replace the CD player when it decided enough was enough. A few weeks before our trip, Adam casually mentioned he had never seen the movie. I didn’t waste a moment before finding it available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
“Is there a lot of singing?” Adam asked. He’s not much of a fan of musicals.
“The actress hasn’t learned the lines you’d like to hear,” I sadly crooned. Adam rightfully interpreted the lyrics to mean he wouldn’t like my answer.
“Don’t cry for me Argentina!” I offered in response. Adam shook his head. “You don’t need to sing anymore,” he said. You’ll be surprised how much singing is in your future, I thought to myself.
Buenos Aires is more—much more—than Evita, but for many of us she was our first introduction to Argentina and its cosmopolitan capital. I visited for a few days in 2011 en route to Mar del Plata, a beach town a few hours south of Buenos Aires, and I returned home with fond memories of the city and high hopes to return. I was excited to introduce Adam to the food, the history, and the culture that is so uniquely Argentina. My return reminded me why I loved my first visit as much as I did. If you are wondering what a trip to Buenos Aires might entail, here is what we loved about the days we spent in Argentina’s capital!
Transportation and Getting Around Buenos Aires
► Buenos Aires By Plane
“What’s new Buenos Aires!” I sang as our flight touched down at Ezeiza International Airport. Adam shot me a look. Undeterred, I continued. “I’m new! I wanna say I’m just a little stuck on you; you’ll be on me too.” Adam shook his head slowly, realizing there was a good chance I was about to narrate our entire visit through song. He was right.Like us, most foreign visitors will arrive in Buenos Aires by plane, which means you will land at either Ministro Pistarini International Airport (Ezeiza – EZE) or Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (AEP). Most international flights from Europe or the United States will arrive at Ezeiza, which is somewhat inconveniently located southwest of Buenos Aires’s most popular neighborhoods. Public transportation is available but also inconvenient; there is no subway or train option, and local buses don’t directly service the airport, which means you would need to haul your luggage to the nearest stop. Most passengers take a private car (called a remís) or an airport taxi, both of which are readily available but a bit expensive. We paid around $45 USD for an airport taxi from Taxi Ezeiza, which accepted credit cards (but charged a slightly higher fee that they would have if we paid in cash) and were at our hotel in the city about 30 minutes later thanks to smooth sailing on traffic-free roads (a benefit of arriving on a Sunday!). Some passengers transiting from other South American destinations or elsewhere in Argentina will arrive at Aeroparque, which is much closer to the popular tourist spots; taxi fare from Aeroparque is typically $10-$15 USD (under 300 pesos) to many neighborhoods in the city.
► Buenos Aires By Taxi
There is no shortage of taxis in Buenos Aires, but if you’re looking for the safest option seek out radio taxis whenever possible. Radio taxis are officially registered with the city, and while they may be a bit more expensive they are more closely monitored and less likely to rip you off. We heard reports from other travelers about taxi drivers demanding higher fares than agreed upon when arriving at a destination, but radio taxis are metered so you won’t need to dispute your trip cost. You will also be able to get official receipts from radio taxis. Most drivers do not speak English, so consider taking a print out of your destination’s address if your Spanish is not strong. If you are taking taxis be sure to pay attention to traffic along your route. On several occasions we were stuck in heavy traffic that significantly delayed us, which meant we needed to alter our plans. However, taxis are affordable by most standards and were easy to find.
► Buenos Aires By SubwayOn our last day in Buenos Aires traffic was so bad it pushed us underground to the subway, which ended up being a nice public transportation discovery. Buenos Aires’s subway system is clean, modern, and inexpensive, and the system extends to most of the neighborhoods a tourist would want to explore. However, we found the subway to be incredibly crowded-we were very uncomfortable during both of our rides as dozens of riders overwhelmed our car, and we struggled to both find our footing and keep an eye on our belongings to avoid pickpockets taking advantage of the conditions. With fewer people it would have been a very pleasant ride, though, so consider public transportation as a good alternative to other transportation methods when planning your route through the city.
► Buenos Aires By Foot
Don’t underestimate your own two feet when thinking about how to get around Buenos Aires! We both thought the city was very walkable, and we logged close to thirty miles in four days as we traversed the streets in search of things to see and do. If your itinerary will take you through areas frequented by tourists, skip the traffic and the crowded subway and enjoy some fresh air as you walk through the city.
What to See in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is an undisputed cultural capital in South America, and there is a lot to explore and take in during a visit. The timing of the various planes and ferries that brought us into and took us away from Buenos Aires didn’t allow us to take a guided tour, but we still managed to uncover a few great places that you can visit with or without a guide.
► Plaza de MayoA walk through Buenos Aires should certainly include a stroll through Plaza de Mayo, one of the most important places in the entire city. When Argentina started the revolution that would result in their independence from Spain, it all began in that spot in May 1810, which is why the plaza now bears its name. Both Juan and Eva Perón addressed supporters who gathered there. It has been the site of both peaceful and violent protests, and it is common to encounter protesters gathering in the plaza. It is impossible to stand there and not reflect on the critical moments in history that the Plaza de Mayo has witnessed.
At the center of the Plaza de Mayo stands a statue dedicated to General Manuel Belgrano, who is recognized as a national hero. Surrounding the plaza are famous landmarks like the Cabildo, the city’s former city hall now converted into a museum, the Catedral Metroplitana where Pope Fancis I served as archbishop, and the famous Casa Rosada. Flanked by numerous other political and financial buildings, it’s easy to find plenty to do and see in and around the Plaza de Mayo.
► Casa RosadaIt’s hard to miss the Casa Rosada, the pink house on the perimeter of Plaza de Mayo. The huge building is home to the president’s offices as well as a nice museum.
Casa Rosada tours are available on weekends, although they require advance reservations made no more than 15 days before your visit. We didn’t take a tour this time, but I did walk through the house in 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed the museum and the chance to experience the building’s history firsthand. It’s just as easy to appreciate the pink house from the outside if a tour doesn’t work with your schedule. One of Evita’s most famous addresses was given to a huge crowd in the Plaza de Mayo from the balcony. Adam and I were practically alone on the drizzly Sunday when we walked by, a very different scene from when Evita spoke or even the night she died. “The best show in town was the crowd, outside the Casa Rosada crying, ‘Eva Peron,'” I softly sang as I channeled my best Antonio Banderas impression. Adam rolled his eyes.
► Obelisco de Buenos Aires
Visitors from Washington, DC—like us—may be especially interested in the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, which looks just like our own Washington Monument. Located in the Plaza de la República, it represents the 400th anniversary of the city. We found it to be especially picturesque when photographed behind the BA topiary, which is just down Avienda 9 de Julio (which is noteworthy for being the widest avenue in the world!).
► Floralis GenéricaOne of the most unique spots in Buenos Aires is in Plaza de las Naciones Unidas, where the Floralis Genérica attracts visitors from throughout the city. Meant to signify how each new day inspires new hope, the flower sculpture opens each day at 8:00 AM and closes at sunset. We saw it when it was open in the late afternoon, and observing it resting on a reflecting pool is a lovely, peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
► El Ateneo Grand Splendid
One of our absolute favorite finds was El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Originally opened as a theater in the 1910s, the building was converted into an incredible bookstore in 2000. When you walk through the front door you can clearly see the main stage, draped in heavy red curtains. Instead of performances, the stage features patrons enjoying refreshments from the store’s café and leafing through the books that are available for purchase. The theater seating has long been removed, and where there once were chairs there are now rows and rows of books that extend around the building’s balconies and even below the first floor where an orchestra might once have performed. We found out that Argentina has more bookstores per person than any other city in the world, so it’s no surprise it also has one of the most gorgeous bookstores in the world as well. Make sure to go right to the top floor for an Instagram-worthy photo spot.
More Information: Yenny-ElAteneo.com
► La Recoleta CemeteryVisiting a cemetery isn’t typically on a tourist’s itinerary, but Buenos Aires boasts one of the most impressive final resting places on the planet. Covering four city blocks in the Recoleta neighborhood, the cemetery looks more like a collection of tiny, ornate homes than it does gravesites. The city’s most elite residents are interred in mausoleums after they pass away, and the mausoleums cover the full spectrum of architecture styles from Neo Classic to Baroque to Art Deco. Tours are offered several times a week (and some tour companies offer them daily), and if you don’t do research on what you will see in advance a tour can be very worthwhile. It’s easy to focus on the incredible structures you’ll see as you walk through, but it’s important to remember that each tiny building is someone’s final resting place, and many of those people led interesting lives before their deaths.
Most notable, of course, is Evita’s tomb, which is often surrounded by curious tourists or passionate fans. Evita died in 1952, but she wasn’t interred in her family’s mausoleum until more than 20 years later. After her death Argentina’s military overthrew President Juan Perón, and Evita’s body was deported to Italy and buried under a false name as part of the new government’s ban on Peronism. Evita was repatriated and secured in the Duarte family tomb when Juan Perón returned to Argentina and the presidency in 1973. The Duarte mausoleum is beautiful and often covered in flowers from people wanting to offer tribute to Evita’s legacy.
“Oh what an exit, that’s how to go, when they’re ringing your curtain down,” I sang as we stood before the tomb.
“Please don’t,” Adam said as he rolled his eyes. I ignored him.
“Demand to be buried like Eva Peron!” I continued, slightly louder.
“I wish we hadn’t watched that movie,” Adam muttered.
► La BocaAlthough we didn’t make it to La Boca during this trip, I made sure it was part of my itinerary when I visited in 2011. The neighborhood is famous for brightly colored buildings, tango clubs, and the Caminito, the main pedestrian street. It’s popular with tourists despite its reputation for being more dangerous than other neighborhoods in the city. Traveling with a tour group is a great way to avoid making yourself a target (I went with a private local guide during my visit), but don’t skip this incredible area out of caution. It’s a vibrant neighborhood that is as visually interesting as it is culturally important.
► Comuna 1 Guitar Calle Talcahuano
Adam was beyond excited to discover there is an entire street dedicated to guitar shops in Buenos Aires. We found it by accident as we were walking toward El Ateneo Grand Splendid, and Adam paused at every window to check out the inventory and reflect on how we don’t have any guitar streets in the United States. If you’re a musician like Adam (who plays the bass guitar) it’s a fun street to explore- we counted at least 10 guitar shops in the span of about 3 blocks!
Where to Eat in Buenos Aires
You can’t walk down a street in Buenos Aires without stumbling upon a parrilla, or steakhouse, so it won’t surprise you to hear we spent most of our visit seeking out some of the most delicious cuts of meat we could find. We tried two strategies for finding great meals during our visit: we picked a few restaurants on our own, and we also picked a local expert to take us on a food tour.
► El Establo
Just a five-minute walk from our first hotel in Puerto Madera, El Establo is one of the best steak restaurants we have ever visited. We walked in hoping to have an early dinner before putting our weary, jetlagged selves to bed, and we ended up lingering over delicious steaks and a great bottle of wine. Prices are reasonable, they accept credit cards, and our table in the back of the restaurant overlooked the kitchen, where we could observe some of the kitchen prep and appreciate the work that goes into preparing a great meal.
More Information: TripAdvisor.com/El_Establo
► Grappa Cantina
Believe it or not, Buenos Aires has great Italian food-the city has a big Italian influence—and on the night before we left for Ushuaia we decided to pass up one final steak dinner in favor of pizza. The pizza we had a Grappa was perfect—tons of toppings, perfectly baked, and absolutely delicious. Grappa also accepted credit cards, and we found out later they do have English menus available if your Spanish isn’t strong (and I was relieved when our waitress realized we weren’t native Spanish speakers and apologized for only offering a Spanish menu to us—it made me feel like my language skills might just be improving!).
More Information: Facebook.com/Grappa-Cantina
► Buenos Aires Food Tours
We joined Jorge from Buenos Aires Food Tours for an educational and tasty walk through the San Telmo neighborhood. Jorge is a Buenos Aires native who knows great food, and we had a terrific afternoon with him as he introduced us to some of the best restaurants in town. We started our tour with a stop at a wine bar where we sampled four Argentinian wines, two of which were Argentina’s famous Malbec. The wines were all exceptional, especially the white—Torrontés, a varietal most commonly produced in Argentina—and we spent a long time sipping and snacking on meat, cheese, and fresh bread as we chatted with Jorge and the sommelier. Knowing that we weren’t going to make it to Mendoza for a full wine tasting experience during our trip, the hour we spent at the wine bar was a great alternative and a fun way to learn about some grapes that were new to us.The highlight for us was the lunch we had at Don Ernesto, where we had a delicious steak along with French fries and more wine. Bife de chorizo is not a piece of sausage (as so many of us—including me—might think!); it’s a juicy, flavorful sirloin steak that is very popular in Argentina. The steak we had was well-prepared and served along with a few sauces including a really nice chimichurri sauce. We also loved dessert, which was chunks of quince and sweet potato paste served with cheese. If that sounds like a terrible combination, you’ll be surprised to hear it was one of the tastiest foods we tried in the city. Called postre del vigilante, or policeman’s dessert, the sweet and savory concoction got its start when police officers started ordering it as a snack to carry with them when they were on their beats. I’m usually a fan of chocolate desserts, but this combination of fruits, vegetables, and cheese really hit the spot. A fun part of eating lunch at Don Ernesto is that visitors are encouraged to write their names on the walls. We immortalized our visit by adding our names to the collection that covers the establishment like wall paper from floor to ceiling. If you stop by, look for our names at the very back of the restaurant by the air conditioning unit!
We finished our food tour with a stop at a dulce de leche store to sample a few different types of tasty caramel (another popular Argentine treat!) before ending with a great cup of coffee at a bar that opened in 1882. We had a wonderful time visiting San Telmo with Jorge. Although it would have been entirely possible to create a similar tour on our own, we loved hearing his stories about Buenos Aires, asking for tips for making the most of the few days we had in town, and knowing we were going to really good restaurants where we would enjoy our experience.
More Information: BAfoodtours.com
Where to Stay in Buenos Aires
We had a chance to stay in three different hotels during our visit to Buenos Aires, all of which we really enjoyed—and all of which prompted me to sing “Another suitcase in another hall” every time we would zip our bags and wheel them out to wait for an elevator. By the time we checked out of our final hotel, Adam was humming along, which I considered great progress.
► Hotel Regal Pacific
We chose the Hotel Regal Pacific due to only one factor—its very close proximity to the Buquebus terminal, from which we had an early departure on our way to Montevideo—but it’s also within walking distance to the Plaza de Mayo and Puerto Madera, a lovely waterfront neighborhood. The hotel was clean, comfortable, and modern, and the staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. Our room was pretty spacious and had a nice bathroom. We also enjoyed the breakfast buffet.
More Information: Booking.com/Regal-Pacific
► Palermo Tower
We stayed at Palermo Tower for only one night between our return from Montevideo and our departure to Ushuaia, and the hotel was so nice we wouldn’t have minded an extra night there. Palermo Tower is a small boutique hotel in a lovely neighborhood. The front desk staff was outstanding, and the room was huge and very comfortable. We appreciated the fact the hotel itself was quiet, and we heard nothing from the street when we settled in to sleep.
More Information: Photels.net
► Intersur Recoleta Hotel
We had no intention of staying at the Intersur Recoleta Hotel when we planned our trip to Argentina, but when we found ourselves stranded in Buenos Aires on the way back to the United States we booked a room there on the recommendation of a friend from our Antarctica cruise. We enjoyed an incredibly luxurious experience for something closer to a budget traveler’s rate. The room was enormous, the towels in the bathroom were the fluffiest I have ever found, and the bed was exceptionally comfortable. We also liked the breakfast buffet in the morning, which was included in our room rate. The staff was welcoming and accommodating, even letting us check out very late so we didn’t have a gap between when we left our room and when we departed for the airport.
More Information: Booking.com/Intersur-Recoleta
Ready to book a room for your own Buenos Aires vacation? Here are a few more hotel options to consider:
Three Final Tips for Visiting Buenos Aires
► Order Currency in Advance
When we arrived in Buenos Aires after more than 12 hours of flying we were ready to hail a taxi and head to the hotel, but to our surprise there wasn’t a single ATM in the airport with cash available to dispense. We ended up finding a bank tucked away in the back corner of the arrivals terminal where we could convert some USD into Argentine pesos. Although we usually attempt to order currency in advance of a trip we didn’t make it a priority before this one, and with a little more preparedness we could have avoided the headache and the extra time it took to convert our money. ATMs at the airport often run out of money, so consider ensuring you have enough pesos to take a taxi and make any other immediate purchases before you arrive in the city, where ATMs are more plentiful and more likely to be in working order.
► Cash Is King
Many establishments accept credit card, but we found many restaurants and smaller stores only took cash payments. If you’re unsure about whether credit cards are accepted, just ask before you place an order at a restaurant. Most people are happy to direct you toward an ATM if they can’t take your card.
► Be Aware of the Political Climate
Protests and demonstrations are common in Buenos Aires, and although many protests are organized and peaceful they may cause some disruption to your plans. Sometimes it’s minor inconveniences like street closures are heavy crowds at popular tourist spots, and sometimes it’s more significant. We found ourselves stranded in Ushuaia during an unexpected labor strike that grounded most flights in the country, and we watched media coverage of riots, marches, and protests throughout Buenos Aires from our hotel room while we waited for a flight back home. The political climate is no reason to avoid the country! Buenos Aires is a beautiful, charming city, and we’re looking forward to visiting again. However, be aware that strikes and protests are common and may impact you, so stay aware of current events and maintain some flexibility in your plans.
Visit Buenos Aires!I love Buenos Aires. I love how dynamic it is, and I love how it’s easy to find great food and interesting historical sites at just about every turn. As we settled into our seats on our flight to Ushuaia, I was sorry to leave. It’s rare that I have a chance to revisit a city since we often preference new experiences over repeating favorite ones, and our trip reminded me that some cities are too fun and too fulfilling to pass over year after year.
“Let’s hear it for the Rainbow Tour, it’s been an incredible success!” I hummed to myself. I could feel Adam’s gaze shift my way. With only a few minutes left to sing from the Evita soundtrack while in Buenos Aires, I continued. “We weren’t quite sure, we had a few doubts… would Evita win through?”
“Yes,” Adam said. I raised an eyebrow, not sure if he knew he had completed the lyric.
“What’s new Buenos Aires?” Adam sang, unprompted. I smiled, accepting it as the small victory it was. Buenos Aires has a way of growing on you.
Getting ready to visit Buenos Aires? Here are a few more posts to help you make the most of your time in Argentina and beyond!
* From time to time, our travels are directly impacted by a service or company. In this case, we booked a food tour with Buenos Aires Food Tours, and this post includes our candid review of our experience. We selected Buenos Aires Food Tours based on our own research and travel needs; we were not offered and did not receive compensation of any kind from them or any other party in exchange for our review. Learn more about our travel philosophy here.