Buenos Aires - a charming and charismatic city!
This is an enchanting city full of amazing things to do and see but it's not the most aesthetically pleasing. It is a little rough around the edges in terms of cleanliness and maintenance - particularly when compared to Santiago!
It's easy to walk around for ages and to find lots of cool stuff from street art and spontaneous markets to old buildings with new purposes and the main sightseeing attractions. Below is a list of my Top 10 Things To Do In Buenos Aires:
1: El Ateneo Grand Splendid Book Store
Yes, this is essentially a large bookshop - BUT it's inside an old theatre so it's simply beautiful. There are soooo many books available in various languages and a cute cafe behind the curtains on the stage which was fab for an iced coffee. It's a popular place amongst tourists and locals alike and it's worth the trip to marvel at its beauty and uniqueness!
2: Alvear Palace for Afternoon Tea
I had read about this hotel for afternoon tea on Time Out and wasn't too sure what to expect. I liaised with the hotel by email and we got a special deal which was around £24 and included one tier of crustless sandwiches, another tier of little filled bread rolls, scones on a side plate (with jam, lemon curd and marmalade - sadly no Rodda's Clotted Cream!) and a tier of miniature cakes and pastries. On top all of this we had endless pots of tea, sparkling wine and a choice of one bigger cake! The setting is simply stunning in L'Orangerie in a swanky hotel, and personally I thought it was great value for money - especially when compared to London prices!
3: A Tango Experience/Show
No matter how you choose to enjoy the Argentinian Tango when in Buenos Aires - just make sure you do experience it!!
We went to an all encompassing Tango Night which kicked off with a lesson followed by a three course dinner with an open bar and then a show from the professionals. And we got a certificate to prove that we can Tango!
There are so many different options and so many places to book your night, there are various combinations so you could just see a Tango Show or combine that with dinner and/or a lesson.
4: A Football Match!
Obviously this is dependent on the season and also whether you enjoy watching football matches but for me, it was so much fun! We saw Racing Club v Huracán playing a friendly match but there was atmosphere aplenty and the squash to get the tickets combined with being held in the stadium afterwards whilst the away fans cleared, all added to the experience! It's a little crazy and can feel a bit sketchy at times but we were stood in the family area and it only cost £14 for a ticket. Just make sure you get a taxi there and back to avoid any pre and après-match trouble.
5: Do a Free Walking Tour
This is a great way to see a huge chunk of the city and to tick off a lot of the main attractions. There's one in the morning and another in the afternoon - we did the afternoon one which showed us The Congressional Plaza, Plaza Mayor with the Presidential Palace, The Obelisk, The Evita Mural as well as many important buildings and statues along the way!
6: Traditional Breakfast at Cafe Tortoni
An old fashioned and moderately expensive cafe in the heart of town. It's well known and has been around for years. The Argentinians love their "Medialunas" (half moons) - Croissants and Coffee so for 75 Pesos (roughly £3.70) you get three Medialunas and Coffee con Leche which is reasonable and they were delicious. The setting is elegant and relaxed at the same time but due to its fame there are a few tours passing by in the background and lots of tourists floating around which dampens the atmosphere - but only slightly!
7: Galerías Pacifico
This is a beautiful shopping mall with ornate decor from decades past when it served as an important building then as a museum. As with any shopping, it would have been much more fun with a big budget and room in my suitcase! There's a food court, all the big expensive brands that you'd get around the world in any mall but the main attraction is the painted ceilings and carved stone detailed walls!
8: La Boca
If I were in Buenos Aires for any less time then this wouldn't have been top of my list and I probably could have and would have skipped it. Well-known for its colourful houses, La Boca is also home to the Boca Juniors Stadium which you can see as you walk towards the colourful houses. It's very touristy, which has its pros and cons, lots of markets and great for cheap gift shopping which you'll struggle to find in the main town! In my opinion the houses need a bit of paint in order for them to fit the bill of what we saw on the postcards... It's full of couples doing the tango for photos and money along with people dressed as Maradona, people selling their art and lots of restaurants and bars. It's notoriously a dodgy area though so be aware and be careful with belongings and go in the morning!
9: The Port & The Ecological Reserve
These can be done together as to get to one you have to pass the other. The Port, isn't what I was expecting as it's essentially a water channel with some nice boats and a rotating footbridge. There are some lovely restaurants and bars but it's not as big/open as I expected - that's likely to be the more industrial part which sometimes you catch sight of in the distance.
The Ecological Reserve is a nice area with lagoons and statues of iconic Argentinian figures on the way in and then it opens out into marshes, lagoons, picnic areas, an outdoor gym and lots of footpaths and cycle tracks. It's a nice day out if you want to walk or be around some nature and wildlife! We took a picnic and did one of the walking loops which are marked out on a map at the entrance. They range from just over 1km to 8km in length so there's something for everyone!
10: The Recoleta District
This part of town is famous for two main things; The Cemetery where Eva Peron is buried along with other famous people and Museo Evita. Both are worth a visit but neither were mind-blowing. The museum is expensive for what it is and I wanted to take something more away from there in terms of information than I was able to. Although the large information boards are in English as well as Spanish, the letters and signs for the displays aren't translated.
As for The Cemetery - they aren't my favourite things anyway and this one is just as creepy with lots of statues and memorials that look badly maintained and even some which looked like they have been broken into!! Lots of tourists around so it's not scary as such, I just find it uncomfortable and weird to walk around people's graves when friends/relatives are visiting and mourning.
Recoleta is also known for all it's expensive shops, restaurants, bars and hotels which you'll find as you wander around.
So that's my list of my top ten things to do in Buenos Aires but there's so much more to see and do! There's a lot going on at night and on a the weekends in the way of events, music, small street parties and markets everywhere! Just explore, get lost in the city and admire the architecture and old buildings renovated with new purposes - and of course learn to Tango and sample some steak (we had a great one at our Tango night!)