Buenos Aires The Complete Guide: Buenos Aires has great weather all year round, wonderful nightlife, delicious food that’s reasonably priced, and friendly locals. Eat steak, drink friends, cheer for soccer (or football) teams, and dance in the birthplace of tango. Stay in the colorful neighborhoods and bike around its historic streets. Consider this your introduction to “City of Fury.”
Planning Your Trip
- Best time to visit: Spring is the best time to visit Buenos Aires. Low temperatures and low humidity mean that most residents head to the park to enjoy the blooming flowers and loads of sunshine after a gray winter.
- Language: Spanish
- Currency: Argentine peso, although some businesses are in U.S. Dollars accept (and prefer).
- Getting around: Sabate (Buenos Aires’ subway) is cheap and fast. Ubers are also reasonably priced when moving across the city or into the suburbs. Download the Como LEGO App for the best directions and transportation routes.
- Travel Tip: Buenos Aires is a true late-night city. Many things will not open before 10 am. Make good use of your time here to sleep late instead of getting up early.
Things to Do
“Portenos” (people born and raised in Buenos Aires) know how to enjoy themselves. When the weather is nice, everyone goes to the park with friends or picnics by the Rio de la Plata. It is a very social city. People like to do things in groups, such as doing weekend asados (barbecues) or staying in La Madrugada (early morning hours) drinking beer at a craft beer bar, or clubbing in Boliches. During the day, it is a secondhand shopper’s paradise, with many antique and thrift stores. Known for its strong literary heritage, the city is full of bookstores and cafes where people are constantly reading and reading. Along with a strong love of learning, the Centro Cultural (Cultural Center) offers everything from language classes to ping pong to circus art, along with social activities. And of course, there are always soccer games to watch.
- Visit a Centro Cultural to see a performance or concert or take a class. The Centro Cultural Recoleta is a large, beautiful one with many offerings and a free monthly concert called “Pachamama”.
- Buy gourds, bombilla (metal straw with a filter), and yerba (loose-leaf mate tea) from a supermarket and drink it in one of the city’s many parks.
- Watch a football game. Whether you go to a match or a bar with a thronging crowd, you’re going to have a great time if you’re a sports fan. Plus, you’ll hear some of the most creative swearing (an actual art form here).
What to Eat and Drink
Buenos Aires is known for its steakhouses, ice cream shops, molecular gastronomy, and (in recent years) creative vegetarian restaurants. Having a steak at a family-run parrilla (steakhouse) will always be the main attraction for tourists, especially since the average Argentine consumes 110 pounds of beef each year. But, empanadas and corner pizzerias will be what they love from lunch to dinner. Café culture runs strong here, with older portinos still sipping coffee with medialunas during teatime and the younger generation sipping drinks at a craft beer bar after work.
When not drinking mate (highly caffeinated tea), wine is the drink of choice here. Supermarkets, bodegas, wine shops, and almost any restaurant will have a selection of Argentine wines. Go on an Asado, and you’ll find Malbec. Pizza Parlor serves Moscato. Or book a wine tasting (some for as little as $30) if you want to learn about wine-making families, grapes specific to Argentina, and the quirky tales of its wine history.
Where to Stay
Many tourists choose to stay in the posh Palermo neighborhood or the bohemian San Telmo. On average, Palermo is more expensive for accommodation, food, and groceries than San Telmo. Palermo has cleaner streets, wider bike lanes, and more restaurant, bar and cafe options, but that’s because it’s the largest neighborhood in the city. San Telmo has a small town, a slightly hippie feel to it, lots of interesting historical sites and old buildings, and is easier to walk around and navigate than Palermo.
Both neighborhoods have vibrant nightlife but have different strengths. Palermo is a better choice for clubbing (especially if you like cumbia and reggaeton) and has a huge variety of bars. San Telmo has alternative and dive bars, underground music, and plenty of milong and tango shows for those who like to tango the night away.
Ezeiza Airport is the city’s largest airport, and most international flights will pass through. Visitors from other countries in South America and other parts of Argentina can fly into the smaller, more picturesque Jorge Newbery Airport along the river. Buenos Aires is the major transportation hub in Argentina, and many buses and trains go to and from here and back to other parts of the country, leaving from the Retiro Terminal (Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro).
Culture and Customs
Portino is very straightforward and complains a lot, but they will go out of their way to help you. They would often discuss politics. Respectfully (but firmly) decline if you don’t want to attend.
People here eat dinner very late, usually around 10 pm. A typical timeline of a night out might be dinner at 10 p.m., then going to a bar, and then hitting the club at 3 a.m. (when most of the crowd will arrive) until 6 a.m.
You don’t have to tip all the time in Buenos Aires, but a 10 percent tip would be greatly appreciated if you do. If you go to a fancy restaurant or hire a tour guide, you should definitely tip 10 percent.
Many people will sell things (pens, religious cards, sewing sets) at your feet on sabte. If you don’t want them, just drop it on your leg and the person who put them there will soon take them back.
- Bring dollars or euros with you to exchange. You will get a better rate in Argentina than in your own country, as it is highly desirable to have a hand in the highly volatile economy of the dollar. Also, bring larger bills instead of smaller ones for a better rate.
- Exchange currency on Florida Street at Microcentro. Compare prices across multiple exchange houses beforehand, as they can vary greatly.
- Buy a SUBE card to ride Subte. Buy them from most of the kiosks in the city. Buses and subways are cheap, and the fare is reduced if you ride more than once in two hours and use the same SUBE card to pay for your ride.
- Bike shares are all over town, and they’re free! All you have to do is download the app on your smartphone and register before heading to the nearest pickup point.
- Visit museums on Wednesdays when they’re free.
- Check various Centro Culture websites for free concerts, art performances, and classes of all kinds.
- Tap water is fine to drink. Most restaurants will give you a glass of tap water if you ask. You don’t have to buy a bottle of water unless you want it the Argentinian way: “con gas” (aka sparkling water).
- Visit verdulerías (vegetable shops) if you want to buy fruits, vegetables, eggs, or legumes. They have better prices on produce than supermarkets.
- You can make cheap food, filling it with many kingdoms.
- If you want a quick, cheap meal with lots of variety, look for “Comida por peso” in the restaurant window. These are open at lunchtime, and they charge you by the weight of the food rather than the price set by the dish.