Updated: Jul 20
What comes to mind when you think of Buenos Aires? Is it sensual tango dancers, pressed together in a dimly lit parlor? Maybe you see cuts of perfectly marbled meat, dripping juices onto a cast-iron metal grate, flames licking each succulent piece. Or maybe it’s a raucous football game where you cheer shoulder to shoulder with the most passionate fans in the world. Whatever you envision, it’s so much more.
Buenos Aires is one of the most visited destinations in all of Latin America, which should signal to you that people from all over the planet are flocking to this vivacious city for very good reasons. The history is palpable and diverse, the people are passionate, the food is tremendous, the architecture is inspiring, and there will be more things to do on any given night than most cities you’ve visited in the past. So what should you see on your trip to Buenos Aires? We’re glad you asked. Here are 15 of the best things to see in Buenos Aires.
1. San Telmo Market
Every Sunday, hundreds of people flock to the San Telmo Market. Artisans from all over the region bring their hand-made goods, antique finds, artisanal foods, and so much more to this outdoor bazaar. If you’re here through the week, there are hundreds of indoor stalls to get lost in, lots of places to grab lunch and coffee, and just as many photo opportunities. The building dates back to the late 1800s and still retains a beautiful glass and iron ceiling in the center.
2. Puente de la Mujer
The sleek and futuristic Puente de la Mujer bridge in Puerto Madero is a pretty stark contrast to the historically preserved architecture you’ll find in most neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, and that’s exactly why you should see it. The 558 ft. long (170 meters) rotating footbridge was designed by a Spanish architect to encompass the city’s commitment to its thriving art scene.
If you're interested in taking a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Colonia del Sacramento, you'll leave from a port in this neighborhood.
3. A Milonga
You may think that tango dancing is just something Argentinians do for the tourists. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are milongas, or tango dance parties, virtually every night of the week in Buenos Aires. And if you have no idea how to tango, but want to learn, some of the milongas will host a class to teach you about an hour before the party starts. Try this one if you’re a beginner.
Location: Sarmiento 4006, C1197AAH CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
4. El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Is this the world’s most beautiful bookstore? It sure looks that way. It opened as the Grand Splendid Theatre in 1919 with carefully painted frescoes on the ceiling, hand carved moldings and elegant private boxes along a stage that was curtained by heavy red velvet. Luckily for us, it hasn’t changed much, except maybe the addition of escalators and a hip coffee bar. You can practically trip over trendy bookstores in Buenos Aires, but this one in Recoleta really takes the cake.
Location: Av. Santa Fe 1860, C1123 CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
5. The Café Tortoni
This one is a bit of a touristy spot but only because it’s one of the most beautiful cafés in the city. The Porteño café opened in 1858 and is decorated with marble pillars, ornate crown moldings, and a $1.4 million Tiffany glass ceiling and matching lamps. Its rich history includes being the oldest café in Buenos Aires and hosting a who’s who of notable patrons and dignitaries over the last century, including Albert Einstein, the King of Spain, U.S. Secretaries of State, Hollywood elite, writers and musicians. And probably Robert DeNiro, because that guy’s photo is on everybody’s wall.
Location: Av. de Mayo 825, C1084 CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
6. La Casa Rosada
If this presidential palace looks familiar to you, it’s likely because you recognize it as the site of where beloved first lady of Argentina, Eva Perón addressed the nation (with her husband…the president) in the 1940s and 1950s. It is commonly believed that it was painted pink in order to represent each opposing political party, red for the Federals and white for the Unitarians. Today, it’s the site of the Argentinian president’s office and you can take free tours on the weekends.
7. A traditional steakhouse
Buenos Aires is known for its asado, in fact, they built an entire lifestyle around grilling. The most decadent dishes in the city rely on a few staples: meat, salt and an open flame…ok except maybe a great bottle of Malbec to wash it all down. You can literally walk through the streets and get hit with the delicious fragrances of roasted meat and grilling smoke.
But don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian or plant-based eater, the city truly is a foodie destination and there are several high-profile restaurants to cater to your tastes. If you need help finding a traditional steakhouse, read about five of the best places to eat meat in Buenos Aires.
Location: Costa Rica 4464, C1414 BSF, Buenos Aires, Argentina
8. Recoleta Cemetery
Believed to be one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, El Cementerio de la Recoleta is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the entire city. That may sound a little strange until you find out just how extraordinary the city’s first public cemetery is.
There are nearly 5,000 ornate mausoleums that serve as the final resting place for Buenos Aires’s most influential people including presidents, Nobel Prize winners, military officers and of course, the most famous gravesite of all, Eva Perón. Visiting the cemetery is like walking through a serene city that is lined with more sculptural masterpieces than even some museums.
9. Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve
Although there are lots of open green spaces throughout the city, the ecological reserve in the Puerto Madero neighborhood along the river is next level. It sits on 865 acres of low-lying land along the Rio de la Plata and is home to more than 2,000 species of flora and fauna with multiple walking trails.
The reserve came about by pure happenstance. It had once been intended for an administrative complex that fell through, and nature reclaimed this section of the city while the humans were still trying to decide what to do with it.
10. Jardin Botánico Carlos Thays
Imagine walking down a bustling city avenue and running smack into a lush, green garden spanning seven hectares. That’s exactly what happens when you stumble upon Jardin Botánico Carlos Thays. The red gravel pathways curl their way around more than 6,000 plants and trees, trickling fountains, an herbarium, botanical library and five greenhouses.
The exquisite art nouveau greenhouse is made entirely of antique iron and glass and received an award at the Paris Universal Exposition in 1900. Make sure you check out the butterfly garden that is open on the weekends.
11. The Cabildo
This beauty is the Cabildo, a former colonial town hall from the 1700s and the current site of the Museo Nacional de Cabildo y la Revolución de Mayo. The Cabildo sits on one end of the Plaza de Mayo, the oldest public square in the city and easily one of the best places to people watch in all of Buenos Aires.
At any given time of the day, there could be protests, people going to work, political marches, people eating lunch, folks feeding the birds and everything in between. It is the intersection where history and modern-day life in Buenos Aires meet, with a constant river of people passing through.
12. Japanese Botanical Gardens
By now you’re aware of all the European influences that make up Buenos Aires, but how about the Asian influences? Buenos Aires has a large Asian population; it’s estimated in the last 50 years alone more than 200,000 Asians immigrated to Buenos Aires.
In 1967, these botanical gardens were built to coincide with a visit by the Japanese emperor Akihito and his wife Michiko. It’s one of the largest of its kind outside of Japan and boasts many water features like a koi pond where you can feed the fish, islands connected by bridges, fountains and sculptures. There’s also a restaurant on site, a cultural center, a gift shop and even a nursery where you can pick out your own bonsai trees.
13. Teatro Colón
The famed Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires was built in late 1800s and has been named one of the best opera houses in the world by National Geographic. Considered on par with the Opera Garnier in Paris and London’s Royal Opera House, it is considered the place to see classical music, the ballet and of course, an opera. The theater recently hosted a concert benefit to support Ukrainian refugees featuring the one and only, Plácido Domingo. If you’re a true aficionado, you’ll be pleased to learn it’s one of the only theaters in the world that has its own factory that employs artists in theatrical trades to create all the stage sets, costumes, wigs, shoes and even special effects. And you can tour that facility too! Click here for Teatro Colón tickets and tour information.
Location: Cerrito 628, C1010 CABA, Argentina
14. Watch a football game
It’s commonly believed that Buenos Aires’s top two football teams (soccer for the Americans in the bunch), the Boca Juniors and River Plate have one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in the history of the sport.
These two teams have been battling it out since 1913 and the lines have been proverbially drawn in the sand between the blue collared Boca Juniors and the white collared River Plate fans. Whichever team you choose, it promises to be a match you’ll never forget, as both fan bases are known for their fiery and undying support of their team.
15. The obelisk
Throughout history, you’ve probably seen obelisks erected all over the world and had no idea what they meant. Ancient Egyptians associated them with strength and vitality, evoking a sense of immortality for the civilization. Buenos Aires is no different.
The Obelisco de Buenos Aires was built in 1936 to commemorate the city’s 400th anniversary and serve as a national monument in the Plaza de la República.
Check out more things to see in Buenos Aires
Ashley Oñoz-Wright has been a travel writer and editor based in Las Vegas, NV for the last nine years. Her work has been featured in Manifesting Travel, Modern Luxury, Sophisticated Living, Greenspun Media Group, Vegas.com and LasVegas.com. She holds a degree in Sociology & Anthropology from DePauw University.