The Buenos Aires Guide
Buenos Aires is a buzzing metropolis on par with New York City or Barcelona but home to its own distinct, eclectic energy. Over the last two centuries, waves of immigrants have shaped the city’s cultural landscape into a modern melting pot: You’ll find people passionate about everything they do, whether it’s gathering at a family asado, attending a polo match, or drinking coffee at one of the countless European-style cafés spilling out onto every sidewalk. True to the city’s cinematic depictions, there’s no escaping the sound of tango music and the revelry-loving residents hardly sleep. Walking down the dozens of leafy avenues, it’s easy to see why Buenos Aires has been referred to as the Paris of South America—the Neoclassical architecture, the monuments, and the public spaces are all about charm and grandeur.
It’s been on our to-cover list forever, so when resident Delfina Blaquier—a model, photographer, and equestrienne—offered to share an entire Google doc’s worth of the best places for melt-in-your-mouth parrilla, incredible antique shopping, and so much more, we jumped at the opportunity. Having lived in the city since childhood, she points us in the direction of tried-and-tested musts the way only a true local can.
La Ciudad Universitaria de Buenos AiresCiudad Universitaria, Belgrano | +54.115.285.9200
Universities are the often-overlooked, yet most ideal locations to really feel out the cultural and political pulse of a city. Buenos Aires’s Ciudad Universitaria is a sprawling campus based on an urban plan drafted by seminal French architect Le Corbusier in 1938. The buildings are fairly Brutalist is style (a change from the typically ornate structures that dominate the city landscape), and the campus is covered in graffiti, political banners, and cultural references—an unusual but authentic spot to walk around and really take in the civic undertones of the city.
Museo de Arte ContemporaneoAv. San Juan 328, San Telmo | +54.115.263.9988
The city’s Museum of Contemporary Art is relatively new, having opened in 2012 in the lively San Telmo neighborhood adjacent to MAMBA. MACBA is primarily dedicated to displaying the art collection of financier Aldo Rubino, which has a heavy focus on geometric abstraction. Other artists exhibited include international names like Le Parc and Vasarely, and Argentine artists like Fabian Burgos and Veronica di Toro. A recent initiative promoted the works of female artists in exhibits curated by women.
Museo de Arte ModernoAv. San Juan 350, San Telmo | +54.114.361.6919
The Museum of Modern Art (not to be confused with from MACBA which focuses on purely contemporary artists), is dedicated to displaying modern art from the 1920's to the present day. The collection encompasses over 7,000 works by both Argentine and international artists spanning everything from photography to graphic and industrial design.
Kirchner Cultural CenterSarmiento 151, Microcentro | +54.800.333.9300
Aside from being the largest cultural center in Latin America, the Kirchner Center occupies a stunning, French-empire style historic building that was once the city’s post office. Spread across nine floors, the center is dedicated to music, theatre, dance, and art.
Recoleta CemeteryJunín 1760, Recoleta | +54.114.803.1594
Built in 1822 around an existing convent, a walk through Recoleta Cemetery’s labyrinthine alleys reads like an Argentine history lesson—generals, presidents, citizens, and Eva Perón herself, are all buried here. This is truly one of the most dynamic and visually beautiful resting places in the world—covered in over 4,691 vaults and mausoleums so grand (a mixture of marble palace-like structures some perfectly maintained and some crumbling), many have been declared national monuments. The cemetery is arranged on a grid—like most modern cities—and the many thousands of decorative tombs cover all the architectural movements that have spanned the last two centuries from Art Deco to Neo Gothic.
Teatro ColónCerrito 628, Microcentro | +54.114.378.7100
Without question, Teatro Colón is one of the world’s most breathtaking opera houses, and has played host to all of the greats across ballet, classical music, and opera from Maria Callas to Margot Fonteyn. Whilst the building itself has gone through many incarnations amidst plenty of turmoil (an anarchist bombing in 1910, the murder of one of its architects), the latest refurbishment was completed in 2010. Architecturally, the Teatro is eclectic in style which reflects the structure's journey through the last century—the horseshoe-shaped hall (which creates an echo chamber-like sound effect), holds nearly 4,000 people and feels grand and celebratory with plenty of velvet, tapestries, and ornately carved wood. Take a tour—which includes the deep catacombs beneath the building—or dress up and attend a performance to take in the old-world grandeur and hear the incredible acoustics for yourself.
Bosques de PalermoAv. Infanta Isabel 410, Palermo
An urban park that acts as effectively as a communal backyard for millions of Porteños with three artificial lakes for boating, trails for walking and biking, as well as that delightful fusion of culture and the outdoors that many Latin cities do so well. The 989 acres are teeming with pretty groves and rose gardens (home to over 12,000 roses), but our favorite is the Poet’s Garden, filled with bronze busts of famous wordsmiths from Pirandello to Shakespeare.
Il CaminitoMagallanes 802, La Boca
The La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires has a reputation for being a little sketchy, however considering it's home to the Boca Juniors stadium, and many of the city’s best restaurants (Don Carlos, Patagonia Sur), the charming street is well worth the trip (and is walkable from quaint San Telmo). The caminito is just as described, a little walk through what was once an immigrant Italian neighborhood still called La Boca (or the mouth) thanks to it’s harborside location. The area’s charm lies in the mish-mash of brightly painted houses situated along the cobbled streets that are lined with artists and craftspeople. Many of the walls are covered in murals that delve into the social and political themes present in Porteño life. Go for a wander, take in the sights and—if you’re organized enough—book at table at one of La Boca’s restaurants for dinner.
Museo Nacional de Bellas ArtesAv. Del Libertador 1473, Recoleta | +54.115.288.9900
This museum not only houses Argentina’s largest collection of fine art, it's the largest public collection in all of Latin America—over 12,000 pieces of 19th-century European Art sit alongside a substantial Argentinian offering. The permanent collection is incredibly varied and includes stunning works be Rembrandt and El Greco. Don’t miss the Goya room, filled with the striking sketches and paintings by the artist, many depicting topics like death and war in the Napoleonic period. Impressionism lovers will find an expansive selection of works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Degas, alongside sculptures by Rodin and some Modernist pieces including a Jackson Pollack. This museum truly has something for everyone and is beautifully laid out with a robust library, a gift shop filled with collector-worthy art books, and a pretty café.
La Bomba de TiempoVuelta de Obligado 3103, Belgrano | +54.114.702.3022
If there's one sweat-inducing, invigorating, authentic experience to be had in BA, it's this: A group of talented percussionists perform a mix of improvised drumming every Monday at Konex, the city's cutting edge, slightly gritty, cultural center. The music is loud and totally infectious–you'll find everyone dancing in the audience, which is an eclectic crowd—everything from local die-hard fans of all ages to tourists. The set runs for about three hours, but it literally flies by, leaving you wanting more. Head there early to get a spot near the crowd exterior (the middle can get rowdy) and wear sneakers and comfortable clothing–you'll be on your feet for hours.
Henrique Faria Art GalleryHenrique Faria Art Gallery | +54.114.813.3251
With a second location in New York, the Buenos Aires flagship of Henrique Faria concentrates on geometric abstraction and the more conceptual Latin American art. Faria gives a platform to new and established artists as well regularly hosting cutting-edge exhibits—recent examples include Mirtha Dermisache, and Carlos Ginzberg’s New Capitalism show, a meditation on modern commercialism and exploitation through the lens of photographs and placards. Faria keeps his finger on the pulse and his gallery is a must-visit for creatives and art-lovers curious about Argentina's domestic art scene.
Ruth Benzacar Galería de ArteJuan Ramírez de Velasco 1287, Villa Crespo | +54.114.857.3322
One of Buenos Aires's longest-standing art institutions, Ruth Benzacar was founded by Ruth herself in 1965, when in the midst of a financial crisis the matriarch transformed her then-home into a gallery space to the showcase the contemporary art collection she and her husband had amassed. These days the gallery has moved space, but continues to be a family affair, now run by Benzacar’s daughters Orly and Solana. Aside from frequent exhibits showcasing mostly contemporary Argentinian talent, the space also hosts other cultural activities like poetry readings and workshops for kids.
Faena Art CenterAime Paine 1169, Puerto Madero | +54.114.010.9233
A non-profit with a second location in Miami, the Faena Art Center provides a platform for local and new artists to exhibit and bring their work into the public sphere, as well as plays host to international exhibits. The center in Puerto Madero is built into what was once one of Argentina’s largest flour mills and thankfully many of the unique turn-of-the-century industrial details were retained. The ceilings are soaring, and huge 1900's-style bay windows flood the space with light. Exhibits have included multi-disciplinary artist Typoe’s 'Forms of Life', where the artist created a fantastical futuristic city, vivid with the colors of Miami (Typoe’s birthplace) with children’s building blocks—visitors were encouraged to construct their own future worlds—while another recent exhibit was choreography based.
San Telmo MarketCalle Defensa, Humberto | +54.11.3181.5188
This market has served locals since 1897, when it was originally founded as a marketplace for the waves of European immigrants who flocked to the city during that period. Set indoors, take a moment to look up and note the original fixtures, columns, and beams that still adorn the space today. Most of the stalls—selling all manner of knick-knacks, antiques, records, and crafts—are open daily. A separate Sunday flea market happens every weekend in this same quaint plaza, oftentimes with live tango as an accompaniment. Stop by the charming Bar Plaza Dorrego for a post-flea pick-me-up.
arteBAParaná 1160, Recoleta | +54.11.4816.8704
ArteBA was founded in 1991 in an effort to strengthen the city’s domestic art market. The foundation has evolved into one of Latin America’s most significant art fairs (last year drew more than 100,000 visitors), bringing Argentinian art to the international market and vice versa. Typically the fair takes place in May and features approximately 300 curators, collectors, and artists. The organizers also produce an excellent bi-annual magazine covering the domestic art scene for those who cannot attend, or are just interested in keeping up.
Polo SeasonArévalo 3065, Palermo | +54.114.777.6444
We'd be remiss not to mention the all-important polo season when talking about Buenos Aires, or Argentina, for that matter. While there are three main events, The Tortugas Open, The Hurlingham Open, and The Argentine Polo Open Championship, the Polo Open Championship is the main event and happens in BA in what Argentinians call the 'Cathedral of Polo' in the Palermo neighborhood (typically from November into early December). Aside from all the action happening on the horses, polo events also come accompanied by some pretty serious food and late-night revelry. It's totally worth planning your trip to BA around this time of year. Trust.