10 Cultural Experiences To Have In Buenos Aires, Argentina

Traveling to Buenos Aires in Argentina? Add these experiences to your itinerary for a better view of local culture.

Graffiti Walks

Walking around Buenos Aires, it will immediately become clear the city has close ties with the arts, specifically graffiti. While many associate street art with vandalism, the works adorning the streets in Buenos Aires are created by talented and thought-provoking artists, many who are trying to send messages about politics and government. Porteños, or the people of B.A., are very passionate about politics, and you can often see protesting happening on Avenida de Mayo and in Plaza de Mayo. The city’s graffiti is a symbol of these amorous locals. You can either wander around on your own or opt for a Graffitimundo Graffiti & Street Art Tour.Visit An Estancia

An estancia is a large rural estate, similar to an American ranch. These stationary ranching ventures feature workers on horseback, or gauchos, and crop farming due to the area’s healthy soil. Travelers can visit estancias right outside Buenos Aires in the Pampas region and take part in activities such as eating typical Argentinian food like empanadas and asado, sipping local wines, drinking mate, horseback riding, riding in colonial carriages, watching traditional folk dancing and taking part in events like ring races and troops rides. You’ll get to learn about the gaucho lifestyle, and experience an important agricultural region in the country.

Do The Tango, Or At Least Watch

Argentina is thought to be the birthplace of tango, which is a big part of the culture. In Buenos Aires, you’ll catch free impromptu acts on the streets as well as on Sundays at the weekly San Telmo Market and Recoleta Fair. Other ways to experience complimentary tango include going to Museo Casa Carlos Gardel, which regularly features free tango shows and lessons and at many of the city’s cultural centers on Sundays. If you have money to spend and want a lavish experience, many venues offer dinner, wine and a show and/or classes, such as La Ventana, Rojo Tango and Complejo Tango. Another option is to go to a milonga, a place where tango is danced. For instance, La Glorieta offers free entrance to their open-air milonga on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 7 to 10 p.m. Even when these venues are not free, they are usually inexpensive and allow you to watch some of the city’s best tango dancers.

Go To A Peña

While most people know Argentina for its rich tango culture, a lesser-known facet is peñas folklóricas. These rustic dance halls feature wine, food, singing, dancing and traditional guitar music. Originating in the 1950s, they started when people from rural communities moved to Buenos Aires and began to long for the traditions and laid-back atmosphere of the country. You can expect live performances, impromptu jam sessions and improvisational dancing. While typically located in Salta, peñas are also located in Buenos Aires. Some venues to check out include La Peña del Colorado, Los Cumpas and Los Cardones, which also offers folk dancing classes on Fridays from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Have A Coffee In Argentina’s Oldest Cafe

In Buenos Aires, cafes and coffee play a large role in the culture. It’s not simply a place to grab a quick cup and go, but to leisurely sit with friends and chat. It’s also a venue for people to enjoy a breakfast of cafe con leche y medialunas, or coffee with milk and croissants, while reading the morning paper. The cafe culture in Buenos Aires is so strong, 53 of the oldest have been declared part of the cultural and historical heritage of the city. To experience history and culture, head to Cafe Tortoni. Located on Avenida de Mayo, it is the oldest cafe in Argentina. Opened in 1858, the lighting, furniture and interior design have remained the same, and you’ll see paintings, artwork and newspaper clippings that make the cafe seem like a museum. They open at 5 p.m. when locals typically have a snack, as dinner isn’t until around 11 p.m. and sometimes after midnight.

To order like a local, remember a few tips. First of all, if you want a small espresso shot make a “c” shape with your hands (shown above). No talking is necessary, although if you’d like you can say “cafe” while doing the gesture. If you’d like a larger beverage with 3/4 coffee and 1/2 milk say “jarito.” If you say “lagrima” to your server, you’ll get the opposite, 3/4 milk and 1/4 coffee. To order a large cup of 1/2 milk and 1/2 coffee, say “cafe con leche.”

See A Protest

Like I said before, Buenos Aires’ locals are passionate about politics. In fact, don’t be surprised to see three or four protests a day in the city. Most occur on Avenida de Mayo, a road connecting the city’s political buildings of National Congrass and Casa Rosada, as well as Plaza de Mayo, located right in front of Casa Rosada. At Casa Rosada, you’ll notice a makeshift fence separating the building from the plaza. While technically a temporary fence put up only during protests, city officials got tired of constantly having to put it up and take it down and just left it there. In 2011, angry locals protested so hard, then-President Fernando de la Rúa resigned from office and exited the building via rooftop helicopter.

At 3 p.m. on Thursdays in Plaza de Mayo, you’ll see the silent protesting of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, or Mother’s of Plaza de Mayo, circling the square’s May Pyramid monument. During the 1970s, Argentina went through a period of military dictatorship, leading to over 30,000 people going missing, ending up in torture camps and being killed. These women have been asking for answers as to where their children are ever since. While Argentina now enjoys a democracy, knowing the story of these women will make you truly appreciate your freedom and rights.

Have A Glass Of Malbec

While Malbec production has declined in France, it is prominent in Argentina. Although the vine cuttings were originally brought over from France in the mid-19th century, the wine differs from its European relative as the grapes in Argentina have tinier berries that grow in smaller, tighter clusters. Expect fruit flavors like currants, plums, cherries and raspberries, as well as notes of spice, vanilla and sometime tobacco. Although Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja are the most prominent wine-producing regions in the country, vineyards have sprouted up in the southern part of the Buenos Aires province since the 21st century. You can also visit a local wine bar for a taste of locally-produced Malbec, like Finca, a modest wine bar focusing on rare Argentine wines from boutique wineries, Terroir, a hip venue with an exclusive wine list from top estates and La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar, which features an affordable tasting menu and extensive wine list with all bottles available by the glass.

Browse The Markets

Wandering through the markets and fairs of Buenos Aires, you’ll find everything from leather goods and antiques to yerba mate dispensers and gaucho wear. If you visit the San Telmo Market on Sunday, you’ll find millions of antiques, as the neighborhood is a hub for these items. You’ll also find artisanal goods, typical foods and tango performances. On Saturdays and Sundays you’ll find an artisanal fair in Plaza Francia near Recoleta Cemetery, with over 100 stalls of traditional pottery, leather products, traditional foods and street performers. In the Palermo Soho area, you’ll find numerous markets, like the one at Plaza Serrano, which has a hippie vibe and is great for finding unusual clothing items and alternative jewelry. You can also stop by Plaza Armenia for handmade goods, keepsakes and clothing.

Drink Mate With New Friends

You’ll often notice locals walking around Buenos Aires carrying hollow gourds filled with yerba mate, or mate. In Argentina, mate holds the special meaning of sharing, and people often get together to hangout and pass around the infusion of proteins, caffeine, herbs and hot water. It’s often passed around in a circle, with the “ceba el mate,” or the person who prepared it, being the first one to take a taste. When someone says “thanks” after sipping it means they don’t want anymore, which is why you shouldn’t thank everyone who hands you the drink. While you can easily have a drink of this by yourself, mate is best shared with new or old friends.

Check Out Street Performers And Live Music

The pulse of Buenos Aires beats through its upbeat song and dance. Explore the fairs and markets or ride the subway or train and you’ll be almost guaranteed a free show. Additionally, Museo Casa Carlos Gardel hosts live performances on Wednesdays, as does the Palace Notel on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7 p.m. For a daily dose of performance culture, head to the Street Museum Caminito in La Boca any day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for outdoor art, singers, dancers and one-of-a-kind acts.

[Images via Jessie on a Journey, prayitno, Jessie on a Journey, Ed Yourdon, Jorgealfonso]

12 Free Things To Do In Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a beautiful country with 200 years of history, graceful tango and a vibrant art culture that can be seen on every street corner. The city is completely flat, making it the perfect place to explore by foot. While there are many options of things to do in Buenos Aires, they are not all free or budget-friendly. Luckily, I got the chance to explore the city with locals and discover the worthwhile sites that won’t break your bank.

Take a free walking tour

While my hostel advertised walking tours for 80 pesos and city bus tours for 180 pesos, I found a flyer advertising two city walking tours that were completely free. Buenos Aires Free Tour offers a daily city tour at 11:00 a.m. led by a local guide that teaches you about the history and culture of Buenos Aires. You also get to visit the oldest coffee shop in the city, Cafe Tortoni, which hasn’t changed a bit since it opened in 1858. At 5:00 p.m., the company also offers a free “Aristocratic Tour,” which allows you see sites like the famous Recoleta Cemetery, Plaza San Martin and the beautiful Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar.

So how can a free tour be better than the more expensive ones? These guides are passionate about what they do. Moreover, because they work on tips, they actually need to work for their money so you won’t get a guide that is bored with their job or uninterested in your questions. Virginia, the guide on my tour, was excellent. She knew everything about the city, was overly friendly and had the group laughing the entire time.Check out Buenos Aires’ museums and cultural centers

The city is home to many worthwhile museums and cultural centers that are not only interesting, but can also help give you insight into the area and culture. I really liked the National Historical Museum of the Cabildo and May Revolution. On Fridays, it is free to enter. The Cabildo was the main seat of the May Revolution of 1810, is one of the city’s oldest buildings and contains many historical documents and artifacts. I also recommend visiting one of the many cultural centers in Buenos Aires, especially the one in Recoleta (shown right), adjacent to the cemetery. Here you can explore history and art in a more avant-garde way. Guided tours in English are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. Other notable museums include:

  • “Enrique Larreta” Spanish Art Museum (Belgrano)- Free on Thursdays
  • Museum of the City (Montserrat)- Free on Mondays and Wednesdays
  • Museum of the Cinema (San Telmo)- Free on Wednesdays
  • National Fine Arts Museum (La Recoleta)- Always free
  • Museum of Latin-American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA)- Free on Wednesdays from 12:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Learn about the city’s political history

The people of Buenos Aires, also known as porteños, are very passionate about politics. Along with the many museums in the city, there are also must-visit buildings if you want to really understand Buenos Aires’ past. Start at the National Congress Building, which offers free-guided tours in English on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 4:00 p.m. The building was opened in 1906, and contains many furnishings and pieces of decor from Europe. Then head over to the Casa Rosada, or Pink House, which is where President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner works. There is a museum inside, and free tours are offered on weekends.

Channel your inner activist and take in a protest

Going along with the above statement of politically passionate locals, you can expect about three or four protests per day. Most take place on Avenida de Mayo, which connects the National Congress and Casa Rosada, the two political buildings of the city. Head to Plaza de Mayo, which is located right in front of Casa Rosada. Here you will be almost guaranteed to see some political uproar. Notice the makeshift fence separating Casa Rosada from the plaza (pictured right). While it is technically a temporary fence that is supposed to be taken down after protests are over, Buenos Aires has so many they got tired of removing the barrier and just left it there. The locals of Buenos Aires protested so ferociously that in 2001, they actually caused then-President Fernando de la Rúa to resign from office and exit the building via a helicopter from the roof.

On Thursdays at 3:00 p.m. in Plaza de Mayo, you can see the “Madres de Plaza de Mayo,” or Mother’s of Plaza de Mayo, circling the square’s May Pyramid monument. In the 1970’s, Argentina went through a period of military dictatorship that left the people without a democracy. During this time, over 30,000 people went missing, were sent to torture camps and killed. These women have been asking for answers to where their children are since this time. You can see their symbol painted onto the cement in the plaza, an image of a cotton diaper, which the women would wear around their heads symbolically. While the country now gives its people a say, seeing these women will make you appreciate your rights.

Discover the city’s graffiti art

Buenos Aires has an extremely vibrant graffiti art scene. While there are walking tours for this, such as the graffitimundo graffiti and street art tours, it can be fun to just go on your own and explore as well. Basically any neighborhood you go to will have tons of it. I stayed in the San Telmo neighborhood and spent hours exploring the streets and finding artistic works, many of which have political meanings. Palermo is another great area to explore the best graffiti art Buenos Aires has to offer. I would recommend doing some background research online before hitting the streets. Click here to learn more about popular artists and their stories.

Experience tango

Argentina is the place where tango originated, so you’ll definitely want to experience it for yourself. While you can catch impromptu tango acts while strolling the city, there are places you can go to guarantee a free show or lesson. You can check the schedule at Museo Casa Carlos Gardel, which regularly features free tango shows and lessons. Additionally, if you book a show at Complejo Tango, they offer a free tango lesson at 7:30 p.m. You can also head over to The Window of DGEArt, where free classes are being hosted on Saturdays from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. through May 31, 2012. And on Sundays, many of the city’s cultural centers offer free tango shows.

Open-air venues also usually offer the opportunity to experience free tango. On Sundays, the Feira de San Telmo and the Recoleta Fair have live tango performances in the streets. Furthermore, you can see it at the Calle Museo Caminito, an open-air arts museum in La Boca each day.

One trick is instead of paying for a dinner and show with unlimited drinks, head over to a milonga, or a place where tango is danced. For example, the popular La Glorieta offers free entrance to their open-air milonga on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Even when milongas are not free, they are usually very inexpensive and you can see some of the city’s most talented dancers.

Browse the markets

Before you think to yourself “wow, another handicraft market,” stop. The markets in Buenos Aires are unlike any I’ve ever experienced in all my travels. The best is the Feria de San Telmo, which happens every Sunday from 10:00 am until 7:00 p.m. You have your usual handmade goods, as well as many rare finds like ancient antiques, statues made of chalk, visors with built-in fans, leather masks, authentic Japanese swords from the 1600’s and much more. The fair is massive. Not only that, but street performers litter the area. You’ll get to see tango dancers, ventriloquists, mimes, opera sings, circus performers, live bands and more. Make sure to also stop at the corner of Mexico and Defense streets for some live music and delicious choripan – a thick, juicy sausage wrapped in a bread bun and topped with whatever you’d like.

There are other worthwhile markets to explore as well. The area right near the cemetery in Recoleta has a weekend market that is enormous with unique handicrafts and delicious local foods. Moreover, the Mercado de San Telmo has been running since 1897 and is open daily. Here you can find fresh meats and fish, art and antiques. Likewise, the Parque Lezama in San Telmo features a beautiful pond, sculptures and fountains as well as a handicraft fair and live shows on Saturdays and Sundays.

Take in the beauty of the many parks and squares

In Buenos Aires, picturesque parks and lively squares litter the city. You can spend days just exploring these beautiful areas. My favorite place to sunbathe and relax was San Martín Square. With beautiful Jacaranda trees, ornate statues and rolling slopes, it is a very beautiful and peaceful place. There is also the Nature Reserve in Costanera Sur, which is perfect for bird watching, hiking, exploring hidden beaches or riding a bike. Palermo Woods is also beautiful, as it is the main green area of the city. Featured are three man-made lakes, a rose garden and outdoor sculptures.


While this may sound morbid, the cemeteries in Buenos Aires are unlike any I’ve ever seen in the world. The most famous cemetery to see on your visit is Recoleta Cemetery. Here you will find some of the most ornate tombs you will ever see. Some include stained glass windows, ornate statues and furniture inside these house-like mausoleums. There are many famous locals buried here like Facundo Quiroga, Juan Manuel de Rosas, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento and the world-renowned Eva “Evita” Perón.

The less famous, but just as beautiful and even bigger, La Chacarita Cemetery is also worth a visit. It is the largest cemetery in Argentina and a car is needed to drive through the whole thing. It was built due to a need for more cemetery space after a yellow fever outbreak in the late 1800’s.

Street performers and live music

If you love impromptu entertainment, Buenos Aires is the perfect place for you. Simply riding a subway or train will almost guarantee you a free show of some kind. Also, visiting any of the many fairs listed above will give you access to all kinds of street performances. Moreover, You can checkout Museo Casa Carlos Gardel, which regularly puts on free live performances on Wednesdays. If you enjoy chamber music, The Palace Noel puts on free live concerts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. Additionally, each day from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in La Boca is the Street Museum Caminito. It’s an outdoor art exhibition with performance art, singers, dancers and all kinds of unique acts. At night, walking around Palermo Soho will bring you face to face with various street performers on every corner.

If you’d like an indoor club type of feel, The Roxy in Palermo features free live music shows on Friday nights if you add your name to the list on the website. There’s also Breoghan Brew Pub in San Telmo on Sundays where patrons can watch a very talented jazz quartet. Furthermore, Temple Bar in Recoleta regularly features live blues and jazz bands free of charge.

While not live music, Teatro San Martin hosts a weekly music program at noon on Tuesdays and Fridays of rarely heard recordings that is refreshing, enlightening and also gives you a good excuse to checkout the inside of this famous venue.

Discover the religion of the city

Most, if not all of the churches in Buenos Aires are free to enter. First visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, thought by locals to be the city’s most important church. Take note of the black candlelight symbol on the outside of the building. This represents the remains of Argentina’s liberator, José de San Martín, as the church houses his mausoleum. There is also Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Recoleta (shown right). While not huge, the inside has ornate details and impressive furnishings worth a look. Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa, located in San Telmo, is another great church to visit. Built in the seventeenth century, it is considered by many locals as one of the most attractive buildings in the city. If you attend service, you can hear the choir sing Orthodox liturgical music.

Get competitive at a horse race

Located on Avenida del Libertador in Palermo, you will find the historical Palermo Argentinean Racetrack. Argentinians love thoroughbred horses so visiting the site is also a cultural experience. Opened in 1876, the racetrack has held competitions for the most elite thoroughbred horses. The venue is grand in design and massive in size, accommodating up to 100,000 guests. While placing bets will obviously cost you, it is free to enter and enjoy the races.

Photo of the Day 5.12.10

It’s sexy, sultry, and seductive. To some it’s forbidden, for others it’s a brief moment of passion stemmed from just a few musical notes, which for centuries have created a stirring sensation on the dance floor. The tango is one of the most romantic forms of dance and while some have tried to ban the dance from their halls, others have embraced the tango for everything it stands for.

So, when the mood strikes, just dance. That’s what the people outside this Cathedral we doing when Cristina Passarelli grabbed this shot of couples doing the tango in Argentina.

Titled “Tango en frente de la Catedral”, the photo captures an awesome irony between the tango’s forbidden footwork and the church’s regimented principles.

Have a photo you think captures art in motion? Upload it to our Flickr Pool and we might just choose your shot to highlight in our Photo of the Day.

Photo of the Day (8-27-08)

There is no telling when a photo will show up as a Photo of the Day. Ultraclay! posted this one December 1, 2006. Why now? Why today? These tango dancers, one a blur, but for the clasp of a hand, evokes a romantic dream–the type of shot that can only be captured at the right instant.


Send your captured moments our way at Gadling’s Flickr Photo Pool. Who knows? Next week –, tomorrow, or two years from now, it could show up as a Photo of the Day.

It takes $60-80 to tango in Argentina

Argentina is seeing a comeback of tango, according to the International Herald Tribune. The so-called tango economy is growing 25 percent a year, which experts attribute to the jump in tourism to Argentina after a deep economic slowdown in 2002. Because the peso currency plummeted, travel to Argentina suddenly became cheap.

When tourists visit Buenos Aires, they want to see tango. That is the “it” thing to do. The easiest way to do this is by booking a diner table at one of the dinner theaters, such as Esquina Carlos Gardel, and eat steak while watching tango. Most such shows go for $60-80, making the tango business a $450 million a year industry. Industry of primarily observers and dinner-eaters, not dancers, that is.

I guess you’ll have to bring all that passion back to the hotel room if they won’t let you butcher the dance on the floor.