1. Recoleta Cemetery
This may sound kind of morbid, but the Recoleta Cemetery was by far my favorite thing in Buenos Aires. It’s not necessarily the cemetery-aspect that’s so interesting, however. It was the mausoleum as an art form, the layout of the cemetery, and the history of the place and the people (Eva Peron!) in it that I found absolutely fascinating. The mausoleums are mini architectural gems from different eras of art history, with particularly amazing examples from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods, and no shortage of the more traditional Neo-Classical style. We were in Buenos Aires for a total of 6 days, and I went to the Recoleta Cemetery on 4 of those days (to be fair, our hotel was a 5 minute walk from the gates!).
2. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
This free art museum has a terrific range of works from all over the world to peruse, ranging from the Middle Ages to contemporary art. Look for notables artists like Rubens, Rembrandt, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, and Rothko. There was an entire room of haunting Goya paintings and drawings when we visited, and they also feature well-curated special exhibitions with pieces on loan from other museums. Check their hours before planning your visit, however, as they vary on the weekends and the museum is closed on Mondays.
3. Take a Cooking Class
This is a must-do on my travel list anywhere we go, and Buenos Aires is no exception. There aren’t many options for English-speaking cooking classes, but Carla and I found a GREAT one – Cook Abroad. Two sisters teach traditional Argentine food out of a Palermo apartment. They can accommodate small and large groups, speak perfect English, and make amazing food. It’s always nice to get a chance to
interrogate chat with a local about their city’s culture, what to do, and where to eat.
Carla and I took their Buenos Aires Argentine Food Class, where we learned to make a few dishes that are specific to the Buenos Aires area of Argentina. This was also the only chance we had to try mate, the popular bitter tea that you see everyone carrying around with them, sipping out of silver straws. My favorite dish was probably the chipacitos, a cheese bread made with chewy tapioca flour. We also learned how to make the dough and filling for empanadas, as well as how to fold their pretty edges. Julia and Mariana showed us how to make carbonada (a meat & vegetable stew with Belgian origins), and served it in a bowl made of roasted pumpkin. For dessert, we stuffed ourselves with dulce de leche-filled panqueques before rolling out of the door with a doggy bag full of leftovers.
There are two great ways to experience tango in Buenos Aires: 1. Sign up for a class or lesson. 2. See a show. I recommend doing both, but if dancing isn’t your thing you should still absolutely check out a show. There’s a whole range of options for any budget – from practically free to very expensive – so you’ll certainly be able to find something appropriate for your travel style.
5. San Telmo Market
Be sure to be in Buenos Aires on a Sunday for the San Telmo Market! It’s one of the most expansive markets I’ve seen in my travels, and it marvellously features primarily locally-made crafts, art, jewelry, clothing, and souvenirs. Most of the action happens on Defensa, but there’s a small park on the corner of Defensa and Humberto Primero with booths selling antiques (mostly overpriced, but it’s still fun to wander through them!). Be very careful with your belongings, however, as it’s a common area for theft. Leave your passports, credit cards, and extra cash in the hotel safe that day, please!
6. A Parilla Dinner
Warning! This meal is for carnivores only! Parilla is a traditional Argentine meal of grilled meat that you can experience on any budget. If you’re on more of a shoestring budget, make lunch your biggest meal and go to a place with an “all you can eat” menu. It’s a way to try a little bit of everything, from blood sausage to steak. If you’re looking for a more intimate experience, have dinner one of the nicer restaurants and order a high-quality piece of beef and a nice bottle of wine.
7. Eat all the ice cream, empanadas, alfajores and dulce de leche.
All of it. A lot of Argetina’s population has Italian heritage, and the ice cream definitely reflects that. And dulce de leche is everywhere. Combine the two for dulce de leche ice cream and I CAN’T EVEN. There’s an endless variety of empanadas with fillings that will satisfy even the pickiest eater. They aren’t just savory, either – you can find dulce de leche empanadas at many of the restaurants. Or if you sandwich that dulce de leche between two crumbly shortbread cookies, you have alfajores. So basically, Argentina is pure heaven if you have a sweet tooth.