As a first timer to the charming Argentine capital, I was struck by the dichotomy of the city’s perpetual economic woes with its relentless energy and passion for indulgence. While it took some time for me to appreciate its beauty, I ended up finding many hidden gems among the crazy never ending streets. Enjoy this first-timer’s guide to Buenos Aires
Each neighborhood in Buenos Aires has its own flair, and specific points of interest. While there are lots to choose from, here are the important ones you should cover your first time in Buenos Aires:
Why you should go there: Cute cafes and restaurants
When to go: Daytime or evenings
Why you should go there: tons of bars and restaurants
Vibe: Trendy, dress to impress
When to go: Evenings and nights
Why you should go there: Cemetery, upscale restaurants
Vibe: Wealthy, touristy
When to go: Daytime or evenings
Why you should go there: Football game, check out the colorful houses
Vibe: Touristy, kinda sketch
When to go: Daytime, preferably weekends
Why you should go there: San Telmo market, hipster restaurants, shopping
When to go: Daytime, evening
#2: FOOD & DRINKS
I was mostly looking forward to the food in Buenos Aires, and while portenos don’t deviate from a few classic dishes, they execute them really well.
Bite into a juicy steak
They say you can’t leave Buenos Aires without sinking your teeth into an Argentine steak. While I’m not a meat eater myself, I researched and found an overwhelming amount of suggestions. Meat eater or not, don’t forget to order an affagato for dessert (espresso with ice cream)!
My recommendation: Don Julio (Guatemala 4699)
Pro tip: if you’re searching on Google Maps, type in “parrilla” to find local steakhouses
Eat your weight in Facturas & medialunas
Facturas are Argentina’s version of delicious, freshly baked pastries. Medialunas are glazed croissants that melt in your mouth, and typically had with jamon y queso (ham & cheese). While they’re usually had in the morning with an espresso, I found these bakeries (‘or confiterias) open in the evenings too, smelling just as heavenly as they did for breakfast.
Since Argentina doesn’t have many big box supermarkets, you’ll find plenty of bakeries sprinkled throughout each neighborhood. Stop in at least one or two while you’re visiting.
My recommendation: Confiteria Ritz (Av. Federico Lacroze 2425)
Try the local pizza
I’m pretty wary of any city outside of New York or Italy claiming they have great pizza. But Buenos Aires has its own twist on this Italian staple, with a thicker crust and an inexplicable obsession with adding olives on top.
My recommendation: Pizerria Guerrin
It’s a pizza institution in Buenos Aires, and started back in 1932. While it feels a bit Times Squares-y in terms of tourism, we saw tons of locals there at 1am(!) on a weekday.
Pro tip: if you order a full pizza rather than the smaller one pictured below, you’ll have access to the hidden backyard cafe which is super charming.
Explore the bar scene
While most are familiar with Argentina’s booming wine industry, there are other options as well. The most popular party drink is Fernet with coca cola, a bitter herbal liquor that is offset by the sweet cola taste. I was also impressed by Argentina’s craft brew scene, with plenty of options beyond the industry heavyweight, Quilmes.
My recommendation: Floreria Atlantico (Arroyo 872)
This is considered one of the World’s 50 Best Bars, with good reason. We had the Old Fashioned and Mezcal Negroni, both of which were prepared exceptionally well. While I can’t speak for the food, whatever was coming out of the open kitchen smelled and looked delicious.
While “secret” is a bit overstated given how well-known these are in Buenos Aires, it’s still an awesome option as a first-time visitor. These dinners are more like pop-up events that happen a few times a week, a month, or season. They’re usually in unique locations, so I’d urge you to try at least one when you’re there.
And don’t worry if it’s a last-minute decision - if you call the night of, you’ll likely find an open time slot due to a cancellation.
My recommendation: La Pasionaria (Godoy Cruz 1541)
Situated in an antique store, they hold their events on weekends, and reservations are pretty difficult to come by. When we went, there was a live jazz band from 10:30-11:30pm, and the entire 5-course tasting menu cost about $20, which included a glass of wine.
Check out a tango show
Before I visited Buenos Aires, all my friends suggested paying for a tango show, which includes a live performance, dinner and drinks. While I’m sure these events are spectacular, they are also quite pricey, ranging anywhere from $100-$250 a night.
I opted for a more local experience and visited La Catedral, a tango club in an old cathedral. They have a $5 cover charge, cheap drinks, and all kinds of people swaying to the music.
Play the video below to see some beautiful argentine tango:
Spend time in MERCADO DE PULGAS
This is one of many flea markets in Buenos Aires, but its sheer size and variety of goods for sale were overwhelming to me. You can find anything here - furniture, clothing, painting, accessories. Even if you have 20 minutes, make sure you stop by here during the day.
VISIT THE TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
You don’t need a tour guide to navigate yourself to the top tourist spots in the city. The local bus and metro system are well equipped to where you need to go. Here are the tourist attractions in Buenos Aires that are worth visiting:
La Boca houses
Plaza de Mayo