Go off the beaten track in the Argentine capital and discover another side of the “Paris of South America.”
Buenos Aires might have a European look about it, but its heart beats to a South American rhythm. It has a buzz, an energy that is alive and exciting. It’s know for it’s dance-till-dawn nightlife, superb steakhouses, designer shopping and of course the creative and passionate residents.
There’s a lot to discover in this huge city, from gourmet restaurants to tango shows to parks, plazas, shopping, horse racing, football matches and more. However, once you’ve checked out the main attractions, you will want to dig a little deeper and see some of the lesser known things Buenos Aires has to offer. Here are some ideas for alternative things to do that will make you see the city in an entirely new way.
1. Dance the Night Away at a Milonga
Tango is a huge part of the culture in Buenos Aires, but you can do better than going to a “Dinner Tango Show” which can be a little bit touristic. If you are looking for the real tango, you can find it at a local Milonga. According to Andres in a blog post on Epicure and Culture, milongas are a “kind of social tango club where the locals meet to dance.”
He says, “These are non touristic places, the atmosphere and the environment are just organized for and by locals.” Maybe you’ll meet a sexy Argentinian who will teach you some moves?
2. Play Pool at Cafe Tortoni
The legendary Cafe Tortoni opened in 1858 and is the oldest in the city. A long list of celebrities have hung out here, including Jorge Juis Borges, Don Juan Carlos the King of Spain, Hillary Clinton and Carlos Gardel. Stopping in at this cafe is a chance to experience an important institution in Buenos Aires history.
“Even if many tourists visit Tortoni most don’t know the back room where the pool tables are and where locals gather to play.” say the staff of Fierro Hostel on theInside Buenos Aires blog. Bring a few of your friends and take a while to play some games of pool here while enjoying the draft beers and the laid back atmosphere.
3. Check Out a Closed Door Restaurant
Michelle from Say Hueque, an Argentina travel blog, recommends this unique dining experience in a private setting. “Closed door restaurants are small businesses, often operated out of the home of the owner, so they are a great way to get out of the more touristy neighborhoods and see parts of the city frequented by locals,” she explained in an email interview.
“These restaurants typically offer high-quality, unique cuisine, with menus often changing every week. It’s sort of like a mix between a restaurant and a private dinner party!”
There are a number of closed door restaurants (‘Puerta Cerrada’ in Spanish) throughout Buenos Aires to choose from. Michelle recommends Colectivo Felix andCasa Salt Shaker. Not only are the meals delicious but it’s also a great change to meet interesting people.
4. Experience Gaucho Culture at the Feria de Mataderos
Erin from 2backpackers.com describes the colourful costumes, country dances (chacareras), folk music and guachos galloping past the crowds at high speeds.
“Over 100 market stalls sell leather crafts, metalwork, mate gourds, handicrafts, and jars of dulce de leche.” she writes. “An asado (barbecue) serves up huge chunks of beef and sausages, creating a smoky haze over the rest of the market. You’ll also find ladies dishing up locro, a traditional meat stew, and empanadas with a range of fillings.”
You can get to the market by taking a bus to the far west of the city, the 155, 180 or 126. The market is about an hour’s ride away, but it’s worth it. You could also take a taxi to Mataderos if you are short on time.
5. Explore Street Art on a Graffiti Tour
James Schloffel writes about the Buenos Aires street art scene in this fantastic blog on The Real Argentina. “…one of the unexpected joys of wandering the streets of the Argentine capital is stumbling across strange and beautiful artworks on the sides of buildings, walls, rubbish bins and lamp posts.” he writes.
“It’s a bit like walking through an open-air gallery –- on one building two huge wolves go head-to-head in mock battle, around the corner a blue monster pokes an oversized fork into his friend’s head, down in a nearby alleyway a giant hand points ominously to the main road. And that’s just in Palermo.”
To get a tour of the best street art pieces in the city, James recommends you take a tour with Graffitimundo, who offer three hour tours every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Have you been to Buenos Aires? What off-the-beaten-track things have you discovered? Let us know in the comments below.
Kelly Dunning is a Canadian freelance travel writer. She lives a nomadic lifestyle with no fixed address – working from the road for the last 5 years with her partner Lee, a web-designer from England. They have traveled to over 40 countries and they offer travel tips, stories and inspiration on Global-Goose.com.