The entertainment scene in Buenos Aires has always been lively, but there was an outburst of creative energy in the decade following the economic crisis of 2001. Filmmakers began producing quality works on shoestring budgets, troupes performed in new avant-garde theaters and live-music groups played in more mainstream venues. Today nearly every neighborhood offers great entertainment options.
Need to Know
Show times can vary widely, but this is a city that stays up all night, so expect to be out late. Restaurants usually open around 9pm – and 10pm is a more common dinner time – so many shows start around midnight.
Discount Tickets & Booking
Major entertainment venues often require booking through Ticketek. The service charge is about 10% of the ticket price.
Carteleras (discount-ticket offices) sell a limited number of discounted tickets for many events, such as movies, theater and tango shows, with savings of 20% to 50%. Try Cartelera Baires, Cartelera Vea Más or Cartelera Espectáculos. Buy tickets as far in advance as possible.
Check www.vuenosairez.com (in Spanish) and www.thebubble.com (in English).
There are some fine venues that only feature live music, but many theaters, cultural centers, bars and cafes also put on shows. Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso is an especially good choice for tango-music performances.
Several venues offer classical-music concerts. Teatro Colón is the grandest and most famous; everyone who’s anyone has played, acted, sung or danced here. It often features guest conductors from throughout Latin America. Two new venues – both renovated old buildings with excellent acoustics – are the Centro Cultural Kirchner and the Usina del Arte; be sure to check what's on. The classical-music scene takes a break from December to February, and is best from June to August.
Rock, Blues & Jazz
Buenos Aires boasts a thriving rock-music scene. Smaller venues, like La Trastienda, showcase mostly local groups; when huge international stars come to town they tend to play soccer stadiums or Luna Park.
Theater is big in Buenos Aires. The city’s venues number more than 100, and annual attendance is in the hundreds of thousands. While productions range from classic plays to multimedia performances to lavish cabarets, the acting tends to be of a professional level across the board. Note that, unsurprisingly, performances tend to be in Spanish.
Traditionally, the center for theater has been Av Corrientes between Avs 9 de Julio and Callao, but there are now dozens of venues all over the city.
Many alternative (or ‘off-Corrientes’) theater companies and independent troupes receive relatively little attention from the mainstream media, but they’re worth seeking out if you’re looking for something different. If you read Spanish, www.alternativateatral.com is a good source for current non-mainstream performances.
Tickets are generally affordable, but check carteleras (discount ticket offices) for bargain seats. The season is liveliest in winter (June through August), when upwards of 100 events may take place, but you can find a good variety of shows any time. Many of the most popular shows move to the provincial beach resort of Mar del Plata for the summer.
BA's traditional cinema districts are along pedestrian Lavalle (west of Florida) and on Av Corrientes. Newer cinemas are in shopping malls throughout the city. Most cinemas offer big discounts for matinees, midweek shows or first screenings of the day. There is usually a trasnoche (midnight or later showing) scheduled for Friday and Saturday night.
Except for children’s films and cartoon features, which are dubbed, foreign films almost always appear in their original language with Spanish subtitles.
Cosmos-UBA often shows retrospectives, documentaries, foreign film cycles and art-house movies. Espacio INCAA screens Ibero-American films only (essentially from Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking countries).
A popular movement in Argentina that found international fame through the Broadway performance of the De la Guarda troupe is circo moderno (contemporary circus). This combination of traditional circus and contemporary dance and theater features a lot of aerial action, acrobatics and no words – great for those who don’t speak Spanish. Cirque du Soleil is a well-known example of this modern gymnastic theater.
In 2005, Diqui James, one of the creators of De la Guarda, launched his solo act Fuerzabruta (http://fuerzabrutaglobal.com/). It’s a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing show of lights, electronic music, aerial dancing and water – and often the performance is above you. If you go to a show, you could get wet. The troupe is often on tour around the world, so check its website for listings.
When it comes to spectator sports, only one thing really matters to most porteños – fútbol (soccer). If you go to a game – or even watch one on TV – you’ll witness human passion to the core. But other spectator sports also exist in Buenos Aires. And for those who'd rather play than watch, you'll have opportunities to run, bike, swim and even rock climb – though some activities will be harder to seek out than others.
The basketball scene in Buenos Aires has been picking up significantly since 2002, when Argentina’s men’s team played in the World Basketball Championship in Indianapolis. They only won silver but made history by beating the US ‘Dream Team’ in international competition. Then, with a similar roster, they defeated the US squad again (along with Italy in the finals) to win gold in the 2004 summer Olympics – their first Olympic medal in basketball ever. No team had beaten the Americans in the Olympics since 1992, when pro basketball players were allowed to play. They also won the FIBA Americas Championship in 2011.
Today BA has several major squads, the most popular being Boca Juniors. You can watch them play in La Boca at Estadio Luis Conde. Other popular basketball teams include Obras Sanitarias and Ferro Carril Oeste.
Races in BA are held at the Hipódromo Argentino, a grand building designed by French architect Louis Fauré-Dujarric that dates from 1908 and holds up to 100,000 spectators. Race times vary, so check the schedule for exact details. The most important races take place in November, both here and at San Isidro’s famous grass racetrack.
Of gaucho origins, the polo-like game of pato (literally ‘duck’) takes its name from the original game ball – a live duck encased in a leather bag. The unfortunate fowl has since been replaced by a ball with leather handles, and players no longer face serious injury in what was once a very violent sport.
For information on pato matches and tournaments (which usually take place 30km outside the city in the Campo Argentino de Pato) contact the Federación Argentina de Pato. The national championships occur in December, and are more centrally located in Palermo’s polo grounds.
Add Argentina’s history of gauchos and horses to its past British influence, and you’ll understand why the best polo in the world is played right here. The country has dominated the sport for over 70 years, boasting most of polo’s top players. Forget those British princes: the world’s best player is considered to be the handsome Adolfo Cambiaso.
Matches take place in Buenos Aires from September to mid-November. They culminate in the annual Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo (Argentine Open Polo Championship) – the world’s most prestigious polo tournament – in Palermo's Campo Argentino de Polo. For current information, contact the Asociación Argentina de Polo (www.aapolo.com), which keeps a schedule of polo-related activities throughout the country.
Rugby is becoming more popular by the year in Argentina, in part because the country’s national team – Los Pumas – has done well in past years. After placing third at the Rugby World Cup in 2007 (no mean feat), Los Pumas was rated the best rugby team in the Americas. And at the 2011 Rugby World Cup it put in a pretty decent showing.
Rugby season runs from April to October; contact the Unión de Rugby de Buenos Aires for current happenings.
Fútbol is a national obsession, and witnessing a live game is an integral part of the BA experience. This is no amateur league – Argentina’s national team won the World Cup in both 1978 and 1986 (one of only eight nations to have ever won the cup). The men’s team also walked away with gold at the 2004 and 2008 summer Olympics. And Lionel Messi, currently Argentina’s most famous player, has won FIFA’s World Player of the Year (or Ballon d'Or) award five times – from 2009 to 2012 and again in 2015.
Argentines are avid fans of the sport, and on game day (and there are many) you’ll see TVs everywhere tuned to the soccer channels. Cheers erupt when goals are scored and after a big win cars sporting team flags go honking by – especially around the Obelisco.
For more information on Argentine fútbol, see www.futbolargentino.com and www.afa.org.ar.
Born in 1960 in abject poverty in a Buenos Aires shantytown, Diego Armando Maradona played his first professional game before his 16th birthday. Transferring to his beloved Boca Juniors, he continued to prosper. After a good showing at the 1982 World Cup, he moved to Europe. Here, his genius inspired unfashionable Napoli to two league titles, and in 1986 he single-handedly won the World Cup for a very average Argentina side. In the quarter-final against England, he scored a goal first with his hand – later saying the goal was scored partly by the hand of God – and then a second one with his feet, after a mesmerizing run through the flummoxed defense that led to its being named the Goal of the Century by FIFA.
But the big time also ruined Maradona. Earning huge sums of money, he became addicted to cocaine and the high life. A succession of drug-related bans, lawsuits and weight issues meant that by his retirement in 1997 he had been a shadow of his former self for some years.
Since his retirement, overdoses, heart attacks, detoxes, his own TV program and offbeat friendships have all been par for the course in the Maradona circus. Most unbelievably of all, he was chosen to manage the national team: the highlight in a colorful spell was – after qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa – his triumphant suggestion that his critics could pleasure him orally. Nevertheless, those numerous touches of magic in the number 10 shirt have sealed his immortality. To many Argentines, the hand of God and the hand of Maradona are one and the same.
Every talented Argentine since has been dogged with the label ‘the new Maradona,' but these days there’s one who’s the real deal. Rosario-bred Lionel Messi, a little genius who runs at defenses with the ball seemingly glued to his feet, has been captivating the world with his prodigious talents and record-breaking goal-scoring feats for Barcelona and, increasingly, for the national team. Many shrewd judges consider him better even than the great Diego, and his humble off-field demeanor is certainly an improvement. If he manages to inspire the albiceleste to win the World Cup again, it will truly be the Second Coming.
Going to a Game
In a land where Maradona is God, going to see a fútbol game can be a religious experience. The superclásico match between the Boca Juniors and River Plate has been called the number-one sporting event to see before you die, but even the less-celebrated games will give you an insight into Argentina’s national passion.
Attending a regular match isn’t too difficult. Keep an eye on the clubs’ websites, which inform when and where tickets will be sold; often they’re sold at the stadium before the game. You'll get a choice between populares (bleachers) and plateas (seats). Avoid the populares, as these can get far too rowdy and sometimes dangerous.
If you want to see a clásico – a match between two major teams – getting a ticket will be much harder. Plus Boca doesn’t even put tickets for its key matches on sale; all tickets go to socios (members). Instead, you’re better off going with an agency such as Tangol or via organizations like www.landingpad.com. It won't be cheap, but it’s much easier (and safer) getting a ticket this way; fake tickets do exist.
If you want to chance getting your own clásico or superclásico ticket, however, you can always look online at www.buenosaires.craigslist.org or www.mercadolibre.com.ar. And if you’re confident in your bargaining skills, scalpers will always exist.
Dress down, and try to look inconspicuous when you go. Take only minimum cash and keep your camera close. You probably won’t get in with water bottles, and food and drink in the stadium is meager and expensive. Arrive early to get a good seat and enjoy the insane build-up to the game. And most importantly: don’t wear the opposing team’s colors.
The following are some of the clubs based in Buenos Aires: