When I booked a flight to Buenos Aires a few years ago, I hadn’t done much research and didn't know what to expect. In fact, I was just planning to use Buenos Aires as a stopping point on my way to Montevideo, Uruguay, where I was meeting some friends. But after arriving in balmy Buenos Aires in January from a frigid winter in NYC, I immediately fell in love with this cosmopolitan-yet-laid-back city, full of REALLY delicious things to eat, great museums, and tango in the street.
Yes, I made it to Montevideo – but I convinced my friends to come back to BA with me to spend another week eating, drinking and, yes, attempting to learn how to tango — despite my seeming inability to either lead or follow. Last week, I chatted with Lucas Kambic, a Buenos Aires–based travel expert for Elsewhere by Lonely Planet, about what I loved about my visit to BA and how he would create the perfect itinerary for visitors.
One particular thing that Lucas said really struck me: “When you talk to an Argentinean, you talk about steak, wine and soccer.” This itinerary, put together by a local expert, will give you everything you need to experience the city and be able to hold your own in a conversation about these three essentials:
1. Dine at a private home and learn about Argentinian wine
Your first meal in Buenos Aires is at Casa Coupage, where a husband-wife sommelier-chef team serves a modern-Argentinian seven-course menu with wine pairings.
2. Taste your way through a food market
Your guide will take you on a walking tour through one of the food markets like Mercado de San Telmo, an old market building from 1897 that got a makeover and is now a trendy food hall where you can try delicious local eats like empanadas and choripan (a grilled sausage sandwich), and speak with the people in the shops. If you go on a Sunday, the giant San Telmo flea market is also in this neighborhood.
3. Tango the night away
You’ll head to a tango class with a professional dancer who will teach you the basic steps, and then you’ll go to a traditional milonga – basically a tango dance club – where you can try out your new moves, or sit back and watch.
4. Catch football fever
Visiting the stadiums of both of Buenos Aires’s football teams – La Bombonera, the famed stadium of Club Atlético Boca Juniors, and Estadio Más Monumental, the home stadium of Club Atlético River Plate – is a fun way to appreciate the local fervor for football, even if you’re not an avowed football fan. Ask your guide about his or her favorite team for some real insider insight.
5. Check out Buenos Aires’s most unique museums
The Museo Evita is a must, with exhibits including photos and personal effects of Argentina’s iconic first lady. If opera is your thing, your guide will take you to Colón Fábrica, which displays costumes, sets and accessories. There’s also El Zanjon, where you can explore the site of Buenos Aires’s first settlement, which dates back to 1536.
6. Sip. Or not.
Buenos Aires has a great bar scene, and Elsewhere knows the best spots. If elegant and scene-y is your vibe, you can visit El Presidente, which caters to an international crowd or, if speakeasy-style spots are your thing, you can check out Uptown, reached through an underground entrance that looks like a New York subway car.
Book a trip: Two weeks of outdoor adventures in Argentina
Argentina is the second-largest country in South America after Brazil, and you can experience the best of it by requesting a personalized trip designed by Lucas from Elsewhere by Lonely Planet.
Arrive at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, 50 minutes from town. Stay at an array of boutique hotels, like Club Tapiz Hotel & Restó in Mendoza. See Perito Moreno Glacier, Aconcagua National Park, Bariloche and Mendoza.
Ask an insider
Elsewhere by Lonely Planet’s Buenos Aires-based expert Lucas shares why he loves his hometown.
What are your favorite things to do in Buenos Aires? Why do you love it here?
I love to see my soccer team, of course! But also I like going out and sitting in a café and drinking a coffee – there are many, many options especially in Palermo where our office is. What I like most about Buenos Aires is the daily life, the vibrancy. Every neighborhood is different and has its own charm.
Okay, we know that Buenos Aires is one of the best places in the world to eat steak – where do you go?
Don Julio is probably the most famous parilla in Buenos Aires, and it deserves the accolades. The word “parilla” literally means “grill” so that’s how these types of restaurants got their name. Don Julio is a wonderful experience, from the quality of the meat to the ambience. I recommend making a reservation though.
Is there one place in particular in Buenos Aires that you love taking guests?
I like to take people to the Ateneo Grand Splendid – it’s one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It’s a converted opera theater and many of the features have been preserved, including the fabulous frescoed ceiling. Even people who aren’t self-professed book lovers are astounded. And there’s a cafe on what used to be the stage. I love seeing the looks on people’s faces when we go there.
If you have a friend visiting and they want to get out of the city for the day, what would you suggest?
A visit to Tigre, just north of Buenos Aires. It’s the gateway to the rivers and wetlands of the Paraná Delta. Instead of roads, there are rivers and you get around by boat. The kids who go to school take a school boat instead of a school bus.
Some visitors join a boat trip with lots of tourists but we work with some people who were born and raised here and have their own small boats that have been restored. You can do 2-3 hours navigation in the interior channels of the delta – unlike the tourist boats which go on the main “rivers” – it’s like the main roads vs the side streets. If the weather’s nice, you can go for a swim.
And what about you, you live here, what do you like to do on your days off?
I actually love to join tours of the city. I’m constantly adding to my knowledge of the city and about its history.