Buenos Aires, the large thriving cosmopolitan capital city of Argentina, has a wonderful reputation. Nicknamed the Paris of South America, it’s vibrant, cosmopolitan and beautiful. There are many ways you can break the bank during your time here. However if you’re looking to save the pennies, we’ve done the research for you and selected the best free things to do in Buenos Aires.
1. Marvel at the tombs of La Recoleta Cemetery
Found at the top of Plaza Francis, La Recoleta is undisputedly one of the world’s greatest graveyards. This citadel for the dead has over 6,400 mausoleums spread over 14 acres. Only the most influential and powerful Argentines can hope to be laid to rest here with tombs dedicated to past presidents, army generals and entertainers. It’s also the final resting place for Argentina’s first lady and national treasure Eva Perón, also known as Evita.
It’s easy to spend hours meandering along the walkways past the elegant memorials. The marble mausoleums, decorated with impressive statues, combine an array of architecture styles. They are imposing and spectacular, some with a spine-tingling history. For example the story behind the tomb of Rufina Cambacérès who is said to have been buried alive in 1902.
2. Tour the street’s graffiti
Over recent years, Buenos Aires has become known as one of the world’s capitals for street art and graffiti. More than 130 well-known artists have made their mark on the city. There are no restrictions in place for where artists can paint, they just need the consent of the building owner. Therefore the result is huge murals, representing the history, culture and politics of Buenos Aires, spread across the city’s walls.
While there are many walking tours you can pay to join, it’s easy to enjoy your own self-guided tour. There are many routes you can follow leading you through the colourful and vibrant barrios of Palermo, Caballito and Colegiales.
3. Free tango lessons in Belgrano
The hip-swinging, foot-stamping tango is by far one of Argentina’s best exports. A visit to Buenos Aires would not be complete without trying your hand at this passionate dance. Although don’t feel like you have to break the bank on expensive lessons or commit to a pricey dinner and show package.
Head over to Barrancas de Belgrano park on a Sunday night to take part in the ‘La Glorieta’ milonga where there are free lessons from 7 pm. And while it may take a few lessons to perfect the moves it seems Argentinians are born with the ability to do, we don’t think you can say you’ve truly visited Buenos Aires till you’ve given it a go.
4. Head out on a walking tour
One of the best ways to explore a new city you’ve just arrived in is with a walking tour, introducing you to both the geography and history. Free Walks offers two routes for you to join. One takes you through Recoleta, stopping at the palaces, parks and monuments of one of Buneos Aires most pleasant area. The other through the city centre, visiting Buenos Aires’ iconic sights whilst teaching you about its history.
As it’s ranked the number one walking tour on TripAdvisor, it comes pretty highly recommended. While it’s free, its asked you give the knowledgeable guide a tip.
5. Visit Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur
Many parts of Buenos Aires are busy with a whirlwind of vibrant energy. Found close to Puerto Madero, Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur is an idyllic and peaceful place to retreat from city life. Whilst here you’ll be surrounded by nature, you’ll still be able to see the skyscrapers of Buenos Aires. It’s the perfect location for picnics, walks and bike rides. Or even a run for those looking to burn off some of the steak and wine from the night before.
There are 300 species of bird to be spotted here including parrots, swans and kingfishers. There are also river turtle, iguana and nutria. The 350 hectare reserve takes about an hour to walk around, when not including stops to watch the wildlife or take photos of the scenery along the way.
6. Tour the Casa Rosada
The Pink Presidential Palace stands on the eastern side of Plaza de Mayo, the grand building dominating the picturesque square. Home to the presidential offices, its also known as the place where Eva Perón’s gave her famous address from the balcony to the thousands of supporters below. It has been the setting for many important moments in Buenos Aires’ history.
On Saturdays and Sundays you can visit the building for free and enjoy one of the complimentary hour-long tours. You’ll just need to make sure you take your passport to be admitted. And arrive early as the tours are first come first serve. You’ll get a glimpse into the President’s office, the Hall of Honour and the stained glass gallery. And of course, you’ll get a chance to look out from the famous balcony.
7. Visit Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
The city’s great art work isn’t just restricted to the street’s walls. The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is free to enter and is the largest public collection in Latin America. The 24 exhibitions holds 12,000 pieces of artwork. There are masterpieces from Argentina’s greats including Benito Quinquela Martín, Xul Solar, Eduardo Sívori and a whole room dedicated to Antonio Berni, These are alongside work by some of the world’s greats such as Picasso, Rembrandt and van Gogh.
Definitely one for art-buffs, we’re sure you’ll find something to capture your imagination. Free tours in English on the Argentinean art and are held at 1pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
8. Browse the San Telmo flea market
If you find yourself in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, head to the old neighbourhood of San Telmo for the famous flea market. Set up in Plaza Dorrego, the 270 stalls are full to the brim of treasures including antiques, trinkets, jewellery and pieces of art. Even without the buzz of the flea market, San Telmo is a picturesque and charming part of the city thanks to the narrow cobbled streets and colonial houses.
When it comes to this flea market, the early bird catches the worm. That is, if the worm is an antique backgammon board. With 20,000 visitors arriving between 10 am and 4 pm every Sunday, it’s definitely advised to show up early to make the most of the offerings before the crowds descend. For those not wishing to spend any money, the market hosts many street performances and tango displays as well as great people watching opportunities.
9. Walk through Bosques de Palermo
Every city needs an iconic park. And for Buenos Aires theirs is the 980 acre Bosque de Palermo. The picturesque space was originally a private retreat for the 19th century Juan Manuel de Rosas. However it became a public park after his fall from power on 3rd February 1852.
Visitors can choose how active or relaxed their visit is with it possible to rent roller-skates, bikes and paddle boats for a small fee. Or you can simply recline and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and weather. It can easily be argued the highlight of this park is the rose garden. The three acres holds 18,000 flowers of hundreds of varieties – it’s a wonderfully peaceful place for a romantic walk.
10. Watch the cowboys come to town
As well as being the land of steak, red wine and tango, Buenos Aires is home to the famous gauchos. Every Sunday you can travel to the Feria de Mataderos to watch as they come into the city.
The gauchos perform horseback demonstrations in their full cowboy outfits, a tradition dating back to the 1800s as well as cattle traders congregating to hawk their herds. There are a number of stands serving regional food including chorípan, empanadas and stews of maiz, beans and potatoes. An incredible authentic Argentinean experience.
However you want to experience Buenos Aires, have a browse of our group tours.