Buenos Aires' 10 Best Attractions (Other than Tango)



While you could argue for or against Buenos Aires’ denomination as the “Paris of South America” until you’re blue in the face, the truth is that the Argentine capital is a singularly attractive city with lots of grand Neoclassical buildings, wide avenues and more than its fair share of historic and cultural attractions. Unless you decide to stay for six months or more, like many foreigners decide to do since Buenos Aires can be a decidedly hard city to leave behind, you’ll unfortunately have to be more discerning with your choices and your time. To help with these hard decisions, we present “Buenos Aires’ 10 Best Attractions (Other Than Tango).”

Here you will find numerous cultural options like opera and concerts at the Colon Theatre and modern art exhibitions at the revered MALBA. Trace Buenos Aires’ fascinating history at sites like the hauntingly elegant Recoleta Cemetery and kitschy portside Caminito. Find peace as you stroll through the cat-filled Botanical Garden or amidst the roses, fountains and swans at the Rosedal. Enjoy historic squares that are still very much in use, like the politically important Plaza de Mayo encircled by grand buildings like the Metropolitan Cathedral, known as the Pope’s Church.



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The work of French landscape architect Carlos Thays, this Palermo park, which dates back to the late 19th century, is still a glorious oasis in the modern city. The gardens are dotted with sculptures, fountains and busts, and the green-minded will find plenty of interest among the thousands of plants and trees. Popular with locals searching for peace and quiet (or a place to read or sunbathe), Buenos Aires' Botanical Garden is also inhabited by a huge population of stray cats. Try popping in for a daytime stroll when you need a break from all the shopping and socializing in nearby Palermo Soho.


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Designed by French architect René Sargent for the wealthy Errázuriz-Alvear family in the early 20th century and converted into a museum in 1937, the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo is well worth a visit for the dazzling Neoclassical building alone. Visitors are now free to roam the staggeringly spacious ballrooms, bedrooms, hallways and entrances. All feature sculptures, paintings and dazzling objets d'art, and provide a fascinating insight into life in Buenos Aires in its wealthy heyday. In addition to the permanent collections, the museum regularly has temporary exhibitions. Be sure to stop for afternoon tea in the outdoor café (Café Croque Madame).


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The Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral is a splendid church with soaring ceilings, beautiful stained glass, marble columns and frescoes on the walls. The Rococo style altarpiece features the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity, and the large German organ dates from 1871. Look down to appreciate the Italian-style mosaics that cover the cathedral floor. In the cathedral you will also find the Mausoleum of General San Martin, a national hero in Argentina for his part in the nation's independence. Today the cathedral is known as the Pope's church. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013, the year he was elected and became known as Pope Francis.


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Housed in a hulk of a building (originally a pumping station) on the busy traffic artery of Avenida del Libertador, the National Museum of Fine Arts is a vast treasury of Argentinian and Latin American art and painting from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as one of the most important in Latin America. In the dozens of rooms you'll find heavyweight Argentinian artists like Antonio Berni, Eduardo Sívori, Ernest de la Carcova and Xul Solar. Although the emphasis here is on Latin American art, you'll also find important collections of European art and a smattering of American and Asian art.


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A central square has existed on this site since the 16th century, but the current name, Plaza de Mayo, commemorates May 25, 1810, the day the Argentine Congress declared independence from Spain. Many of the dramas of Argentina's history (and there have been plenty) have played out on this stage, the political heart of the city. At one end stands the Casa Rosada, the pink-hued seat of the executive branch of government; at the other, the Cabildo, the government building until 1821; and on the northern flank, the imposing Cathedral. The Madres de Plaza de Mayo, mothers of those who "disappeared" during the military dictatorship of 1976 and 1983, still demonstrate here on Thursday afternoons at 3:30 pm.


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Teatro Colón

 

Considered one of the finest opera houses in the world and an impressive sight even from the outside, the Colón opened its first season in 1908, after some 20 years of construction. Its classical horseshoe auditorium makes for great sight lines and acoustics, and it is often cited as one of the top five opera houses worldwide. During the season (meaning not January or February) you can buy tickets to see grand opera and ballet productions, as well as hear the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra. Otherwise, there are guided tours throughout the day every day, even on most holidays, where you can get a closer look at this Buenos Aires jewel.


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Palermo

 

The MALBA is the city's leading modern art museum and one of its star cultural assets. Housed in a striking modern building, it harbors, in addition to its airy galleries of art, a chic café, a neat shop (selling a variety of emerging Argentinian designs, as well as postcards and art books) and a cinema screening cutting-edge international art house fare. The permanent Constantini Collection is well worth a look for Latin American contemporary art, but be sure to check out the temporary exhibitions, which could feature anything from an Argentinian design retrospective to an edgy photography show. In case you were wondering, the acronym MALBA stands for Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires).


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Built in 1936 from white stone to commemorate the city's founding, the Obelisk, or Obelisco, is one of Buenos Aires' most important monuments and an icon of the city itself. The Obelisk stands 67.5 meters tall at the intersection of 9 de Julio Avenue, the widest avenue in the world, and Corrientes Avenue. The 9 de Julio subway (subte) stations are nearby. On special occasions the Obelisk is wrapped with decorations or illuminated with colored lights. The Obelisk's architect, Alberto Prebisch, also designed the Teatro Gran Rex, an Art Deco theater modeled after Radio City Music Hall in New York.


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Palermo

 

In a noisy metropolis like Buenos Aires, the romantic and fairy-tale setting that is the Rose Garden with its boating lake (with pedal boats and row boats for hire) and pretty white trellises (usually occupied by courting couples) is a much-treasured gem. Stroll the manicured paths or sit on the benches to admire all the beautiful roses as well as statues and fountains. Nestled in a corner of the garden, you can find the Patio Andaluz with its painted tile from Sevilla. Part of Palermo's extensive Parque Tres de Febrero (also known as Bosques de Palermo), it was, like the Botanical Garden, the design of Frenchman Carlos Thays.


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One of the world's great cemeteries and one of the city's most memorable sights, Recoleta tops most tourists' Buenos Aires itineraries. A city in miniature, the cemetery, which opened to the public in 1822, is a dreamy vision of domes, pantheons and sculptures right in the heart of the city. The great and good of BA are laid to rest here – scientists, writers, presidents and the just plain rich. Most graves are well kept while others appear abandoned to time. The cemetery's most famous resident is María Eva Duarte de Perón, or Evita, whose grave is surrounded by a crowd of camera-wielding tourists at all times.


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Meet Sarah Rogers

Born and raised in northern California, Sarah grew up to become an expat, traveler and wordsmith. She spent seven years in Madrid, Spain and now calls Buenos Aires, Argentina home. She has had...  More About Sarah

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