The National History Museum is housed in a handsome, colonial-era mansion within Parque Lezama, a pretty, shady park in San Telmo. Chronologically arranged from the 16th to the 20th centuries, the exhibitions contain portraits, clothing and belongings from key historical figures in Argentina, as well as objects relating to the May Revolutions and the Wars of Independence. To be honest, it's a bit of a dusty, old-fashioned museum, and little is offered by way of explanation on the exhibits, but still, it's a splendid building and the collections are worth a gander to get a feel for the events that shaped Buenos Aires.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The National History Museum sheds light on what helped make Buenos Aires what it is today.
Sarah's expert tip: Before or after going to the National History Museum, take some time to relax in Parque Lezama. Bring some mate (yerba mate) if you want to hang out like a local.
Looking for a bit of nature in the big city? Though there are many parks in Buenos Aires, the Reserva Ecol�gica is the city's favorite and most rugged green lung. At this 350 hectare park you can enjoy walking, running and cycling along the paths while taking in the trees and natural landscape. If you sit quietly, however, you can observe some of the birds that live in the park. The Reserva Ecol�gica is normally open from 8 am to 5 pm, but the park also hosts a monthly full moon guided walk on the Friday closest to the full moon. The four hour walk has to be booked in advance.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This green space in Puerto Madero is a popular place to get in touch with nature.
Sarah's expert tip: There are free guided bird tours on the second Friday of each month. Guides will point out some of the 307 bird species found in the park.
This delightful, city-center park stretches from the grand, British-built Retiro station at the bottom of the hill up to shady, tree-lined walkways at the top, which is the northern end of the pedestrian shopping street, Calle Florida. The park is surrounded on all sides by historic, iconic buildings: the art deco skyscraper Edificio Kavanagh, once the tallest building in South America; the Bas�lica del Sant�simo Sacramento, an ornate church; the early 20th century Palacio San Mart�n, the palace once owned by the wealthy Anchorena family; and the Palacio Paz (now the C�rculo Militar), built as the residence of wealthy newspaper founder, Jos� C Paz. You can't miss the park's giant ombu tree, a native herb of the Pampas renowned for its tremendously wide trunk and canopy-like branches. Near Retiro station is the black marble monument to the soldiers who lost their lives in the Falklands War. With an irony not overlooked by the authorities, it stands opposite the Torre Monumental (more commonly known by its previous name, Torre de los Ingleses), which looks like Big Ben and was a gift from Anglo-Argentines to Argentina for the centennial celebrations.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Plaza San Martín is a central patch of green surrounded by several iconic buildings.
Sarah's expert tip: Plaza San Martín is located near the Retiro train station and the bus terminal. Stop by on your way in or out of the city.
Built at the end of the 19th century, the Casa Rosada (literally the "Pink House" in Spanish) is Argentina's Presidential Palace, which occupies the eastern end of the Plaza de Mayo, the city's political epicenter. In addition to archaeological remains of old Buenos Aires and displays depicting the city's long history, the museum exhibits a selection of belongings from Argentine presidents over the decades, including portraits, clothes, cartoons, chairs, carriages, military stripes, medals and tassels. Apart from the museum, be sure to tour the Presidential Palace itself. They offer hour-long guided tours in English, Spanish and Portuguese about every ten minutes.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The museum is a great introduction to local and national history.
Sarah's expert tip: The Museo de la Casa Rosada (in existence from 1957 to 2010) was superseded by the Museo del Bicentenario, which opened in 2011 and expanded the original collection.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This pleasant square is flanked by some of the nation's most important buildings and the space is deeply rooted in the nation's consciousness.
Sarah's expert tip: When there are demonstrations, as there are occasionally, the demonstrators will almost surely interrupt the flow of traffic in the streets surrounding the square. Use the subte (Buenos Aires' subway) to bypass traffic.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Always free, the Botanical Garden is a popular and pretty slice of green in Palermo.
Sarah's expert tip: The Botanical Garden closes on the days that it rains, so if you suspect inclement weather, it's best to have a backup plan handy. Luckily, there's plenty to do in the area.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Metropolitan Cathedral is a beautiful, historical place to visit - for free.
Sarah's expert tip: Don't miss the grand Mausoleum of General San Martin, where Argentines pay their respects to the man most often credited with liberating the nation from the Spanish.
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 Mar�a Eva Duarte de Per�n, or Evita, whose grave is surrounded by a crowd of camera-wielding tourists at all times.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: A visit to Recoleta Cemetery is one gorgeous (and free) stroll through Argentina's history.
Sarah's expert tip: While there is a lot of value in wandering aimlessly and exploring the strangely beautiful cemetery, if you are looking to see a particular grave, be sure to consult the map at the entrance.
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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: An ocean of calm, the Rosedal is an extremely beautiful oasis in Buenos Aires.
Sarah's expert tip: The Rose Garden is open year round and is lovely at any time of the year. Also, there are restrooms on site when nature calls.
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 S�vori, 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.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This free-admission museum houses Argentina's finest art collections and is one of the leading museums for Latin American art.
Sarah's expert tip: To get a different perspective on the art here, plan to take one of the free guided tours, which are available in English or Spanish.