Here's how to see Buenos Aires like a local - and how we made the most of a few days in this Argentine capital city in 2019!
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One of the best ways to get a feel for a new city is to see it from a local's perspective. When Dylan and I visited Argentina as part of our round the world trip in 2019, I knew just the person to help us do that.
My friend Mike is an ex-pat living in Buenos Aires. We met in high school during 5th-period science class. Mike was relaxed, funny, and easygoing. He was a great friend to have and we kept in touch until around our junior year, then lost touch.
With fingers crossed Mike still lived in Argentina, I sent him a message on Facebook. His response was so filled with excitement it immediately made me realize why we were such good friends all those years ago.
“OMG NO WAY! No one has visited me here because Argentina is so far away. I’d love to be your tour guide!
Mike and his girlfriend Carla went above and beyond to show us the best spots to visit as a tourist - and a few to see as a local. From an ex-pat and a BA native, here are some of the best places to see Buenos Aires like a local. We saw a lot in four short days and can attest these are excellent spots to see in Buenos Aires.
See Buenos Aires Like a Local
- See Buenos Aires Like a Local
Plaza de Mayo & La Casa Rosada
Argentina's political history is volatile and packed with dramatic events. This is the main city square with heavy historical significance. It was the sight of demonstrations during the Dirty War (1974-1983) when families searched for their missing loved ones. Also located in the Plaza de Mayo is La Casa Rosada - the official home and mansion of Argentina’s President.
It’s interesting that in the US the President lives in the White House, and in Argentina, the president lives in The Pink House! This entire town square is worth a visit to explore and walk around the surrounding neighborhoods. You'll see street performers, demonstrations, historic monuments, and can get a feel for the pace of this city. Consider doing a free walking tour to learn more about the politics in Argentina over the last 100 years.
Are you thinking a cemetery is a strange tourist destination? Think again! This cemetery is very popular for locals and tourists for an afternoon stroll. It is filled with incredible gravesites and marble mausoleums. Eva Perón, the former First Lady of Argentina on which the musical Evita is based, is buried here.
The graves are interesting to wander through- some are so ornate and detailed. According to my research, you may only be buried here if there is a family grave already present. The cemetery is already packed and they’ve run out of room for more graves. Take some time to stroll through Recoleta's maze of graves - you'll find it's where many locals go for a walk as well.
Museo de Bellas Artes
This museum is small but packed with famous pieces from at of the greats- Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Renoir, and Degas. Argentina's history of artists and European immigration has given them a chance to amass a huge collection of paintings and sculptures.
The galleries were enjoyable to walk through on a rainy morning. If you find yourself visiting the city when the weather isn't ideal, a museum is a great place to still see Buenos Aires like a local. The variety of classical to modern art, as well as the collections of Argentine culture made for an interesting and enlightening time.
A tip from Carla - go on Tuesdays. Admission is free!
Caminitos & La Boca
While this neighborhood screams tourist central, it’s still worth a visit. This is the colorful and vibrant area of Buenos Aires known for its decorated buildings, dedication to local soccer teams, and outdoor tango.
There are statues of Pope Francis, street art, artisans, and musicians. Bars and restaurants have patios out front with live music and tango dancers. The prices will be higher and it will be filled with souvenirs and postcards, but it’s filled with Argentine culture and pride.
Sit down at one of the outdoor bars or restaurants and have a drink, cool off in the shade, and watch some tango!
Freddo Ice Cream in Buenos Aires
With tons of flavors and sin TACC options galore, I knew we had to try Freddo for their ice cream. Carla said she loved their flavors and I was eager to see how they were!
Pictured above is strawberry, chocolate; and an Argentine classic- dulce de leche. There are multiple Freddo locations so you’ll be able to find one wherever in Buenos Aires you’re staying. All three flavors were delicious and it was reasonably priced too.
For more gluten-free places in Buenos Aires, check out this detailed guide to visiting Buenos Aires with celiac disease.
This is one of the most interesting malls we had seen in our travels - until we got to Thailand, that is. It was filled with the typical clothing stores, but also had restaurants, play areas, an arcade, and more!
Abasto was more than just a shopping mall. Mike and Carla mentioned they went on their first date in Abasto and after seeing it, I totally get why. You can shop, rest, have a snack, eat dinner, play games, and be entertained for an entire afternoon. It's interesting to note that there weren't many tourists here - lots of locals shopping and hanging out with family and friends.
El Puerto & San Telmo
Buenos Aires is a huge, modern city bustling with life. Situated along the coast, it’s also a port. You can walk along the water and find restaurants and cafes as well as boats of different sizes. We strolled the port area for most of the morning and had an enjoyable walk.
One of the best ways to see Buenos Aires like a local is to go somewhere the locals go - like the San Telmo Market. Only open on Sundays, the San Telmo Market is an outdoor street market filled with vendors selling crafts, clothes, and art. You can also find local musicians and street performers, and maybe even some tango dancers.
While we didn’t buy anything at the market, the atmosphere was lively and it was packed with people. Argentina had a very social feel and everyone seemed eager to greet each other and make connections.
Cafés, Coffee & Tea
Embrace the relaxed lifestyle of Argentina and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the late afternoon. Be prepared- the coffees are small, yet strong.
While you’re there, you will usually have WiFi and can check in on your phone. Or, choose to stay disconnected and just enjoy the present moment and revel in the atmosphere- that's also recommended for any travel destination!
Make sure to grab a quick snack like a medialuna pastry, some gluten-free toast & jam (pictured above), or even empanadas.
Paseo el Rosedal
The rose garden in the Palermo neighborhood was absolutely stunning! Surrounded by a public park with statues of Hispanic poets, this garden was gorgeous and filled with tons of different flowers. There were roses in every color of the rainbow.
The Palermo neighborhood was one of our favorite places in Buenos Aires due to the large number of outdoor public spaces.
See Buenos Aires Like a Local: At The Parrilla
Every Argentine has a favorite parrilla. And if you want the best experience, ask them to show you where they get a good steak.
A parrilla is a grill, and the name refers to the restaurants in Argentina serving up Asado - barbecue and roasted meats. There are tons of these places in Buenos Aires, but like every local, Mike had his preference.
On our last night in Buenos Aires, we had our own experience of the best parrilla in Buenos Aires- a little hole-in-the-wall place in the Palermo neighborhood called Don Niceto. Mike and Carla met us there for dinner at 9:30 PM- just about dinner time in Argentina.
This was the type of place where there isn't a menu. The waiter came over and Mike immediately started running off a list in Spanish of foods to bring to the table. Dylan and I had no idea what was happening, and I speak Spanish!
After assuring me of the gluten-free choices (literally everything except the chorizo), we drank wine and beer, telling stories and awaiting our dinner.
We had blood sausages, chorizo, beef, fries with Provençal sauce, pico de Gallo, and more! Our favorite was achuras - intestines! With a squeeze of lemon on top, they were absolutely fantastic. Normally I never would have ordered something like that, but when a local says “You gotta try these!”, you don't back down.
We were the last ones in the restaurant and quickly took a group photo before grabbing an Uber back to our hostel. With promises of reuniting in Boston, we said goodbye to Mike and Carla and thanked them for helping us see Buenos Aires like a local with their favorite parrilla.
See Buenos Aires Like A Local: Final Thoughts
We had such a great few days in Buenos Aires with help from our friends. They were excellent tour guides and even on the days they couldn't show us around, they provided tips for the places you see listed here.
If you have the chance to visit Argentina, you should definitely make a point to stop in Buenos Aires. It's filled with excellent public spaces, exciting flair, and wonderful food.
A trip anywhere is always better with tips from a local, and ours was definitely improved having guidance from our favorite tour guides Mike and Carla. We hope to see them again real soon!
¡Gracias por todo Mike y Carla! ¡Un abrazo!