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Things to do in Buenos Aires

From tango lessons (you know you want to) to cemetery walking tours, there is an incredible variety of things you absolutely must do in Buenos Aires. Wander through bohemian neighbourhoods bursting with colour, discover city squares that whisper stories of days gone by, and feel yourself filled with the kind of passion for life this ‘Paris of South America’ is known for. What will you get up to in Buenos Aires?

Explore historic Recoleta Cemetery

In the charming neighbourhood of Recoleta, a neo-classical gateway beckons you to enter Argentina's famous city of the dead. Located on a hill, the labyrinthine cemetery is the final resting place of some of Argentina's most illustrious citizens, one of whom is the country's iconic first lady, Eva “Evita” Peron. Wandering through Recoleta Cemetery is a mesmerising experience, taking you past thousands of coffins, crypts, sarcophagi and statues in the various architectural styles of art deco, baroque, art nouveau and neo-gothic. This jumbled maze of headstones includes miniature Baroque cathedrals, Greek temples, towering marble mausoleums and over 90 of these are listed as national historical monuments. While a huge number of the graves have a fascinating story behind them, a few significant ones stand out. Make sure you see the Paz family mausoleum, the mausoleum of Liliana Crociati de Szaszak and the tomb of Rufina Cambaceres, all epic resting places, each in its own way. The Cemetery is open daily, with free tours in English on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Don't forget to pick up a map when you arrive.
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Dance the tango at a milonga

The identity of Buenos Aires is entwined with the tango, the dramatic and passionate dance that was forged in the city's working class immigrant neighbourhoods in the middle of the nineteenth century. Today, experiencing the tango – whether as an observer or participant – is one of the most incredible things to do in Buenos Aires. You can see tango just about anywhere, from professional stage shows and musical performances to tango-themed cafes and at the humble milonga. The milonga is a traditional Argentinian social gathering in which the style of tango is more cheek-to-cheek than flamboyant, reminiscent of the small steps and very close embrace which emerged in the crowded downtown clubs of the 1950s. Milongas can be held in fancy dance halls, cosy bars, simple community centres or anywhere there is room to dance. Check out local apps or the website of the City Tourism Office of Buenos Aires for an updated list of where to find milongas, or take a tango lesson.
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Find inspiration at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA)

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) is Argentina's most significant fine art museum. It is located in the Recoleta neighbourhood, is part of the Museum Mile, and was established in 1896. Today the museum showcases national and international art in 30 galleries, across three floors and is one of the most popular Buenos Aires tourist attractions. MNBA has one of the largest collections of art in Argentina, with more than 12,000 works that include paintings, sculptures, illustrations, textiles and objects. While the collections of Argentine and South American art might not be as internationally famous as the works of the European masters, look out for the gauchos (Argentine cowboys) of Cesareo Bernaldo de Quiros' oil paintings, and the vibrant port scenes painted by Benito Quinquela Martín, of El Caminito fame in La Boca. Then there are the very big names. MNBA contains works by El Greco, Rembrandt, Goya, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Degas, Kandinsky, Picasso and more. The museum is closed Mondays, open from 11am until 8pm every other weekday, and opens at 10am on weekends.
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Go to Palermo for polo and horse racing

The largest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires is also home to two very important horse-sport venues: the Hipodromo Argentino (Palermo Racecourse) and Argentine Polo Ground, regarded as the ‘cathedral of polo'. If you're keen to see a polo match while you're in Buenos Aires, you may as well see the best. November to December is when the annual Argentine Open polo tournament is held, which is recognised as the most important inter-club polo tournament in the world. Organise those tickets early! Also in November is the Argentine Derby or El Gran Premio Nacional, which is a buzzing event and fantastic way to experience the charm of the historic venue which opened in 1876. This is when Argentina's best colts are raced for big money and is a highlight on the social calendar of ‘portenos' as inhabitants of Buenos Aires are known. Palermo gives you two famous Buenos Aires landmarks in the one barrio, plus a whole lot of history and atmosphere thrown in, so don't miss it.
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Be dazzled at Teatro Colon opera house

What do the cities of Milan, Paris, London and Buenos Aires have in common? Arguably the best opera houses in the world. What makes these buildings so exceptional is the superior acoustics and Teatro Colon proudly claims its place amongst this elite group. Taking twenty years to build and opening in 1908, Teatro Colon's stunning surrounds still offer one of the must-do Buenos Aires experiences. The architecture of Teatro Colon is very much in the eclectic style of the early 20th century, with the horseshoe-shaped main stage reminiscent of a classic European theatre. The ornate decor includes Italian marble, stained glass from France, Venetian mosaics and a grand central chandelier of 700 lights suspended above the seven-tier main theatre, which accommodates 3,000 patrons in sumptuous red velvet seats. (Wow.) The orchestra pit can hold 120 musicians and together with the resonance chamber, special curves to reflect the sound, proportions of the theatre and the construction materials, create acoustics that are considered to be perfect. How could you miss a night at the opera, when this is what's waiting for you in Buenos Aires?
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Discover the very pink Casa Rosada

Also known as the Pink House for obvious reasons, the Casa Rosada is the Presidential Palace and officially called the Casa de Gobierno (Government House). Located on the eastern end of Plaza de Mayo and built on a former fort in the late 19th century, Casa Rosada is the executive building of the President of Argentina. Its eclectic mixture of architectural styles can be attributed to different architects from France, Italy and Sweden who were commissioned to modify the building. Make sure you notice the Italianate portico at the entrance, built in 1825, and the balcony looking onto Plaza de Mayo. It's from this balcony that Eva 'Evita' Perón famously rallied the working class, and also where Madonna sang in the film 'Evita'. So why pink? The palace's distinctive colour is said to be the idea of the late 19th-century President Domingo Sarmiento. He ordered the palace to be painted in this hue as a symbol of unification between two feuding political parties whose colours were red and white respectively.
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Expand your horizons at the Museum of Latin American Art (MALBA)

Its full name is the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, which is why most people refer to this incredible museum by its acronym: MALBA. Located in the district of Palermo, MALBA is home to one of the world's most important collections of Latin American Art. It's an exciting cultural space, housing a wow-factor permanent exhibition that includes works of art by Frida Kahlo, Roberto Matta, Diego Rivera, Joaquin Torres-Garcia, Antonio Berni and more. The building itself is also a jaw-dropper. Architectural luminaries such as Sir Norman Foster judged the design competition, with the winning entry becoming the building you see today, constructed from limestone, steel and glass. The work of artists from all over the world is also regularly displayed in temporary exhibits, and MALBA has a cinema, bookstore, great cafe and gift shop.
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Soak up the atmosphere in vibrant La Boca

Named for its location at the mouth (la boca) of the Richuelo River, La Boca is a colourful bohemian neighbourhood and a day spent exploring its streets is one of the best things to do in Buenos Aires. This vibrant, character-filled working class area has a story to tell, just about anywhere you wander. It's most unique (and most photographed) area is the colourful Calle Museo Caminito, meaning 'little walkway'. This is an is an outdoor museum teeming with tango dancers, street performers, artisans and tourists. The street itself is the canvas of local artist Benito Quinquela Martin who painted the walls of an abandoned street and constructed a crude stage for performances in 1960. The area soon became a magnet for artists and performers and retains its flamboyant charm with cobblestone streets, colourful corrugated-iron houses (coventillos) and artists' studios. Another major drawcard is the La Bombonera football stadium, which is home to the world-famous Boca Juniors club, the former team of football god Diego Maradona.
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Step back in time at El Zanjon de Granados

Regarded as the most significant historical and archaeological site in the city, El Zanjon is a big drawcard for history buffs and anyone interested in what life in Buenos Aires might have been like over the centuries. This glimpse of history was revealed in the 1980s, when during renovations of an Italian-style house, the owner found the foundations of an 18th century colonial-era home. That was just the beginning. As well as three centuries of urban living, taking you back to the era of Spanish settlement, the site also revealed a 150-metre network of tunnels that has taken over 20 years to excavate. All of these amazing findings are now on show in the private museum of El Zanjon. There is a guided tour in English and we recommend calling ahead to ensure the English tour is running when you wish to visit.
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Marvel at El Obelisco

This unmissable monument is the unofficial centre of Buenos Aires and was built in 1936 to commemorate Buenos Aires' 400th anniversary. The obelisk is made from Cordoba white stone and was constructed in only 31 days. Each side tells a different story, covering four of the most defining moments in the history of Buenos Aires. Built on the original site of the San Nicolas church, today the obelisk stands at the juncture of two of the most significant streets in the city: the super-wide avenue 9 de Julio, and long entertainment strip Corrientes. When you're in the vicinity of the obelisk, take a moment to see it as more than a pillar of stone. El Obelisco is a rallying point for Argentinians and a powerful symbol of the nation's capital. It is where the people of Buenos Aires – and further afield – have come to celebrate sporting glory, to hold candlelit vigils, to protest and to dance.
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Feel the history in the Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo is the oldest public square in Buenos Aires and if you're keen to see some of the most important buildings in the city, this is the place to be. The plaza is named after the Argentine revolution, which began on May 25, 1810. This square has witnessed many of the city's historically significant events including the second founding of the city in 1580, the revolution of independence, and most recently, political demonstrations. It's also the meeting place for the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) who began meeting in the square in 1977 to demand information about their missing children during Argentina's last military dictatorship. They still meet in the Plaza every Thursday at 3.30pm. Buildings adjacent the square include Casa Rosada (see above), Pyramide de Mayo, the Metropolitan Cathedral (where Pope Francis led mass as Archbishop of Buenos Aires) and the Cabildo (Colonial Town Hall).
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