Buenos Aires for free

By | Category: Travel destinations

Buenos Aires is no longer the bargain destination it once was owing to the currency devaluation implemented in December by Mauricio Macri – the first centre right president in 12 years – but happily some of the best things to do in Argentina’s capital are free…

Recoleta Cemetery
Buenos Aires’ number one  tourist attraction? Take a bow Recoleta Cemetery (Junin 1760; 8am-6pm).
This city of the dead is where generations of Argentina’s great and good – including Evita – were buried. Even better? It’s absolutely free to  see Evita’s final resting place.  And don’t worry about missing Eva Duarte’s mausoleum – simply follow the crowds or join a complimentary tour that’s offered in English at 11am every Tuesday and Thursday. If you’re visiting on weekends, check out Feria Artsenal. Located just outside the cemetery, this hugely popular fair sells a fantastic range of homemade goods.

San Telmo market
The barrio of San Telmo is famous for its narrow cobbled streets and crumbling villas  – and the Feria de San Telmo (from 10am) – an unmissable Sunday market selling some of BA’s best arts, crafts and souvenirs including bombilla, the metal straw used to drink Argentina’s beloved Mate (a bitter herb drink). Even if shopping isn’t your bag, the San Telmo street market is worth visiting for the atmosphere alone: expect to see colourful street performances plus vendors loudly peddling freshly squeezed orange juice and empanadas (super South American pies).

La Casa Rosada

The Presidential palace – whose pretty pink hue demonstraes what happens when pigs blood is mixed with white paint – is home to the balcony where Argentina’s most famous son, Diego Maradona (a footballing god who made an enormous amount noise both on and off the pitch) greeted crowds from the balcony after winning the 1986 World Cup for Argentina. The pink palace is also where Evita – the country’s beloved First Lady – used to address her legion of fans often called the descamisados (shirtless ones) owing to their impoverished status.
The focal point of Plaza 25 de Mayo (named after the date of the first successful revolution in South America that eventually led to independence), you can tour the building for free on a Saturday or Sunday upon presentation of your passport.

Reserva Ecologica
When the hustle and bustle of BA gets too much – as it will  – escape to the Reserva Ecologica. Compromising 360 hectares of wetlands, the Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur – to give it it’s full name – is a popular place for hikers, picnicers, bird watchers (expect to see 300 species), bikers, nature lovers – river turtles, iguanas and nutria are all present and correct – alike. For the best views of the Rio Plata’s muddy waters, head to the eastern shoreline of the reserve.

La Boca
Working class La Boca is loaded with charm and colourful corrugated metal buildings (the ones that you see on the cover of every guidebook). It doesn’t cost a penny to stroll El Caminito – the barrio’s most famous street and browse the crafts and watch the tango dancers strut their stuff. Close by lies the legendary La Bombonera stadium where Argentina’s favourite football team play in their famous la azul y oro (blue and gold) strip. Tickets to a Boca Juniors game are notioriously expensive not to mention almost impossible to obtain but if you’re content to just take photos outside …. Keep your camera close though for while Buenos Aires is much safer than other Latin American destinations, in barrios like La Boca you do need to exercise caution and common sense.

Feria de Mataderos
BA’s best kept secret, the Feria de Mataderos is held every Sunday in the working class barrio of Materados. Admittedly Materados is a bit of a schlep to reach (you’ll need to take bus 126, 155 or 180 from downtown for around 90 minutes) but it’s worth it to watch gauchos (Argentine cowboys) and folk singers entertain the crowds. The highlight however is the La sortija show: gauchos gallop at their fastest along a corridor of sand before rising up out of their saddle– leaving just their feet in the stirrups – in an attempt to spear a small ring, all the while cheered on by rowdy locals.

Milonga madness

One essential is to experience a milonga (traditional tango dance night.) Argentina is synonymous with sultry tango – a passionate dance that has seduced the world – and nowhere more so than Buenos Aires, where the spirit of tango oozes on every street corner. Confiteria Ideal (the grand dame of BA’s tango scene) and La Cathedral (quite possibly Baires’ coolest tango club) are mentioned in every guide book and for good reason but if you’re on a budget, look to La Glorieta – a free outdoor milonga which takes place every Saturday and Sunday evening at the Barrancas de Belgrano bandstand.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Argentina’s most important national arts museum contains works by A-list Argentine artists such as  Edwardo Sivori, Xul Solar, Benito Quinquela Martin alongside masterpieces by European heavyweights like Toulouse Latrec, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso and crucially for those whose purse strings are suffering, entry is completely gratis!

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