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Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Argentina

From the desert plains of the north, through the Andes Mountains and green pampas, and to the icy frontier of Patagonia, Argentina lures travelers with its diverse geography. The obvious starting point is Buenos Aires, Argentina’s free-spirited capital, where the old-school romance of the tango is offset by an electric nightlife scene, a passion for fútbol (soccer), and the meat-mad feast offered at parrillas (grill houses). From the capital, long distances and big landscapes divide Argentina, so tours can help visitors cover more ground in one trip. Many visitors go west into the Pampas to ride horses with gauchos (cowboys), enjoy Malbec wine tasting amid the vineyards of Mendoza—650 miles (1,046 kilometers) from Buenos Aires—or head north, where boats dot the water under the UNESCO-listed Iguazú Falls, a good 15-hour drive away. Journeying south, travelers snake through Argentina’s natural wonders in the lake district of Bariloche and along the Andean border with Chile, before hitting the wilderness of Patagonia. Stretching to Ushuaia, 2,000 miles (3,218 kilometers) south of Buenos Aires at South America’s southern tip, it’s a region of ice-capped mountains and shimmering glaciers, where penguins abound and touring ships glide beneath the gigantic icebergs of the Perito Moreno Glacier. In stark contrast, arid desert, red rock canyons, and sweeping highlands hem in the northwestern cities of Salta and Jujuy. Still somewhat off the beaten track, travelers here walk past gigantic cacti in Los Cardones National Park, marvel at Salta’s glistening salt flats, and discover otherworldly rock formations at Ischigualasto Provincial Park.
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Guemes Gallery (Galeria Güemes)
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Dazzling shoppers on Buenos Aires’ central Florida Street, the Guemes Gallery, or Galería Güemes, is one of the city’s finest gallerias, making headlines as the highest building in Argentina when it first opened in 1915. Designed by legendary Italian architect, Francesco Gianotti (the brains behind the landmark Confiteria del Molino building on Plaza Congresso), the domed atrium towers 87 meters over downtown Buenos Aires and still offers spectacular 360-degree panoramic views from its 14th floor observation deck.

A striking composition of Art Nouveau styles, the Gallery’s decadent interiors are a breathtaking college of ornamental archways, beautiful ironwork, sculpted granite walls and exquisite stained glass. The upper floor apartments are equally impressive, having hosted a smattering of famous names over the years, most notably writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, to whom a photography collection is devoted to on the 2nd level.

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Recoleta
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126 Tours and Activities

The ritzy Recoleta neighborhood draws visitors in the numbers for a wander through Buenos Aires’ up-market residential streets and public parks.

For most visitors, the main attraction is the Recoleta Cemetery, an ornate necropolis so large it’s like a mini city of states and marble sarcophagi. One of the most famous tombs is that of Eva Peron (Evita).

The enclave also attracts thousands of people for its weekend crafts market, held on Plaza Francia outside the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar.

Museums and art galleries, lovely plazas and parklands are another feature of Recoleta.

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Puerto Madero
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128 Tours and Activities

Once a lackluster cargo port, the waterfront area of Puerto Madero is now one of Buenos Aires’ most fashionable districts, teeming with upmarket restaurants and glitzy nightclubs. Marooned from the mainland by the Rio de la Plata estuary, the largely pedestrianized island is celebrated for housing some of the city’s most architecturally stunning buildings. Luxury apartments, plush hotels and high-rise office towers dominate the area, encircling a stylish waterfront plaza and backed by an expanse of naturally preserved parkland.

The barrio’s pièce de résistance is the iconic Puente de la Mujer, or the Woman’s Bridge, an artistic swing-bridge that connects Puerto Madero to the mainland hub of Plaza de Mayo. The futuristic design by Spanish sculpture Santiago Calatrava, is said to symbolize an abstract tango dance and casts a striking silhouette on the city skyline.

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Plaza de Mayo
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265 Tours and Activities

Plaza de Mayo is Buenos Aires’ political heart, first mapped out in 1580. Today, the grassy, treed plaza attracts visitors with cameras and relaxing locals, and is also the venue for rallies and gatherings.

The center of the plaza features an obelisk called the Pirámide de Mayo, erected to commemorate independence from Spain. Grand 19th century buildings line the plaza, but the colonial arches that once circled the plaza are long gone. Nearby are the city council buildings known as the Cabildo, the Casa Rosada government buildings and fine bank buildings.

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9 de Julio Avenue (Avenida 9 De Julio)
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124 Tours and Activities

Porteños often boast about Avenida 9 De Julio as the world’s widest boulevard, and with a width of 460 feet (140 meters) with 12 lanes of traffic, they might just be right. Construction on the avenue began in 1937, modeled after the Champs Elysees but twice as wide, and built to commemorate Argentina’s Independence Day, July 9, 1816. It wasn’t fully completed until 1980.

Neo-classical and Beaux Arts buildings line the monumental street, but it’s most recognizable feature is the iconic Obelisco that towers over a small park at the intersection of Avenida 9 De Julio and Avenida Corrientes.

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Floralis Generica
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The dramatic centerpiece of the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas, the Floralis Generica is a giant 18-ton aluminum flower sculpture that has become one of Buenos Aires’ most instantly recognizable landmarks. The quirky art installation was erected in 2002 in the parkland that bridges the city’s Palermo and Recoleta districts and features a striking mirrored finish that dazzles under the sun and glows red in the evening hours. Designed by Argentine architect Eduardo Catalano, the futuristic monument was envisioned in homage to his home city and was gifted to the public by him.

Most uniquely, the remote controlled sculpture is programmed to open and close its six petals with the sun, so that the flower is in bloom during daylight hours before closing up at sunset. Each morning (the petals open at 8am) and night crowds of locals and tourists gather in the park to watch the 20-minute spectacle, as the 66-foot-high flower changes color.

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Palermo
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171 Tours and Activities

Buenos Aires’ largest barrio, the northern district of Palermo encompasses a number of city hotspots, favored by the city’s most cosmopolitan and fashionable residents. The ever-trendy Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood make up the old quarter of Palermo Viejo where grand residential buildings jostle for space with quirky boutiques and some of the city’s finest bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Palermo is also renowned for its parks and there are plenty of idyllic green spaces to choose from. The tree-lined Bosques of Palermo is a hugely popular picnic spot centered around a glistening lake and the family-friendly Zoological Gardens are surrounded by the lush Botanical gardens, Japanese gardens, the Evita Museum and the Galileo Galilei planetarium. Close by, the Palermo Hippodrome is situated next door to the legendary Campo de Polo sports ground, and the iconic Floralis Genérica art installation stands proud over the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas.

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Recoleta Cemetery (Cemiterio de Recoleta)
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162 Tours and Activities

While it may seem odd that one of Buenos Aires’ principal tourist attractions is a cemetery, the Recoleta Cemetery is no ordinary graveyard. Encircled by a towering perimeter wall and entered via a striking columned portico, Recoleta Cemetery is one of the world’s most exquisite necropolises; a glorious ‘City of the Dead’ that houses some of the country’s most prominent political, military and artistic icons.

Over 6,400 tombs are found in the Cemetery, laid out in formal tree-lined avenues and punctuated with beautifully sculpted monuments, poignant marble statutes and grand, bronze-cast mausoleums. Notable burial plots include the vivid white stone tomb of newspaper founder José C. Paz, flanked by a pair of dazzling Rubenesque angels; the ostentatious tomb of former Argentine president Carlos Pellegrini, featuring an elaborate statue of the controversial leader atop the coffin; and the evocative statues of crying widows kneeling beside the tomb of Colonel Falcon.

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La Boca
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139 Tours and Activities
South of downtown Buenos Aires, by the port, the working-class enclave of La Boca has a strong Italian flavor and plenty of artistic flair. The barrio is strongly linked to the history of the tango, and it’s also home to one of the world’s major football teams, the Boca Juniors. The essence of La Boca can be found in Caminito, the brightly colored pedestrian street lined with painted tin houses and flaunting locally created art at every turn.
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San Telmo
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138 Tours and Activities

Like La Boca, the central barrio of San Telmo is one of Buenos Aires’ tango haunts.

Formerly an up-market residential area, the area’s crumbling mansions and atmosphere of faded glory form the perfect backdrop for the city’s artists and musicians who now call this inner-city enclave home. Visit on Sundays to browse the enormous Plaza Dorrego antiques fair, clap along to the tango buskers and relax with a drink at one of the surrounding cafes. The streets here are picturesquely cobbled, and the fascinating little shops are well worth a browse. Visit San Telmo at night to take in a tango show in one of the area’s many clubs.

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More Things to Do in Argentina

Colon Theatre (Teatro Colón)

Colon Theatre (Teatro Colón)

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125 Tours and Activities

Since 1908, the Colon Theatre (or Teatro Colón) has set the benchmark for gilded magnificence and the ultimate theater experience.

One of the world’s top five opera houses, the luxurious seven-story building seats 2,500 theater-goers on plush red velvet chairs on tiers of gilded balconies rising to giddying heights.

Guided tours highlight the gilt interior, chandeliers, illuminated dome and ceremonial staircases.

See what’s coming up on the theater’s schedule of performances, from opera and ballet to classical concerts.

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Caminito

Caminito

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With its brightly painted houses and funky atmosphere, Caminito is one of the most famous streets in Buenos Aires.

It may not be a grand boulevard, but Caminito is a historic walkway that grabs your attention from the moment you enter. Founded by Italian immigrants from Genoa, the street is lined with haphazardly built homes constructed from corrugated metal and wood, painted in a plethora of gaudy colors. You’ll probably hear the dramatic foot-stomping strains of the tango as you stroll down this pedestrian walkway, and as you look around you’ll see works by local artists on the walls of this outdoor living gallery.
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Retiro

Retiro

60 Tours and Activities

Meaning retreat in Spanish, the Retiro neighborhood was named after a Spanish governor’s country retreat built in the area during the late 17th century. Located in northeastern Buenos Aires, Retiro is a study in contrasts. The barrio got its start as one of the capital’s wealthiest neighborhoods, evidenced by the belle epoque embassies, five star hotels and high end retailers scattered throughout the neighborhood. On the other hand, Retiro is one of Argentina’s busiest transportation hubs with throngs of people always passing through, and is also home to the overcrowded and under-serviced neighborhood known as Villa 31.

A highlight of the neighborhood (and of the entire city of Buenos Aires) is Plaza San Martin. This park located opposite the Retiro train terminal is surrounded by some of the city’s most impressive architecture. Shoppers flock to Avenida Florida, a pedestrian street that runs from Plaza San Martin in Retiro to San Nicolas.

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Plaza San Martin

Plaza San Martin

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One of Buenos Aires’ oldest public squares, Plaza San Martin is a pocket of greenery sandwiched between the central Retiro train and bus station and the lively shopping hub of Florida Av. A popular spot for picnicking locals and fatigued shoppers, the majority of the plaza is parkland shaded by ancient jacaranda and magnolia trees and including a small dog park frequented by the city’s ubiquitous dog walkers (often seen on the city streets handling a dozen or more dogs). The focal points of the park are its many monumental statues, including the Torre de Los Ingleses (English Tower), gifted to Argentina by the British in celebration of the 1810 revolution; the grand Monument to General Jose San Martín, after whom the park was named; and a poignant monument to those who lost their lives in the notorious Malvinas (Falklands) War.

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Casa Rosada

Casa Rosada

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189 Tours and Activities

The eye-catching salmon-pink façade of Argentina’s presidential palace is one of the capital’s most iconic sights, standing proud over the city’s historic Plaza de Mayo public square. The aptly named Casa Rosada, or the ‘Pink House’, is the secondary mansion and office of the Argentine President, housing the government offices and providing the striking backdrop to Buenos Aires’ often-turbulent political history.

Erected in 1862, the Renaissance-style palace was initially to be painted white and theories abound as to hoe it got its rosy makeover, from ox blood being mixed into the paint to the then-President blending the red and white colors of opposing political rallyists. Designated a National Historic Monument of Argentina, the pink palace is perhaps most legendary for its lower balcony, from which the beloved Evita rallied the working class crowds back in 1949 – a moment that was famously recreated by Madonna in the 1996 movie Evita.

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Obelisk (Obelisco de Buenos Aires)

Obelisk (Obelisco de Buenos Aires)

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Buenos Aires’ most iconic landmark, the Obelisk, or El Obelisco, towers over the intersection of the city’s two main thoroughfares, Corrientes Avenue and the ‘widest avenue in the world’ -9 de Julio. Erected in 1936 to commemorate the nation’s 400th anniversary, the pencil-like column marks the spot where the nation’s flag was first flown – a striking 220-foot tall monument that has become a memorable feature on the city skyline. Fashioned from 1,360 square meters of Cordoba white stone, the Obelisk was designed by Tucaman architect Alberto Prebisch and features poignant inscriptions on each of its 4 faces, referencing key moments in the city’s history. Not only an important navigational landmark, the Obelisk also finds itself at the center of city celebrations and rallies, a common backdrop for sporting celebrations, political demonstrations, candlelit vigils and religious congregations.

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Galerias Pacifico

Galerias Pacifico

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Located on the already shopping-centric Florida Street in Buenos Aires, Galerias Pacifico is one of the city’s most historic shopping centers. The Beaux Arts building — it was inspired by the Gallerias Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan — was built during the 1890s as the Argentine headquarters of Le Bon Marche, a Parisian department store. Soon other businesses began renting other parts of the building, including offices of the Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway, which lent the building its name.

A range of midrange and upscale international brands now make their home within Galerias Pacifico, including Adidas, Chanel, Swarovski and Tommy Hilfiger. But what sets it apart from similar malls in the capital is the architecture of the building itself. Of particular note are the huge murals painted across the interior dome of the mall, commissioned in 1947 and painted by Argentina’s best artists of the time.

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Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

133 Tours and Activities

Though the Brazilians boast of their outstanding views over the falls, Argentina is blessed with about 80% of Iguazu, lovingly threaded by several kilometers of paved trails and catwalks that could keep you occupied for three days. A free "jungle train" connects several trailheads.

The Upper Circuit Trail offers outstanding views over Mbigua Falls and the undulating Iguazu River, before dropping toward misty Bernabe Mendez Falls. The Lower Circuit Trail has more views, as well as access to motorboat trips under the falls, whitewater rafting, and a free ferry to Isla San Martin, with even more to explore. Whatever you do, don't miss the vistas over Garganta del Diablo. No matter where you trek, you will get soaking wet. And that's not a bad thing on a hot summer day in Argentina. Though Puerto Iguazu, 17km (10mi) from the park, is the smallest of the three cities here at the triple border between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, it has a great deal to offer tourists.

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Beagle Channel

Beagle Channel

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76 Tours and Activities
The frigid Beagle Channel provides a watery highway for the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia, en route to the icy Antarctic. The strait separates Argentina’s Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, to the north, from remote Chilean islands like Nueva, Picton and Navarino to the south of the channel. Boat cruises cast off from Ushuaia to visit the lighthouse and islands that are home to penguin and sea lion colonies in the strait. In summer, boats sail across the Channel to Puerto Williams in Chile. Intrepid visitors take to the waters in canoes, and cruises sail off for nature walks on the Bridges Islands to spot fur seals and sea lions.
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Tierra del Fuego National Park

Tierra del Fuego National Park

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Running north from the Beagle Channel, the Tierra del Fuego National Park offers visitors the chance to follow easy walking trails along scenic rivers and bays. The park’s forests of beech are home to coastal birds such as cormorants and albatross. Argentina’s only coastal national park protects the southernmost stretch of Andean-Patagonian forest, ideal for hiking, climbing and outdoor water sports. Bring a kayak to sail from remote beaches, and your binoculars to spot otters, beavers, petrels and condors. Walking trails lead to the park’s beaver dam, a lookout over the stunning coastal scenery of Lapataia Bay, and around Lago Roca. A seaside trail connects Ensenada and Lapataia for more lovely views of the coast. Campers can stay overnight in the park at campsites at Pipo, Ensenada and Lago Roca.
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Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)

Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana)

75 Tours and Activities

Located in the neighborhood of San Nicolas near the center of Buenos Aires, the Catedral Metrepolitana has a history that’s nearly as long as winding as the capital city itself. The land for the cathedral was set aside beginning in 1580, although over the next two centuries the building would collapse at least a half dozen times. Constant construction and reconstruction seemed to plague the central cathedral, and it wasn’t until the middle of the 1820s that French architects were brought in to design a solid cathedral. When visiting the Metropolitan Cathedral today, you’ll find the cathedral is pieced together by segments of its various eras—a historical tour within itself that tells the city’s story. Structurally, the cathedral involves elements of Spanish design as well as Greek revival, in addition to a mosaic tile floor in classically Venetian style.

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Argentino Lake (Lago Argentino)

Argentino Lake (Lago Argentino)

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If you’re visiting El Calafate, there’s no way to miss the vast Lago Argentino. The city sits on the shore of this massive lake, the largest freshwater source in Argentina. It covers 566 square miles and is a result of glacial meltwater, which causes its milky blue color. The lake is part of Argentina’s Glacier National Park and is home to one of the area’s only advancing glaciers, Perito Moreno, which calves into Lago Argentino.

But Perito Moreno is not the only thing to see at Lago Argentino, and many visitors choose a full day of sightseeing on the lake, starting from El Calafate. Visits up the north arm to Upsala usually give visitors a chance to see calving glaciers up close, and the Spegazzini Glacier is the tallest one in the area, at almost 450 feet. Most visits also include the Onelli Glacier, and visitors are sometimes allowed to disembark along the shores and hike among native beech forest and red-blooming firebush.

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Alberto J. Armando Stadium (La Bombonera Stadium)

Alberto J. Armando Stadium (La Bombonera Stadium)

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The beloved Boca Juniors soccer team plays its games at Alberto J Armando stadium, affectionately known as La Bombonera (Spanish for “the Chocolate Box”). It has a capacity of 49,000 and is known for vibrating when fans start getting too antsy – either from happiness or disgust – and start jumping in rhythm.

A behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium is a fascinating look at the sport that that most Argentines live and die by and the Buenos Aires soccer team that was founded in 1905 by five boys living in La Boca neighborhood. Visit the interactive Museo de la Pasión Boquense, the first soccer museum in the Americas, and walk out on to the famous soccer field pitch, where you can close your eyes and imagine the roar of the passionate crowd.

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Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo)

Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo)

54 Tours and Activities

The highlight of any trip to Iguazu Falls is this massive complex of cascades that form a narrow chasm some 150m (500ft) long and 80m (262ft) high. The roaring falls and veils of spray create an awesome, full-sensory experience, which can be enjoyed from any number of vantage points.

The postcard-perfect view is from the Brazilian side, at the top of a 2km (1.2mi) trail ending in an elevator trip to the top of this natural wonder. To explore the falls up close, however, you'll need to take the Devil's Throat catwalks skipping across the deceptively calm waters atop the roaring falls. From there, you can watch as millions of liters of water drain violently into the river below.

Serious fans can splash out on a helicopter ride above the falls, available next to the visitors center on the Brazilian side.

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