I spent most of my last week in Buenos Aires by myself re-visiting my favorite spots and as usual, happily walking around and eating a lot. I took my last aerial silk class in BA and said goodbye to all the friendly porteñas I met there (I’m proud to say that I was able to flip myself upside down and climb up higher than I ever thought possible!) I went window shopping at the flea market in Colegiales, finally made it to Museo Xul Solar, an eclectic gallery/museum in Barrio Norte, strolled through the bicentennial museum (after having tried to go twice before, both times it was mysteriously closed for some reason), made a return trip to the ecological reserve, watched young local artists make graffiti art on a large wall, and attended a concert at the famed Teatro Colón. I was reminded of all this while going through my photos this morning, during which I realized that except for the aerial silk class, everything I did was for free.
So today I decided to jot down a list of my favorite free things to do in Buenos Aires. They are not in any particular order…
BA Free Walking Tour is one of the first things I did when I arrived in BA. I did both the “Aristocratic Tour” and the “City Tour,” and have recommended them to many others. It’s totally free but of course I tipped the guides for their time- thanks again to Sol and Gastón! Not only did I enjoy the tours and got a great introduction to the city, but I got to meet some very cool people that were visiting BA who made lasting impressions on me. I would also recommend the Casa Rosada tour (only offered on weekends); they say the tour is bilingual but if you don’t speak Spanish you miss out on quite a bit. I know of two other free city tours of BA but I didn’t take them: Buenos Aires Local Tours and Buena Onda Free Tour. I did take a fun graffiti tour (it wasn’t free) but there is graffiti art everywhere in BA you can observe and appreciate. Alternatively, go for a beer at Post St. Bar in Palermo where the entire place is covered with graffiti art.
Polo Matches are easily accessible for everyone for free. I arrived in BA after the official polo season was over but I kept my eyes open for off-season tournaments, and on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon I went to see a match (see that post here). It definitely lacked the excitement of the Argentine Open Polo Championships (November & December) but I had fun anyway. No tickets needed for these off-season tournaments, you just walk right in and sit anywhere. If you get hungry, check out the choripán vendor around the corner on Dorrego right outside the polo field or the cute neighborhood of Las Cañitas just a few blocks away.
Teatro Colón truly is beautiful. You can pay 110 pesos (~$25 USD) for a 50 minute guided tour or see the ballet or the opera (inexpensive tickets are readily available). But you can attend a concert for free one Sunday of each month. It IS at 11AM (awfully early for Sunday in BA, I know) and you have to pick up the tickets in advance (just go to the ticket office a few days before & ask), but I really enjoyed my free concert. I’d advise getting there early the day of the concert though, if you want good seats… Address: Tucumán 1171 @ Libertad
Buenos Aires is not New York, London, Paris, or Madrid when it comes to museums. But I loved going to museums in BA (see post here) and I did my best to visit as many as I could during the time I lived there. With a few exceptions (MALBA has discount tickets on Wed), most museums in BA set aside a day during the week when you can visit them for free. My favorites were Museo Xul Solar (free on Thurs) for its peculiarity, Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo (free on Tues) for its stunning building, Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívori (free on Wed & Sat) for its tranquil sculpture garden, and Museo de Arte Español Enrique Larreta (free on Thurs) for its beautiful ombú tree in the back. Speaking of art, I frequented Centro Cultural Recoleta for numerous events and exhibitions (always free) and the last Friday of the month there are “Gallery Nights” (often with wine & cheese) where you can visit various art galleries. Oh, and some of the cultural centers in BA have free tango shows!
Flea Markets and Weekend Markets can be found all over Buenos Aires, and even for a non-shopper like me it was a blast browsing and looking around. There is a large indoor flea market in Colegiales (mercado de las pulgas on Conde & Dorrego) that’s open Tues – Sun (but it’s really quiet during the week, especially in the morning) and on the weekends there are vendors everywhere in Palermo (particularly around Plaza Serrano). You can visit the large market in front of the Recoleta Cultural Center/Recoleta Cemetery on the weekends but the mother of all weekend markets in my opinion, is the San Telmo Market on Sundays. I would recommend going early and hanging out in San Telmo all day (with pit stops at Panadería de Pablo, choripán stands in parking lots, Nonna Bianca or Dylan for ice cream, Breoghan Brew Pub for a pint & live jazz, down to Hierbabuena on Caseros for fresh fruit juices). Don’t forget to watch the tango dancers on the streets, and maybe snack on a cotton candy…
Recoleta and Chacarita cemeteries are two of my absolute favorite places in Buenos Aires (my posts on them are here and here), and Cemeterio de la Recoleta even offers free English tours at 11AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I went to both of cemeteries multiple times and I loved all my visits. Instead of feeling scared or sad, I always found myself rather at peace at these cemeteries. I know it’s not for everyone…
One of the reasons I chose to live in Palermo was to be near all the green space it offered. El Rosedal (see post here) and Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays within the Parque Tres de Febrero were my go-to parks in the expansive Bosques de Palermo. When the roses are in bloom (or even when they’re not) nothing beats the beauty of the rose garden, especially when you couple it with a visit to the Eduardo Sívori museum (the small café in the back garden is really cute). There is a lot of people on the weekends but on Sundays you can listen to free live music next the rose bushes and relax by the water. The botanical garden designed by Carlos Thays (he also designed the General San Martín park in Mendoza) is full of monuments, sculptures, fountains, trees, orchids, and cats. Yes, dozens and dozens of cats. Once inside this garden I would forget that the busy streets and people on Santa Fe were just steps away; it was always a charming urban oasis for me.
There are regular day time guided tours but a special evening tour of Reserva Ecológica Constanera Sur is offered one Friday each month, closest to full moon (visita guiada nocturna a la luz de la luna). You just have to call (4315-4129/4893-1853) or reserve a spot for the tour in person on Monday in advance of the Friday tour. You can click on the link above to see the list of Fridays this evening tour is scheduled for this year. I like this large ecological reserve, particularly the path you can take by the river (OK, the water is this dark muddy brown but still it’s nice). With the skyline of Puerto Madero serving as the backdrop the setting sun puts on a show in front of you… and you can sigh out the stress of the city away.
I could make an afternoon (or almost a full day) by walking to this reserve all the way from Centro or Retiro along the waterfront and via Puente de la Mujer then through Puerto Madero. There is a line of choripán vendors outside the reserve but you can pop into the Faena hotel or stop at one of the many cafés and restaurants in Puerto Madero for little breaks. Ecological Reserve Address: Avenida Tristán A Rodríguez 1550, near Padre M Migone, Puerto Madero.
Lastly, as an avid walker I was entertained and awed by this beautiful city’s architecture on a daily basis (Palacio Paz, Palacio de Aguas Corrientes, Palacio Barolo, El Abasto, etc, etc, the list goes on). All I had to do was look up, ahead, behind, and all around me. But with a bit of research and planning, I could take full advantage of Argentina’s art, culture, and history, and by the looks of this list I have here, a lot of it without spending a single peso!