Buenos Aires for Free

Buenos Aires

Argentina’s capital is arguably South America’s liveliest, sexiest city. It’s also one of the most Western with colonial architecture giving it a decidedly Spanish feel. Despite recent economic troubles, Buenos Aires can turn out to be a pricey stopover for the budget traveller, especially if you go nocturnal which is almost impossible not to do. Here’s a cost free guide around the main sights so you can save your pennies for steak, red wine and dancing ´til dawn.

Recoleta Cemetery

This is Buenos Aires’ main tourist attraction, where the city’s elite are laid to rest in huge, ornate mausoleums. The architecture is spectacular and in some cases, incredibly ostentatious. These are giant displays of wealth and social standing, immortalising some of the country’s most famous figures in huge constructions of marble and glass. Evita’s grave is here, clearly signposted and always adorned with flowers. Take bus number 67 or 98 from the centre.

City Walking Tour

BA Free Tour runs two tours every day except Sunday. The first goes at 11am from Plaza de Congreso and takes in the main sites of the city centre, such as Casa Rosada, el Obelisco and Teatro Colon. If that sounds too early for you, the second tour leaves at 5pm from Plaza San Martin and tours the aristocratic areas of the city, explaining the European influences in the city and telling you who used to own the stunningly ornate palaces and mansions of La Recoleta. There is no charge for the tours but it’s customary to tip the guide.

Plaza Intendente Alvear

“There’s no beach in Buenos Aires”, says our guide before gesturing to the sloping grass of Plaza Intendente Alvear outside the entrace to Recoleta cemetery, “so this is where we come to do what you do on the beach”. On a sunny weekend, the grass is packed with portenos and tourists alike, drinking, smoking, and relaxing against the backdrop of a vibrant artesan market.  If this is Buenos Aires for Free, I like it!


La Union de los Pibes is a non-profit organisation that relies on enthusiastic, willing volunteers to help out at this after school club. It’s free to volunteer here and they want your help for as long as you’re in the city. You do not need to be a competent Spanish speaker to volunteer here, although it will help if you know some basics. Their blog is

Tango class and Milonga

You won’t struggle to find a tango class in Buenos Aires. San Telmo is famous for its tango and on every street, signs and posters adorn walls and buildings, encouraging you to come in and have a go. Lots of hostels offer a free tango class included in the price of your stay, but be warned that these will often just take place in the bar of the hostel.

Pica Pica Milonga at 571, Peru, San Telmo offers free tango classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 9pm. The teachers are professional, helpful and encouraging. They also speak good English which is helpful if you’ve forgotten the Spanish for ’straighten your back, lower your shoulders and for goodness sake, girl, keep your knees together!’

Although the class is free, you are expected to stay for the milonga afterwards, but at only 20pesos ($5) this is one of the cheapest, authentic ways of seeing tango in the city. Tourists aren’t often welcome at the milongas, where locals and professionals come to enjoy themselves and wind down, but after the class you’ll definitely be welcome here. You may even be dragged up for a dance as the evening progresses!

Sundays in San Telmo

Every Sunday, there is an antiques fair in Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo when the square is packed with vendors, locals and tourists buying and selling vintage clothes, jewellery and other bric-a-brac. The markets extend outwards from the square almost all the way up to Plaza de Mayo, selling hats, gloves, coats, jewellery, books, anything you didn’t realise you needed until you got here. There’s also lots of good tango street shows which have no charge, but remember to drop some change in the hat.

Museums-Museo de las Bellas Artes

The majority of the city centre museums are free which provides you with days of cultural entertainment. A favourite is El Museo de las Bellas Artes, a huge pink building in La Recoleta. It’s big enough to get lost in for hours, but as each individual exhibition is only small, you can pop in for an hour and come back another day. Helpful commentary is provided on individual paintings and collections, but only in Spanish, so take your dictionary!

El Caminito de la Boca

Catch bus number 29 from the centre to the La Boca to see El Caminito. If you’ve seen pictures of Buenos Aires, you will have seen the brightly coloured buildings of this portside barrio. At the weekends, artists sell paintings of El Caminito amongst the vibrance of street tango shows whilst the smell of the asado (barbeque) drifts through the streets.

If La Boca Juniors are playing, it’s worth getting tickets for a chance to see some of South America’s most passionate football fans. Hostels and hotels will offer match packages for around 250 pesos ($60) which includes transfers to and from the game and seats in the safer, fixed seat stand. A cheaper option is to go to the stadium yourself where tickets should be around 50pesos ($12) although this depends on the game, and could very well seat you amongst the most passionate of fans.  It isn’t exactly Buenos Aires for free, but you’ll have plenty of cash to spare following this great BsA itinerary.

To learn more about Katie, visit her website, The Tap Tap Bus.

Photo credits:christian haugen, particleandparcel, quimbaya, blmurch, Rafa, denise mayumi, blmurch,dhubax

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