It’s not called the ‘Paris of Latin America’ for nothing. This beautiful city is the historical, cultural, and artistic hub of Argentina, with entertainment that rivals London, and restaurants to rival New York. It was in this truly great city that Argentina gained its independence from Spain, Eva Peron made her famous speech to over a million of her beloved descamisdos, and writers like Jorge Luís Borges wrote their famous literature. Many travellers don’t know this, but there is much to do in the city for free. Here’s a rundown of our favourite things to do that won’t cost you a penny.
Amble around the Botanical Gardens
Nestled in the beautiful Palermo neighbourhood, the Jardín Botánico was created by the famous French landscaper Carlos Thays in the 19th century. Buenos Aires is so proud of their botanical gardens that they declared them a national monument in 1996. Almost 7 hectares of beautiful manicured gardens teem with more than 5,000 species of plants, trees, and flowers, not to mention the variety of wildlife, most notably the birds and a large population of cats. Dotted around the gardens are numerous sculptures, fountains, and give beautiful greenhouses. On a sunny day, it’s a glorious place to amble through, or take a picnic and set up on the grass. Entrance is free.
Grab a free tango lesson
Nothing symbolises the nation of Argentina quite like tango. This famous dance has its origins from the late 19th century and in 2009 was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Visit a dinner and tango show can be relatively expensive, as can learning the dance in private lessons. Fear not. The streets and parks almost always have impromptu tango dances going on, with locals and tourists swinging each other around. If you head to La Glorieta in Belgrano at the weekend, there is always a tango dance in the evening, and if you arrive early you can bag yourself free lessons. It’s fun whether you’re an expert tango dancer or complete beginner.
Wander through San Telmo market
If you visit Buenos Aires on a Sunday, be sure to visit the famous flea market of San Telmo between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. This open-air arts and antiques market congregates around the Plaza Dorrego and was where many of the European and North American antique dealers came in the 80s to buy up cheap silver. Though it is, obviously, not free to buy things (and you must certainly will want too), just wandering through the market watching the local buyers and sellers haggling and socializing is a wonderful way to while away a few hours. Like anywhere in the world, where there is a market, there is always good food and San Telmo is no exception.
Hike through the Buenos Aires Ecological Reserve
One of the city’s best hidden secrets to tourists is the Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur, an 865-acre wetland park located on the banks of the Rio de la Plata. While tourists rarely visit, locals use the park’s 20 kilometres of trails to jog, walk, or bicycle. During the summer months locals can be seen cooling off in the river or enjoy picnics with the family on the river’s grassy banks. Bird watchers will be delighted with the sheer numbers of wetland species to spot. If you visit between November and February when the weather in Buenos Aires is dry and the skies bright, clear a day in your itinerary to come down to the reserve, you won’t regret it.
See a show at the Teatro Colon for free
The Teatro Colon is the premier opera house in Argentina and is continually voted as one of the best in the world, both in terms of shows and the acoustics. The current theatre was built in the mid 19th century and stands as one of the finest pieces of architecture in Buenos Aires. Tickets are unsurprisingly expensive and shows sell out weeks in advance. However, locals and tourists can often get tickets for dress rehearsals. If you’d like to try your luck, be sure to get to the box office early in the morning. Dress rehearsal shows are usually on a Sunday.
See the resting place of Eva Peron
In the upmarket district of Recoleta, the cemetery is a popular spot for tourists who come to see the resting place of one of Argentina’s most important 20th century figures. Loved by the nation, Eva Peron (often called Evita) was the wife of the president, but sadly died of cancer at the young age of 33. Many still flock to her resting place to pay their respects. It’s not the only interesting thing here. The cemetery is full of art deco and art nouveau mausoleums that are fascinating. It’s free to enter, and there are guided tours in English on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The cemetery is open between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the year.