Where does one start with a place like Buenos Aires? The city of “Good Air” or “Fair Winds” immediately conjures up Technicolor images of tango, high fashion and European nonchalance. Museums, restaurants, galleries, designer shops, dance halls, sidewalk cafes and quirky bars line the buzzing streets. Porteños are notorious for staying out late, often making dinner reservations for 10 p.m., knowing there’s little use showing up to a club until well after 2 a.m. But what about those of us who still enjoy a little vitamin D?
Relax, Buenos Aires has plenty of daytime activities making good on its namesake. It’s easy to enjoy a full afternoon without breaking the bank. Meaning you can use those pesos the way Argentine nature intended: on late-night, prize-cut steaks and exotic cocktails at the nightclub.
1. Jardín Zoológico
As soon as you walk in, you will notice what look like the world’s biggest rodents swimming in the lagoon. Don’t be frightened, the not-so little critters are called nutria and are very friendly. Make sure to purchase a bag (or bucket) of nuggets to feed a designated list of animals including goats, zebras, elephants, and several types of monkey. There are two ticket options to choose from. Splurging on the Pasaporte for US$5.50 grants you access to the Aquarium, Reptile House, Rainforest and a 3-D movie.
2. Madres de Plaza de Mayo
Every Thursday afternoon at 3:30, the mothers of those who “disappeared” during the Dirty War (1976-1983) stage a march in the plaza. A sobering, yet meaningful display, the mothers march for thirty minutes before gathering in front of the Casa Rosada for a speech. It is estimated that anywhere between 9,000 and 30,000 people were detained, tortured and possibly killed during the state-sponsored violence.
3. Cementerio de la Recoleta
Located in posh Recoleta, this labyrinthesque necropolis is home to some of the most influential and revered Argentines in history. War generals, presidents, scientists and Eva Perón (aka Evita) all share lavish tomb space here. The cemetery is set up like an actual neighborhood, with large statues and mausoleums (some in hopelessly creepy disrepair) instead of homes lining each street. Entrance is free, but English-speaking tour guides are available for hire if you want to know more about the history.
4. San Telmo Antiques Fair
Every Sunday Plaza Dorrego transforms into an antique dream. Crowded stalls of old jewelry, cameras, glass bottles, pocket watches, figurines, brass instruments and ephemera are up for negotiations. Nearby, street performers, impromptu tango shows and street vendors all vie for some of the attention.
5. Avenida 9 de Julio
Named in honor of Argentina’s Independence Day, Avenida 9 de Julio is one of the widest streets in the world. This is the mad dash of all mad dashes. With six lanes in each direction, and spanning an entire city block, it’s nearly impossible to make it across in one go. Most pedestrians need three green lights to get across. But if you’ve got the time and the daring, this activity could in fact take the entire afternoon. Just remember, safety first!
6. Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo
Almost entirely overlooked by tourists, the Hippodrome (race track) unexpectedly merges beautiful animals and a quiet locale with gambling. Admission is free on weekdays with races going off every thirty minutes. Grab yourself a racing form and practice saying, “Numero cinco, diez pesos para ganador”.
7. People Watching
People Watching in Buenos Aires is sort of like having a near-death taxi experience in New York City, its basic protocol. And while this can be done virtually anywhere, the sidewalk cafes of Palermo Viejo and the bustling shopping thoroughfare of Avenida Florida are among the top spots. Keep an eye out for paseaperros, professional dog walkers managing 15 dogs at once.