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Three Free Things in Buenos Aires

Three Free Things in Buenos Aires

story by: Anna Sarjeant

With Air New Zealand launching a brand-new direct flight from Auckland to Buenos Aires, there’s never been a better, or easier time to visit this vibrant city. Whether it’s your starting point for an Argentinian adventure or a one-day stay before exploring South America as a whole, what better way to discover the city than with three – and free – exciting Buenos Aires’ activities.

Watching Tango
It’s Sunday morning in Buenos Aires, which means the majority of Porteños are just making it home. Thank the Latin gods for strong South American coffee because the San Telmo Sunday Fair starts at 10!

You’d be wrong to think there won’t be a turn-out. Hazy-headed or not, this is the very definition of chaotic.

Spread across one of the oldest neighbourhoods and most handsome streets in Buenos Aires, with cobbled lanes and a ram shackled border of European exteriors (look up and admire the cast iron balconies), the Feria de San Telmo flits in and around the Plaza Dorrego, heaving with artisans and hundreds of market-goers all clambering for bargains and baskets of beef empanadas. From prints to plaques, antiques, pots, potions and a man serving Dolce de Leche from a giant metal vat (he’ll be dishing out samples so swing by a few times) it heaves with people and bellows with chatter.

About that tango. The good news is, you certainly won’t leave without seeing some. Unexpectedly spilling into the street, the crowds will part like the Red Sea for an impromptu sampling of the dance. Late in the day, when the hoards depart and a subdued fatigue encompasses the dismantling market stalls – stick around – this is the time tango lessons will erupt, completely unannounced and out of nowhere, much to the delight and surprise of tourists.

Walking tours
They say there’s no better way to discover a city than to get lost in it, but considering Buenos Aires is the largest metropolis in Argentina, it also pays to stay safe.

Cue the free walking tours.

A global set-up, ‘Free Walks’ are free walking tours (granted, the name’s a giveaway) available in some of the world’s greatest cities; BA being one of them. Running twice daily, come rain or shine, tours start at 10.30am and 3pm with a duration of approximately three hours.

Departing from the city centre at an easy to locate starting point, there’s no need to book and no need to pay, but you may like to tip. Tour leaders are both enthusiastic and BA-proud which makes for the perfect city guide. They’ll take you to all the hot spots from Recoleta to Plaza de Mayo, the startling Pink House, park monuments, war memorials and more. Boasting the highest concentration of theatres in the world, you’ll pass the most splendid-looking architecture in South America, complete with balconies, balustrades and grand facades.

A city replete with culture, you’ll touch on historically turbulent subjects such as the Falklands War as well as the Porteños’ bemusing love affair with their dogs. There are dogs, dog walkers and dog parks everywhere in this fine green city, so much so, canines have become somewhat a status symbol.

The morning tour concludes with a visit to La Recoleta Cemetery and the final resting place of Eva Peron. Ask about her whereabouts since her death in 1952 – if you dare! The stories will make your eyes water.

La Boca
As one of the most vivacious cities in South America, nothing quite reflects the colours of Buenos Aires like La Boca. An old shanty-town on the outskirts of BA’s more upmarket and self-assured neighbourhoods, La Boca is – and has always been – a poor man’s district. Still, what it lacks in wealth it more than makes up for in vibrancy.  

Instantly recognisable due to its mix-matched jumble of primary-coloured buildings, La Boca’s jauntily stacked houses of brick and corrugated iron are painted in bright blues, yellows, pinks and red; from a time when poor migrant workers jollied up their dwellings with leftover paint taken (stolen, begged or borrowed) from the ships in which they fled.

These days the uneven streets are lined with cafes, restaurants and a garish display of Argentinian figurines, including Evita, Maradona and the odd accordion player, faded and jaded from years of sitting in the harsh Argentinian sunshine. Even the trees are dressed in rainbow-coloured shawls; webs of colour clinging to their thick-set trunks - and still they’re over-shadowed by La Boca’s enormous blue street lamps!

With increased police presence, La Boca no longer deserves the slightly negative reputation it used to have for theft and robbery, but as with anywhere in Buenos Aires, it’s better to have your wits about you. Add a little common to a little sense and you’ll have a blast every minute of your stay.

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