Argentina's capital is a vibrant, buzzing metropolis that overwhelms the senses and gets under your skin.

Though it can be hard to know where to begin, there's at least one neighborhood that's a perfect match for your travel style – Buenos Aires is officially divided into 48 barrios, each with a distinct atmosphere and personality.

Spending time in these different areas offers a big payoff, as the city’s true character is slowly revealed. We've got all the insider info you need on where to head for daytime sightseeing and where to experience Buenos Aires’ legendary restaurants and nightlife.

1. Palermo 

Best neighborhood for shopping and nightlife

Buenos Aires’ largest neighborhood is Palermo, a fashionable district known for its shops, restaurants, lively nightlife and for keeping up with the latest trends.

It's an excellent option for those who want to be close to the action, with plenty of accommodation options ranging from hostels to boutique hotels. 

The district of Palermo is subdivided into smaller communities. To the north of Avenida Juan B Justo is Palermo Hollywood, an area full of music venues, media companies, and cafes where employees sip flat whites.

To the south is Palermo Soho, which is packed with shopping boutiques, cocktail bars and restaurants (for some of the city’s best steak, try Don Julio).

The Subte (subway) runs to the city center from Plaza Italia and to the east are several large, family-friendly parks, the MALBA art museum and the Museo Evita, a museum dedicated to Evita Perón. 

2. Recoleta

Best neighborhood for architecture

Recoleta will make you understand why Buenos Aires is sometimes called the Paris of the South.

Stroll the streets of this upmarket neighborhood – Avenida Alvear is a good place to start – and gawp at the French-influenced architecture of the grand mansions, many of them built by wealthy cattle ranch owners in the early 20th century when Buenos Aires was one of the richest cities in the world.

A day in this neighborhood wouldn’t be complete without visiting the magnificent cemetery (sounds macabre, but it's one of the best free things to do here) and stopping for an ice cream (try Persicco or Rapanui).

Tango dancers, La Boca, Buenos Aires,
In plazas around Buenos Aires, tango dancers perform to live music © Irene Sekulic / 500px

3. San Telmo 

Best neighborhood for antiques and street performance

San Telmo’s history can be seen in the crumbling former mansions of the city’s early residents, which by the late 19th century had become tenement housing for the poor.

It was in the shared courtyards of these buildings that tango first emerged. Its mix of European and African influences a reflection of the neighborhood’s diversity. 

On Sundays, the neighborhood fills with tourists and locals who come to browse the craft and antiques stalls at the Feria de San Telmo street market, which runs along cobbled Calle Defensa. In Plaza Dorrego, street performers dance tango next to the outdoor tables of old-school cafes.

Though there's a high tourist footfall here, the barrio retains a down-to-earth feel, with plenty of the street art Buenos Aires is known for.

The historic Mercado de San Telmo is an atmospheric place to shop for groceries before moving on to the excellent bars, restaurants, live music and tango venues that make San Telmo a popular base.

A colorful building dominates a small pedestrian cobbled street lined with stalls and cafes
Spend a day wandering the colorful streets of La Boca © Getty Images

4. La Boca 

Best neighborhood for soccer fans

The working-class neighborhood of La Boca is famous for its soccer team, Boca Juniors, who play home games at La Bombonera stadium.

Tourists snap photos of the colorful houses of el Caminito, an open-air art installation representing the traditional shacks of the Genoese port workers who immigrated to the city in the late 1800s.

Nearby are two worthwhile art galleries, the Museo Benito Quinquela Martín and the Fundación Proa (head to the rooftop cafe for views of the river). For safety reasons, tourists should visit during the day and not stick around after dark.

5. Microcentro

Best neighborhood for sightseeing

The district informally known as the microcentro (city center) is not in the geographical center of the city, but is considered the city’s heart: it’s the center of government and finance and the place from where the city’s main avenues emerge and branch out into the surrounding neighborhoods.

The official barrios that form the district are Monserrat and San Nicolás. 

Every visitor to Buenos Aires will want to see Plaza de Mayo, where so many of Argentina’s most important historic events took place, and the famous balcony of the Casa Rosada presidential building from which Eva Perón addressed the crowds gathered below.

From here, stroll down elegant Avenida de Mayo and cross the 12-lane wide Avenida 9 de Julio (passing the Obelisco) to see the legislative buildings and nearby Palacio Barolo. There isn't much nightlife here – best to time your visit during the day. 

6. Almagro

Best neighborhood for a thriving arts scene

Almagro is a residential neighborhood with a thriving arts scene and some of the city’s best restaurants, old-time bars like the soccer-flag-covered El Bandarín, and tango venues, including the bohemian La Catedral.

As well as timeless cafes like Las Violetas, there are some cutting-edge arts venues, cultural centers and theaters here. Almagro makes a great place to live for those planning a longer stint in the city. 

7. Chacarita

Best neighborhood for foodies

Many tourists don’t make it as far as Chacarita, but there's so much here to explore. The neighborhood is home to both long-time residents who watch the world go by from the sidewalks and a younger generation who help fuel Chacarita's vibrant cultural life.

Look out for street art, and be sure to check out the neighborhood’s latest restaurants – Chacarita has an excellent emerging foodie scene. Don’t leave without sampling a greasy, doughy slice from the classic pizzeria El Imperio de la Pizza. 

The neighborhood’s most worthwhile sight is the atmospheric Cementerio de la Chacarita, which contains the mausoleum of tango singer Carlos Gardel. Outside the cemetery gates sit a number of flower sellers with colorful stalls of fragrant bouquets. 

This article was first published Oct 20, 2021 and updated Jan 31, 2024.

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