The Ministro Pistarini International Airport – more commonly referred to as Ezeiza International Airport, due to its location – is the main airport for Buenos Aires and for Argentina as a whole. In fact, it receives 85% of international traffic coming into the county – which amounts to just over 8,500,000 people per year – so if you’re headed for Argentina, you will probably land here. Most people come to Argentina for business or on a holiday, but it is also a common place for a layover, and this is what this page is dedicated to. We’ll let you know all about the airport, the transport links and what there is to do on a layover in Buenos Aires, so that you can make the most of your short stay in this city!
So, let’s start with the transport first, as you are going to have to make your way from the airport to the city if you want to see the sights, which is a distance of about 22km. This means that a layover in Buenos Aires is only something for those with at least a day to spare – remember that you have to get through customs and back as well, which should factor into your time. The airport is connected to the city by the Riccheri Motorway though, which cuts down journey times. Your best bet is to hop in a cab, which can be hailed outside the airport. You can also take a bus, with number 518, 8, 51 and 394 all operating out of the airport. This will also be the cheapest option by a long way. Remember though that buses don’t have much room for luggage!
If you don’t want to go the 22km into the city, you are going to have to spend your time in the airport while you wait for your next flight. This is not such a bad thing though, as the airport was recently voted the third best in South America – after Lima and Santiago – so there is plenty to do to pass the time. Aside from the usual array of shops and restaurants (many of which are standard fast food chains), you’ll also be able to chill out in the luxury VIP lounges, or even take a well needed shower. There’s also internet access, for those who want to check in with home or see the latest world events. If you want a bit of shut eye, there is a free bus shuttle service to both the Hostel Suites Florida and the Hostel Suites Orlando, with rooms for about £10-£15 per night.
Recoleta Cemetery is a must visit destination for anyone on a layover in Buenos Aires, as it is one of the most iconic cemeteries in the world. The biggest attraction here though – if you can call a cemetery an attraction – is without doubt the fact that it is where Eva Peron – more commonly known as Evita – the darling of Argentina, was laid to rest when she died in 1952, while serving as the First Lady of Argentina. In fact, she is so important to people here that she is still the Spiritual Leader of the Nation of Argentina and most people will speak of her in awe.
The cemetery is open to visitors from 8am until 6pm every single day, and you can even get guided tours that start at 11am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Always remember that this is a cemetery though, so remain respectful to the families of those with loved ones buried there. You’ll see plenty more references to Evita throughout your Buenos Aires layover – see how many you can find! One of the more obvious ones was unveiled in 2011, and is the pair of massive murals of her located on the Ministry of Social Development.
Food plays a major role in Argentinian life and they have a richly deserved reputation for cooking some of the best food in South America. The most popular place to grab a bite to eat in the city is without doubt Café Tortoni though, which is famous for both its fantastic coffee and the medialunas that it sells (these are basically Argentinean versions of the croissant). If you get the chance, you have to try one, as you won’t find them in many other countries of the world!
Café Tortoni is becoming very touristy and you’ll often have to wait a while to grab a bite to eat here, although it is very much worth the wait. It’s located on Avenida de Mayo and also often has live music playing to keep you entertained. Find out more at their website. Some other great places to eat include Cumana, which offers traditional Argentinean food, as well as El Desnivel (really cheap) and Campo Bravo, a grill restaurant. Don’t forget to eat some steak while you are here as well – the Argentineans are famous for their love of this dish and the portion sizes are often huge! It’s certainly not a city for vegetarians…
Argentina is an extremely Catholic country and religion plays a massive role in the lives of the majority of citizens here. Even taking this into account though, the fact that they have a theme park dedicated to the Bible is still something that sounds slightly on the surreal side! And surreal it is, as you can even see a re-enactment of the resurrection of Jesus every 30 minutes here, which is entertaining and rather strange at the same time. If you are religious, this place will be interesting to you, but if you aren’t it’s still worth a visit, purely for the experience!
You can’t miss the entrance to this theme park, as it is marked by a twenty foot high plastic model of Jesus and you’ll also hear the sounds of Argentinean music pumping from speakers. We really can’t describe it too well here, because it has to be seen to be believed! It is open until about 9pm most days and costs about 50 pesos for adults and 25 pesos for those under the age of 12. More information can be found by visiting their website (use Google Translate if you don’t speak Spanish). Bring your camera, as your friends won’t believe what you tell them without photographic proof!
San Telmo is the oldest neighbourhood in the whole of Buenos Aires and is a world apart from both the modern city centre and the poverty stricken slums of the city’s periphery. It harks back to a more colonial time, when the Spanish ruled the city, and the buildings from the era are still standing, with all their majestic charm. What’s more, the cobbled streets and old churches provide a really old world feel and all add to a tranquil day out when on a Buenos Aires layover. You’ll be doing a lot of walking here though over cobbled streets, so make sure you wear comfortable footwear!
It’s not just the sights and sounds that you can take in here though, as you can also take in some of the best food in the city, all served in quaint little restaurants. As it is away from the main tourist areas, the food is usually more authentic and also much cheaper too, which is good for those on a stricter budget! Even though prices have declined sharply in recent years, it can still be expensive to eat at the more popular restaurants in this city. Check out some of the little museums in the area too – they won’t take long to look around but they certainly pass the time.
The Teatro Colon truly is a spectacle to behold: it is the second largest performing arts theatre in the entire Southern Hemisphere, with only Sydney Opera House trumping it in this regard. If you love performances and culture, you have to head to this attraction, even if there isn’t anything currently being performed – the vibe and scale is enough to make the jaw drop! If there are performances though, you absolutely have to check one out, as the opera here is something else. Make sure you book in advance though, as the performances often sell out very quickly indeed. To find out about upcoming performances, check out their website. There is the option to translate it to English at the top right of the page.
If you get the time, you might also want to jump on one of the guided tours of the building, which depart every 15 minutes and last for just under an hour. These cost 110 pesos, so are expensive, but are worth it if you are fascinated by performance and theatres. There is no need to book in advance, unless you are part of a large group of 20 or more people. It’s found on Tucuman, and any taxi driver will be able to take you there for a low price.You can find Catharine’s article on Teatro Colon here.
The location of many of Buenos Aires’ biggest attractions, the Plaza de Mayo is, in fact, an attraction all on its own. This is because it is the centre of the majority of Argentinian history; it is the place that Evita stood so famously on the balcony (we told you she pops up a lot here), as well as the place where the notorious military bombing s occurred in 1955. From the glorious to the tragic, this place has seen it all! It’s also extremely old and therefore a great place for architectural and historical buffs, having been founded in 1580 as the first square in the city. Some of the main buildings here include the Casa Rosada, the City Hall and the National Argentine Bank, all of which are beautiful and imposing in equal measures.
As well as being a great place to look around, it is also the perfect starting point for further exploration of this city. Because it is full of so many tourists, you won’t feel out of place and will be able to get your bearings in a familiar environment. If you are on a short Buenos Aires layover, this is definitely the place that you have to visit first.
Abasto is one of the barrios of Buenos Aires, but mention this fact to many and they will instantly decide that this is not the kind of place that they want to visit. This is a shame though, as visiting the area while on your layover in Buenos Aires is the only way to really get a feel for the real Buenos Aires, not the tourist friendly one that most people stick to when on a layover. It’s not the safest of places at night, but during the day it is abuzz with activity and is safe as well. You’ll find loads of small and colourful shops selling everything from handmade souvenirs through to fabric, and you’ll also find some traditional restaurants as well, serving both Jewish and South American food.
The main attraction to the area though is the massive shopping mall, usually referred to by locals simply as “El Abasto” – its real name is Mercado de Abasto. You’ll find everything here and can spend hours wandering around without even buying anything. Also, take the chance to visit the home of Carlos Gardel, which is now a fascinating museum dedicated to perhaps the most famous tango legend the country has ever seen.
When you are on a layover in Buenos Aires, you have to take the chance to see a live tango performance – the dance is almost a religion in this country and they have some of the best exponents of it in the world! Senor Tango is the most lavish of all tango shows in the city – it wouldn’t be out of place at one of the Las Vegas resorts – and is an absolutely cracking night out for the whole family. There are, of course, dancers and musicians, but these are combined with horses and other performers, all of whom play out their roles in front of an audience of 1,500 people. You might even see some celebrities if your lucky – the great and the good of the silver screen have been here, as has former US President Bill Clinton.
Senor Tango is found in the Barracas area of the city, but any taxi driver can get you there easily, such is the fame of this place. Remember that this is not “true” tango though – it is more of an extravagant spectacle – so take it for what it is. If you are looking for more authentic tango, this can be found in smaller venues all across the city. A couple of the best are Bar de Roberto in Almagro and Club del Vino, which is in Palermo Viejo. Café Tortoni also has good tango performances on a regular basis too.
This nature reserve juts out to the east of Buenos Aires into the Rio de la Plata and is one of the most popular places for residents of the city to go when they want to escape the hustle and bustle of life in the metropolis. When you get here, you’ll see loads of people with picnics and taking leisurely strolls, and you should do exactly what they are doing – just relax and let the world pass you by in this oasis next to one of South America’s biggest cities! You can even rent bikes outside the park if you want to, and then spend the day exploring using pedal-power.
It’s not just the scenery that people come for though, as the amount of wildlife you can spot is tremendous. You might get to catch a glimpse of a coypu or even a river turtle, but you will definitely see more than a few of the 100 different bird species that make the Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur their home. It’s a perfect place for nature lovers and an excellent way to relax and stretch your legs after a long flight when on a layover in Buenos Aires.
Literally translated as “Pink House”, this building is actually the home of the offices of the President of Argentina and was where Evita was seen in her world-famous balcony picture. It dates all the way back to 1862 and is built in a wonderful Renaissance style, and was painted pink shortly after – quite why is something that you can try to find out when you visit! One thing is for sure though: this is one of the most important buildings in Argentina, the equivalent to 10 Downing Street or the White House, so you should definitely take a look. The fact that it is in the Plaza de Mayo means that you will probably see it even if you don’t want to though!
You can get to the Casa Rosada extremely easily, as it is located in the heart of the city. If you are coming from outside the city though, take the Metro and get off at either Catedral or Plaza de Mayo, depending on which line you are on. I won’t take long to look and take a few photos, but it is a must-see for anyone on a layover in Buenos Aires, regardless of how long they are staying for!