buenos aires on a budget

The Recoleta is a former convent turned cutting-edge artistic center. (Photo: Getty Images)

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What To Do in Buenos Aires Without Spending a Peso

Natives of Buenos Aires, or porteños, as they are known, value their culture and history, and as such there are all kinds of free cultural events and activities going on in the city. Read on to find out how to make the most of Buenos Aires without spending a peso.

An Electric Power Plant Turned Cultural Center

The rectangular clock tower of the Usina del Arte (Agustín Caffarena 1, La Boca) is easy to spot on the city skyline. Built in Florentine neo-Renaissance style, it began life in 1916 as a power plant for the Italo-Argentine Electric Company. It eventually passed into the hands of the state, before falling into disuse and ruin with the wave of privatizations in the 1990s. Now, fully repaired and refurbished, it serves as a cultural center.

At the Usina del Arte, you can enjoy visual art like photography, installations and sculptures, as well as music, with classical, rock, folk, tango and jazz music recitals, to name but a few, performed by both Argentine and international musicians. All you have to do is reserve your place on their website. Stay up to date with events at the Usina through its Twitter account.

A Blue Whale in Buenos Aires

The Blue Whale in question is not a real whale, but rather a new concert hall that, together with the building’s dome, is a spectacular place to visit within the Kirchner Cultural Center (CCK, Sarmiento 151). On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., visitors can take guided tours of this majestic building, which has National Monument status. A visit to the dome’s viewpoints is included in the tour, offering panoramic views of the city.

The CCK, as it’s known, located in the old Central Post Office, plays host to tango events, classical music recitals by the National Symphony Orchestra, both permanent and traveling art exhibitions and shows for children. Although most of the activities are free, you need to book tickets online using your ID or passport.

The Historic Cemetery That’s Like a Who’s Who of Argentina

Since 1822, historical figures including Eva Perón, heroes involved in the fight for independence and 21 different presidents have been buried in the Recoleta Cemetery (Junín 1760). Its mausoleums and statues are works of art in themselves, steeped in fascinating legends and stories, such as that of the Lady in White, a soul in Purgatory who is said to run through the cemetery. One of the real stories, however, is that of the Carrils, a married couple who got along so badly in life that their statues actually have their backs turned to one other.

The cemetery offers guided tours that last for around an hour. They run from Tuesday to Friday at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 11:00 a.m. and at 3:00p.m., with entrance into the cemetery and guided tours both free of charge.

buenos aires budget travel
A stroll through the Recoleta cemetery is a must on your itinerary. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Cultural Center That Sprang Up With Democracy in the 1980s

The establishment of democracy in 1983 coincided with the conversion of a Franciscan convent built in the 18th century to a cutting-edge artistic center. Attached to the Recoleta Cemetery and the Iglesia del Pilar, the Recoleta Cultural Center (Junín 1930) was refurbished in 2019 to be more modern, inclusive and accessible.

The rooms and spaces within Recoleta play host to the visual arts, recitals, dance and theater shows, film screenings, literary events and expressions of urban culture and design. The center is open from Tuesday to Sunday.

Buenos Aires Uncovered: Guided Tours and Themed Walks

If you’re interested in guided tours and themed walks that offer a different take on Buenos Aires, the city’s tourist board organizes some very interesting ones. With more than 50 walks on offer, you can choose whether to be guided to the more traditional tourist attractions such as the tango bars of San Telmo, or to lesser known places, such as the Parque Lezama and Barracas, on a tour of Buenos Aires’ industrial past.

The guided tours take place both during the day and at night, and you can choose to go on foot, by bicycle or on the tourist bus. Most walking tours last 90 minutes. Just visit the city tourist board’s website, select the tour you want to take and reserve your place. Remember to carry some ID, and a bottle of water and hat if you’re visiting Buenos Aires in summer.