Discover the fine arts of Buenos Aires

As a world city home to an extensive history and, consequently, a long artistic legacy, Buenos Aires is has a cultural resumé a mile long. Lovers of the fine arts will delight in what the city has to offer; we’ve come up with a list of our favorite art-inspired sights and activities that connect the past and the present of this metropolis.

People walk past and take pictures of an Ai Wei Wei art installation, a tunnel made out of dozens of silver metal bicycle sculpturesWalk the street that never sleeps: Avenida Corrientes

Theater in Argentina really took off at the beginning of the 19th century, when it became more accessible to the masses. Avenida Corrientes served as the center for this boom, and continues to be the city’s main theatrical hub, home a number of performance houses and cinemas. Visitors can catch all types of live shows here, but the most well-known type of entertainment is teatro de revista, revues that mix comedy, music and dance. Many entertainers aspire to perform on Corrientes, and the most illustrious get to place their name on the Walk of Fame.

A marquee of a theater on Avenida Corrientes advertising a show titled "Viva la Vida" Catch a show on the bustling Avenida Corrientes © Emilia Schneider / Lonely Planet

Discover the Buenos Aires of the movies

Buenos Aires has made plenty of appearances on the silver screen: the famous balcony scene from Evita (1996) was filmed at the Casa Rosada, while scenes from El secreto de sus ojos (2009) were shot at the Tribunales court house. The city also serves as the heart of the Argentine film industry; if you visit in April, head to the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Film to catch cutting-edge films in cinemas around the city.

Revel in the splendor of Teatro Colón

This opera house technically opened in 1857, though its current (quite magnificent) building was constructed 1908, and it’s served as the heartbeat of Buenos Aires’ art scene ever since. The theater is ranked as one of the top concert halls in the world, and it hosts a variety of Argentine and international performers. The sumptuous interior harkens back to an era when the theater was the place to see and be seen. Snag a ticket to a performance, or take the backstage tour to learn about the building’s interesting history.

An interior shot of an ornately decorated opera house hall, with gilded columns and large golden chandeliers The interior of Teatro Colón is a feast for the eyes © Emilia Schneider / Lonely Planet

Peruse Argentina’s art history at the National Museum of Fine Arts

Buenos Aires is home to a number of high-quality art museums, but the National Museum of Fine Arts is arguably one of its greatest. The building itself used to be a pump house for the city’s water system, believe it or not, and today it features a huge collection of art from some of Argentina’s most renowned artists (including Eduardo Sívori and Antonio Berni) and European greats like Picasso and van Gogh.

Learn about tango’s underground history

Of course, tango is deeply ingrained in the city’s cultural heritage, a tradition originating in the cafes and dancehalls of its poorer barrios in 1880s, where many European immigrants were settling in. This dance quickly became a revolution, its sensuality and technical skill appealing to wealthier creole hipsters of the time. Today, San Telmo acts as the center for the tango community, and a trip to Buenos Aires is not complete without a visit to one of its milongas (tango dance halls). Head to Maldita Milonga to catch the best of the city’s tango dance scene.

A couple dressed in matching maroon dances the tango, with the man dipping the woman backwardsTango is an integral part of Buenos Aires’ cultural heritage © Emilia Schneider / Lonely Planet

Take an art tour with Gallery

Art walks are a great way to explore a city, guiding visitors to hidden corners full of local art. Gallery organizes a free guided circuit through Buenos Aires’ artistic corridors a few times a year; participants can choose from itineraries that explore different parts of the city, passing through some of its coolest galleries and museums.

Seek out iconic fileteado

The city’s art isn’t limited to gallery spaces, however. Fileteado refers to a decorative style of lettering characterized by bright colors, detailed fonts and organic framing lines, which was first used as wagon decoration at the beginning of the 20th century. It has since evolved to be an artistic symbol of the city, and was declared a representative of Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco in 2015. If you want to spot this iconic art in the wild, head to the neighborhoods of Almagro, San Telmo and La Boca.

An image of a sign that reads "Argentina" in decorative lettering against a green backgroundFileteado can be found in various locations around Buenos Aires © Emilia Schneider / Lonely Planet

Create your own urban art itinerary

Urban art takes many forms, and Buenos Aires’ graffiti and murals are increasingly becoming attractions in their own right. Inspired by the graffiti and street art of the Bronx, artists have created sprawling pieces that decorate walls around the city, specifically in the neighborhoods of Palermo and Colegiales. Hit the neighborhood streets and find the best of this larger-than-life art.

Recoleta Cemetery, great expression of sculpture

The Recoleta Cemetery is one of Buenos Aires’ top attractions, famous for the notable people who rest inside and the impressive sculptures featured alongside the mausoleums of this massive necropolis. Wander the sepulchral streets to appreciate the artistry behind each of the structures, most of which were built over the decades by the city’s richest families, who clearly spared no expense when it came to funerary design.

A statue of a woman with long hair petting a dog sitting at her side, with a row of mausoleums in the backgroundA statue located in the eerily photogenic Recoleta Cemetery © Emilia Schneider / Lonely Planet

Learn about the artistic residents of La Boca

La Boca is well known for its immigration history, as it was Buenos Aires’ main port where European immigrants arrived in large numbers at the turn of the 20th century. Head to Caminito, full of colorful houses called conventillos, to wander the famous street that was once home to one of Argentina’s most well known artists, Benito Quinquela Martín. Quinquela’s art depicted daily life around La Boca during the first decades of the 1900s; head to the Museo Nenito Quinquela Martín to see his works up close.