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What to do when it rains in Buenos Aires?

When it rains in Buenos Aires, it pours. It also tends to rain all day, forget about a passing shower. I used to despair when it rained here, as all my favorite things to do here involve walking the streets or markets. However, recently my best friend visited and the forecast was all doom and gloom. I was forced to leave my comfort zone and search for indoor activities in Buenos Aires. Here is what I come up with, a complete and unique list of things to do when it rains in Buenos Aires.

A bookstore in a restored theater in Buenos Aires, Argentine

Prepare for a Buenos Aires Rainy day

Wear shoes that won’t get damaged if they get wet. Loose sidewalk tiles are an epidemic (and the bane of my existence), step on one after the rain and all the water underneath it is now inside your shoe. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I particularly love my waterproof Birkenstocks (here) or rubber Chelsea Boots (by Sam Edelman, they don’t even look like clunky rain boots!). And obviously, grab your umbrella.

Most importantly, download a ridesharing app. If it’s just a light rain you can obviously walk, but if it’s storming you’ll need to be able to call a car easily to avoid standing under the deluge. Uber exists here but is a bit precarious (read about that here). A great alternative is Cabify (and if you use my code, ERINM7, you’ll receive a credit to use towards your first ride). Download Cabify for iOS here or Android here.

MALBA, the open lobby of the Latin American Art Museum in Buenos Aires

12 unique things to do in Buenos Aires when it rains

So, without further ado, here are my top things to do on a rainy day in Buenos Aires. Sip on coffee or wine or take in a bit of culture.

1. Visit MALBA

If it’s pouring, hide from the rain in a museum! The MALBA, or Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires, has a solid permanent collection that never disappoints. I’ve also seen some pretty impressive temporary exhibits here like Mario Testino’s photography and Diego Rivera. Check their official site for special exhibits and hours (Wednesdays are half off).  There’s a cafe inside the museum as well, feel free to break for a coffee and pastry before going back out into the rain!

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2. Pretend you’re wealthy in a Historic Mansion

Only 8 blocks from MALBA (making it easy to combine the two on a rainy Buenos Aires afternoon), is the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo (National Museum of Decorative Art). This historic mansion is old money Buenos Aires, a remnant from when the city was poised to be one of the wealthiest in the new world. This single-family home was designed and built in 1911, but the government purchased it in 1936. This is why this mansion is so well preserved as a museum (rather than demolished and turned into another hideous apartment tower).

Important information: MNAD is open every day except Mondays from 12:30-19h. Entrance is free (winning). For more information (including guided visits in English) visit their official site.

El Ateneo Bookstore in Buenos Aires

3. Be intellectual in a Bookstore

Buenos Aires has more bookstores per capita than any other country in the world. There are bookstores everywhere you turn. When in the United States, where Amazon has ruthlessly put all the “Meg Ryan Shop Around the Corner” shops out of business (You’ve Got Mail reference, you’re welcome), being able losing yourself amongst the bookshelves of an actual brick and mortar bookstore can be refreshing!

My two favorite bookstores to escape a rainy day in Buenos Aires:

  1. El Ateneo – Av. Santa Fe 1860 – Barrio Norte – You’ve likely heard of this one. It’s regularly on must-see lists as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. This historic theater-cum-bookstore is a jaw-dropper. Pick out a book and read it on the coffee shop (set up on the old stage).
  2. Libros del Pasaje – Thames 1762 – Palermo Soho – This is my favorite bookshop in town. It’s cozy and I always discover a fun new book on display here. Their coffee shop in the back is extra cozy on a rainy day.

The Congressional Palace in Buenos Aires

4. Tour the Congressional Palace

Leave behind the Malbec for a second and learn something. The tours are free and offered in English or Spanish (so no excuses!). Pro-tip: the Senate and Congress have separate websites with different tour information and times, but both tour the exact same things. The only difference is which office runs each tour. You’ll be guided by an employee of the Congress or the Senate. So check the tour times for each and choose the one that works with your schedule. Check hours for the Senate here and the House of Representatives here

5. Visit Teatro Colon

The Teatro Colon Opera House is worth visiting rain or shine, but on a rainy day, it’s an excellent Buenos Aires indoor activity. There are daily guided tours in English and Spanish from 9 am – 5 pm. The tour they offer is excellent (my parents recently visited and their guide sang for them!). For tour times, prices and to reserve ahead of time visit their site here. Looking for something to do on a rainy night? Go to an opera or ballet in the theater!

A traditional bar notable in Buenos Aires
La Flor de Barracas, a “bar notable” in the neighborhood of Barracas, near La Boca

6. Channel your inner hipster at a new coffee shop…

Buenos Aires has really stepped up its coffee game in recent years. I feel like there’s a new coffee shop opening up in Palermo Soho every week. Bring that book you bought at El Ateneo and cozy up with a flat white in a cafe filled with Argentine men with man-buns, beards and skinny jeans. A few personal faves (all in hip Palermo Soho) are Padre, Full City Coffee, and Café Cuervo.

7. …or visit a historic Bar Notable

While the coffee may be better for coffee snobs in a new cafe, I prefer the ambiance of one of the many bares notables (an official list of historical notable bars and cafes in the city). Cafe Tortoni is the most famous of these, but there are so many more amazing ones to choose from! Have a coffee or visit before dinner for Copetin (an aperitif like Campari or Cynar served with a small snack). 

My favorite bares notables are in San Telmo: Bar El Federal, La Poesia or Bar Plaza Dorrego. Search for the closest one to you here (search by neighborhood with the drop-down menu).

A historic cafe in the neighborhood of Barracas Buenos Aires

8. Shop in Style at Galerías Pacífico

Clothes are notoriously expensive in Argentina (there’s a reason most Argentinos go shopping in Miami every year), so you’re visited the Galerías Pacífico mall for the building, not the shops. This opulent shopping center (located on the corner of Florida Street and Cordoba Avenue), is a work of art. The building is from 1889 and could easily fit in in Paris. The star is the center dome, covered in elaborate murals by Argentine artists.

9. Be a foodie in San Telmo

San Telmo has changed a lot since I first lived there 9 years ago. In 2010, my only options were steak, pizza or empanadas. There are a plethora of new restaurants here that would make any foodie happy. Perez-H makes great burgers, El Banco Rojo makes great everything and newbie Saigon is filling a huge void of Asian food in Buenos Aires.

The indoor market (address: Humberto 1º 401) used to house only antique eclectic knick-knacks and vegetable stands. For better or worse, the vegetable stands are being turned into hip new food stalls. Try Aussie meat pies, Swiss beer or excellent coffee alongside the knick-knack shops.

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The indoor market in San Telmo

10. Go Wine Tasting

Wine is the official national beverage of Argentina, therefore it is your cultural duty to taste as much of it as possible. There is no shortage of wine bars in Buenos Aires where you can order a glass or a bottle, but treat yourself to a real tasting with a sommelier for a memory you’ll never forget (unless you overdo with the Malbec).

This tasting comes very highly recommended, learn from the best with a sommelier guiding your tasting. A wine shop in Palermo Soho, Lo de Joaquin Alberdi, offers excellent tastings as well. I’ve never done their tastings but I have bought wine here (once or twice…) and chatted with them and they were very helpful and knowledgeable. Reserve a tasting with them here.

Empanadas in Buenos Aires
Learn how to make empanadas like a pro at The Argentine Experience

11. Take a Cooking Class

Now that you’re a wine connoisseur, take a cooking class and learn to make your own Argentine steak and empanadas. Imagine showing off all your new culinary and wine skills to your friends back home! The Argentine Experience is the highest rated tourist experience in Buenos Aires. Everyone I know who has gone has had such a great experience, they rave about it! I hear there’s even an empanada competition, so come with your creative hat on (and an empty belly)!

12. Check out the (underground) Street Art

It’s no secret that Buenos Aires houses some pretty stellar street art. But, you can’t really appreciate it on a stormy day, now can you? Lucky for you, the subway stations on Subte Line B (the red line) make up a sort of underground urban art museum. Each station is covered in its own, unique mural. For a unique rainy day activity head underground! Start at the terminal and get off at each station along the way to see all of the Subte B murals.

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