The little sister of Buenos Aires, the city of La Plata is just an hour’s drive from its faster-paced sibling. South America’s first planned city, La Plata’s intricate grid system includes diagonal streets running through it, facilitating easy navigation but bewildering intersections, and its nickname – “The City of Diagonals” “. La Plata is an emerging university town with a population of over 700,000. You can walk its width in less than an hour, stopping at trendy craft beer bars, local music venues and great restaurants along the way.
It’s actually the capital of the province of Buenos Aires, so in this laid-back and lively city you’ll find many fine government buildings alongside tree-lined squares.
Let’s explore the best things to do in La Plata:
1. La Plata Museum
The La Plata Museum is considered one of the best natural history museums in the world, so it’s no surprise that it’s also one of the city’s most popular attractions.
The museum, a neoclassical building built in 1888, houses Egyptian artifacts, Jesuit ruins, fossils, mummies, taxidermy, insects, and reconstructed dinosaurs.
Its exhibits cover biology, zoology, paleontology, cultural ethnography and the origin of the universe.
There are some temporary displays, including pre-Columbian food and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Housed in 23 rooms over two floors, the museum also features a small shop and café…and a 10-foot armadillo.
You can easily spend a few hours here, and tours are available in English.
2. La Plata Cathedral
Located in the city center, facing Piazza Moreno, this neo-Gothic cathedral is an architectural wonder.
Dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and inspired by German and French cathedrals, construction began in 1884 and was not completed until 1932. It’s huge and beautiful, and visitors can venture inside and take the elevator up to the church’s tower for a 360-degree view of the city.
The cathedral is also home to the crypt where the city’s founder and his wife are buried, as well as an ecclesiastical museum dedicated to the church’s builders.
If you want to learn more, take a tour! While you’re here, be sure to stroll around the adjoining Plaza Moreno.
3. Bosque Avenue
The largest green space in the city, this 60-hectare land was once covered by swamps.
Now it is home to various plants in the La Plata Museum, the zoo, the observatory, the amphitheater and the botanical garden.
There is a lake where visitors can rent a boat, plenty of trails to walk, and even a cave to explore.
Sure, some of its facilities could have been better maintained, but it’s still a great place to have a picnic, maybe grab a choripán (sausage sandwich) from one of the cheap food stands nearby, or on a sunny afternoon, the grass superior.
4. Argentine Theater
Located on Avenida 51, be sure to check out the Argentine Theater, the second most important opera house in the country (after the Colon Theater in Buenos Aires, of course). The Lyric Opera House on its original site was destroyed in a fire in 1977. Although the Brutalist style of the new massive concrete building is not very popular, the acoustics are said to be excellent.
Its main venue, Ginastera Hall, has 2,000 seats in a traditional European horseshoe style.
Tickets are very affordable for a show here, which includes opera, ballet, concerts and orchestra.
5. Casa Kuruchet
If architecture is your thing, you’ll want to visit this former home in La Plata, which was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Designed by the renowned Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, who pioneered modern architecture, the house is his only completed work in South America.
Casa Curutchet was once Dr.’s private residence and medical office.
Pedro Curutchet, it was built around the tree that still runs through its center.
While it may not look anything special today, the house was built in 1953 when modern architecture was almost unheard of and brick was the building material at the time.
It is now the headquarters of the Provincial Institute of Architects of Buenos Aires, which has opened its doors to the public.
6. Listen to some live indie rock
La Plata is known as the indie rock capital of Argentina, so you should check out some local bands in the city.
The concentration of universities here means that a large number of students enjoy making music, and the city has produced many of Argentina’s most popular groups.
Local bands often play for free in bars on weekends, so this is your chance to see some good Argentine rock on the cheap.
See who’s performing at Bar Imperio, El Rincón de los Amigos and Ciudad Vieja.
7. Explore La Plata’s craft beer scene
Sure, Argentina might conjure up red wine, but La Plata is also a trendy hotspot for craft beer.
While you’re here, be sure to indulge in Malbec and check out some of the city’s trendy bars, beer gardens and cervecerías artesanales.
Order a beer at La Posta del Angel, Argentina’s oldest craft brewery, where you can enjoy pizza and picadas (a plate of snacks such as meat, olives and cheese). Or head to other trendy bars like Chicha or Falkner, which serve 15 rotating beers, where you can find a brewery.
For a cold pint in the open-air courtyard of a beautifully restored old house, head to Molly’s Beer House.
8. Hang gliding
There is a hang gliding training center near La Plata where you can fly whether you have a lot of experience or not.
A tandem flight with an experienced instructor allows you to relax (well, maybe) as you soar above the pampas (plains) below and soak up the extraordinary views.
At Fly Ranch, they have a range of hang gliders for all levels of flyers, as well as a restaurant, bar and swimming pool for your return to the ground.
Since there are no mountains nearby, they use a plane to help you take off, a process called air towing.
Take a course to learn to fly on your own, or just go on a flight with an instructor and some great photos!
9. La República de los Niños
Just outside the city, there is a theme park called “Children’s City” which sounds cool and weird.
It was built in 1951 as one of Eva Perón’s pet projects and (supposedly) the first theme park in Latin America.
The park is designed to be a miniature town run by children, so it is equipped with all the fun things they need to do.
There’s a petting zoo, a children’s radio station, a replica of an Argentine government building, a small Taj Mahal (why not?), a small cinema, and even a mini prison.
It’s not Disney World, but they have a little train, a roller coaster and boats to ride, and some places to eat.
The park may be a bit dated, but it should definitely allow any child to play with you.
10. Malvinas Cultural Center
Head to Plaza Malvinas, where you can see some exhibits commemorating the 1982 war between England and Argentina over the Falklands, or “Las Malvinas” as Argentines call it.
The space was formerly used by a regiment of the Argentine Army, but now it’s a cultural center that displays photos of fallen veterans.
Centro Cultural Islas Malvinas has different historical exhibits, artworks and lovely outdoor plazas and restaurants where you can enjoy a snack, coffee or beer after browsing.
11. Piazza Italia Art Fair
This artisan market (or “hippie” market) is located in Piazza Italia and takes place every Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.
Locals and tourists alike wander the area when the market is open, as there is always a chance for something to please you, and this is definitely the place to shop for traditional Argentine souvenirs like yerba mate.
You’ll also find leather, silverware, textiles, ceramics, local arts and crafts.
This market has been around for 35 years and you will often see live music and food from street vendors.
Many young people and families come here just to eat and rest on the nearby grass.
12. Eat like an Argentinian
You must have some Argentinian food, so why not grab some high-quality steaks at one of the city’s classic parrillas (steakhouses)? If you’re looking for slightly more upscale dining, Parrilla Los Discos is great, but nearby Lo del Negro is also a great option for fine beef in a more casual setting.
One of the city’s favorites is Parilla Lo de Tato, where you can get grilled meats and sausages, as well as large salads, fried potatoes and anything other than steak (if you so desire).
Don’t forget Malbec! Another traditional joint restaurant, Cervecería Modelo is a popular historic spot with milanesa, empanadas and some cold, ham hanging from the ceiling and you can throw peanut shells on the floor.
13. Visit the Art Museum in La Plata
The large Italianate building next to Piazza San Martin houses the Museo de Arte Municipal (Municipal Art Museum), the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Contemporary Art Museum) and the Museo y Galería Fotográfica (Museum and Photography Gallery). Both popular and novice artists showcase their work here, and admission is free.
The building also houses a restaurant, reading room and coffee bar, so if you like art it could be a great place to spend an afternoon.
Around the corner, the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio Pettoruti houses a small but influential collection of fine art.
There you can see paintings, prints, sculptures and drawings by famous Argentine artists.
14. La Plata Government Building
Since La Plata is the capital of the province of Buenos Aires, it is home to all government buildings in the province.
St. Martin’s Square is where you can find most of them.
The Legislative Palace, built in the German Renaissance style, is located on one side of the square.
Amazingly, you can go inside and see this impressive building and furniture, and even a legislative session if you’re interested.
Located on the other side of the square, Casa de Gobierno was built in the Flemish Renaissance style.
The Governor’s Mansion is also next to the square, and because of the spectacular interior, guided tours are sometimes available (though the Governor doesn’t actually live there). Perhaps the most impressive building in La Plata, however, is the Palacio Town Hall or Town Hall, also built in the German Renaissance style, next to Piazza Moreno in the geographic center of the city.
It’s huge and imposing, but beautiful and worth taking a few pictures.
15. Pereira Elora Park
It’s an expansive nature reserve just outside the city with trails, streams, bird watching and camping.
Head to two busy markets on Sundays where you can find clothes, food and various other trinkets.
You can rent bikes and boats to explore, trek long distances and even go horseback riding on the 600 hectares of land.
There are vendors to buy snacks, and plenty of places to picnic or rest, but locals often bring their own meat and charcoal for asado (Argentine BBQ). The whole area can be done with a little maintenance, but it’s still a great open green space – remember to bring insect repellant!
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in La Plata, Argentina
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