The little sister of Buenos Aires, the city of La Plata is located just an hour outside its more fast-paced sibling. As South America’s first planned city, La Plata’s intricate grid system includes diagonal streets that run through it, contributing to easy navigation but confusing intersections, and its nickname – “The City of Diagonals.” La Plata is a happening university town with a population of over 700,000. You can walk the width of it in under an hour, stopping at trendy craft beer bars, local music joints, and great restaurants along the way.
It’s actually the capital of the province of Buenos Aires, so you’ll find lots of elaborate government buildings alongside leafy green plazas in this laid back, active city.
Let’s explore the best things to do in La Plata:
1. Museo de La Plata
The Museo de La Plata is regarded as one of the best natural history museum in the world, so it’s no surprise that it’s also one of the most popular attractions in the city.
A neoclassical building designed in 1888, this museum’s collection includes Egyptian relics, Jesuit ruins, fossils, mummies, taxidermy, insects, and reconstructed dinosaurs.
Its exhibits cover biology, zoology, paleontology, cultural ethnography, and the origins of the universe.
There are temporary displays which have included things like Pre-Columbian foods and Charles Darwin’s theory on evolution.
Housed in 23 rooms spread over two floors, the museum also contains a small shop and cafe… and a ten-foot armadillo.
You can easily spend a few hours here, and English tours are available.
2. Catedral de La Plata
Located in the center of the city facing Plaza Moreno, this Neo-Gothic cathedral is a spectacle of architecture.
Dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and inspired by cathedrals in Germany and France, construction began in 1884 and wasn’t completed until 1932. It’s both enormous and beautiful, and visitors can venture inside and take an elevator up one of the church’s towers for great 360-degree views of the city.
The cathedral is also home to a crypt where the founder of the city and his wife are buried, as well as an ecclesiastical museum dedicated to the builders of the church.
Tours are available if you want to learn more! Make sure to have a stroll through the adjoining Plaza Moreno while you’re here.
3. Paseo del Bosque
The largest green space within the city, this 60 hectares used to be covered in marshlands.
Now it’s home to the Museo de La Plata, a zoo, an observatory, an open-air theater, and various species of plants in its botanical gardens.
There’s a lake where visitors can rent a boat, plenty of trails for walking, and even a cave to explore.
Sure, some of its facilities could be better maintained, but it’s still a nice place to take a picnic, maybe buy a choripán (sausage sandwich) from the nearby cheap food stalls, or sip mate (the traditional hot, herbal Argentine drink) in the grass during a sunny afternoon.
4. Teatro Argentino
Located on Avenida 51, be sure to check out the Teatro Argentino, the second-most important opera house in the country (after the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, of course). The original Italian lyric opera house on this site was destroyed in a fire in 1977. And although the new colossal, concrete building’s brutalist style isn’t very popular, the acoustics are said to be fabulous.
Its main venue, Ginastera Hall, has 2,000 seats set in the traditional European horseshoe style.
Catch a show while you’re here, as tickets are super affordable and the program includes operas, ballets, concerts, and orchestra performances.
5. Casa Curutchet
If you’re into architecture, you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to this former home in La Plata that was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Designed by Le Corbusier – the famous Swiss-French architect who pioneered modern architecture – this house is his only finished work in South America.
Casa Curutchet was once the private residence and medical office of Dr.
Pedro Curutchet, and it was built around the tree that still runs through its center.
While it may not look like anything out of the ordinary today, this home was built in 1953 when modern architecture was practically unheard of and bricks were the building material of the day.
It’s now the headquarters of the Province of Buenos Aires Association of Architects, and they’ve opened it up to the public for tours.
6. Listen to Some Live Indie Rock
La Plata is known as the Indie Rock capital of Argentina, so you should catch some local bands while you’re in the city.
The concentration of universities here means there’s a large student population making music for fun, and the city has produced a lot of Argentina’s most popular groups.
On the weekends, local bands often play in pubs for free, so this is your chance to see some quality Argentine Rock on the cheap.
Check out 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 images of red wine, but La Plata is a trendy hot spot for craft beer too.
And while you should definitely get your fill of Malbec while you’re here, check out some of the city’s hip bars, beer gardens, and cervecerías artesanales as well.
Order a beer at the oldest craft brewery in Argentina, La Posta del Angel, where you can have a pizza and picadas (a platter of snacks like meats, olives, and cheeses). Or venture to other hip bars like Chicha, with 15 rotating beers on tap, or Falkner, where you’ll find a brewery on-site.
For some cold pints in the open-air courtyard of a beautifully restored old house, check out Molly’s Beer House.
8. Go Hang Gliding
Near La Plata there’s a hang gliding training center where you can go take flight whether you’ve got tons of experience or none at all.
Tandem flights with experienced instructors will allow you to relax (well, maybe) while you soar over the pampas (plains) below and soak in the extraordinary views.
At the Fly Ranch, they’ve got a range of hang gliders for all levels of flyers, as well as a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool for when you’ve returned to the ground.
Since there are no mountains nearby, they use a plane to help you take off, a process known as aerotowing.
Take a course to learn to fly all by yourself or just go with an instructor for a one-time flight and some great photos!
9. La República de los Niños
Just outside the city, there’s a theme park called the “City of the Children,” and it’s just as cool and weird as it sounds.
Built in 1951, it was one of Eva Perón’s pet projects and (supposedly) Latin America’s first theme park.
The park is meant to be a miniature town run by children, so it’s equipped with all the fun things they’d need to do that.
There’s a petting zoo, a kids’ radio station, replicas of Argentina’s government buildings, a tiny Taj Mahal (because why not?), a little movie theater, and even a mini prison.
It’s no Disney World, but they’ve got a small train, a roller coaster, and boats to ride, plus a few places to eat.
The park might be a little dated, but it should definitely keep any children with you entertained.
10. Centro Cultural Islas Malvinas
Head to the Plaza Islas Malvinas where you can see some exhibits commemorating the 1982 war between England and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, or “Las Malvinas” as the Argentines refer to them.
The space was formerly used by a regiment of the Argentine Army, but it’s now a cultural center with photos of fallen veterans on display.
The Centro Cultural Islas Malvinas features different historical expositions, artwork, and a lovely outdoor plaza and restaurant where you can have a snack, coffee, or beer after browsing.
11. Feria Artesanal de Plaza Italia
Located in the Plaza Italia, this artisan market (or “hippie” fair) occurs every Saturday, Sunday, and public holiday.
Both locals and tourists stroll this area when the market is on, because there’s always a chance that something will strike your fancy, and it’s definitely the place to pick up traditional Argentine souvenirs, like mate gourds.
You can also find leather, silver, textiles, ceramics, local artwork, and handicrafts.
The market has been around for 35 years, and often you’ll see live music and food for sale from street vendors.
Lots of young people and families come just to eat and lounge in the grass nearby.
12. Eat Like an Argentine
You’ve got to have some Argentine cuisine, so why not eat some high quality steak at one of the city’s classic parrillas (steakhouses) while you’re here? Parrilla Los Discos is great if you’re looking for slightly upscale dining, but the nearby Lo del Negro is also a great choice for fine cuts of beef in a more casual setting.
Parilla Lo de Tato is one of the city’s favorites, where you can get grilled meats and sausages, plus big sides of salads, fried potatoes, and things other than steak if you desire.
And don’t forget the Malbec! Another traditional joint, Cervecería Modelo is a popular, historic spot to have a milanesa, empanadas, and a few cold ones where hams hang from the ceiling and you can throw your peanut shells on the floor.
13. Check out La Plata’s Art Museums
The big Italian-style building next to Plaza San Martin houses the Museo de Arte Municipal (the Municipal Art Museum), the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (the Museum of Contemporary Art), and the Museo y Galería Fotográfica (Museum and Photographic Gallery). Both popular and novice artists display their works here, and admission is free.
The building also contains a restaurant, reading room, and coffee bar, so it could be a great place to spend an afternoon if you’re into art.
The Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio Pettoruti around the corner houses a small but impactful collection of fine arts.
There you can see paintings, prints, sculptures, and drawings by prominent Argentine artists.
14. La Plata’s Government Buildings
Since La Plata is the capital of Buenos Aires province, it’s home to all of the province’s government buildings.
Plaza San Martin is where you’ll find most of these.
The Palacio de la Legislatura, built in German Renaissance style, is located on one side of the square.
Quite surprisingly, you can go inside and take in the impressive architecture and furnishings of the building, and maybe even a legislative session if you’re interested.
The Casa de Gobierno is on the other side of the square and built in Flemish Renaissance style.
The governor’s residence is also located alongside the plaza, and guided tours are sometimes available as the interior is magnificent (though the governor doesn’t actually live there). Possibly the most impressive building in all of La Plata, however, is the Palacio Municipal or city hall, which is also built in German Renaissance style and located next to the Plaza Moreno in the geographic center of the city.
It’s enormous and imposing, but beautiful and worth a few photographs.
15. Pereyra Iraola Park
This is a sprawling nature reserve located a bit outside the city features trails, streams, birdwatching, and camping.
Go on Sundays for two busy markets where you can find clothing, food, and other various trinkets.
You can rent bicycles and boats to explore, take long walks, and even go horseback riding on the 600 hectares of land.
There are vendors where you can pick up snacks and plenty of places to picnic or lounge, but locals often bring their own meats and charcoal to have an asado (Argentine barbecue). The whole area could do with a little maintenance, but it’s still a great open green space – just remember to bring insect repellant!