Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz (or just “Santa Fe”) is a totally underrated capital city located along the Paraná River. With a beautifully modern suspension bridge, a revamped costanera or waterfront walkway, and lots of well-preserved colonial buildings, you’ll find that it’s a very livable place with friendly people too. Santa Fe retains its historic charm with landmarks that date back to the 17th century, as well as great city squares and parks with plenty of outdoor space.
Home to a university population, several great bars and restaurants, and excellent museums, the city is both relaxed and modern. Santa Fe has great warm and sunny weather most of the year and lots of nature within its grasp, so you can cruise the river by boat, visit the nearby ecological reserve, or relax on one of the city’s many public beaches.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Santa Fe:
1. Visit the Suspension Bridge and Riverfront
An obligatory stop in Santa Fe, be sure to stroll the waterfront’s costanera to see town’s iconic suspension bridge, Puente Colgante, and great views of the coast.
At night, the bridge is illuminated with colored lights, but day or evening this is one of the most beautiful places in town.
Lots of locals hang out in the recently renovated areas and rollerblade, skateboard, cycle, or walk their dogs along the promenade.
On Sundays, artisans and antique dealers ply their wares and food vendors set up shop for the crowds.
Have a drink nearby with views of the palm tree-lined river or take a walk to see the lighthouse.
2. Museo Histórico Provincial Brigadier General Estanislao López
This 17th-century house turned museum is a National Historic Monument that displays artifacts from colonial times gone by and the Argentine civil wars.
It’s filled with well-preserved items like the possessions of provincial governors and fine furnishings of viceroys who once ruled the area.
There’s religious art, beautiful architecture, uniforms, weapons, musical instruments, and everyday objects like crockery and utensils that’ll give you an idea of life and customs in colonial Argentina.
Entrance is free, and you should opt for the guided tour to get the most out of your time here.
3. Cruise the Paraná River
Book a boat trip to cruise the Paraná River from the port in Santa Fe.
You can hop onboard a catamaran with the Costa Litoral company and travel through the islands or take a trip to the nearby city of Paraná.
You’ll hear interesting information about the river from a guide and get to see the town’s iconic suspension bridge from a new angle.
Sunset cruises are a great option for a glimpse of the city from the water in the evenings and photographs of the light shimmering off the riverfront.
The boat has a bar and canteen serving up hot and cold food during your journey.
4. Tour the Cervecería Santa Fe
The Santa Fe Brewery was founded along the Paraná River because the high quality river water here is easy to filter for beer making purposes.
Cervecería Santa Fe has been here since 1912, and they brew their beer of the same name, Santa Fe lager, as well as Budweiser and Heineken.
Free brewery tours are available in the evenings so you can see how the beer is made and visit the processing facility and a little museum.
Then you’ll do a beer tasting on the patio where you can order some picadas (plates of snacks like olives, meats, and cheeses) at good prices.
The beer garden is a great place to hang out for a while after the tour.
5. Plaza 25 de Mayo and Peatonal San Martin
As you wander the city’s historic area, be sure to check out Plaza 25 de Mayo.
The Casa de Gobierno is pretty magnificent, and the plaza is filled with palm trees, fountains, flags, and monuments.
While it’s surrounded by bars and restaurants, you’ll also see the Casa de Justicia, the Catedral de Santa Fe, and the Jesuit Iglesia de la Compañía.
Feed the pigeons, do some people watching, and have a look at the architecture before walking amongst the remaining restored colonial buildings around the plaza and Avenida San Martin.
Just a few blocks north, you’ll find a lovely commercial peatonal (pedestrian street) that’s lined with terraces, cafes, and more palm trees.
6. Convento y Museo de San Francisco
Just around the corner from Plaza 25 de Mayo, you’ll find one of the only true “tourist attractions” in the city.
This Franciscan convent was completed in 1680 and the original building, church, and interior courtyard gardens are beautifully preserved.
There’s a small museum with religious artifacts, wax figures, and furnishings from colonial times, and you can still attend mass here.
Fun fact, the intricate wooden roof of the church was constructed by local indigenous people without using a single nail.
7. Eat Fresh Fish From the River
The local delicacy here is, of course, freshly caught fish from the Paraná River.
Santa Fe is great place to take a break from all of the steak you’ve been eating in Argentina.
There are plenty of places to get tasty fish in town, but El Quincho de Chiquito is one of the most popular.
It’s a big restaurant located on the river with tons of photos on the walls and a menu full of fish.
They’re served grilled, fried, or breaded alongside glasses of beer, empanadas, and other side dishes.
La Vuelta del Pirata is also popular with tourists for serving fresh fish in a variety of ways with great views of the water.
Pacú Restó is a hidden spot located in the Ribera Shopping Mall that’s popular with locals and the portions are huge.
8. See a Fútbol Match
There’s nothing like getting involved in local sports to really immerse yourself in the culture of a place.
Get in on the excitement with a visit to Estadio 15 de Abril during a home fútbol match.
It’s the nicest stadium in town, built in 1929 with room for 26,000 people, and home to the Club Atlético Unión.
Located along Boulevard Pellegrini near Parque Juan de Garay, you can buy tickets to cheer on the rojiblancos (red and whites) with the local fans here.
Be prepared for streamers, flags, banners, and a rowdy time.
Lots of famous players and international players have also hit the field at the city’s historic Estadio Brigadier General Estanislao López, home to Club Atlético Colón, but the area there can be a little more sketchy.
9. Hit the Beaches
While Santa Fe is located along a river, that doesn’t stop the locals from hitting the beaches.
With some of the best weather in the country, the city attracts Argentines who want to spend some time in the sun and sand along the water.
There are several public beaches along the Paraná River and Setubal Lagoon, but if you want amenities check out one of the balnearios (bathing clubs). There are watersports and beach activities available as well as restaurants and bars on site.
Or you could check out one of the buzzing beach bars like Parador KiteBeach or Laguna Parador Beach.
10. Visit the City of Paraná
Just hop across the river and you’ll be in another province entirely.
Lots of Sante Fe residents cross the bridge to spend holidays and weekends along the beaches of Paraná, a city in the neighboring Entre Ríos province.
You can drive or take a boat here from the port to check out the islands, riverside cliffs, and sandy beaches that make this spot a popular destination.
There’s plenty of swimming, windsurfing, fishing, kayaking, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and motor boating to be done around here.
The city features different architectural styles, from big old colonial homes to modern designs.
Take in the costanera, Plaza 1 de Mayo and the majestic cathedral, plus the enormous Parque Urquiza with its many walking trails and river views.
11. Rosa Galisteo de Rodriguez Fine Arts Museum
This fine arts museum is housed in a magnificent rose-colored building located in the historic part of town, and entry is free so stop in and have a look.
With an expansive permanent collection of paintings, drawings, engravings, ceramics, and sculptures, you can browse over 2,500 contemporary and classic works.
It displays local, national, and international artists, with a focus on 20th-century Argentina, and there are temporary traveling exhibits as well.
The space contains a library and serves as a cultural space for many shows, performances, and workshops – check their Facebook page to see what’s on while you’re here.
12. Parque Juan de Garay
A beautiful green space and recreational park in Santa Fe, lots of local families spend time here with their children and dogs.
You’ll find flower gardens, lakes, play areas and games for kids, gazebos, and plenty of places to picnic.
In the summer, the park often hosts live music, festivals, art exhibits, and plays – there’s even an amphitheater inside.
Many folks use the area for exercise or taking advantage of the little boats that you can paddle around the lake.
There are plenty of birds around here, and you can even feed the ducks if you like.
Be sure to take mosquito repellant and avoid the area at night as the lighting is poor and theft can be a problem.
13. Reserva Ecológica
Put on some bugspray and sunscreen and hit the trails of this beautiful ecological reserve on the other side of the river! A bit of nature in the middle of a big city, you can bring the whole family to spot birds, butterflies, and other animals native to the littoral area.
The park is equipped with facilities for picnicking beside the water, and there are several walking routes you can choose from (depending on your nature-based interests!) with a few explanatory signs along the way.
The land is conserved by the city and the local Universidad Nacional del Litoral.
14. El Museo Etnográfico y Colonial Juan de Garay
Located near the Parque General Manuel Belgrano, be sure to swing by this museum to get the full picture of the region’s past, from prehistoric inhabitants to indigenous cultures to colonial times.
You’ll also find miniature scale models of Santa Fe La Vieja, the original city of Santa Fe that was founded in present-day Cayastá in 1573 and moved to its current location in 1653 due to flooding.
Learn about the natives’ first contact with the Spaniards who came with the city’s founder, Juan de Garay (the guy whose name is all over the place here). Be sure to wander around the renovated colonial buildings in the area, and if you’re interested in Santa Fe La Vieja, you can visit the actual archeological site north of the city.
15. Shopping Malls, Casinos, and Entertainment
After you’ve soaked up all of the city’s history, check out its modern, bustling commercial and entertainment zones.
La Ribera Shopping Mall is located on the water right next to the movie theater and city casino, so you can definitely find something that strikes your fancy here for an afternoon or evening.
The casino isn’t anything to write home about, but it has plenty of games and a couple of higher end dining options, including a terrace restaurant.
If you want something a little fancier, check out the shopping along the peatonal San Martin or Shopping Station Recoleta, which is surrounded by tree-lined streets and trendy cafes.
Another evening entertainment option is taking in a performance at the Teatro Municipal de Santa Fe, a beautiful old theater with great acoustics and a range of plays and concerts.