The festival season begins in February with Carnaval, although Buenos Aires’ version is dismal in comparison to Brazil or New Orleans. However, if you want a more “authentic” South American Carnaval experience and you don’t want to travel the distance to Rio de Janeiro, a great alternative is the four-hour bus ride to Gualeguaychu in the province of Entre Rios.
The Chinese New Year is celebrated (also usually in February, depending on the lunar calendar) in Barrio Chino (a small Chinatown located in the Belgrano barrio). There will be fireworks and street parties and lots of crowds, so be sure not to miss this festive summer night.
Fashion BA is a three-day runway event that occurs in late February and showcases the fashions for the upcoming fall season. Located in Palermo at the La Rural fairgrounds, thousands of the city’s social and fashion elite flock to the shows to see the latest in fashion.
La Noche en Vela is an all-night outdoor cultural party to usher in the Autumn. Modeled on Paris’ “Nuit en blanche”, the night includes free events across the city, including music, dance, light shows and other showcases of performance art, with some recreational institutions (including the zoo) open late. The Noche en Vela is take places on the last Saturday of March.
Porteños love their books and you will see bookstores around every corner, and merchants on the street selling them in every neighborhood. Every year, the annual Feria del Libro (book fair) goes from around April 22 to May 10 at the Palermo La Rural fairgrounds.
For two weeks in April the International Independent Film Festival (known as the BAFICI) takes place in theaters throughout the city, with the Abasto Shopping Center serving as the central hub. Tickets are cheap (under AR$20) and the films number in the hundreds.
Also in Palermo, La Rural is the Buenos Aires Art Festival, which sees artists’ works from Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Columbia, Spain and more. Artists from all over have a chance to showcase their work, and potential buyers have an ideal setting for seeing contemporary pieces. Scheduled for May 18-22 in 2012.
Dia de la Muerte de Carlos Gardel, on June 24, is the anniversary of the death of famous tango singer Carlos Gardel. Many porteños go to his grave in the Chacarita cemetery to honor his life. During this week there are tango events all over the city, which culminate in a collective pilgrimage to his grave.
The Festival of Light, in August and September, is a photography festival that also has panel discussions on world topics, with a focus on immigration. Visit the website for more information and updates on exhibitions, portfolios, and workshops.
August also sees the Buenos Aires Tango Festival, which is a great excuse to go out to a milonga or see a tango show, as some of the best tango dancers in the world flock to the city, with the culmination of the World Tango Championships, where these international couples compete for the world title.
The International Festival of Buenos Aires takes place at the end of September each year, and occurs all around the city, with international performers coming to the city.
Also in September, Vinos y Bodegas is a great opportunity for wine lovers to enjoy wines from over 100 Argentine bodegas (wineries). The festival is attended by wine makers, sommeliers, journalists, and anyone else who appreciates a good bottle of fermented grapes.
The end of September sees Art Week in Buenos Aires, where museums and venues showcase some of the best contemporary Argentine artists. At the end of the week, over one hundred galleries open their doors for free until 2am for Gallery Night. Visitors can even use a shuttle service to get from one venue to the next.
The Buenos Aires Marathon is a misnomer for the 42km race that snakes around the city, passing many famous landmarks. The race, which takes place in October and also has shorter distance options, begins and finishes at the Obelisk on Av. 9 de Julio.
The Buenos Aires Gay Pride Parade has been held in Plaza de Mayo for over fifteen years, on the first Saturday of each November. The parade travels from the Plaza along Avenida de Mayo to Congreso.
Tradition Day (Día de la Tradición) is the Gaucho festival, one of the most sacred cultural traditions in Argentina. Gauchos are the horsemen who left the urban city for the freedom and adventure of the rural interior and indigenous parts of the country. Today, the culture still thrives throughout Argentina, and a great place to visit during the Gaucho festival in November is San Antonio de Areco, a day trip outside the city. There is a traditional estancia (ranch) where the gauchos put on shows, dancing, traditional food, and more for this occasion.
If polo is more your taste, be sure not to miss the polo championship Campeonato Abierto Argentino de Polo at the Campo Argentino de Polo in Palermo. For dates and times visit the Argentina Polo Association website.
Buenos Aires is a big city with many different cultures intermixed. No matter what time of year, or what kind of festival you’re hoping for, there is probably something that will match your taste and location. Be sure to get outside and walk around your neighborhood — you never know when you’ll come across a small festival in street, or tango dancers in the park!