Things to Do in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina

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These are the best things to do in San Antonio de Areco whether you visit on a day trip from Buenos Aires or stay overnight!

San Antonio de Areco is known as the cradle of gaucho culture and tradition and the best part is that it’s a super accessible destination from Buenos Aires.

This is the place to visit if you want to spend the day at an estancia, learn about gaucho culture, and visit museums and galleries that document rural country life in Argentina.

The town of San Antonio de Areco is set in the pampas, the vast flat plains that are home to endless cattle ranches and agricultural lands.

Visiting the town is like taking a step back in time; colonial buildings line the plazas and green boulevards, you can see locals riding their horses through town, and every few blocks you’ll come across a traditional bar known as a pulpería.

Whether you’re visiting on one of your day trips from Buenos Aires or spending the night, in this San Antonio de Areco travel guide we’ll share everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip!

Short on time? You can visit San Antonio de Areco on a guided day tour from Buenos Aires, which includes a day at a local estancia plus transportation to and from the city.

Things to do in San Antonio de Areco Argentina

How to Get to San Antonio de Areco

First things first, how do you get to Antonio de Areco? You have three options, so let’s cover them all from easiest to hardest.

Book a tour

The easiest way to visit San Antonio de Areco is to join a guided tour that includes transportation to and from Buenos Aires. These tours offer hotel pick-up and drop-off, so you don’t have to worry about navigating public transportation, especially if you aren’t confident in your Spanish skills.

Most day tours to San Antonio de Areco combine a visit to the town with a day at an estancia. Here are a few different ones to consider:

  • Gaucho Day at Estancia + Town – You will briefly visit Museo Draghi, Parroquia San Antonio de Padua, and Boliche de Bessonart Bar in the town of San Antonio de Areco. You will then continue to the estancia for horseback riding or carriage riding, a traditional Argentine BBQ, live folklore music and dance, and a horse-whispering demonstration by a gaucho.
  • Gaucho Day at Estancia + Town (Private Tour) – This private tour also begins with a stop in the town where you’ll visit Parroquia San Antonio de Padua, Boliche de Bessonart Bar, Town Hall, Museo Draghi, The Copper Pot Chocolate Shop, and the Gaucho Museum. This private tour covers a few more landmarks in town than the group tour. You then continue to the estancia for a horseback ride or carriage ride, a traditional Argentine BBQ, live folklore music and dance, and a horse-whispering demonstration by a gaucho.

Take the bus

Your next option is to take the bus, which is what we did. We travelled from Retiro, the main bus terminal in Buenos Aires, to San Antonio de Areco.

The bus company Chevallier offers the most frequency, but even so, there are only a handful of buses per day, so you’ll want to plan your schedule in advance. You can check out BusBud for updated departures. I would also recommend buying your return ticket in advance to guarantee you have a way back into the city!

It’s important to know that San Antonio de Areco does NOT have a bus terminal! You will be dropped off at a gas station on the side of the highway. From there, you’ll need to take a taxi or you’re looking at a 20-minute walk into town (there is an overpass to get across the highway).

Getting a taxi proved to be a little tricky. There were no taxis waiting there, so we had to ask someone to call us a taxi at the kiosk by the bus stop and when that didn’t work, we tried at the gas station. Because this is a small town, there aren’t that many taxi drivers, and it took a few attempts to find a driver who was available. You’ll need some Spanish if you run into this problem, but in the worst-case scenario, you walk.

Rent a car

Your next option is to rent a car either in Buenos Aires or Ezeiza and drive yourself to San Antonio de Areco.

Would I recommend this to non-experienced travellers who haven’t driven in major cities? No way! Driving in Buenos Aires is not for the faint-hearted and you may be shocked by the way drivers sway across lanes.

However, most locals do drive to San Antonio de Areco and we even met an Italian couple who did the same – they said it was easier than driving in Italy so take that with a grain of salt!

Things to do in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina

There are plenty of things to do in San Antonio de Areco to keep you occupied for an action-packed day or even for a couple of days! Most of the activities in and around town revolve around the gaucho culture, silversmithing and estancias.

Spend the day at an estancia

I would say the main draw to San Antonio de Areco is to come and experience the rich gaucho culture, and the best way to do so is by spending the day at an estancia.

There is no shortage of estancias in San Antonio de Areco, but the most famous of them all is El Ombú de Areco. This estancia dates back to 1880 and it has belonged to the same family since 1934. They offer a countryside gaucho day program, which is what we booked.

During our visit to the estancia, which was a full-day activity, we were welcomed with empanadas and a beverage that we enjoyed out in the garden. We then had the opportunity to go on a guided horseback ride of the estancia or a carriage ride – we opted for the latter since it’s something we hadn’t done before!

Traditional Argentine BBQ at Estancia El Ombu in San Antonio de Areco

Next, we enjoyed a traditional Argentine asado or BBQ out on the veranda of the historic home. The food was abundant with multiple salads and side dishes and seemingly never-ending meat platters featuring sausage, beef, pork and chicken. This was followed by dessert and coffee.

As lunch was beginning to wind down, we got to enjoy folklore music and later all the guests were invited to learn a traditional dance. I was quite impressed that not one single guest declined! I’m pretty sure it’s because everyone was feeling pretty brave after downing a full bottle of Malbec wine. It was a really fun experience.

Then, it was time for the doma india which can best be translated as ‘horse-whispering’. Gauchos have a unique bond with their horses and their approach to taming them is a gentle one built on trust. We got to see a demonstration where the gaucho led his horse into a variety of positions – down on his side, on his back, legs in the air – all demonstrating their close bond.

We then had free time to enjoy the estancia. During the summer months, you can pack your bathing suit and towel and enjoy the swimming pool. The rest of the year you can enjoy the soccer field, volleyball court, pool tables, ping pong and more. Honestly, after so much food, we were just happy to rest on the lounge chairs and befriend the estancia dogs. That was about all we could handle!

Finally, it was merienda time which would be the equivalent of an afternoon tea. We got to enjoy a beverage and a slice of cake, which was on the lighter side for a merienda, but I don’t think we could have possibly eaten anymore!

So that gives you an idea of what to expect from an estancia day in San Antonio de Areco – in this case at El Ombú de Areco.

Visit the silversmith workshops

San Antonio de Areco is well-known for its many silversmith workshops and as such, it’s a great destination to buy Argentine silver. You’ll see many Taller de Platería signs which in Spanish translate to ‘silversmith workshop’.

We visited the Draghi Silversmith Workshop and the Draghi Museum located on the north end of Plaza Ruiz de Arellano. The Draghi name is very respected in San Antonio de Areco and is synonymous with the silversmithing tradition.

The workshop was founded by Juan Jose Draghi, one of Argentina’s most notable silver craftsmen, who during the 1960s took the dying gaucho silversmithing tradition and put it back on the map.

The Draghi Museum boasts a small, private collection that showcases the evolution of silversmithing in Argentina from the 19th century up until the present. They have beautiful displays of silver mates (used to drink Argentina’s famous bitter, green tea beverage), silver knives, and all sorts of decorative silver items worn by gauchos and horses.

The tradition has since been continued by Juan Jose Draghi’s two sons: Mariano Draghi works out of the workshop at Lavalle 387 while his brother Patricio Draghi works one block north out of the workshop on Arellano 45.

Plaza Ruiz de Arellano is the central square in San Antonio de Areco.

Enjoy a walking tour of Areco’s main sights

We found San Antonio de Areco to be a super walkable town.

Many of the main attractions are clustered around Plaza Ruiz de Arellano, a beautiful tree-lined square named after the town’s founder. On weekends you can shop at the local fair which features all sorts of handmade crafts and artisanal goods.

On the south side of the plaza, you’ll find the town church Parroquia San Antonio de Padua, and you have the Old Town Hall on the northwest corner.

Just a couple of blocks north of the central square, you can enjoy a riverside walk along the Areco River before crossing over to the other side of town via Puente Viejo or the Old Bridge. Just beware that if you visit during the summer months, the mosquitoes can be fierce by the water, so wear bug spray or cover up!

Try the artisanal chocolate

La Olla de Cobre translates to ‘The Copper Pot’ and it’s the most famous artisanal chocolate shop in San Antonio de Areco. Seriously, if you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you need to swing through here!

What makes this chocolate shop special is that it combines hand-selected ingredients with a willingness to experiment with a combination of flavours, aromas and textures.

We visited after a busy morning of museum-hopping and wandering the town’s cobbled streets. As soon as we arrived, we were invited to sample some of their chocolate.

We decided to get a sampler box with a whole bunch of different flavours. You can get chocolate with dulce de leche, coconut, cereal, peanuts, almonds, figs, plums, rum-soaked grapes, cinnamon and so much more.

Plus, they also have delicious alfajores filled with dulce de leche and bathed in either chocolate or meringue. We just had to get one of each!

I was under the impression that this place was like a cafe where you can sit down and enjoy your chocolate or alfajores, maybe with a cup of coffee, but it’s strictly a shop and quite a small one at that, so you place your order and go.

Address: Matheu 433

Gaucho Mural by Gasparini in San Antonio de Areco

Museums in San Antonio de Areco

Before you begin your quest to visit the many museums of San Antonio de Areco, I would recommend making sure they are actually open as some of these are on the outskirts of town.

On the southeast end of Plaza Ruiz de Arellano, you’re going to find a small booth offering tourist information. You can chat with the person there to see if any of the museums are temporarily closed, plus you can get an updated schedule for each museum since opening hours vary depending on the time of year.

  • Museo Gauchesco Ricardo Güiraldes – This museum is located on the other side of the Areco River and can be reached by crossing the Old Bridge or Puente Viejo. It is set inside Parque Criollo which is a National Historic Monument. The museum is named after Argentine novelist and poet Ricardo Güiraldes best known for his 1926 gaucho novel Don Segundo Sombra. The focus is rural country life in the Argentine Pampas as well as gaucho culture. View the website here.
  • Usina Vieja Museo Centro Cultural – This museum is set in a former power plant that supplied electricity to part of the town in its early days. The space is divided into three different galleries plus an outdoor courtyard with wooden sculptures.
  • Museo Las Lilas De Areco – This museum features paintings and sculptures depicting scenes of gaucho life and rural Argentina. There are sets where you can pose for photos and there’s a beautiful central courtyard. View the website here.
  • Museo Draghi – We already mentioned this museum when we talked about the silversmiths in town. This museum is located inside the Draghi workshop and it has a small but impressive private collection featuring all things silver.
  • La Recova De Gasparini – This art museum features the paintings of Miguel Ángel Gasparini. He is a local painter and is often there to welcome visitors. The focus of his works is gaucho culture.
  • Museo Evocativo Osvaldo Gasparini – This is a small museum showcasing the works of Osvaldo Gasparini across different mediums. His son offers guided visits.

Where to Eat in San Antonio de Areco

San Antonio de Areco has a really fun mix of restaurants, cafes and pulperías (old bars). Here are a few of the highlights.

El Mitre Historic Bar in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina

El Mitre

El Mitre is a historic bar located on the southwest corner of Plaza Ruiz de Arellano. This was the first restaurant we visited in San Antonio de Areco, mainly because it’s such a convenient location right across from the main square.

I had been craving steak so I got the bife de chorizo or strip steak. This was served with a side salad and an order of crispy fried potato slices.

Meanwhile, Sam ordered the milanesa a la napolitana, which is like a veal schnitzel topped with tomato sauce, ham, cheese and oregano. This is a classic dish and it came with a side of French fries.

Address: Alsina 151

Almacén de Ramos Generales

Another restaurant we enjoyed was the Almacén de Ramos Generales which features classic regional dishes.

I got their corn pie casserole; picture a shepherd’s pie where the mashed potato is swapped out for mashed corn. Both the corn and the ground beef were slightly sweet, which I really enjoyed.

Sam ordered the pork cutlets topped with caramelized onions and served with apple puree, so it was another sweet dish!

Address: Zapiola 143

El Tokio

For a hearty homemade lunch, we visited El Tokio; don’t let the name fool you, this is not a Japanese restaurant!

I ordered their grilled chicken with a side of pumpkin puree – a simple yet sweet and filling meal. Meanwhile, Sam got the homemade potato ñoqui with the bolognese sauce – these were plump and simply divine.

El Tokio is also very well known for its ice cream. They have a mouthwatering list of flavours featuring lots of Argentine classics like dulce de leche, flan, and kumquat in whiskey.

Address: Arellano 152

Balthazar Areco

This pulpería feels like a living museum; the walls are adorned with all sorts of collectibles and antiques.

We had dinner here one night and ordered the picada to share. This is basically a snacking board featuring an assortment of cheeses, deli meats, nuts, olives, raisins and bread. It’s a nice light option if you’ve been indulging in some heavier meals during your visit.

The menu here is honestly quite limited and simple, so it’s more of a place for drinks and snacks. Think sandwiches, empanadas, and a dish of the day. You come here more for the ambience than the food.

Address: Arellano 143

Where to Stay in San Antonio de Areco

We have an entire guide dedicated to the best places to stay in San Antonio de Areco featuring a mix of estancias and boutique hotels. However, here’s a condensed list with some varied options.

Early morning at La Cinacina Estancia in San Antonio de Areco
  • Estancia La Cinacina – This is one of the few estancias that’s within walking distance of the old town – just 6 blocks to the central plaza to be precise! This is where we stayed. We thoroughly enjoyed the sprawling grounds and the rustic and colonial charm of the place, plus breakfast was abundant. We visited a bit later in the season, but they do have a swimming pool for those visiting in the summertime.
  • Hotel Draghi – This is a charming boutique hotel run by the Draghi family who are known for their silversmithing in town. The property features antique furnishings, a charming garden with a water fountain, and a central location right in the heart of the historic town centre.
  • La Escondida – This bed and breakfast is centrally located in the old town. It features simple rooms with a charming courtyard and it’s one of the top-rated properties in its price range.

Tips for visiting San Antonio de Areco

There are a few things to consider when planning a visit to San Antonio de Areco which will impact your experience, so here we go:

Day trip or stay overnight?

San Antonio de Areco is a very versatile destination; you can plan an action-packed day trip where you hit up the main attractions, or you can opt for a quieter visit where you enjoy the slow-paced rhythm of this gaucho town.

We opted for the latter and I think this is a great place to unwind after experiencing the frantic energy of Buenos Aires, however, if you’re short on time, there’s nothing wrong with visiting for the day.

Weekends are livelier

Since we spent several days in San Antonio de Areco, we got to see it buzzing with visitors over the weekend, which is also when all the restaurants, cafes and attractions were open.

By contrast, weekdays offered fewer sightseeing opportunities as businesses operate on a more reduced schedule.

There were no crowds on weekdays, so we got to experience a more local vibe, but food options were also limited to a handful of restaurants.

Visit an estancia for the full experience

Part of the draw to San Antonio de Areco is the destination’s rich gaucho tradition and the best way to experience this is by spending the day at one of the many estancias.

The program varies from one estancia to the next, but the one we visited – Estancia El Ombú de Areco – offered visitors the chance to ride horses, feast on a traditional Argentine barbecue, enjoy traditional folklore music and dance, and witness a horse-whispering demonstration with a gaucho.

Plan your transportation

As I mentioned earlier, transportation to San Antonio de Areco needs to be planned in advance.

Daily buses operate on a limited schedule and can sell out, so you’ll want to book your seat there and back in advance.

Alternatively, consider a day tour that includes transportation to and from Buenos Aires, or if you’re spending the night, see if your hotel can arrange a private transfer.

Attend Fiesta de la Tradición

If your travels are bringing you to Buenos Aires in November, then you may want to attend Fiesta de la Tradición.

This is an action-packed 3-day event where you can experience gaucho traditions. There is a gaucho parade on horseback, live folklore music, traditional dancing, local food and so much more.

If you plan to attend this festival, book your accommodations in advance as it’s a big event that draws visitors from far and wide.

Beware of the mosquitoes

If you are visiting San Antonio de Areco during the summer months, know that it can get quite hot and humid.

The temperatures tend to bring out the mosquitoes in swarms (some years are worse than others!) and it can be especially bothersome along the river. If this coincides with your visit, pack some bug spray because you’ll need it.

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