Actually, it’s difficult not to see sports in Buenos Aires. Give a group of kids a traffic-free space big enough to swing a cat in and they will start a game of soccer. It’s no surprise that many of Argentina’s greatest exponents of the “beautiful game,” including Diego Maradona, rose from poverty. Anyone can look good on Astroturf. To execute silky skills on some potholed, contaminated scrap of wasteland takes God-given talent—and hour upon hour of practice. The two most important soccer stadiums in Buenos Aires are La Bombonera and Estadio Monumental, home to archrivals Boca Juniors and River Plate respectively. There are many other teams, many other stadiums.
If your taste inclines more towards frantic action on the pitch, champagne and sandwiches off it, head for a polo game. The national stadium in Palermo hosts the most important matches, but you should also check the schedule at Hurlingham Club, easily reached by train from the capital.
Boca Juniors HQ is formally known as Estadio Alberto J. Armando, but the nickname, which means “the chocolate box,” has stuck. With one stand vertical and three at a slant, the stadium does resemble a freshly opened pack of confectionary—but it’s the visceral atmosphere and ear-splitting cacophony that truly define this temple of soccer.
A soul-less concrete bowl or the best soccer stadium in Argentina? River Plate fans and most neutrals will come down on the side of the latter, though the subject is best not discussed with Boca Juniors followers. Argentina’s national team runs out here for its home games, which tend to be relaxed and family friendly in comparison to local league matches. El Monumental is also the country’s biggest concert venue.
Campo Argentino de Polo
The spring polo season peaks in late November and early December, when the Argentine Open (if they had any marketing nous they’d call it the World Series of Polo) takes place in this huge venue. The scene is by no means as exclusive here as in other countries, so don’t feel you have to dress up in waxed coat and Wellies and roll up in a Range Rover.
Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo
In its early 20th century heyday, el turf was as popular as soccer, as proved by the number of tangos that reference it (Gardel’s “Por una cabeza,” popularized in Scent of a Woman, being the best-known example). Its popularity is much declined, but November’s Gran Premio Nacional (Argentine Derby) still draws big crowds of punters and socialites. The Beaux-Arts tribune from 1908 is a minor masterpiece.
Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club
No lawns, confusingly; this is a clay court venue, with capacity for nearly 6,000 spectators. It hosts the annual ATP Buenos Aires men’s event, which is usually held in February and attracts some big international names to do battle with the cream of local talent. Davis Cup matches take place at Estadio Mary Terán de Weiss, a much larger venue in the south of the city.