Mar del Plata is the queen of Argentina’s coastal resorts. During summer its beaches teem with vacationers from across the country. Inland, the city offers cultural experiences. Find historic landmarks, galleries, museums, picturesque squares and shopping districts. Once a glitzy destination for affluent families, today Mar del Plata caters to all budgets.
The city’s coastline extends for 29 miles (47 kilometers) along the Atlantic Ocean and sets the scene for sailing, spotting sea lions, sunbathing, watersports and walking. Closest to the city center is Bristol Beach, backed by La Rambla promenade and the Casino Central. Travel north to the quieter Playa la Perla and Playa Popular. To the south is Playa Chica. Playa Grande is a favorite among surfers. Waikiki Beach is also a good surf spot.
Sit on tree-shaded lawns and watch street performers at beachfront Plaza Cristóbal Colón. San Martín Square is framed by Mar del Plata Cathedral and the Colón Theater. Mitre Square features December’s Mar del Plata JAZZ festival. Shop for artisanal gifts on Diagonal de los Artesanos and browse outlets on pedestrian-only Peatonal San Martín.
Discover the life of writer Victoria Ocampo and see how early 20th-century affluent Argentines lived at Villa Victoria Ocampo Cultural Center. Villa Normandy is another home of one-time aristocrats. Scrutinize the architectural beauty of the Stella Maris Church, medieval-style water tower Torre Tanque and castle-inspired Torreón del Monje. Meet dolphins, penguins, sea lions and tropical birds at Mar del Plata Aquarium.
Admire works by national artists at Juan Carlos Castagnino Municipal Art Museum and MAR Museum of Modern Art. Delve into maritime history at the Museum of the Submarine Force. Peruse displays of antique city photographs at the Roberto T. Barili Historic Museum Archive.
Mar del Plata is about 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of Buenos Aires. Reach the town by bus, plane or train. December through February is the high season, when hotel prices peak. Come in the off-season to experience the relaxed atmosphere justifying its nickname, Happy City.