Bahía Blanca is a port city located in the south-west of the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, by the Atlantic Ocean, and is seat of government of Bahía Blanca Partido. It has a population of about 300,000 inhabitants according to projections for 2020, and is colloquially often simply called Bahía by locals.
Founded in 1828, Bahía Blanca is the most southernly of Argentina's classic big immigrant cities and has the largest port south of Buenos Aires. While it isn't a very popular tourist destination, it is worth a visit because of its beautiful centre with several Art Nouveau buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century, for its museums and the picturesque (although a bit run-down) port neighborhood of Ingeniero White.
Bahía Blanca is an important traffic junction and considered the entry point for the Patagonia region which starts at the Colorado River, about 100 km south of the city. If you travel further south, it's a good idea to stop here for your essential buys as prices are still cheap and begin to rise from here on. There are several beaches in the area, with Monte Hermoso and Pehuen-Có being the most popular. Also, you can easily reach the beautiful mountain region of Sierra de la Ventana from here.
Bahía Blanca has a large university and is thus an important student city with an interesting cultural and night life, including a traditional opera house. Its important sea port with a depth of 45 feet (15 mt) is kept constant upstream almost all along the length of the bay, where the Naposta Stream drains. The port area is also an industry hub with mainly petrochemical factories. Bahía Blanca has a reputation to be a pretty conservative city, which may be related to its significance as a major centre for military operations, with Argentina's main military port and an important air base.
With some minor suburbs, the city forms the larger Greater Bahía Blanca urban agglomeration. The city's name (White Bay in English) is due to the typical colour of the salt covering the soils surrounding the shores. The bay, which is actually an estuary, was seen by Ferdinand Magellan during the first circumnavigation around the world on the orders of Charles I of Spain, in 1520, looking for a canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean all along the coasts of South America.
- 1 Bahía Blanca Sud railway station (Estación Bahía Blanca Sud), Av. Gral. D. Cerri 750. Trenes Argentinos runs an overnight train from Buenos Aires three times per week. The train has sleeping cars and is the cheapest means to reach the city from the country's capital. Connections to cities further south, like Carmen de Patagones and Neuquén, have been suspended in the 1990s and 2000s. While there are plans to reactivate them, plans are still in an early stage.
- 2 Bahía Blanca bus station (Terminal de Ómnibus), Luis María Drago 1900. Bahía Blanca's bus terminal is located about 2 km south-east of the city centre. Bus companies offer daily services to most major Argentine cities and also go to the beaches east of the city.
- 3 Comandante Espora airport (Aeropuerto Comandante Espora). The airport is located about 10 km east of the city. Connections to the city are mostly by taxi and minibus, an ordinary bus stops about 800 m south at the military air base. Flights reach Buenos Aires (to Aeroparque and Ezeiza airports, several services per day), Mar del Plata and several Patagonian cities.
Local buses use the SUBE card which you can buy and charge at several kiosks in the city. The card is the same one used in Buenos Aires and several other major Argentine cities, so if you charged it in another city, you can use the credit in Bahía Blanca, too. A map of the lines and timetables can be found at the website of the municipal government.
Taxis and Remises (private cars with drivers) are plenty around, fares are very similar to other Argentine cities. While unregulated ride hailing services are not permitted, there is a taxi app, Taxi Ya Bahía Blanca.
The city center is very well explorable by foot. An interesting walk visits first the surroundings of Plaza Rivadavia with the historic buildings and then follows the Alsina street up to the theatre and Avenida Alem, the gastronomy hub. For a longer walk, follow Sarmiento from Alem to the NE. At the railway crossing you can find a nice park area, and continuing about 600 m NE you reach a hill with a nice view of the city.
While there are few cycleways, a visit by bike isn't the worst option as traffic isn't too heavy in most parts of the city. There are private bicycle rental services.
- 1 Vuelta en Bici, General Urquiza 1000, ☏ +54 291 406-4045. 16-20.
Many buildings are grouped around Plaza Rivadavia, a good spot for taking photos in the city center, with the municipal building adjacent. All museums are free of change, although the Ferrowhite Museum requests a small contribution.
- 1 History Museum (Museo y Archivo Histórico Municipal), Saavedra 951-965 (about 1 km SE of Plaza Rivadavia). History museum with several artifacts from the city's foundation time. The building also hosts the Historical Archive. Free.
- 2 Museum of Art (Museos de Arte MBA-MAC Bahía Blanca), Sarmiento 450. The museum hosts a small historical collection and changing exhibitions from contemporary artists. Free.
The Puerto Ingeniero White neighborhood lies about 7 km south of the centre and is home to the commercial port of the city. It is served by several bus lines (Line 500 has best frequencies) and has two museums and interesting port architecture.
Another interesting sight in the outskirts of the city is the Naval Aviation museum at Comandante Espora airbase, about 8 km east of the centre, which can also be visited by bus (line 517).
- 3 Port Museum Ingeniero White (Museo del Puerto de Ingeniero White), José M. Carrega 8103, ☏ +54 291 457-3006. Small historical exhibit in an interesting old building, which hosts also a nice coffee shop. Free.
- 4 Ferrowhite Museum (Museo Taller Ferrowhite), Juan B. Justo 3885, ☏ +54 291 457-3006. Technical museum telling the history of the port area and the railway operations. Voluntary contribution.
- 5 (Museo Aeronaval), Boulogne Sur Mer km. 1. The museum shows several old airplanes used at the Naval air base, and has one of the biggest exhibitions of airplane models in Argentina. It also covers the dispute over Falkland Islands. Free.
- 2 Teatro Municipal, Alsina 425. Bahía's traditional theater and opera house was built in 1911 and is the city's main cultural venue. The theater was built in a French Beaux-Arts style. It hosts classical and popular concerts, opera and other events and has a capacity of 730 people in its main room and about 100 more in a secondary room.
Bahía Blanca is a good shopping city with reasonable prices. It has a pedestrian mall west of Plaza Rivadavia, in Drago and Alsina streets, and also many shops in the streets east and south-east of the Plaza.
Most options are located around Plaza Rivadavia and in adjacent streets, with higher-tier restaurants and bars grouped in the Avenida Alem street near the theater, north of the microcentre.
There are many night clubs around in the city centre, with also some options in the Ingenerio White neighborhood. A number of nice bars can be visited in the Avenida Alem street. Club opening hours are 11:00PM to 04:00AM. It is prohibited to sell alcoholic beverages (including beer) in grocery shops after 10:30PM.
- 1 Hotel Argos, España 149, ☏ +54 291 455-0404. Pretty chic hotel, especially if you like pink. A few blocks from central plaza. Neighborhood not the most aesthetic, but oh well.
- 2 Hotel Land Plaza, Saavedra 41, ☏ +54 291 459-9000. This one is fairly upscale, with an indoor pool, near the city center.
- 3 Hotel Muñiz, O'Higgins 23, ☏ +54 291 456-0060. Probably closest to downtown plaza and supposedly historic, looks chateau-like on outside, but kind of basic inside.
Bahía Blanca is the gateway to the Patagonia region but also to a number of interesting, not so well-known beaches and mountain regions.
- Monte Hermoso is a growing seaside resort at the Atlantic Ocean, about 100 km east of Bahía Blanca. The beaches are sandy with rocks in some places which add to the scenery. It is visited by people from all over the country and becomes pretty crowded in summer, offering all necessary services and also a lot of night life. Several buses per day (Plaza and El Villarino lines, as of 2020) reach this town from the bus terminal.
- Pehuen-Có is a very quiet seaside resort, about 80 km south-east of the city. It is notable for its location in a forest-like park with many trees and shady streets, not unlike Cariló, which is much more expensive and touristy. It has all basic services and some gastronomy, the beaches are sandy with occasional rocks. Nearby Pueblo Darwin (2 km west) is even quieter, with a big camping ground and only essential services.
- Sierras de Ventania is a mountainous region beginning about 40 km north of the city, with the highest peaks of Buenos Aires province (up to 1239 m at the Cerro Tres Picos) and excellent trekking opportunities. One of the main sights is the Cerro Ventana mountain, with a window-like rock formation near the peak which gave the name to the whole region. Sierra de la Ventana is the main gateway and resort town, with many hotels and other accommodations.
- Viedma, 250 km. south, is located at the Negro River and already a typical Patagonian town with about 60,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of Río Negro Province and forms a "twin city" region with smaller Carmen de Patagones, the oldest settlement in Patagonia, with interesting historic buildings. In the surroundings you can visit the big beach of Balneario El Cóndor, which has also a big parrot colony (animals belong to the Cyanoliseus patagonus species). A coastal road, the Camino de la Costa, starts in El Cóndor (ask conditions as it may become blocked by dunes!) and visits interesting places at the coast like the small but picturesque La Lobería seaside resort with a sealion colony, the big sandy beach of Bahía Creek with Argentina's biggest dune area. If going by car, charge fuel and make all buys in Viedma because there are no petrol stations and only very basic services west of El Cóndor (at least until San Antonio Este).