If you are planning your trip to visit the city, we summarize in this article things to do in Salta.
Salta was founded in 1582 by the Spaniard Hernando de Lerma to unite the Viceroyalty of Peru with Buenos Aires, and it was during the May Revolution which gained importance in the struggle for independence through the hand of the General Martín Miguel de Güemesa national hero.
The capital of the province of Salta offers a neo-colonial style in its architecture, many churches and places of faith, outdoor attractions, a great historical legacy and nightlife to learn more about Salta’s culture and gastronomy.
Salta, the beautiful one… Why? This nickname about the beauty of the city comes from the time of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, when it was a place of obligatory passage for many people traveling between Peru and Buenos Aires. Upon arrival, they found a city that had architectural coherence, with a careful layout of streets and blocks and with houses of similar proportions that used the same materials such as brick, wood and tile. This is how it gained popularity as one of the most beautiful cities in the north of the country.
Enter here if you are also looking for a 4, 7 and 10 day ROUTE through SALTA and JUJUY.
How to get to know everything there is to do in Salta City?
We spent several days in Salta city and we believe that at least 3 days or even more are necessary, depending on how far you want to go.
- In a weekend: ideal to visit the city center and the San Bernardo hill.
- On a long weekend: you can include some of the nearby places to see in the surroundings of Salta, such as San Lorenzo, the Cabra Corral Dam or the Virgen del Cerro.
- If you have more days, you can do all of the above plus a trip to Cachi, or even to Cafayate.
Our visit to Salta was part of a 3 month trip through central and northern Argentina which is summarized here: Matetrip Argentina.
In this article we will focus on the center of the city, so below we will expand on everything there is to do in Salta City:
1. 9 de Julio Square
The main square of the city is a good place to start discovering all the attractions to do in Salta. Its name is due to the commemoration of Argentina’s Independence Day.
The square is very pretty and still has the monument to Juan Antonio de Arenales in the central part, although it usually has a large invasion of pigeons on and around it (Benji spent a lot of time running around with them). Its large grove of trees allows you to rest in the shade, which is appreciated if you visit Salta in summer.
From the square the view is perfect as it is surrounded by colonial buildings such as the Cabildo and the Cathedral, along with other historic buildings such as the Provincial Theater and the Museum of Contemporary Art, which are other things to do in Salta. Also right across the street is the Museum of High Mountain Archaeology, which we recommend you visit.
📸 Check here for a guided tour of downtown Salta. You will walk through the historical sites with the explanation of a guide.
2. MAAM, the main museum to do in Salta city
Located in front of Plaza 9 de Julio, the Museum of High Mountain Archeology is simply an impressive place and for us a must to do in Salta.
It is famous worldwide for its carefully preserved exhibition of the Llullaillaco Children, the bodies of three Inca children more than 500 years old in perfect condition, which were found on the summit of the Llullaillaco volcano in 1999.
The intense cold of the place where the discovery was made allowed the preservation of both the bodies and all the ceremonial objects that the Llullaillaco children carried. According to investigations, the children had departed from Cuzco, the capital of the empire, as part of an Inca ceremonial retinue known as Capacocha, a ritual offering to meet the ancestors and gods.
During the tour through the museum, it is perfectly explained how the expedition to the volcano where the bodies were found, what this Inca offering consisted of, the clothing of each of the children and a description of all the objects that were found next to the bodies.
📌 The exhibition of the bodies of the Llullaillaco Children rotates every day and only one at a time is exhibited as a conservation measure. We saw La Niña del Rayo.
📌 Photos are not allowed in an entire area of the museum where children are on display. In the rest it is allowed. They will let you know, but just in case, ask.
3. Historic Cabildo of Salta
With its large arches on both the ground and upper floors, and a central balcony, it is one of the best preserved cabildos in the country. A mixture of baroque and neoclassical styles, it was the seat of the provincial government and even housed the police force.
Currently, the interior of the Cabildo houses the Museo Histórico del Norte, which is free of charge. The place not only exhibits pieces and objects of the region from centuries ago, but also has collections of coins and period furniture. The tour also includes the different rooms of the Cabildo, a room dedicated to objects of Gen. Martín Miguel de Güemes and a beautiful inner courtyard.
📌 General admission in 2022 to visit the Cabildo and the Museo Histórico del Norte: free.
4. Cathedral Basilica, one of the things to do in Salta city
The Cathedral of Salta is from the 19th century, built in colonial style, and you will easily distinguish it by the pink color of its exterior façade. Its golden colors and marble interior make it one of the most beautiful cathedrals in northwestern Argentina.
As a highlight, the Cathedral of Salta contains the beautiful images of the Lord and Virgin of the Miracle, which is the patron saint of the people of Salta.
Inside the Basilica is the Pantheon of the Glories of the North, where the remains of the heroes who fought in the War of Independence rest. It was created with the purpose of “perpetuating the memory of the brave defenders of the freedom of the then United Provinces of the Río de la Plata”. The heroes that are found there are the Gral. Martín Miguel de Güemes, Gral. Juan Antonio Álvarez de Arenales, Doña Martina Silva de Gurruchaga (“la Capitana”), the unknown soldier and others.
At the same time, it is one of the main pilgrimage points during religious festivities.
5. Walking through the pedestrian streets of downtown Salta.
The area of Alberdi and Caseros streets closest to Plaza 9 de Julio is pedestrianized and has a large number of shops and places to eat or have a drink.
The pedestrian area of Salta capital is very well kept, the streets in this section are cobblestone which gives it, along with the historic buildings, a more colonial feel.
6. San Bernardo Convent
Although it is not possible to visit its interior since it is a cloistered convent that belongs to the nuns of the order of Carmen Descalzas, on the outside it keeps all its splendor of colonial style being the first religious construction of the city made in the XVI century.
The decorative detail of the exterior doors, the yellowish walls that show the passage of time and the bell tower of the church with the San Bernardo hill as a backdrop make it a very photogenic place.
– Buy the rosaries for the Virgen del Cerro
The only sector open to the public is where the consecrated and blessed rosaries are sold to people who then visit the shrine of the Virgen del Cerro (see info below).
As they have two opening hours (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) there is a huge line to buy the rosaries to take to the Virgin, so we recommend going with time. For example, we went through the convent gate at 2:00 pm and there was already a line to enter at the 4:00 pm time.
We decided not to wait two hours so we bought the rosaries from the people outside. They may not have the same “spiritual strength” as buying them already blessed, but we have faith that they will fulfill their destiny.
7. San Francisco Church
With its reddish and golden tone on the outside, it is one of the most picturesque churches in the center of Salta. Founded in the 16th century by the Franciscan order, it is impressive for the details of the bell tower.
The convent ‘s museum, which exhibits works of art from the 18th and 19th centuries, colonial style furniture, silver materials and more, is located inside the convent.
8. Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria Church of La Viña
Better known as the Iglesia de la Viña, it is undoubtedly one of the things to do in the city of Salta. Many are surprised by the colorful church of San Francisco, but for us this was the most beautiful in the capital.
Built at the end of the 19th century, the church tower is the second tallest in the city after San Francisco. It has been restored a few years ago and painted on the outside with the original colors it had, yellow and blue. Both inside and out it is very beautiful.
9. Monument to General Güemes
With this imposing monument, Salta pays tribute to one of the patriots who fought for the country’s independence in the north and later became governor of the province.
The artwork recalls Güemes on horseback. As a curiosity, all the steps and the base of the monument were made with stone from the surrounding hills.
– Güemes Route
The monument is part of a Güemes Route to do in Salta Capital that, in addition to this monument, includes:
- Birthplace of General Martín Miguel de Güemes, building in ruins but there is a plaque.
- Güemes Museum, residence during his childhood.
- Escuela Güemes, where he also resided after his father’s death.
- Monolith in Belgrano Square, place where Güemes was wounded.
- Pantheon of the Glories of the North inside the Cathedral, where his remains rest.
- Cabildo Histórico, there is a room with its objects.
10. San Martin Park
It is the city’s largest green space closest to downtown. The San Martin park covers about six blocks, is very well maintained and has a small artificial lake where you can rent a boat to navigate.
The park is also home to the Natural Sciences Museum, an artisans’ fair and the cable car station to San Bernardo Hill. In short, a nice place to relax after touring the city.
11. San Bernardo Hill
One of the icons to do in Salta is the San Bernardo hill, with its almost 1,500 meters above sea level, offers the best view of the city. It also has hiking trails, a large artificial waterfall and a cafeteria for refreshments.
It is worth climbing both day and night, as the landscape changes dramatically. Salteños use the hill for drinking mate, playing sports and as a meeting point.
Cerro San Bernardo can be accessed in two ways:
- By the San Bernardo cable car: from the base station located in San Martin Park. They are closed cabins with the possibility of seeing the landscape as you ascend. More information about schedules and prices in the official website of the San Bernardo Cable Car.
- By car or on foot: a well-maintained road winds its way up the hill to the summit. Along the route are the Stations of the Cross that are crowned with the image of Christ at the summit.
📸 Check here the tour to Cachi from Salta city and make a reservation. Includes: transfers and guide.
12. Going to the peñas at night
One of the traditions of the city are the folkloric peñas, mostly concentrated on Balcarce Street.
Attending the peñas means tasting a traditional dish of the region while listening to a local group play live and couples dance to the music. The voices are accompanied by the rhythm of the guitar and bass drum. On the same night several folkloric groups usually play in the same place, as if they were rotating. The people seated at the tables are asking for songs and the singers are fulfilling their requests.
We attended the Pena La Cautiva. It is not a very big place, but we were excellently served, the food is delicious and the bands that played did very well. We recommend it.
We also wanted to go to La Casona del Molino, where we were recommended to go because it is not set up for tourists but for locals. The big house where the peña takes place is huge, there are many improvised groups playing in every corner. If you want to go you should book in advance because otherwise it is almost impossible to get a place.
13) What to do in the surroundings of Salta City?
Take a look at all there is to see around Salta:
- San Lorenzo Gorge
- Sanctuary of the Virgen del Cerro
- Cabra Corral Dam
- San Antonio de los Cobres
- Train to the Clouds
- Salinas Grandes
- Los Cardones National Park
- Quebrada de las Conchas
If you are going to visit the Salinas Grandes check out these recommendations on things to do in Jujuy.
📸 Check here the tour to Cafayate from Salta capital and book. Includes: transfers and guide.
Where to stay in Salta City?
Being a large city, there are many places to choose from, both downtown and in the surrounding areas. If you want to stay in the center, three options with good value for money are:
- Hotel Salta: facing Plaza 9 de Julio, it offers spa, gym, swimming pool and a restaurant with panoramic views.
- Hotel Las Vegas: simple and spacious rooms, good breakfast, only 200 meters from Plaza 9 de Julio.
- Hotel Almería: modern rooms, excellent service and varied breakfast.
🏨 Find here the best hotels in Salta city with recommendations.
How to get to Salta city?
Because it is one of the most important cities in the northwest of Argentina, Salta has a lot of connectivity with the rest of the country, either by air or by road with direct connection.
As for the buses, the trip from Buenos Aires is very long and many times it is not justified by the price and the number of hours of travel. It can be a good means of transportation if you are visiting Salta from Tucumán or Jujuy.
As for flights, Salta airport has direct flights to many cities in the interior of the country.
📸 You can book transfers from the airport to the city from here.
🔝 Check out this article on how to get from Salta airport to downtown Salta with different options.
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