There’s a stylishness to Buenos Aires that hits you as soon as you leave the airport. A sense of elegance and pride that transcends class, wealth, or background. While visitors are intoxicated by steak and tango, this city really runs on a love of great theatre, literature, and Italian-influenced cuisine! A great Argentina vacation in Buenos Aires indulges all these sides of the Porteno cultural puzzle. These four potential one-day itineraries are designed to help you get the most out of the city on those “days at leisure,” combining popular attractions with special local experiences.
Essential (and Posh) Buenos Aires
If you only have one day in Buenos Aires, on your Argentina vacation, this itinerary covers a lot, and “cheats” with a half-day minibus tour, making it ideal for those who have limited time, or just want to save their energy. It all starts at Plaza de Mayo. Here, you’ll see the Casa Rosada, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Cabildo, where Argentina’s political, spiritual, and historic hearts come together. The tour then weaves through historic San Telmo before letting you stretch your legs in colourful La Boca, the old port area. Here’s where the tour comes in particularly handy, since La Boca is a little far from other popular areas and can also be a bit rough if you don’t know where you’re going. You’ll have just enough time to enjoy its charming atmosphere hassle free, without tourist trap fatigue setting in. Then drive through the (some would say over) gentrified Puerto Madero district, disembarking at Recoleta Cemetery. This beautiful “city of the dead” is the last resting place of dozens of key figures from Argentina’s history, including Eva Peron.
Saying goodbye to your tour companions, unwind with a lazy lunch in Recoleta. Buenos Aires’ poshest neighbourhood rewards aimless wandering, or you can visit the Mueso Nacional de Bellas Artes, one of the largest public art collections in South America. Be sure not to miss Floralis Generica, the incredible steel flower sculpture that opens and closes with the sun’s movements. If you have time and are still craving more art, the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo is just a few blocks away. If you’ve brought kids along on your Argentina vacation, hit the Museo Participativo De Ciencias (Participatory Science Museum) instead.
After an afternoon envying the lifestyle of Buenos Aires’ richest neighbourhood, treat yourself to a little glamour at a dinner and tango show. Here, you can watch Porteno style, Argentine history, dazzling professional dance, delicious food, and just a little kitschy fun come together in one unforgettable evening.
Icons of Downtown Buenos Aires
All subways in Buenos Aires lead to Centro, the downtown core. Begin in Plaza San Martin, where you can visit the Monument to the Fallen, a memorial to casualties of the Falklands War. Somewhat ironically, it is directly across the street from Torre Monumental, a 1916 gift from the British, commemorating Argentina’s independence. Then wander down pedestrian mall Florida until you reach Galerias Pacifico, one of the most beautiful shopping malls in Buenos Aires. Take a guided tour if you like, or continue down Florida, all the way to Plaza de Mayo. If you took the half-day tour, you probably didn’t get time to go inside the National History Museum of the Cabildo, so take the opportunity now, or pop inside the Metropolitan Cathedral, best known today as the former seat of Pope Francis.
Break for lunch, then follow Avenida de Mayo over Avenida 9 de Julio, the world’s widest street. Stop for a view of the Obelisk and a mural of a shouting Eva Peron as you pass by. Your destination is Palacio Barolo, a beautiful office building inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. Across the Plaza del Congresso de Buenos Aires, you’ll see the Argentinean Congress building, where you can take a tour and visit Eva Peron’s pink room. Then wander back up for a closer look at the Obelisk. Just beyond it, take a tour of Teatro Colon, one of the world’s top five opera venues and the jewel in Argentina’s decorated crown of theatres. If you still have time, or skipped the tours, head up to Avenida Santa Fe and spend some time browsing El Ateneo Grand Splendid, one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores, located inside – you guessed it – a former theatre.
In the evening, check online or ask your hotel concierge to recommend a milonga, where you can experience tango for yourself, on your Argentina vacation. Don’t worry. Nobody is judging your skills! The milonga is an Argentinean social tradition. Many in Buenos Aires welcome foreigners, including same-sex options (or as some would call it, real tango), and some will offer a class before the more experienced dancers turn up. You can arrive with a partner or alone, but in either case, be careful. Locking eyes across the room is considered an invitation to dance!
Sunday in the Park with Portenos
San Telmo is arguably Buenos Aires at its most romantic. Enjoy a leisurely Sunday breakfast, then set off through the enticing maze that is San Telmo Market. Every Sunday it takes over Dafensa and Plaza Dorrego, where you might catch some free tango. If you’ve had enough of antiques and curiosities, or just can’t get enough art, duck into Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art on San Juan Avenue. Alternatively, wander El Zanjon, a lovingly restored remnant of the first Buenos Aires settlement, dating back to 1536.
From San Telmo, it’s an easy walk over the Rio Darsena Sur to Parque Micaela Bastidas, gateway to the Reservat Ecologica Costenara Sur. If you haven’t yet had lunch, tuck into a choripan (traditional Argentinean hot dog) and beer from a vendor in the park, then either walk or hire a bike to explore the reserve. This is where Portenos go when they want to escape the big city, so explore as much or as little as you like before heading back to town via Puerto Madero and the iconic Puente de la Mujer (or Woman’s Bridge).
In the evening, you can take your pick of the nightlife districts, not the least of which is San Telmo itself. Or if you can understand Spanish, catch a dance performance, or ignore the language barrier, nothing is more Porteno than a night at the theatre, followed by a slice of local pizza. Avenida Corrientes is Argentina’s Broadway, where local creations play alongside translated big name musicals. Catching a show you know and love (and can follow) in the local language is a memorable night out on an Argentina vacation for any Globetrotting theatre buff!
Hip and Creative Palermo
The vast Palermo and Retiro neighbourhoods are all about beautiful, sprawling parks, hip cafes, great art, and good living. Start with a morning walk through the Japanese Garden, the Passo El Rosedal, or through Plaza Sicilia, or opt for a bike ride to see more of the parks. Then dive into whichever interests you the most out of the Galileo Galilei Planetarium (for astronomy buffs), the Latin American Art Museum (Kahlo, Xul Solar, Dias and many more, plus visiting exhibitions), or the Museo Evita, for an in-depth look at Argentina’s great lady of politics, Eva Peron.
Break for lunch whenever you’d like, perhaps stretching these sights into the afternoon. The Latin American Art Museum, for example, doesn’t open till noon, so there’s no rush. After that, Palermo is all about exploring and people watching. Then spend your afternoon browsing hip local shops (without the too-hip-for-thou prices found in Recoleta), and small galleries showcasing fresh new talent.
In the evening, return to the neighbourhood (or just don’t leave) for Buenos Aires’ best nightlife and bar hopping. You might even start this special evening on your Argentina vacation with a very special interactive dinner at The Argentine Experience, where you’ll pinch your own empanadas, assemble your own alfajores, and master the all-important skill of ordering your steak just right in “sexy Spanish.”