Buenos Aires is the perfect destination for incredible food, relaxed vibes, and fun, energetic nightlife. It's a melting pot city with an unexpected fusion of European and Latin American architecture and culture, and there is so much to see, do, and eat that I wish I had more than just a few days to explore. It truly has something for everyone! From learning about the city's rich history and architecture and eating some of the most delicious steaks (bife de chorizo, anyone?), to shopping for one-of-a-kind antiques and leather to enjoying a tango show late into the night, I've only scratched the surface of entertainment and culinary options in beautiful Buenos Aires.
In this post, I wanted to share a 4-day Buenos Aires itinerary that I hope will give you some inspiration and guidance with trip planning to Argentina's capitol. I've picked some of my favorite activities and the best restaurants that my boyfriend and I visited during our few days in the city. Before I get into the meat (literally so much steak) of the post, I wanted to answer some important questions that you may have for your first visit to Buenos Aires.
Outfit Details: Dress - Bloomingdale's
What is the Best time of Year to Visit?
Similar to NYC, Argentina has 4 distinct seasons, and timing is pretty important when it comes to planning a trip here. Buenos Aires is best enjoyed during late Spring, Summer, and early Fall, when temperatures are warm and the daylight hours are longer. The busiest time of the year for visitors is during the summer months of December-February (High ~84F and Low ~68F), which is also high season for visiting the glaciers and for hiking through Patagonia. Because of this influx of tourists, I actually would recommend coming in October/November or in March/early April, when the weather is still mild but there are less crowds everywhere. I visited during the first week of April, and while we lucked out with no rain at all, it did get chilly once evening came around. Make sure to pack appropriately!
How Long Should I Spend in Buenos Aires?
Many people find themselves in Buenos Aires because it is a main hub to many smaller cities that don't have direct flights. It's a popular stop for tourists before heading down to Patagonia, Ushuaia, up to Iguazu Falls, and many more. If you are planning a trip to the glaciers or to go trekking down south, I highly recommend staying in Buenos Aires for a minimum of 2-3 days in order to see a little bit of the city. I spent a total of around 3.5 days there, which I think was a good amount of time considering it was only a 10 day trip to Argentina, and we were packing in the glaciers and time in El Chaltén to hike as well. However, if you truly want to experience the culture of the Porteños, a solid week would give you enough time to see much more.
What Neighborhood Should I Stay In?
Buenos Aires is divided into different barrios (neighborhoods), each with its own history and distinct style. You have Recoleta, Palermo, Las Cañitas, Puerto Madero, San Telmo, Belgrano, and Downtown, which is located at the south of the metropolis. I found that despite the barrios looking quite close to each other on Google Maps, the city is much bigger than I expected, and everything is much more spread out.
If you plan to do a lot of walking (I think it's the best way to get to know a city and saves money), I would choose a neighborhood that is central to most of the places that you are planning to see and restaurants that you may have made reservations for or want to eat at. For example, I think the San Telmo Area is great if you are visiting over the weekend since the antique fair it's only open on Sundays. It gives you central access to the downtown monuments and attractions like Plaza Mayor and the Obelisk in addition to being right near San Telmo Market and the antique shops for you to drop off bags if you shop. However, if you're into a more quiet and peaceful area, Palermo is beautiful and close to a lot of the gorgeous parks in the city.
How Do I Get Around?
Buenos Aires is quite connected, and there is certainly no shortage of options when it comes to transportation and getting around quickly. There are trains, trams, buses, taxis, commuter trains, the Subte (subway), taxis, and even ferries! The only modes of transportation I can speak to are the Subte and private taxis, which are both great and affordable options. Living in New York City, one of the things I try to not take for granted is our subway system. It can be annoying, dirty, and crowded most of the time, but it's one of the most efficient and connected systems in the world. For that reason, I am pretty critical when it comes to other country's subway systems. Buenos Aire's underground consists of 6 different lines (A,B,C,D,E,H), and it's quite easy to navigate. You have to purchase a re-loadable card in order to add your fare to it (much like NYC Metrocard) before entering. A ticket to anywhere in the network costs AR$16.50 with the price going down after a certain number of trips. That's 37 cents people! While this is certainly a bargain and can be a faster commute depending on where you are heading, I found that taking the subway could be quite inconvenient, and involved multiple line transfers and further walks after getting off for our purposes. We ended up opting to take a lot of taxis instead (only when it really too far to walk), and most rides that took anywhere from 15-20 minutes across town only had a fare of around $4-5USD. Considering there were two of us and we come from a city with extraordinary taxi prices, we didn't mind splurging to save the time and walking energy to get to where we wanted to go. Oh, and Uber is available here too, which is a great option if you are low on cash.
Breakfast at Cafe Tortoni
Founded in 1858, Cafe Tortoni is the epitome of a classic Porteño cafe, and it is one of the most popular hangout spots in the city for locals and tourists alike. It's located Downtown on the main street of Avenida de Mayo, and is just about a 10 minute walk from Plaza Mayor. It is undoubtedly the most famous cafe in the city of Buenos Aires, and has been listed in the top 10 most beautiful cafes in the world. The lines here can be quite long and can stretch half way down the block all day long, but the line moves fairly quickly and there is ample seating inside. Cafe Tortoni's menu is quite extensive, with dozens of sandwich and pastry options and of course a full selection of beverages. We came for an early breakfast before 9am, so we were seated immediately. We ordered one of the breakfast specials, which included a sandwich and cake of your choice, a glass or fresh orange juice, and a cafe con leche. The sandwich was yummy but basic, but the alfajor cake was incredible! Definitely make sure to stop by Cafe Tortoni for a dessert or a an afternoon coffee and enjoy the cozy yet opulent vibes. There are multiple rooms in the cafe since they frequently hosts events throughout the week, including tango experiences and musical shows. Check out their weekly schedule here.
Stroll Through Plaza Mayor / Casa Rosada
If I could create a palace from my imagination, Casa Rosada comes quite close! After all, pink is my favorite color, and it's not quite often you come across an entirely pink government building in any city. Casa Rosada (The Pink House) is the seat of the Argentine national government and houses the office of the President of Argentina. It is located in Plaza Mayor and quite frankly, very difficult to miss. If you're interesting in learning more about the Casa Rosada's history and Argentinean politics, make sure to head to El Museo Casa Roasda, just behind the build itself. Admission is free!
El Ateneo Grand Splendid You don't just get the top the list of National Geographic's list of most beautiful bookstores in the world without earning the title! El Ateneo Grand Splendid, constructed in 2008, is a beautiful bookstore located on Santa Fe Avenue in Barrio Norte. As you can tell from the photo below, this space was originally built as a theater with a capacity of over 1,000 and was eventually converted into a bookstore and music shop. If you in the neighborhood, I would definitely make an effort just to pop in a walk around, because the store it's beautiful inside!
Snack Break: Empanadas and Flan at El Sanjuanino
I can't even begin to describe my excitement over the food in Buenos Aires while planning for this trip. While steak and malbec was the quintessential Argetinean meal in my mind, I was equally as excited for the empanadas and the desserts! An thus began the quest for some of the best in the city. Without a doubt, El Sanjuanino has some of the best empanadas out of the dozen that we sampled over the course of the week. You'd be surprised at how disappointed we were with some of the ones we tried because we kept comparing them to the ones at El Sanjuanino, which set the bar really high since we had it on day 1.The empanadas here are warm, flaky, fresh pockets of baked dough packed with deliciously seasons fillings. The jamon y queso (ham and cheese), and the beef ones were our personal favorites. And at around $1 a pop, it's also such a bargain. The flan here is also stellar - perfectly creamy and sweet and totally satisfied my afternoon sweet tooth.
Visit el Cementerio de la Recoleta
Now, I know you might be thinking what I initially thought too. Why would a cemetery be one of the most famous places to visit in Buenos Aires and why should I go to see it? Well hear me out! El Cemeterio de la Recoleta is a cemetery located on a hill in the Recoleta neighhorhood, and it is home to over 6,400 graves, most of which are built above ground and are quite elaborate. Many influential and important Argentineans are buried here, including presidents, scientists, and more notably, Eva Perón, the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón and First Lady of Argentina.
Though it could seem a bit haunting without the large crowds and near sunset, it's actually very interesting to walk through the cemetery and see the different style mausoleums and statues that have been built in honor of the dead. There's something quite peaceful? about the whole thing. At 14 acres, it's pretty easy to get lost, so make sure to grab a map at the entrance. Best of all, it's free admission all year round.
Happy Hour at Johnny B. Good
Because I'm not much of a drinker, I'm pretty picky when it comes to drinks because I want to spend my tolerance on something really delicious! Johnny B. Good has the best buy 1 get 1 free happy hour specials every evening, and their cocktail menu is more exciting to me than the ones I've seen in New York. There's a large variety of cocktails that are categorized based on theme and liquor type, and the extensive picture menu definitely makes it that much harder to pick one. There is truly something for everyone on the menu, and the HH special deal is spectacular. Most cocktails are around ~$5USD, so after the deal and tax, it comes out to only around $3 a drink! What a bargain.
Steak Night at Calden del Soho
Going out to eat steak in NYC is definitely a treat and reserved for bigger occasions since it's so expensive. So I knew that we were going to have enjoy many steak nights in Argentina to take advantage of how affordable it is to indulge here and you can truly feast and enjoy a bottle of wine too at a fraction of the cost. Calden del Soho definitely met our expectations and set the bar high. We really enjoyed the bread basket with the selection of chimichurri and garlic dipping sauces. The T-bone was fatty but delicious, and the garden mushrooms melt in your mouth and has that perfect bite of pine nuts. And don't forget that glass of malbec to wash it all down!
Did you know that Argentina has the 2nd highest beef consumption per capita in the world?
Esquina Homero Manzi Tango Show
Tango is very much sown into the Argentina fabric and way of life, and has a history dating back to the early 19th century. Though the origins of the dance are not fully known or recorded, it is believed that the intermixing of the African, Spanish, British, Polish, Russian and native-born Argentines during the late 1800s and early 1900s resulted in a mixing pot of cultures and dance. And thus, the Argentina style tango was born and has evolved throughout the years. Tango shows are quite popular in Buenos Aires, and I highly recommend going to see a show or even taking a tango lesson during your visit. It's the perfect late-night entertainment option, and there are many places to choose from.
I noticed that many of the tango shows I researched offerd shows beginning after 10pm (people here do things really late, especially on the weekends!) Most offer optional dining options, which is great it you're looking to do a dinner and show for a full evening of fun. I opted to do dinner separately since I had a few other places I wanted to check out during our limited time in BA. I ended up choosing the Esquina Homero Manzi Tango Show for it's rave reviews and affordable prices. Tickets for the 1.5 hour show are only $25 per person, which is a bargain considering there are other shows in the city that cost upward of $200 per ticket. You can also order a la carte from the menu which is extensive and has many drink options. Tickets can either be purchased ahead of time online, and you can also buy them at the door if they aren't fully booked for the evening. You can also choose from other packages which include the full dinner and also tango lessons earlier in the evening. The venue is large but definitely intimate enough and cozy enough of a space where you didn't feel like it was just a big, glitzy production. The show itself was beautiful, with a small group of 8 dancers and a variety of different scenes and singing acts.
Brunch at Birkin
Weekend brunch is a staple no matter where you are in the world. I love the Palermo neighborhood because of it's European vibes and plentiful greenery. We enjoyed brunch at Burkin, located just a few minute walk from the Carlos Thays Botanical Gardens. They have all your breakfast staples, including fresh omelettes, avocado toast, pancakes with fresh fruit, and a variety of pastries including scones and muffins.
Stroll through Palermo Neighborhood
The largest of Buenos Aires' barrio, Palermo is a great area to spend some time walking and exploring. It's made up of smaller sub-neighborhoods, including Palermo Chico, Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, Alto Palermo, Plaza Italia, Las Cañitas and Villa Freud. You may find that one day isn't even enough to check out all the trendy cafes and restaurants, chic boutiques, and luscious parks, but you can certainly try. Palermo is also a great place to check out the art scene by visiting el Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo and MALBA (the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires).
Visit La Boca Neighborhood
Out of the 48 barrios in Buenos Aires, La Boca tops the list as the most fun and colorful of them all! Located in the city's south-east near its old port, La Boca is located east of and south of San Telmo and Puerto Madero. It is extremely popular with tourists due to its colorful houses and famous pedestrian street called el Caminito. At all hours of the day, you can find tango artists performing in the streets and you can enjoy a coffee or a meal at one of the dozens of the restaurants lining the main street. Other attractions include La Ribera theater, tango clubs and Italian taverns. The colorful backdrop of La Boca reminded me a lot of my time in the rainbow Italian island of Burano. Surprisingly enough, early settlers of La Boca are actually from Genoa, Italy, which is why this neighborhood largely retains its Italian flare. I would recommend a few hours to check out the neighborhood and grab a snack or alfajor and coffee and the famous Havava Cafe in El Caminito. Don't forget your camera! La Boca is a photographer's dreamland.
Steak Night at Don Julio Don Julio is quite arguably the most famous steakhouse in Buenos Aires, and after trying it, I definitely know why. The experience here is perfect, the service is impeccable and the food is divine. Upon checking in for our 7pm reservation (opening time), we were greeted with a glass of champagne as we waited to be seated. The bread served before the meal is one of the best I've ever had. It's a single, puffy loaf, but despite it's simplicity, was so delicious with a dip in the chimichurri. If you are unfamiliar with different cuts of beef, your waiter will direct you up to the bar area where they will explain to you different cuts of meet displayed on a tray. The most famous cut of meat in Argentina is the bife de chorizo (sirloin), but we opted to share the T-bone instead. In a T-bone steak, the large section of meat is strip steak (left side of middle/left photo) and the smaller piece is the tenderloin (right side of middle/right photo). The tenderloin was absolutely the most delicious piece of meat, though both were tender, juicy, and flavorful. We ordered a side of creamy, mashed sweet potatoes along with the steak. The dessert also looked very promising, but we skipped out on it in ordered to try it someone where else.
Getting a last minute reservation here is not an easy feat, so I recommend booking far in advance or coming right at opening time for a chance to get seated without a long wait.
Gelato at Rapaniu
Originating in San Carlos de Bariloche in the Patagonia region of Argentina, Rapaniu made its way up north and there are a few locations scattered around in Buenos Aires. They are known for their family history and passion of creating handmade chocolates. They also have an extensive selection of ice cream flavors that are made with the same passion as their chocolate - no colorings, no preservatives, no flavors, no emulsifiers or artificial additives. We went to two separate Rapaniu locations in town and were able to try a variety of their flavors. My personal favorites were the hazel nut, passion fruit, and calafate berry.
Nightlife: The Bow Nightclub
If you thought New York City nightlife had a life of its own, the party scene in Buenos Aires is in another league. Party go-ers love to start late here. I'm talking 2am when the club starts to begin filling up and people will party well into the morning hours on the weekends. Make sure to check out the bar and club scene on a Friday and Saturday Night. I went to the Bow Nightclub at midnight (when they opened) since we had a 5am flight to catch. Unfortunately, it was quite empty until around the 2am mark, and when we were leaving to head back to our hotel just a bit later, we saw hoard of people waiting in line to head to one of the few clubs in the vicinity. I've heard great things about Terrazas del Este, but check out this list for a few other fun options.
Eat Your Way Through Mercado de San Telmo
One of the must-visit places in the neighborhood is el Mercade de San Telmo, an indoor local market built in 1897 that once served as a fruit and vegetable market. These days, you will find dozens of food stalls and small shops selling everything from dulce de leche to yerba mate gourds. It is located between the streets of Defensa, Bolivar, Estados Unidos, and Carlos Calvo. The market is built within a Tuscan-style building, fitting as it was constructed by Italian artist Juan A Buschiazzo. Don't confuse el Merccado de San Telmo with the San Telmo Antique Fair, which is open only on Sundays. You can enjoy the yummy food and fun shopping experience at the market everyday of the week (except Mondays) from morning until evening. While we only tried Choripaneria (keep reading to hear about the choripan), there are a variety of different food stalls selling empanadas, crepes, tapas, fresh fruit juices, pastries, and much much more! I think a fun thing to do would be to sample a little something throughout the market instead of having one big big lunch or dinner.
Try Choripan at Choripaneria
Who knew that a $2 sausage sandwich could be so damn delicious! When in Argentina (or Uruguay or Chile), make sure to try choripan, a simple beef and pork chorizo sausage on a toasted roll. Choripaneria, located in San Telmo Market, is a popular choice among locals and tourists, and seats start filling up before they even start taking food orders. They offer a variety of different types of choripan, kind of like when you go to a hot dog shop and you can go wild with the toppings. We stuck with a simple choripan with chimichurri sauce, which cost less than $2USD, and we were blown away by the deliciousness.It's juicy and bursting with flavor, and I wish we had ordered two because I didn't want to share.
Bargain Hunting at San Telmo Sunday Fair
San Telmo Neighborhood is your 1-stop shop to satisfy all of your shopping and eating needs.It's full of high end leather shops, alfajors and dulce de leche samplings, and of course, it's also home to the famous San Telmo Antique Fair! Open every Sunday (obviously) from 10am to 5pm, the Feria de San Telmo is one of the most popular events taking place in Buenos Aires. Throughout the year, you will find thousands of people of every Sunday exploring one of BA's oldest neighborhoods. Though it might be daunting to find yourself in this crowd, it's quite an experience to check out the hundreds of different stalls that sell one-of-a-kind antiques, artwork, clothing, trinkets, and food. You may even stumble upon some open air tango dances along the way! I recommend coming around when the fair opens to avoid the very heavy crowds. I noticed that the neighborhood was still quite quiet even at 11am since people are normally recovering from wild Saturday night partying at the club. Easter Sunday was no joke!
Grab a Burger at El Banco Rojo
El Banco Rojo knows how to serve up a good (and cheap) burger. It's a great place to stop for a quick lunch in San Telmo, and they also serve a variety of yummy sandwiches and empanadas! They also have a happy hour basically all day from 12pm-10pm everyday with great deals on beer and wings.
Visit the Legendary Pizza Guerrin
NYC Pizza is hard to compete with, and I've also been to Italy 3 times where I've had some of the best pizza in my life. So who knew that Buenos Aires was home to one of the BEST SLICES EVER?!?! Pizza Guerrin has been doing it right since 1932, when Genoese emigrant Mr. Arturo Malvezzi and Mr. Guido Grondona arrived from Italy in 1927.
This pizza parlor essentially has 2 sections, one toward the back where you can dine-in with table service, and a few counters up front where you can also order pizza by the slice/pie and fresh empanadas that they make right in front of you on the side counter. They offer a few different topping options, including veggie, meat, margherita, ham and cheese and more. At an average of $1.50USD per slice, it's a bargain meal. These slices are uber cheesy with just the perfect about of crisp. Perhaps I was also just really hungry from not eating all day, but my plain margherita pizza slice was one of the most delicious things I ate all week. We also tried a ham and cheese empanada, which had a very cheesy bite and was unlike any other empanada I had (in a good way). Oh, they're desserts also look incredible, so save room for that
Check out the Obelisk
By definition, an obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top. I went to school in Maryland and spent a lot of time in DC, so the Washington Monument holds a very special place in my heart. The Obelisk in Buenos Aires basically looks like a mini replica (235 ft) of the Washington Monument (555 ft), though it is a national historic monument and iconic in the Argentine capital. Similar to the Washington Monument, you can also reach the top, but only by foot (206 steps) instead of an elevator. You can find the Obelisk in the Plaza de la República in the intersection of avenues Corrientes and 9 de Julio. I think it looks pretty cool during sunset time when the base lights up, and it's a great spot for photography.
Stroll Through Puerto Madero
The barrio of Puerto Madero is one of Buenos Aires' nicest and span over 500 acres. Surprisingly enough, it is also the neighborhood (out of 48) with the smallest population. Puerto Madero is most notable for it's waterfront, which is lined with converted redbrick buildings, upscale steakhouses, bars, and sleek skyscrapers and expensive apartments. One of the coolest structures is el Puente de la Mujer, a beautiful, rotating suspension bridge for Dock 3. Be sure to heck out Johny B. Good for great happy hour drinks and Cabaña Las Lilas for upscale steakhouse dining, which are both located right along the water. If you're into more athletic, outdoorsy activities, check out the running trails around the lakes of the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve.
Steak Night at Santos Manjares
The last steakhouse recommendation I have on this list is Santos Manjares, a popular and affordable bar and grill in Retiro. They don't take reservations and it's considered low-frills or no-frills when compared to Calden del Soho or Don Julio. You can pretty much order any cut of beef (filet, ribeye, bife de chorizo) which includes a side for around $10-$15 USD. Heineken happens to be a popular beverage choice here, so if you're sick of the wine or want something a bit different, go for the beer! During peak dinner time 8-10pm, there may be a little bit of a wait. However, there are two floors and the space is quite large, so the line should move fairly quickly since the service is also fast.
Cocktails at a Speakeasy, Floreria Atlantico
I'm fortunate enough to live in a city that has a speakeasy around every corner, and even though I don't frequent them as much as I probably should, I definitely enjoy check out the hidden bar scene when I visit a new city that is known to have a few fun ones. Floreria Atlantico is a bar located in the basement of a flower and wine shop in Retiro. It's a rustic, trendy, and cozy space that I really enjoyed. They have a large bar area that can comfortably fit 15-20 along with a dozen or so high tops and regular tables where you can do a full dinner service. This space fills up very quickly based on our experience. We were already in line outside the shop before the bar opened, and the entire first-come, first-serve bar was full within the first half hour. The restaurant part was fully booked too on a Saturday evening. They have a Spanish menu that was quite difficult for us to read since I'm not well versed in Spanish alcohol vocabulary. However, I really enjoyed my King's Chai drink and Blake enjoyed his Kombucha cocktail. Started and main course are also served at the bar so you can enjoy your drinks and dinner without a reservation.
DAY TRIP OPTIONS
Buenos Aires is such a large and diverse city, as it is a melting pot of many different cultures and cuisines. There's so much to do all-year round, that it would take quite some time to explore and eat your throughout the city. If you have more time on your hands in Buenos Aires, I would recommend taking a day trip out of the main city center for a change of scenery.
Explore El Tigre Spend a day exploring El Tigre, a popular spot for both locals and tourists to escape to during the weekends. It's a small, peaceful town that is a 30 minute car ride north of the heart of Buenos Aires. El Tigre is known for its delta of hundreds of tiny islands and waterways, so you can even take a boat ride around the town. There is also a very popular weekend market and a yerba mate museum, dedicated to the popular herbal drink that Argentineans always seem to have in their hands.
Visit an Estancia One of the things I wish I had an extra day to do is visit an estancia (ranch) in Argentina. They are essentially private plots of lands used to raise cattle and for farming, and there are many scattered throughout in remote regions around the country. Luckily, there are a few estancias near Buenos Aires, which makes it a great day trip idea from the city! Many of them mayalso offer a bed and breakfast, so you can actually spend a night at the estancia for a fun and unique experience. Some estancias also offer day tours which may include hanging out with a gaucho (aka a South American cowboy), learning about gaucho life and culture, enjoying a meal on the ranch, and even horseback riding! Check out this list for a few picks of the best estancias near Buenos Aires,
Watch a Polo Match at El Campo Argentino del Polo Polo has a special place in Argentina, which was brought to by British immigration in the 19th century. If you're lucky enough to visit during Polo season, which runs from September until the end of the year, don't miss out on watching a match. Check out the schedules for the local stadiums in Buenos Aires to purchase tickets. If you're looking to watch one of the most anticipated spectacles of the year, keep your eyes out for the 2019 dates of the 126th HSBC Argentine Open Polo Tournament.
And that's a wrap for Buenos Aires! I know this itinerary is quite lengthy, but I wanted to make sure I didn't miss the details that I would have wanted to know before planning my own trip here. I hope you take away some of my tips and suggestions and make sure to share any of your own tips and recommendations below on on my Instagram! Watch out for my Patagomia guide coming later next week :)
Outfit Details: Dress - Bloomingdale's
We spent a few nights in Palermo and liked the area a lot, although we found ourselves spending a lot of money on transportation because many of the places were a bit too far to walk to. Key considerations here are definitely time, budget, and proximity to restaurants and sights!