The city by the Rio Plata is filled with the grandeur of European buildings, the hectic bustle of Calle Florida, the sensual rhythms of tango, the cobblestones of San Telmo and the bright colours of La Boca. Buenos Aires weaves a potent spell, but it is the porteños of Buenos Aires– their warmth, passion and love for life – who make this city queen amongst others. Here’s how to spend 3 days in Buenos Aires.
Day 1 in Buenos Aires
Art in Palermo Soho | 3:00 p.m.
Start by checking into a hotel in Buenos Aires. I recommend Palermo, located north of the city, a tree lined cobblestoned streets, gorgeous little boutiques, shops filled to overflowing with libros, sidewalk cafes and street markets selling jewellery and clothes. Palermo’s buildings have European facades – cherubs and Greek pillars and carved balustrades, iron fretwork balconies and narrow wooden doors. Visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes for its small but stunning collection. All the big names are represented here, from Rembrandt to Monet to Rodin. Best of all, it’s free.
Angels in Recoleta | 5:00 p.m.
From here, make your way to the Recoleta Cemetery, a 4,800 tomb strong cemetery located in one of Buenos Aires’ most expensive suburbs. The cemetery is where the Duartes family have their crypt – home of Argentina’s most famous First Lady, Evita Peron. Having paid your respects, take a wander around, or better still, hire a guide and discover the many stories that lie within the cemetery.
Here in Recoleta, no expense has been spared on the tombs. There are winged angels, benevolent angels, smiting angels. There are rosy cheeked cherubs, and crosses aplenty. Byzantine domes top some of the tombs, and stained glass windows throw rainbows over coffins draped in white silk, offerings of flowers and candle holders.
Evening aperitivo| 7:00 p.m.
As the sun sets and traffic winds down, join the locals at La Biela, one of the city’s oldest cafes. The bar is furnished in warm wood and decorated with photographs and memorabilia from race car driving. The café has long been a hot spot for politicians, famous celebrities, artists and writers like Jorge Luis Borges.
Steak night | 9:00 p.m.
The Argentines have dinner late and turning up before 9pm at many restaurants may mean a long wait for the dinner service. For your first night in B.A., head to Don Julio, where you can order steak and an assortment of grilled meats, or parilla. Wash dinner down with lots of Malbec and kick on at one of the many clubs in Palermo.
Day 2 in Buenos Aires
City Tour | 10:00 a.m.
On your first full day in Buenos Aires, it’s time to tick off some city sights. Start with Casa Rosada, or the Pink House, the office of the Argentine President, who flies in by helicopter every morning. You can take a tour of the Casa Rosada. The next stop is Plaza Mayo, with fountains, lovely park grounds and a small obelisk marking independence. Flanking Plaza Mayo are Buenos Aires’ best architectural gems – the National Bank and the Metropolitan Cathedral. Finish your explorations with a walk past Congress and a stroll down Calle Florida, the main shopping thoroughfare of Buenos Aires for souvenirs and just to soak up the energy of the city.
La Boca | 1:00 p.m.
In the afternoon, take a bike tour to La Boca, a raffish neighbourhood famous for its colourful corrugated iron houses, and Boca Juniors, the team that Diego Maradonna hailed from before he became the Hand of God. On weekends there is often a feria, or street fair, going on, complete with tango dancers, loud roving reggae rogues, accompanied by the scent of chorizos and parrillas in the air.
La merienda | 7:00 p.m.
This is the right time for a little break, or la merienda, typically a café con leche (coffee with milk) and an alfajor (chocolate covered caramel biscuit) with family and friends. Head back to Palermo, where Casa Cavia offers a restaurant, cafe, bar, secret garden, bookstore and florist for all your food, beverage, book or horticulture needs, housed in a 1930s two-story home that’s both somehow modern and Art Deco. You’ll also find a perfumery here, with hundreds of bespoke fragrances on display.
Time to Tango | 10:00 p.m.
Café Tortoni is a quintessentially English tea room where the ambience is all word paneling, mellow down lights and local eclectic art on the walls, the waiters in old fashioned white and black, and tables are rendered in stucco marble. The café also offers nightly tango shows, mostly starting from around 10pm. You can choose the dinner and dance option, then move on to los bares secretos, or Buenos Aires secret bars.
Kick start the night at Frank’s Bar (you can get the password from the bar’s Frank’s Bar), which plays on the phone booth-as-entrance appeal of PDT in New York City. You’ll find excellent cocktails to wash down the night while you people watch.
Day 3 in Buenos Aires
La Feria de Mataderos | 11:00 p.m.
On the last of your 3 days in Buenos Aires, it’s time to immerse yourself in gaucho culture. Located 45 minutes away from Buenos Aires, the feria de mataderos is one of Buenos Aires’ most famous Sunday markets. Based on gaucho culture, the stalls here sell crafts, antiques, and artisanal foods like homemade empanadas, cured meats, cheeses, chocolates, boutique wines and liquor. There are also parillas, filling the air with the aromatic smell of barbecued meat. You’ll also find stall selling gaucho paraphernalia, from mate gourds to leather goods to the coin belts they wear. There are is also horse riding demonstrations and folk singing and dancing.
Antiques in San Telmo | 2:00 p.m.
Heading back into the city, wrap up your 3 days in Buenos Aires by visiting the antique stalls of San Telmo, which runs along the entire length of Defensa. The San Telmo market is world renown for its antiques – mostly homewares, like an early 20th century telephone, vintage glassware and original light fixtures.