Yes, you read that right. Less than one full day in Buenos Aires.
Some folks people will tell you that one day isn’t enough time to spend in a city, that you shouldn’t even bother if that’s all you have. I disagree.
Yes, it’s ideal to have two or three days in a city to truly get a feel for it, but that’s not always possible and I believe that if you plan well you can accomplish a TON in a day. And that’s better than nothing.
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Also, you should seek out pastries and coffee the second you touch down. That’s an important part of how we do this.
Itinerary for one day in Buenos Aires
We spent a day drinking in the unbelievable Iguazu Falls, one day of miserable delayed travel, then almost four days enchanted with Mendoza’s food, wine, and culture (including a day in the Andes). Finally, we wrapped up back in Buenos Aires, arriving around 6:00pm and needing to leave for the airport by 4:15pm the next afternoon.
With such a short amount of time, we made a game plan to make sure we saw a number of different neighborhoods and types of sights—we weren’t under any delusion that we saw everything, but we felt like we got a great taste of the city.
- Stayed at an Airbnb in Palermo
- Traditional steakhouse dinner
- Quirky coffee shop in a cute neighborhood
- Recoleta Cemetary
- El Ateneo
- San Telmo and tango
- La Boca
- We walked as much as possible, but given how limited our time was we also splurged on taxis to get from neighborhood to neighborhood quickly…it’s not worth the $10 you’ll save if you get lost and waste an hour of precious sight-seeing time on a tight schedule.
So, the clock is ticking…let’s get down to business!
Traditional steakhouse dinner
We got into Buenos Aires in early evening, and saw a beautiful sunset on the taxi ride to our Airbnb…my fingers were just itching for a balcony and a camera! Once we got settled, we made our way to Don Julio, where we’d made reservations. It’s a fairly well-known traditional steakhouse that the forums at TripAdvisor had recommended.
We were seated on the balcony, so had a great view of the floor, and enjoyed tomato salad, Spanish tortilla, steak, and a yummy passion fruit panna cotta for dessert. And, of course, excellent wine. The service was really good too.
Felix Felicis in Palermo Soho neighborhood
You better believe that as soon as I found about a Harry Potter-themed coffee shop in Buenos Aires, it was a non-negotiable on our itinerary. Sarai and I are both Harry Potter nerds (we went to the Wizarding World in Orlando a couple years ago as well), and this is catnip to us.
We walked to Felix Felicis from our Airbnb, which took about 45 minutes. It’s super cute and has little Harry Potter references everywhere. Don’t have too high of expectations though, it’s really tiny and it’s not like the drinks are HP-themed or anything. That didn’t detract from my enjoyment, but if you’re thinking of it as a grand experience you might be disappointed.
We fueled ourselves for our whirlwind day with some of the best coffee of our trip and alfajores—a traditional treat that consists of tender, melt-in-your-mouth cookies sandwiched with thick dulce de leche.
After caffeinating, we made our way to the Recoleta neighborhood to explore the famous Recoleta Cemetary. This was definitely a taxi ride, it would have taken us forever otherwise.
The huge intricate tombs and mausoleums make this place a fascinating walk, like you’re inside a tiny city. Probably the most famous tomb here is that of Eva Peron, a.k.a. Evita.
We ended up being here longer than planned, because we stumbled upon a ceremony in commemoration of Argentine Army Day, celebrating the foundation of their army four days after overthrowing the Spanish administration in 1810. There were sweet uniforms, military demonstrations, and a speech by the major. And cute men in uniform.
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I’m not generally into this kind of thing (cemeteries or mausoleums), but Recoleta really is beautiful. The tombs are enormous and ornate, and all so very different. There’s no uniformity at all. And it photographs beautifully.
El Ateneo, a book nerd’s paradise
Next up on the docket was some quiet time in one of the world’s grandest bookstores. Seriously, it’s usually listed in the top three on annual lists.
Buenos Aires has more bookshops per capita than any other city in the world, but El Ateneo is particularly grand. It opened as a theatre in 1919, and was converted to a bookstore around 2000. It still sports the beautiful ceiling frescoes painted by an Italian artist when it originally opened. I picked up a copy of the second Harry Potter book in Spanish, to add to my growing international HP collection.
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Tango in Plaza San Telmo
After satisfying our literary cravings, we hopped into a taxi and headed to the San Telmo neighborhood for a late lunch.
We did a scan of the area but nothing really jumped out at us, so we sat down in a plaza for the promised tango show and some not great food. We mostly had bad luck in Buenos Aires food-wise, though that’s mostly on us since we made bad choices due to being so rushed.
But we watched two pairs of tango dancers while we sipping local Quilmes beer on a gorgeous afternoon, so I can’t really complain. I’m *obsessed* with learning to tango, but I feel like it has to be done with someone you totally trust because you are ALL SORTS of pressed up onto them. #awkward
Finally, before heading to the airport we quickly popped over to the neighborhood of La Boca, a low-income area known for its crazy colorful buildings. It’s also *super* touristy, but the bright colors really pop in pictures.
Despite the colors, I wasn’t a huge fan of La Boca. I tend to be fairly uncomfortable in super touristy situations, and everything just looked poor quality and overpriced. I’m not sad we went, but I think if I had a do-over I’d maybe scrap this portion and instead find a really great local place to sit down off the beaten path to eat, have a drink, and people-watch. More chill, less “check the box”. But that’s life…
As we headed to the airport, we were happy with what we’d accomplished and already talking about coming back to this beautiful and vibrant city. If we’d listened to most people, we would have missed out on a very satisfying end to our Argentinean adventure—a good reminder to always go with your gut!
What “absolutely must-do” sights did we miss in our whirlwind Buenos Aires escapade? Let me know in the comments!
Other city itinerary itineraries for a short visit:
- A Perfect 24-Hour Itinerary in Istanbul
- 10 Things You Have to Do With a Day in Lisbon
- How to Spend 24 Hours in Dublin
- A First-Timer’s Guide to 24 Hours in Reykjavik, Iceland
- A First-Timer’s Guide to Medellin, Colombia