Buenos Aires is packed with regal historic mansions, some of the best restaurants in South America and quiet, leafy streets made for delightfully aimless wandering. Make the most of your time in Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital with our guide to spending three perfect days here.
After a long flight, you’ll be tempted to collapse in your room at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires, but resist the urge; siesta comes later. This sumptuous property, in the posh Recoleta neighborhood, is a modern tower fronted by a handsome 1916 beaux-arts mansion; seven of the hotel’s suites are within, one of which Madonna stayed in while filming Evita.
If you arrived on the red-eye, it’s time for breakfast. Sit down at Le Moulin de la Fleur, because where else would you begin your day in the Paris of South America but at a quaint boulangerie? The pastries here are buttery and divine, best taken alongside a frothy cappuccino.
Sated, stroll 15 minutes to the famous bookstore El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a mecca for bibliophiles. The former Teatro Gran Splendid, opened in 1919 by Austrian émigré Max Glücksmann, hosted tango performances, recording sessions for Glücksmann’s record label and was the first theater in Argentina to screen a sound film. The space has been beautifully preserved with the frescoed ceilings, balconies and red velvet stage curtains.
Your next stop is La Recoleta Cemetery, just a 20-minute jaunt from the bookstore. The cemetery began as the garden of an early 18th-century convent and was laid out in 1822 by a French engineer. The array of architectural styles here is impressive: neo-gothic, art deco, art nouveau and baroque are the most common. Wide, tree-lined sidewalks lead to narrower paths lined with more than 6,400 marble mausoleums, statues and crypts, most carved and cut from French and Italian materials. Buried here are presidents of Argentina, writers like Adolfo Bioy Casares (The Invention of Morel) and Eva Perón, better known as Evita.
Your last stop before lunch is Teatro Colón, one of the world’s preeminent opera houses. Its architectural style is eclectic, and when you take the theater’s excellent 50-minute tour (every 15 minutes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.), you’ll understand why. If you’re lucky, you’ll visit one of the boxes just in time to catch a rehearsal.
Lunch is at nearby steakhouse Santos Manjares. Argentines — in particular, urbanites — are hewing towards healthier diets with less meat, but vacationers don’t seem to be slowing down. Here, there’s a steak on every table, framed by sides like mashed pumpkin or grilled vegetables and paired with a glass of malbec.
It’s a 15-minute walk back to the Four Seasons, where Buenos Aires’ only heated outdoor pool beckons. If you feel peckish later, slip into lobby lounge Pony Line for an oxtail empanada.
Start the day by learning about Buenos Aires’ rich architectural history on a walking tour run by Context Travel. The three-hour trek, capped at six people, covers the Recoleta and Retiro neighborhoods, and as you stroll the quaint streets, you’ll hear the stories behind buildings like the Palacio Barolo and Retiro Station.
Take a taxi or the metro over to trendy Palermo, where the streets, named for different South American cities or after literati like Jorge Luis Borges, are quiet, leafy and lined with boutiques, cafés and trendy restaurants and bars. Walk around during the weekend and you’ll see markets in Plazas Serrano and Armenia, the squares filled with stalls selling clothing, home goods and accessories. You can while away the entire day in Palermo and its sub-neighborhoods Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood.
Among the many museums are Museo Evita, which sits inside a grand 1923 mansion, and Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, in the 1917 beaux-arts residence of Matías Errázuriz Ortúzar and Josefina de Alvear, complete with their art and belongings. If the weather is agreeable, do a loop in the tranquil Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays, home to more than 3,000 plant and tree species.
For lunch, transport yourself to coastal Peru on the sunny terrace at chef Gaston Acurio’s cebicheria La Mar.
If you’re still in Palermo come dinner, look for the inconspicuous entrance to Mediterranean restaurant Tegui, a barely marked black door surrounded by colorful street art. The menu changes weekly — dishes have included sous-vide duck with cherries and horseradish foam — and given advance notice, the kitchen can sub in vegetarian and gluten-free options.
You’d be remiss to leave Argentina without seeing the tango. The dance is so essential to Argentine (and Uruguayan) culture that it’s on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Tango Trips takes you to milongas (tango venues) where you can watch as locals skillfully tear up the dance floor. You can even try it out yourself.
Kick off your last day in Buenos Aires by soaring over the city in a helicopter. Patagonia Chopper’s 12-, 30- and 60-minute flights take you through Puerto Madero, high above the colorful container ships, through the verdant Ecological Reserve and over fútbol (soccer) stadium La Bombonera, packed on game days with La Boca fans.
Spend the rest of the day wandering around the lovely shaded streets of San Telmo, popping into Mercado San Telmo for a break at Coffee Town and, if it’s a Sunday, wending your way through the more than 200 stalls at antique market Feria de San Telmo.
If you need a bite, stop at El Banco Rojo for its spicy lamb empanada and a cold Diuka pilsner. Then browse the contemporary art collection at MAMBA, where Tomás Saraceno’s “How to Catch the Universe in a Web” — featuring two floors of his trademark spider web — is on display until August 27.
For lunch, there’s meaty and there’s healthy. Classic steakhouse La Brigada is a 20-year veteran that’s popular among tourists for its English-speaking staff, top cuts and generous pours of malbec.
Hierbabuena is a charming vegetarian restaurant always filled with trendy porteños sipping housemade lemonade — there are a whopping 10 varieties on the menu — and tucking into hearty salads full of quinoa and colorful vegetables.
Back in Recoleta, wrap up your last day with a wine-and-cheese tasting at Four-Star Park Hyatt Buenos Aires’ La Vinoteca. Also known as Palacio Duhau, the luxurious hotel is in part housed in a stunning neoclassical mansion built in 1932 for the wealthy Duhau family. Its cellar boasts 7,000 bottles of Argentine wine and its cheese cave offers more than 40 varieties.