What to do in Buenos Aires in one day

The capital city of Argentina is like a pocket of refined Western Europe in the deepest heart of Latin America. Grand Opera Houses, world-class galleries and a cuisine to rival anything in France or Italy make Buenos Aires the ideal city to enjoy a whistle-stop day trip. After a spending a night at the ultra-zen Vain Boutique Hotel blow off the jet lag with a visit to the Museum of Latin American Art, a riot of colour and culture in one of the city’s prettiest districts. Next it’s time for a caffeine boost at the popular Havanna café before taking in the beautifully bourgeois Recoleta neighbourhood with its famous cemetery. You’ll then go to eat the best steak of your life at the inimitable Don Julio before jumping a cab to La Boca, the city’s picturesque neighbourhood of cafés, working people and football fever

After a break on the gorgeous terrace at the Fundacion Proa café, head back to the city with a tour of the San Telmo area with its daily bric-a-brac market and charming leafy squares. Then go chill at the seaside on the boardwalks and parks of Puerto Madero, before popping into Chila for a gastronomic dinner the likes of which you have never experienced. The evening really starts to get going at legendary music venue La Trastienda, where you can take in a performance before grabbing a few drinks at the atmospheric Tango bar Café Tortoni. With things in full swing, you’ll finish your Buenos Aires day trip on the unbeatable dance floor of Pacha Buenos Aires, the city’s major destination for an all round wild time

09:00 – Have a good night’s sleep at Vain Boutique Hotel

On a leafy street in Old Palermo there’s a pretty beaux-arts townhouse that hosts one of Buenos Aires’ best boutique hotels. This is Vain Boutique, a unique offering that does high-end style on a small scale to make guests feel right at home, just like any great boutique hotel should. From the excellent free breakfast to the highly attentive staff, this place is all about refined comfort and they do it better than anybody

The atmosphere is relaxed, with the lobby, lounge and bar area decked out in a simple yet elegant manner with plenty of real oak furniture and gorgeous natural light. It’s minimalist and calming throughout, refined yet simple enough to feel at ease in your surroundings. Everything you expect from an independent, boutique hotel is here, with bags of character and an emphasis on guest satisfaction making Vain Boutique Hotel one of the very best anywhere in Buenos Aires. Such is the decor here that you can almost feel yourself de-stressing upon arrival, making this the perfect retreat from the busy city outside. Relax with a drink on the ground floor terrace amid the plants and you’ll never believe that you’re in the heart of one of Latin America’s biggest metropolis

The rooms here follow on from downstairs area, they’re large and airy and teeming with a simplistic elegance that invites total relaxation. Wooden floors and thick white sheets give all rooms a chilled out ambience, whilst plush bathrooms and slick lighting add a lick of luxury to the scene. There are four types of room here, starting with a standard double and going all the way up to superior suites with their own terrace. Overall, Vain Boutique Hotel is the ideal base for any Buenos Aires day trip, a perfect place to recharge after spending time out and about in this passionate city  // Vain Boutique Hotel – Thames 2226, C1425FIF Ciudad de Buenos Aires

09:30 – Start the day with some colour at the Museum of Latin American Art

For almost fifteen years MALBA has been a major centre for the arts in South America and today things at this Palermo based museum are as vibrant as ever. Even the modernist architecture of the place is worth a visit, yet it’s inside the museum that things really begin to come to life. With exhibitions on everything from sculpture to film to painting, this is a site not to be missed for the culturally inclined or indeed anybody looking to get a better understanding of the city, the nation and the entire continent

Although not the biggest of museums MALBA definitely packs a punch, featuring work from contemporary Argentinian artists as well as plenty of older stuff too – there’s even some Frida Kahlo works here. It’s not a big place but that’s all part of its charm, the light and airy building allows visitors to enjoy installations at their own pace without the stuffy ambience that can be a bane to so many museum visits. Unless you’re something of an expert, you probably won’t be too familiar with most of the artists on exhibition, which is great because you’re bound to experience something new on this the first stop of your Buenos Aires day trip

In addition to the fabulous art here, there’s a gift shop that sells some truly high-quality items, not at all the usual overpriced rubbish you might expect to find in a museum. There are books on everything from modern sculpture to classic Argentinian film, as well as some pretty postcards and prints that make awesome decorations for home. Then there’s the garden café area, ideal to sip a coffee and mull over any purchases you might have made or simply to discuss the unique works at this great little museum in Palermo  // MALBA – Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415, Buenos Aires

10:30 – Refuel at local institution Havanna Café

Argentinians take their coffee very seriously. Maybe it’s something to do with the Italian heritage, maybe it’s just because the stuff is so damn good here. Either way, a coffee break at Havanna Café is a must for any self-respecting Buenos Aires day tripper, it’s about as local as it gets around here. Once inside this place you just know the coffee will be great, the vintage decor and dark wood panelling inspiring confidence in a good strong cup

Staff is super friendly and, as long as you speak a little Spanish, they’ll attend to every need. That’s not to say it’s only the espresso that’s good here, much to the contrary. In fact, locals in Buenos Aires often plump for a cappuccino around this time of day, the rich milk tiding hungry stomachs over until lunchtime. That’s all well and good, but this is your Buenos Aires day trip, and so why not try something extra? Something even more local than Havanna Café itself, the pastries here are renowned for being particularly delicious and there’s perhaps none more so than the alfajor, a kind of Argentine Oreo stuffed with rich dulce de leche that will leave you wanting to move here permanently

The atmosphere here is fantastic, a blend of locals from all walks of life enjoying a coffee either at the bar, at a table or on the outdoor terrace which is a prime spot for people watching if the weather’s up to it. Sip on your brew and watch the old men reading their newspapers, the city girls giggling into iPhones, and you’ll be taking part in a local tradition that’s as much of an experience as any museum or monument ever was  // Havanna Café – Av. Santa Fe, 3148, Buenos Aires

11:00 – Take a stroll around beautiful Recoleta

Just south from the Palermo area of the city lies Recoleta, an upmarket part of Buenos Aires filled with gorgeous architecture, leafy boulevards and a bourgeois charm all of its own. This quarter features some of the city’s best shopping with all the big names featuring alongside some interesting local boutiques, bookshops and specialist stores that are perfect for digging out that unique gift or souvenir. There’s much more to Recoleta than that, though, as you’ll soon discover

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, one of the barrio’s true highlights is the famous Recoleta cemetery, resting place of Eva Peron as well as a host of other notable people in Argentina’s history. Whilst it may have fallen into disrepair in recent years, this adds to the faded charm of the place. A stroll around the crumbling tombstones is not quite as macabre as it may sound on a sunny morning in Buenos Aires and many visitors leave thrilled with the unique atmosphere at what is perhaps the nation’s most important burial spot. Be sure to check out the Del Pilar church too, which lies close to the cemetery and is a beautiful example of an old Argentinian chapel that remains well looked after to this day

Take a walk along the sprawling Avenida Avelar to take in some of Buenos Aires’ most exclusive real estate as well as a whole host of international embassies, some of which are notable sites in their own right, with wonderfully opulent architecture. If you’re still feeling hungry for culture then swing by the National Fine Arts museum for a taste of some Argentine classics. Whatever you choose to do during your time in Recoleta, it will be doused with elegance because that’s just how things are done in this upper-crust slice of BA  // Recoleta – Junín 1760, 1113 CABA, Buenos Aires

12:30 – Indulge carnivorous fantasies at legendary parrilla Don Julio

Chances are, when somebody mentions Argentina, you’re going to think of one of three things. Either football, Tango or more likely than not, beef. The closest thing to a national dish here is a slab of expertly cooked meat of the highest quality accompanied by a medley of sauces and sides. Yes, Argentina is a carnivore’s paradise and Don Julio is one of the very best places in town for an afternoon of reckless indulgence

Housed in a 19th-century building, this is a rustic place with wine bottles lining every inch of wall space. Guests here are asked to sign their bottle before it joins the rest on the wall, it’s something of a tradition and rather than being tacky, it adds a touch more character to this already highly ambient grill restaurant. Things are kept very simple indeed with white tablecloths, heritage wooden furniture and dramatic cast-iron chandeliers that give Don Julio the air of a proper countryside parrilla. The staff are highly experienced and will have no problem recommending cuts, sides and the perfect glass of red to accompany your order of meat

For all of that, it’s really only about one thing here. The beef at Don Julio is exclusively from grass-fed Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cattle, which are raised just a stone’s throw from the restaurant in the countryside surrounding Buenos Aires. After three weeks of maturing, cuts like rump steak and skirt steak are grilled in-house by expert chefs and served to guests who flock from across the nation to taste Don Julio’s famously good meats. There are plenty of starters to choose from too, such as fried beef empanadas (crispy little pastries) and beef short ribs. Pair everything with a delicious glass of Argentine Malbec, throw in a quality dessert, and you’ve got the perfect lunch for any Buenos Aires day trip itinerary  // Don Julio – Guatemala 4699, 1425 Buenos Aires

14:00 – Visit the city’s most vibrant area La Boca

A thoroughly working class area of Buenos Aires, spending the afternoon in La Boca will give you a taste of day to day life in Argentina’s capital whilst providing a treat for the senses like none other in town. The area is famed for it’s brightly coloured streets and buildings, which lends it all the air of a small child’s lego construction rather than a real life working neighbourhood. Wander these uniquely beautiful streets with a camera to get some of the best shots of your Buenos Aires day trip, taking a break to stop for a coffee and watch the people go by on their daily errands. This is a part of the city like no other and absolutely should not be missed by anybody coming to Buenos Aires

In addition to the postcard streets and characterful bars and cafés of the area is La Bombonera. If you don’t know then this is the home of Argentina’s biggest football club Boca Juniors, and it’s not quite like anything you’ve seen before. It’s not the size of the place, because at 49,000 the capacity here is nothing out of the ordinary, but it’s the ambience of La Bombonera, the history of the club, that lends this stadium a distinguished, almost mystic air

If you’re lucky enough to be here on a match day, it’s an unmissable experience. Boca has some of the most partisan, vocal support anywhere on earth and a visit to a game, particularly if it’s against arch-rivals River Plate, is an unforgettable experience. Just check the YouTube videos if you need some proof. Regardless, come here and make the tour because both stadium and team are huge players in daily life here in Buenos Aires, with a visit to La Bombonera essential on any day trip itinerary seeking to get to the heart of this magical city  // La Boca – Brandsen 805, 1161 Buenos Aires

16:00 – Take a minute at the Fundación Proa Café

This contemporary art museum hosts some great exhibitions of sculpture, painting, film and plenty more, but it’s the café here that makes it a must-do on this Buenos Aires day trip. An elegant and tasteful space with minimalist decor and squeaky clean colour scheme, the Fundacion Proa Cafe is secretly one of the coolest places to unwind anywhere in the city

Perhaps the biggest drawing point of the place is the excellent rooftop terrace, whose views across the Boca area are truly awe inspiring. Especially on a clear day, when the colours of the surrounding barrio are at their brightest and the unique identity of this neighbourhood becomes most apparent to visitors. There are tables, armchairs and huge plush couches to flop onto and catch your breath after an afternoon of wandering about La Boca, order a coffee or freshly squeezed juice to really bring yourself back to life at this mini sanctuary. If you’re feeling peckish the food is renowned as excellent, with modern twists on simple classics like apple pie and ice cream making Fundacion Proa café a winner on all fronts

Clientele here are young, hip artists and intellectual types, or at least they pull off the look well enough to fool you. The youthful atmosphere here is mirrored in the staff, who clearly chose the place for its artistic leanings and mill about the place wearing thick-rimmed spectacles and shining smiles. Once you’re done with relaxing maybe take a look at the numerous exhibitions downstairs, they change frequently yet whatever’s on here is sure to be representative of the city’s passionate emerging arts scene. The Fundacion Proa café is a highly original, calm atmosphere to grab a coffee during your time in La Boca. Good coffee, good food, good people and best of all, that view  // Fundacion Proa Cafe – Avenida Don Pedro de Mendoza 1929, C1169 Buenos Aires

17:00 – Lose yourself in the sights, smells and sound of the charming San Telmo district

Buenos Aires’ oldest quarter is a mish-mash of crumbling 19th-century houses and bustling commercial streets, a couple of hours here will leave you with a taste for the city of old, the Buenos Aires of traders, merchants and sailors that existed in the early days of the modern Argentinian state. It is considered by many locals to be the cultural heart of the entire city, and with good reason. It is here that you will see city life lived most authentically, with Tango clubs, pretty little plazas and bustling markets abound

Every day in the great old hall in the centre of San Telmo there’s the local market, a must for any shopaholics who either can’t afford the prices in Recoleta or feel disillusioned with the whole designer scene in general. You can find anything from beautifully fresh local fruit and vegetables to antique cameras to vintage clothing. A trip to San Telmo isn’t complete without a stroll through this historic market to see what you can find amid the piles of goods, each with their own story to tell. Check out the meat market inside to see exactly where that beautiful fillet you ate for lunch came from, it’s as close as you’ll get to an exhibition on master butchery anywhere on earth

Outside there’s plenty more to see and do, with the squares of San Telmo radiating a vintage charm that’s hard not to be charmed by. The queen of all is Plaza Dorrego, a leafy square lined with eateries and cafés that are perfect for a bit of people watching. If you’re here on a Sunday, you’re in luck. The weekly outdoor market here is a feast for the senses that presents ample opportunity for a bit of old-fashioned bargain hunting Buenos Aires style. Get involved and who knows, you might just uncover something special  // San Telmo – Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo, Buenos Aires

18:30 – Breath in the sea air at laid back Puerto Madero

Next up it’s time to head over to the coastal area of Puerto Madero, from where you can admire the city’s skyscrapers and soak up the early evening ambience as the residents of Buenos Aires come out for their evening stroll on the sea. At this time of day there’s a carnival atmosphere here, with families taking lazy walks and scores of vendors selling their goods to add a touch of festivity to proceedings. There’s not an awful lot to do here except wind down from a day’s sightseeing and watch the evening softly descend on Buenos Aires. Sound good? Of course it does

Amble down the boardwalk and dip in and out of the many souvenir shops, head to the gorgeous little suspension bridge and breath in the fresh air out here. Maybe take a stroll through the wildlife reserve here, rich with flowers, plants, birds and local joggers. There’s more than a touch of “Miami” about Puerto Madero, and whilst it might not be the Buenos Aires of the movies, it’s yet another facet of this diverse metropolis that just keeps on surprising

The crimson red dock buildings are a pretty sight to behold, more reminiscent of a Liverpool or Glasgow of the nineteenth century than modern Buenos Aires. They are a nod to the city’s rich maritime history, to a time when the sea played a pivotal role in everyday life for everybody in the city. The area itself is dotted with cafés and picturesque trees that serve as a reminder that you are indeed in Latin America. Check out the rooftop gardens on the dock buildings too, they’re a secret world of lush vegetation that show just how much you can do with a little extra space in a city as big as this. London and New York, take note  // Puerto Madero – Av. Juana Manso, 1107 Buenos Aires

19:30 – Take a walk on the gastronomic side at Chila

Is this the most romantic restaurant in the entire city? If it’s not then we want to know where is, because everything about Puerto Madero’s Chila emits an alluring elegance unlike anything else in town. From the gorgeous riverside location down to the sensuous lighting, the decor of the place is every bit as special as the food. Even the plates are beautiful, intentionally misshaped ceramic discs that wouldn’t look out of place at a contemporary art exhibition, let alone a restaurant. Then there’s the staff, whose blend of silver-dining professionalism and down-to-earth charm will put you at ease on arrival. They also have extensive knowledge of both the wine and food menu, so don’t be afraid to ask questions

The house style is contemporary Argentinian but don’t worry if you’ve had enough of the beef obsession in Buenos Aires, there are plenty of delicious alternatives here to keep you enchanted. There are outstanding seafood options, with the shellfish here particularly good. The salads are colourful, fresh and packed with flavour. Yet of course it’s true, the meat at Chila is as good as anywhere. Portions are smaller than at your traditional parilla, with the elegant image of the place meaning plates come to your table looking like expressionist canvasses. Don’t worry about the prices here, they’re not small but for the quality of the food, it’s a snip

Chila takes classic local ingredients that have been around for centuries and does something completely out of the ordinary with them, creating visually stunning and flavour packed dishes that honour the nation’s culinary heritage in the most fitting way possible. This is the new Argentina, a country aware of its past yet with its eyes firmly fixed on the future. Chila is taking this progression one plate at a time, with devastating results  // Chila – Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 1160, C1107AAX, Buenos Aires

21:00 – Enjoy a performance at musical mecca La Trastienda

Renowned acts from across the globe have graced the stage at this local institution and now you have the chance to take in a gig yourself. La Trastienda has played host to international acts like Damien Rice and The Kooks, as well as regularly putting on more traditional music shows based around Tango and other Latin American sounds. Check the listings to see what’s on, the place specialises in world music, funk and indie rock, so you might just be spoiled for choice

The proximity of La Trastienda to the bohemian San Telmo area means the crowd at gigs here is youthful and hip, giving you a chance to have a chat with the city’s next generation of creative movers and shakers.There is a laid back, almost café-like style to things at La Trastienda, it’s not at all the kind of dive bar atmosphere that you might expect of a cult music venue. Dozens of tables are laid out across the dance floor, allowing you to relax with a drink and take in the performance with a discerning eye. That is of course unless the performance happens to be a particularly upbeat one, in which case the tables are swiftly removed from the scene and all manner of wild dancing and body shaking commences. They are not shy in Buenos Aires and after a gig at La Trastienda, you’ll see why

When it’s not packed to the rafters you can see that the decor here is actually very stylish, with plenty of ambient lighting and an open plan style that lends itself well to the convivial ambience of the place. Drinks are not as expensive as you might expect of a music venue, so grab a beer and lose your inhibitions at what is without a doubt one of Buenos Aires’ most iconic event spaces. You’ll be glad you came  // La Trastienda – Balcarce 460, C1064AAJ, Buenos Aires

22:30 – Take things up a gear at Café Tortoni

After taking in a gig what better way to continue the evening’s festivities with, yes, you guessed it, more music. A Buenos Aires day trip would not be complete without a couple of drinks at this city centre institution, Café Tortoni. By day it’s a Parisian style cafe serving café au lait and delicious pastries to locals from all walks of life. After nine o’clock though, this atmospheric spot transforms into a swinging Tango bar with beers and wine flowing to the sound of the city’s most beloved rhythm

The ambience of the place takes much of its old-world charm from the building itself, a near 200-year old structure that has bags of character and is a visual treat for any visitor. The tiled floors and wooden furniture are pure class and that makes an evening here just that bit more special, if you squint you might just convince yourself that it’s still the 1950’s. Make sure to get here before 11:00pm, as that’s when things really start to hot up and Café Tortoni becomes packed to the rafters with revellers flocking here for the authentic nightly Tango spectacle

For decades a favourite of Buenos Aires’ intellectual set, the clientele here is a mixture of bespectacled characters talking culture and local youth looking for a good time amid the dancing and the ever so pretty interior. Grab a glass of local red and get chatting or if that’s not your thing, head to the back of the café for a closer look at the stage. This is one of the most genuine Tango experiences in the city, where you will find a local clientele. You’ll remember your evening at Café Tortoni long after your Buenos Aires day trip is over  // Café Tortoni – Av. de Mayo 825, 1084 Buenos Aires

23:59 – Throw caution to the wind at Pacha Buenos Aires

The legendary Ibiza dance club has branched out across the world since its inception back in the 1990’s. Now it’s in Buenos Aires, where the prestige of a name like Pacha is only matched by the vivacity of locals who swarm this place nightly. As ever it’s one of the coolest spots in town, with gorgeous guests and world-class DJ’s making a night at Pacha Buenos Aires one of the very best choices anywhere in the city

Expect a packed dance floor, incredible sound system and plenty of flashing lights as you rub shoulders with the city’s hip young things to the sound of cutting edge electronic music. As long as you’re not overly-casual, the dress code here is relaxed because the focus is absolutely on the music and having a good time. Yes there will be a few posers in their designer gear but don’t fret, they’re in the minority at this laid back yet ever so trendy location. Besides, who wants to be spending the night in the VIP area when the dance floor is as wild as it is here? 

By midnight things will just be starting to heat up, so you’ll arrive in time for the zenith of the festivities. Explore the premises as there are various rooms playing a range of genres, from house to techno to broken beats, you’re sure to find something that floats your boat. Then it’s just a matter of getting into the groove and lasting the pace as the nights here can go on until 6:00am. You might just learn a thing or two about how to party at Pacha Buenos Aires, where the locals bring their unique brand of fun to a club chain whose credentials need no clarification. This really is the perfect end to any Buenos Aires day trip  // Pacha –  Avenida Costanera R. Obligado, Buenos Aires

We mapped out your day trip in Buenos Aires

Each highlight of your day trip is numbered, simply follow the guide

What you should absolutely know about Buenos Aires

City highlights, food & drinks, expressions, weather, how to get there and how to get around

Get into the tango spirit during your Buenos Aires day trips. Relax at the Plaza de Mayo or embark on a bike tour around the city. Buenos Aires is teeming with vibrant nightlife, wonderful shopping, and iconic buildings. Wander around Plaza San Martín, a busy park that once was the hot-spot for bullfighting. Learn to tango at a private or group tango class or spend the day sipping coffee from an artsy café. Heat up the night at a wine bar or watch a game of polo or futbol in the middle of Plaza San Martín in Retiro and Parque Centenario

Surprisingly enough, the massive cemetery Cementerio de la Recoleta is one of Buenos Aires’ must-see attractions. Gaze at magnificent works of art at the Museo de Bellas Artes de La Boca and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

Great steak meals at around every turn in Buenos Aires. Try the milanesa, a breaded veal cutlet, and empanadas, a small pastry filled with anything you like. Argentinian ice cream and peaches topped with sweet milk are also Buenos Aires must-haves

¿Cómo andás?” is a commonly heard phrase meaning “How’s it going?” To say that something is cool or to express appreciation, say ¡Qué copado!” Che, ¡qué buena onda sos!” is a multi-function phrase used to say that something is great

Summers (December to March) tend to be hot and muggy, with highs in the upper 90s. Both the fall and spring seasons brings rain and cooler weather, usually around 60 degrees. Winters (July to September) are chilly and foggy, around the 50s

Taxis are around every corner, waiting to take tourists into the city for around 20 pesos. Subways will bring you into the city for the flat rate of 1.10 pesos. Journey on one of the 140 bus lines into the city for upwards the same price

With an expansive public transit system, getting around Buenos Aires is relatively easy. Buses and mini buses are everywhere. Take a taxi or one of the 6 subway lines to venture around the entire city. Buenos Aires is also fairly walkable and bike-able

Feeling adventurous? Have a look at these city guides