This is a day-by-day itinerary for those who want to enjoy classic Buenos Aires attractions and only have a weekend to explore the city. This list includes some of the best museums to see, neighborhoods to check out, and dining options, all listed out in daily plans to help maximize your time.
Friday: Getting to Know Buenos Aires
It's your first day in BA! Arrive on the morning flight, drop your bags at the hotel/hostel, down your first café con leche, and get to seeing the sights.
- Afternoon City Bus Tour of Buenos Aires: It's hard to miss the double-decker city tour buses. They are painted bright yellow with images that represent some of the most important attractions of the city: tango, sports, books, bars, art, and design. The complete tour takes people 3 hours and 15 minutes but passengers can get off and on the bus on any of the stops. The tour stops in popular neighborhoods such as Recoleta, Puerto Madero, San Telmo, Palermo, Congreso, and more.
Details: Buses depart every 20 minutes from the corner of Florida and Av. Roque Sáenz Peña, which is where you must buy the tickets. (Website says you can purchase tickets on the buses, but recent reviews say otherwise.) You can buy tickets in advance on the Buenos Aires Bus website.
- Naptime: If you had the typical 12-hour flight from the USA, then you'll probably be ready for a little afternoon snooze. Get rested up for a late night.
- Roam Around Palermo: Palermo is the largest barrio in Buenos Aires, so you've got a lot of ground to cover. To keep things simple, head to Palermo Soho, which is loaded with lovely boutiques, galleries, cafes, and restaurants.
- Dinner at La Paila: You shouldn't leave the country without trying some of the fare from up north. Hit up La Paila, a terrific northern Argentinian restaurant, located in Palermo Soho, that serves humitas, tamales, and a variety of exotic meats such as yacaré and llama. The interior has a terrific decor and there are music (often folklore) shows in the evening.
- Night Owl Options: If that nap served you well and you're still in the mood to party, you've got many options. Get a scoop of gelato at one of the many heladerías, go to a boliche, or head to a jazz club.
Saturday: Brunch, Museums, Plazas, and Puertas Cerradas
Your first full day in BA! It's time to make the most of it!
- Sleep Late and Have Brunch: There is much discussion about brunch in Buenos Aires, what are the best spots, why, and what to order. The city has tons of options.
- The National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes): The Bellas Artes museum has an impressive collection of Argentine art. Its permanent rooms on the first floor are entirely devoted to international art dating from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Recommended: María Luisa Bemberg’s former collection which incorporates the River Plate avant-garde (first floor).
- Plaza Francia: Walk out the doors of Bellas Artes, turn about 90 degrees to the left, and your facing Plaza Francia, more or less. The days to go to this feria are Saturday or Sunday when the smell of candied nuts fills the air, artisan booths line the sidewalks, and people are sprawled on the grass enjoying the sun.
- Have a Snack and a Drink: Between the restaurants, cafes, and street food vendors, you are sure to find something to nibble on whether it be a plate of picadas (meat and cheese appetizers) to a full meal, and all al fresco if you wish. Beer lovers might want to check out one of the few micro-breweries in Buenos Aires called Buller's Pub
- Recoleta Cemetery: Located next to Plaza Francia, this cemetery covers almost six hectares. National heroes, presidents, politicians, military men, scientists, artists, and celebrities are buried within. Yes, Evita, too. The Cementerio de la Recoleta is worth seeing, not just to take a picture next to Eva Peron's tomb, but for the magnificent artistry and mason work found at every turn.
- Dinner at a Closed Door Restaurant: The secret is out on these secret restaurants. Puerta cerrada (Spanish for 'closed door') restaurants are reservation only dining events in which a small number of guests are invited to a chef's home to enjoy a gourmet meal. A few worth mentioning (that this author has been to): Casa Saltshaker, Casa Mun, Almacen Secreto, and Max's Supper Club.
Sunday: Gardens, Decorative Arts Museum, & San Telmo
You should be getting the tourist thing down by now! Sundays are wonderful and laid back in Buenos Aires, with interesting events scheduled for almost every weekend.
- Bosques de Palermo Rose Garden (El Rosedal): After a good sleep and big brunch, a walk in the Bosques de Palermo (Palermo Forests) would be a perfect way to digest. Red gravel paths wind park-goers through more than 15,000 different rose bushes and 1,189 species of roses in every color of the rainbow.
- Japanese Gardens (Jardin Japones): Although it is smack in the middle of the hustle-bustle of the city, the Japanese Gardens are a lovely and peaceful place to stroll through. The largest Japanese Garden outside of Japan, its grounds offer a tranquil space filled with running water, a koi pond (with very large, hungry fish), and beautiful arrangements of flora. The gardens also have a Japanese restaurant.
- National Decorative Arts Museum (Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativos): This neo-classical French when envisioning this museum, a grand residence that was donated to the state of Argentina on the condition it was turned into a museum. Beautiful tapestries, amazing carvings, European designed rooms, and old world portraits are just a few of the lovely items in this four-level museum.
- San Telmo: The rest of the day is devoted to San Telmo. Here is a list of things you can do on a Sunday in this oldest barrio in Buenos Aires:
- El Zanjon: Take a step into San Telmo’s past by taking a tour of this reconstruction of a structure that was first a mansion turned conventillo.
- San Telmo Antique Fair at Plaza Dorrego & Calle Defensa: Plaza Dorrego fills up with artists, musicians, and tango dancers on Sunday. Also, Calle Defensa, San Telmo's main street, turns into a pedestrian walkway lined with artisans, musicians, and street performers.
- Open-Air Milonga in Plaza Dorrego: Once the vendors in Plaza Dorrego start packing out, tango dancers start showing up. Tables pop up around Plaza Dorrego in the evenings on Sunday nights and visitors can enjoy the open-air milonga (tango dance) with an appetizer and drink.
- Enjoy a Steak Dinner: So many terrific steak places, so little time. The entire city is replete with parillas. Here is an 'ultimate guide' of parillas from the awesome Gringo in Buenos Aires blog. A good bet is La Brigada where they cut the steaks with a spoon!
That's your weekend in Buenos Aires. If you aren't exhausted yet, you didn't do it correctly! If you have the luxury of an entire week in Buenos Aires, check out this Monday through Thursday itinerary.