48 Hours in Buenos Aires: The Ultimate Itinerary

Argentina Buenos Aires Constitución railway and subway station at sunset

Grafissimo / Getty Images

Buenos Aires never truly rests, but it does know how to enjoy itself. Grand yet messy, political and artistic, refined yet gritty, the city takes in all who come here and baptizes them in the intensity of its love for its people, music, architecture, and protests. Here, you can find one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, milongas (a dance party) that stretch until the early morning hours, bars hidden under flower shops, circus shows in neighborhoods of forgotten grandeur, and family-owned steakhouses known around the world.

To get a full taste of the city in just two days, stay in a central area where you can venture to activities and places in several neighborhoods to begin to understand its layered personality. For the best museums, antiquing spots, nightlife, green spaces, and restaurants, keep reading for an itinerary of an unforgettable introduction to Argentina’s capital city.

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

Gardens at the Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

Courtesy of the Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

9 a.m.:  After landing at Ezeiza International Airport, grab a car and ride to your hotel, we recommend the Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. A neoclassical palace built in the 1930s formerly owned by the Duhau family, the hotel retains much of its original architecture, beautifully accented by the extensive private gardens. Book the king palace balcony room to enjoy views of the garden from a private balcony, spa bathtub, fireplace, and butler service. Once you've dropped off your bags, freshen up and head outside to explore La Cuidad de la Furia.

11 a.m.: Walk 15 minutes to El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a 100-year-old cinema turned bookstore with five floors containing over 120,000 books, a children’s section, and a café on the former stage. Considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, it's brilliantly lit and contains a dome of frescoes by Italian painter Nazareno Orlandi. Take a picture from the top, buy some Borges, and peruse the art exhibition on the top floor.

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

Person walking through Recoleta cemetery

TripSavvy / Chris VR

Noon: Head to Recoleta Cemetery to walk the maze of crypts and statues while discovering the stories engraved on the tombs. Beautiful yet mildly foreboding, art deco, neo-gothic, and art nouveau-style marble crypts line the walkways where you can search for several famous gravesites including Evita Peron, as well as David Alleno. A former gravedigger for the cemetery, Alleno's ghost is thought to trudge through the walled streets each morning, clinking his ghost keys behind him.

2 p.m.: Take a taxi to San Telmo to eat at Obrador, a cafe and bakery selling Argentine staples like tartas (similar to quiches), sandwiches with house-made mayonnaise and free-range chicken, organic salads, and inventive desserts like the torta de cumple, a meringue topped peaches and cream cake with just a touch of dulce de leche. Afterward, head to the Mercado San Telmo to shop for vintage accessories, vinyl, curios, leather, and antiques. If it’s Sunday, walk down Calle Defensa to continue shopping at the Ferria San Telmo where you can find artisanal mate gourds, gaucho clothing, even more antiques, and musical performances happening throughout the day.

5 p.m.: Go museum hopping or head back to your hotel to take a nap, then freshen up for dinner and tango. If you want to stay in San Telmo, the Museo de Arte Moderno Buenos Aires and the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Buenos Aires stand just feet apart from each other on Avenida San Juan. Both showcase Argentine and international artists, while the Museo Antartico offers a look into Argentina’s explorations on the southernmost continent through a mishmash of snow equipment, photographs, and several stuffed penguins.

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

People dancing tango

TripSavvy / Maria Ligaya

6 p.m.:  Take a taxi or hop on the subte (subway) back to San Telmo to go to a tango class, dinner, and tango show at La Ventana. Learn the basic eight-count steps in the hour-long class, then try out the moves with a partner. Afterward, sit down for a sumptuous multi-course dinner of steaks, creamy desserts, and Malbec in the showroom lounge. The performance comes after, with folkloric as well as tango numbers by over 30 professional dancers with musicians playing instruments such as the charango and bondiola.

Midnight: If you’re not ready to go to sleep, order a nightcap at one of Buenos Aires’ hidden bars, like Floreria Atlantico. Enter through its flower shop counterpart on Calle Arroyo, then ask the florist to let you into the bar, located behind the door in the middle of the shop. Once there, order one of their cocktails inspired by the colonies, towns, and indigenous heritage of Argentina, like the Picada Finlandesa, a vodka-based drink with aquavit, cassava, and the Brazilian jabuticaba fruit.

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

Flowering trees in the park, Buenos Aires
Anton Petrus / Getty Images

8:30 a.m.: Wake up and go for a walk or run down historic Avenida Avelear to Avenida Liberador to end up at Bosques Palermo. Along the way, you’ll see landmarks such as the National Library, the Law Faculty of Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Floralis Genérica (a giant metal flower), all before finally arriving at the Bosques. If you want a less active morning, go to the hotel gardens or walk to a green space like Plaza Francia with a mate gourd and thermos to enjoy a morning mate. After your mate, grab some breakfast to give you energy for the rest of the day.

11 a.m: Walk to Centro Cultural Recoleta to see what’s on offer that day. One of many cultural centers in the city that function as both a concert and exhibition space, you can see art installations, try break dancing, visit the drawing room, or participate in one of the many other activities here, all for free!

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

Cars parked on a tree-lined street in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires argentina

Image Source / Getty Images

1:30 p.m.: Take a cab to Salvaje, a bakery famous for its sourdough bread, music selection, and eccentric baker-owner. Order a coffee with the bondiola sandwich, a juicy creation of pulled pork, pickled onions, kale, and barbacoa sauce. Top off your meal with an alfajor salvaje for a South America-meets-North America cookie creation (dulce de leche and peanut butter filling unite), then walk to the meeting point for a bike tour.

3 p.m.: Meet your tour guide from Biking Buenos Aires at the Esquina del Antigourmet, where they’ll outfit you with a bike and helmet before taking off on a tour of Palermo’s street art. Given in English, the tour will provide a better understanding of the scenes depicted on Palermo’s colorful walls and will dive into the history of the city and country using street art as the gateway. Three hours and 9 miles later, you’ll arrive at a gallery run by local artists where you can hear more about the art scene and possibly buy some prints.

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06 of 06

Day 2: Evening

Waiter dressed in black holding a black plate with two steaks

Courtesy of Don Julio

6 p.m.: After your bike tour, wander around Palermo Soho looking at the many area boutiques and find some souvenirs before heading to dinner for your 7 p.m. reservation at Don Julio, one of the highest-rated steakhouses in South America. With grass-fed beef steaks, an extensive wine list, and a famous goat-cheese provoleta, you’ll be fully satisfied at your final meal in the city.

8 p.m.: Head back to the hotel for a quick shower then take a taxi to Centro Cultural Trivenchi, a circus school and performance space, to see a variety show. Aerial acts like silks, trapeze, or lyra, as well as floor acrobatics and contortion, get strung together with a clown presenter throughout. And sometimes, specialty acts such as knife throwing are part of the show. When you’re finished, head back to Palermo to dance and drink at one (or several) of the many boliches (nightclubs) until early morning.