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How to spend three days in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a large city, it’s massive really. So you can easily spend a week or two here and never get bored! I came for two weeks in 2009 when I initially fell in love with Argentina and never stopped moving. Unfortunately, time is a luxury that we don’t always have. If you only have a few days, this is the perfect Buenos Aires itinerary to hit all the highlights!
More information: The Ultimate Buenos Aires City Guide
More than four nights in Buenos Aires?
If you have more time to spend than only 4 nights in Buenos Aires, you can either spread this three day Buenos Aires itinerary out over more days for a more leisurely pace. There are so many things to do in Buenos Aires that there’s really no such thing as too much time. You could also add in more off the beat neighborhoods like Chacarita or Mataderos.
And if you have at least a week in Buenos Aires, add a couple day trips to this itinerary. Popular Buenos Aires day trips include the river delta in Tigre, a day in the countryside at an Estancia ranch or a day in Colonia, Uruguay.
Day 0: Arrival in Buenos Aires
I may be cheating a bit with this Buenos Aires in 3 days itinerary because I’m not counting the day you arrive. Most flights into Buenos Aires are overnight, arriving in the morning or midday, so you’ll actually have quite a bit of daylight to take advantage of.
Since you’ll be understandably tired from your long trip, take it easy today. I recommend exploring the shops and cafes of Palermo Soho. The cobblestoned streets of Soho are filled with restaurants and coffee shops to ease you into your vacation. If the weather is sunny, take a taxi to the Bosques de Palermo parks. You can rent rollerblades, lounge on the grass or appreciate the roses in the Rosedal rose garden.
For more information on how to get to your hotel from the airport, exchanging money and more, read my Buenos Aires city guide.
Day 1: Teatro Colon, Downtown & Plaza de Mayo
On your first full day in Buenos Aires, wake up for an early breakfast in the heart of downtown on Corrientes Avenue. Choose between La Giralda (Av. Corrientes 1453) and El Gato Negro (Av. Corrientes 1669). Both are no-frills old-school cafes. La Giralda is famous for its churros and hot chocolate. El Gato Negro offers a bit more ambiance and also sells a wide variety of spices and teas.
Sit and enjoy a slow breakfast (service isn’t exactly speedy in these sorts of cafes) and people watch. I particularly love watching the older men sit with their newspapers, they’ve probably been coming here every day or week for years.
Tour the Teatro Colon Opera House
After breakfast, stroll down Avenida Corrientes and take a left on Talcahuano to make your way to Lavalle Square. This large plaza is home to some impressive buildings like the Tribunales Courthouse and your next destination: the Teatro Colon Opera House. I only recently toured the Opera House and I wish I had done it sooner, it’s opulent and gorgeous! For one hour, you would be forgiven for believing you are in Paris.
There are guided tours every fifteen minutes, between 9 am and 5 pm. There are certain holidays when they’re closed and times may vary if there are morning or afternoon shows that day. Double check tour information on their official site here.
9 de Julio Avenue & the Obelisk
After your tour, pour yourself back into the chaos of the busy downtown streets. Walk down 9 de Julio Avenue (right behind the Opera House). Named after Argentina’s independence day, is one of the widest avenues in the world (the Eixo Monumental in Brasilia recently took the world record from 9 de Julio). Avenida 9 de Julio is wider than a city block at 110 meters and has as many as 7 lanes in each direction.
At the intersection of 9 de Julio and Corrientes, take a picture in front of the Obelisk. There’s a large ivy-covered BA set up for the perfect Instagram shot in front of the massive Obelisco. Snap your shot then take a left on Corrientes for lunch at one of the avenue’s famous pizzerias.
Lunch at Las Cuartetas
There are a number of pizzerias on Corrientes all serving pizza by the slice, so walk two blocks from 9 de Julio Avenue to Las Cuartetas at Av. Corrientes 838. You can order a slice from the cashier or sit at a table and order a whole pie from a waiter. The pizza here is thick, heavy on the cheese and light on the sauce so come hungry!
You may also be interested in What to eat & drink in Argentina
Florida Street and Galeria Guemes Viewpoint
After lunch, you’ll be ready to walk off the heavy pizza so hit the pavement! Find your way to Florida Street. This heavily commercial street lined by shops has been a street in one form or another since the 1500’s when it started as a muddy footpath from the river.
Walk to Galería Güemes at Florida 165. Find the elevators to take you to the viewpoint terrace on the fourteenth floor. Prices tend to change often in Buenos Aires but it should cost more or less between the equivalent of $2-3 US, making it one of the cheapest skyline views in town! You’ll pay your entrance fee at the top. Confirm hours and price on their official site here.
Plaza de Mayo
Next stop, the iconic Plaza de Mayo. This main square is home to so much history and so many iconic Argentina landmarks. The Metropolitan Cathedral is stoic, looking much more like the Pantheon than a church. Inside, however, it very much resembles a cathedral and is worth a visit. San Martin’s remains are buried in a chapel here.
The Cabildo sits on the end of the plaza opposite the Casa Rosada. You’ll see a Cabildo on the main square in every major Argentine city, they were the seats of government while the country was under Spanish colonial rule. The museum is free to visit and has some interesting artifacts to see if you’re interested in Argentine history. The second story balcony offers a great view of the square.
The Casa Rosada at the front of the plaza is the star of the show. The pink government house, famous for Madonna singing not to cry for her Argentina from its main balcony, is open for guided tours on Saturdays. Check availability and reserve your tour here (you have to reserve at least 15 days ahead of time and bring your passport or DNI with you).
Cafe Tortoni or Puerto Madero
After Plaza de Mayo, choose your own adventure. If you’re in the mood for a coffee and a rest, make your way to Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires’ oldest coffee shop, on Avenida de Mayo. If you want to keep exploring, take a walk through Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires’ youngest neighborhood behind the Casa Rosada. This port was remodeled and brought back to life in the 1990’s, with hip apartments, cafes, and restaurants opening in old warehouses.
Dinner and a Tango Show
When in Buenos Aires, tango! Catch dinner and a show to see this world-famous dance in the city where it was born. I took my parents to this tango show and dinner at El Querandi and we all loved it! The food was great and the show and production were very impressive and entertaining.
If you’re looking for less of a produced show and more of an interactive experience, you’ll need to visit a milonga (a tango dancehall). However, milongas can be intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing. The locals take it very seriously! I recommend a tour like this one that includes a dance lesson. Visiting with a local guide is the best way to learn the dance and visit a milonga like a local.
Day 2: Paris of South America in Recoleta
We covered a LOT of ground on the first day in Buenos Aires itinerary. This was purposeful, I personally like to see as much as possible the first day. This allows me to relax a bit more for the rest of the trip, and if it rains later in the trip at least I’ll have seen as much as possible before the storm! On your second day in Argentina, I recommend visiting the upscale neighborhood of Recoleta.
Visit Recoleta Cemetery
No Buenos Aires itinerary is complete without a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery. In this maze of mausoleums and crypts lie Argentina’s nobility, past presidents and generals. It’s a veritable walk through the history of Argentina. Entrance is free and while you absolutely don’t need a guided tour to visit, a walking tour like this one can be helpful if you’re interested in learning a bit of history. Some of the anecdotes about the tombs and its residents are more interesting than you’d expect!
Artisinal Market in Plaza Francia
The square in front of the cemetery, Plaza Francia, is home to a weekly market every weekend. It’s a great place to souvenir shop! It takes place on both Saturday and Sunday, with artisans selling anything and everything. In the afternoon, musicians perform at the base of the grassy hill making it the perfect place to lay back and relax if the weather is sunny.
Don’t leave Recoleta without taking a look at the enormous metal flower across Alcorta Avenue next to the columned Law School building in United Nations Square. This large aluminum flower was gifted to the city by an architect as a show of appreciation for the city that made him who he was. Across the street from the flower is the Fine Arts Museum, if you’re inclined to visit museums on vacation (I personally avoid them like the plague, I know, how uncultured of me, sorry not sorry).
The Mansions of Avenida Alvear
Walk down Alvear Avenue for a glimpse into why Buenos Aires is referred to as the Paris of South America. Mansions turned luxury hotels line the street here, reminiscent of a wealthier time in Argentina’s history. Step into Arandu at Ayacucho 1920 for the best souvenir shopping in town. This polo style saddle shop sells high-quality leather bags, polo clothing (think Ralph Lauren) and alpargatas (the original Toms) at very affordable prices. The stunning three-story home makes it worth the visit whether or not you purchase anything.
I find myself having a hard time choosing ONE restaurant to recommend for dinner tonight, so I’ll stop trying to choose and give you two great wine and dinner options. We’re all adults here capable of making our own choices so pick the option that sounds best for you and grab a fork!
- Dinner in Soho: Whet your appetite with a glass of wine at Facon in Palermo Soho. This wine shop has an impressive wine menu at very affordable prices as well as a shop selling artisanal goods from across Argentina. Have dinner a couple blocks away at Don Julio,here home to one of the best steaks in Buenos Aires if not the world, seriously, it’s SO good. Reserve ahead of time , they book up!!
- Dinner in Hollywood: Whet your appetite with wine at Hache on Carranza Street in Palermo Hollywood. This small wine bar has great wines on offer that you’re not likely to see on the shelves of any supermarket. They also make delicious charcuterie plates (picadas) if you’re ready for a snack. After wine, walk a couple blocks down Carranza to the politically charged Peron Peron. The political extremism had deterred me from visiting before, but friends convinced me to go recently and ya’ll, those empanadas were some of the best I’ve ever had. You’ll need a reservation!
Day 3: La Boca & San Telmo
Try to do today’s itinerary on a Sunday if possible. There’s a weekly market in San Telmo every Sunday that’s a real Buenos Aires highlight and a must-visit if you’re in town on a weekend.
Sleep in today and enjoy a leisurely start to your day. The market doesn’t really get moving until the afternoon and El Caminito in La Boca really doesn’t require much time to explore. Have a relaxing breakfast or brunch then take a taxi to La Boca to begin your day. Aim for starting your day at El Caminito at around 11 am.
El Caminito in La Boca
I say take a taxi because La Boca is far to the south of the city, so hail a cab on the street or use Uber or Cabify to get to El Caminito. This open-air museum is colorful, lively and likely what’s on the cover of your Lonely Planet. Take a stroll on the few blocks that make up the Caminito, taking photos of the colorful walls and tango dancers. You can even take your own tango photo with one of the performers for a small price (a cheesy but fun souvenir!).
Don’t miss the conventillo style homes turned souvenir shops. These former multi-family dwellings are iconic to La Boca. When the wealthy families fled to the north during the yellow fever outbreak, the less fortunate families were left in southern neighborhoods like La Boca. Entire families shared one room, with multiple families living in each home (referred to as a conventillo), sharing the common spaces.
Lunch at El Oberero
After El Caminito, have lunch at El Obrero. This traditional bodegon style restaurant has been open since 1954. The walls are covered in soccer memorabilia and photos of celebrities who’ve visited in the past. Order the calamari and tortilla and you won’t be sorry. It’s very busy here on the weekends so make a reservation ahead of time or expect a wait.
After lunch, take your taxi or ridesharing option of choice to San Telmo. If you’re visiting on a Sunday for the market, I recommend starting at Plaza de Mayo, right at the beginning, and walking down Defensa to end at Plaza Dorrego. The San Telmo Market takes place every Sunday and really gets going in the afternoon (this is not a city meant for the early riser). There are stalls covering this street for ten blocks, with the antiques located mainly on Dorrego Square.
Not visiting on a Sunday? Don’t worry, San Telmo is still beautiful and you’ll love visiting this historic neighborhood. Even without the Sunday market, there are still antiques galore, check out the indoor market at Carlos Calvo 471. This market is also becoming a gastro-hub, filled with new restaurants and bars alongside stalls selling all sorts of antiques. Have a drink or coffee in Plaza Dorrego. Walk and explore Defensa and Balcarce streets, the cobblestoned streets and buildings here are beautiful (decaying but beautiful and covered in street art).
Dinner in San Telmo
Hungry? How about a steak? You may be getting all steaked out by now but it’s Argentina! You need to get your fill of steak and red wine while you can. And coincidentally, my favorite steak in all of Buenos Aires (even more than Don Julio) is at Desnivel on Defensa Street.
So, make your way to Desnivel and order a bottle of your favorite Malbec. Start your meal with one of their meat empanadas, they’re super juicy! I recommend ordering one of their lomo (tenderloin) plates. I’m partial to their lomo a la mostaza (tenderloin in a creamy mustard sauce) and my husband prefers their lomo a la pimienta (with a peppercorn sauce).
After Dinner Coffee at Cafe Dorrego
Ignore the out of place Starbucks across the street when you walk through the doors to Cafe Dorrego in front of Plaza Dorrego (just three blocks from Desnivel). Cafe Dorrego appears to be frozen in time, frozen in another century. Sip on your cortado or cafe con leche to end both the night and a successful three days in Buenos Aires.