Buenos Aires is such an exciting lively city so if you only have 24 hours here be prepared for a non-stop day in Argentina’s bustling capital! Buenos Aires (or BA as it is popularly called) is one of the largest cities in South America, so it’s a good idea to plan out your day well to ensure you get to see all the best that Buenos Aires has to offer! Think elegant squares, colourful buildings, passionate Tango shows and plenty of parrillas (BBQ steakhouses!).
Where to Stay in Buenos Aires
Before you think about planning your Buenos Aires itinerary it’s a good idea to decide which area to stay in. If you’re only in Buenos Aires for one day you’ll want to stay somewhere central and convenient.
Palermo is a popular neighbourhood for tourists to stay in when they visit Buenos Aires due to the many cafes and restaurants, lively atmosphere and bohemian vibe here. However, it is not the most central neighbourhood and traffic can be slow to get into the central historical district. Therefore if you only have 24 hours in Buenos Aires I advise you to stay in a barrio (neighbourhood) that is a little bit closer to the centre. Of course if you have a few days in Buenos Aires definitely think about staying in Palermo as this is where most of Buenos Aires’ nightlife is. I stayed in Palermo for 2 nights of my 3 day trip to Buenos Aires and loved it – it had a really nice character and is full of life!
If you’re only in Buenos Aires for 24 hours I would recommend to stay in the charming area of San Telmo as it is a lot more central than Palermo. San Telmo is the oldest part of Buenos Aires and within half an hour walking you can reach tourist attractions such as La Casa Rosada, El Caminito and Puerto Madero. San Telmo in itself is a lovely area to explore, full of cobblestone streets and unique vintage shops.
24 Hours in Buenos Aires
Seeing as you only have one day here you should definitely get up early and make the most of your time in Buenos Aires. Have a medialuna (sweet croissant), coffee and orange juice for breakfast – the typical Argentinian style breakfast! Then head to La Boca before the crowds arrive and wander round the streets.
La Boca was traditionally an Italian working class neighbourhood and is now one of Buenos Aires’ most well known and popular neighbourhoods to visit. The most colourful and iconic street in the neighbourhood of La Boca is El Caminito. Chances are you will have seen pictures of this cobblestone street and it’s different coloured buildings before as it is one of the most Instagrammable and most photographed places in Buenos Aires.
It is said the houses are painted different colours as the settlers here couldn’t afford to buy a bucket of paint. They found left over boat paint at the port and so painted their houses in whatever colour paint they could find. This then led to the vibrant colourful street that we see today.
Around El Caminito and La Boca you’ll see lots of artists selling their work and lots of wall murals. You’ll see street art of famous Argentinians such as Lionel Messi, Che Guevara and Evita. If you stroll around the area more you’ll find lots of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants, often with a couple of Tango dancers outside. Grab a snack and watch the dancers if you wish – it is a fairly touristy area so you’ll see several dancers.
Of course, in La Boca is the famous La Bombonera football stadium (Estadio Alberto J. Armando), home to the Boca Juniors Football Club. La Bombonera is located just a few hundred metres from El Caminito and is regarded as one of the most emblematic stadiums in the world. La Bombonera translates to ‘chocolate box’, called so because of it’s unique shape, and is where the legend Diego Maradona played for several years.
Visiting La Bombonera is a must for any sports fans! Tours last roughly an hour. Click here for tickets and tours.
After exploring La Boca make your way back to San Telmo – the Colonial heart of Buenos Aires. Wander around the cobblestone streets, admire the Colonial houses and churches and stop for a quick coffee around Plaza Dorrego. There are lots of nice coffee shops here such as Bar Plaza Dorrego which is just perfect for a spot of people watching!
Plaza Dorrego is the central part of San Telmo and you’ll even find lots of old Tango bars here! If you are here on a Sunday check out the antique fair in the square too! Just around the corner from Plaza Dorrego is Mercado de San Telmo (San Telmo market) – a historic market from the 1890’s selling lots of food items.
If you are interested to learn about the history of Argentina head to the nearby Museo Histórico Nacional (National History Museum).
Plaza De Mayo & Casa Rosada
Located in the neighbourhood of Montserrat is Plaza de Mayo and on the east end of the square lies the instantly recognisable Casa Rosada ‘pink house‘. Casa Rosada is one of Buenos Aires’ most architecturally iconic buildings. The stunning and uniquely coloured rose-pink building is the Presidential Palace and office of the President of Argentina. Known officially as Casa De Gobierno (Government House), normally the President does not reside here – usually he stays at the Quinta de Olivos.
Casa Rosada has been at the centre of a lot of Argentina’s history and became a household name thanks to the Broadway Musical and movie ‘Evita’. It was from one of the balconies here at Casa Rosada that Eva Perón famously addressed her supporters.
At Plaza de Mayo you’ll also see the Obelisk – built in 1936 to commemorate 400 years since the founding of Buenos Aires.
TheMetropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires also lies in Plaza de Mayo. This was where Pope Francis worked for many years as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires prior to becoming Pope. The 18th Century Neoclassical Cathedral also holds particular significance as it houses the remains of the liberator of Argentina: General José de San Martín.
Lunch: Unless you’re a vegetarian, you definitely need to have lunch at a parilla (steakhouse).
Once you’ve finished at Plaza De Mayo head up Av. Pres. Roque Sáenz Peña to get to BA Verde.
BA Verde is two bushes cut out into the shapes of a ‘B’ and ‘A’. The sign is located on Ave. Corrientes right behind the 67 metre high Obelisco and makes for some really nice photos.
From BA Verde you can walk or take a taxi to the upmarket Recoleta neighbourhood. Here you’ll find the rather large, elaborate and maze-like Recoleta Cemetery. Recoleta Cemetery is one of the world’s greatest necropolises and this is where many elite and influential Argentinians have been laid to rest, including Eva Perón.
Walking amongst the tightly knit tombstones is fascinating. Some of them have very elaborate designs with life-size statues outside, and the labyrinth of narrow passageways certainly keeps you on your toes!
The Cemetery is free to enter and is open from 7.30am-5.3-pm every day.
Not far from Casa Rosada and San Telmo is Puerto Madero. Puerto Madero is a pleasant place to stroll around and there are lots of old dock warehouse buildings here that have been transformed into trendy bars, restaurants and hotels. It’s nice to walk around Puerto Madero in the day or early in the evening. Head across the river away from the city towards the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Súr – a beautiful riverside Nature Reserve that offers stunning views back over towards the city.
Argentinan Tango Show
Now you can’t truly say you’ve been to Buenos Aires unless you’ve watched an Argentinian Tango show! And yes even with just 24 hours in Buenos Aires you need to fit this in to your itinerary! There are several places all over the city where you can watch a tango show, but I recommend heading down to Puerto Madero. At Puerto Madero you’ll fine Madero Tango – one of the best shows at a great price (from $20USD!). The show is mesmerising, the tango tells a story and conveys passion. The location is also perfect along the river, with incredible views of the city and the docks from here.
At Madero Tango they do have a tango lesson before the show that you can participate in. Also you can have a really nice meal here with lots of delicious Argentinian steak before the show starts. Madero Tango is located very close to San Telmo so it will be easy and super convenient to get back to your hotel after the show.
Dining in Buenos Aires
As with most Latino countries, evenings start a lot later here in Buenos Aires. Restaurants open at around 8pm but most people don’t go out for dinner before 9 or 10pm. If you don’t end up having dinner at Madero Tango, I recommend going to a steakhouse or a pizza place for food. There are many Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires so the pizza is always good here!
After dinner be sure to have some Argentinian ice-cream – even more delicious than Italian gelato according to the porteños (local people of Buenos Aires)! Dulce de Leche is a very popular flavour to try (popular in many South American countries actually).
Nightlife in Buenos Aires
If you’re not tired afterwards I definitely recommend you to experience the nightlife in Buenos Aires! Here in Buenos Aires, like going out for dinner, people go out to bars and clubs a lot later – going out for a drink at midnight is normal. The area of Palermo Hollywood in Palermo is a great place for lots of lively bars and clubs.
Things to bear in mind when visiting Buenos Aires:
- If you do use a taxi, look for the official ones that say ‘radio taxi’ on the side. Alternatively use an Uber as they can often be cheaper.
- As with many parts of Latin America, beware of petty crimes. Especially around La Boca – even though it is a touristic area it is still a poor neighbourhood so there are opportunists here.
- Many vendors take cash only here so make sure you have plenty of cash.
- Cash machines seem to charge a lot to take money out, so make sure you do a couple of big transactions and not lots of little ones as the costs will add up.
- It is quite easy to navigate yourself around the city of Buenos Aires. As you can see on the aerial shot below, the city is organised in a grid system similar to New York. Bear this in mind when you’re walking round as it will make things a lot easier.
If you have more than 24 Hours in Buenos Aires
If you have more than 24 hours in Buenos Aires, perhaps you’d like to hop across the River Plata to Uruguay for the day and get a new stamp in your passport! In just over an hour on the ferry you can be in beautiful Colonia Del Sacramento, one of South America’s most charming towns! Ferries depart several times a day from Puerto Madero but it is advisable to book your tickets a couple of days beforehand.
Buenos Aires is always going to be a firm favourite on any itinerary for Argentina, as well as the popular destinations of Patagonia and Iguazu Falls. Click here to read how long you should spend at Iguazu Falls as well as the time old question – which side is better: the Brazilian or the Argentinian side! From Iguazu Falls you can even take a day trip to Ciudad Del Este in Paraguay!
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