How to Spend One Day in Buenos Aires (Ideal Layover Itinerary) (2024)

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Buenos Aires is one of my favourite cities in the world. Fondly known as the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires is a hub for culture, delicious food, and history.

Despite being the capital of Argentina, many visitors often only have a day to spend in Buenos Aires before moving on to the likes of Antarctica or Patagonia.

This was certainly true on my first visit to Buenos Aires. I had initially only planned to spend two nights there, giving me one full day to explore the city. However, I fell in love with Buenos Aires, and after visiting El Chalten and Antarctica, I returned to Buenos Aires for two weeks.

While it would be impossible to see everything Buenos Aires has to offer in one day, it’s still enough time to get a taste of the city and its culture.

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In this post, I’ve shared exactly how I would spend one day in Buenos Aires. I believe this is the ideal itinerary to see the best of what the city has to offer and in the most efficient way.

The point of this post and itinerary is to show you that even if you only have a day in the city, it’s still well worth exploring. Buenos Aires is one of the most popular cities in Latin America and for very good reason.

Quick Overview
In a hurry? Here’s a quick overview of how I would spend one day in Buenos Aires.
Begin your day with a free walking tour of the famous historic sights. Then, jump into a taxi to the area of San Telmo. Visit the famous market and walk down to La Boca. Spend some time exploring the area and catch a live Tango show or street performance.
In the evening, head to Palermo and join a food tour to experience some of the best food in Buenos Aires.

Table of Contents

Is one day enough for Buenos Aires?

The honest answer? No, one day in Buenos Aires is not enough time. Buenos Aires is a huge city full of amazing sights. I recommend spending at least 3 days in the city if you have the chance.

Having said that, one day still gives you time to get a feel for Buenos Aires, see some of the major highlights and try plenty of delicious food. If you follow the itinerary below, you will be able to experience the best Buenos Aires has to offer visitors.

If you only have one day in Buenos Aires, start as early in the day as you can. This will give you more time to explore and make the most of your time in the city.

Related read: is this your first time in Buenos Aires? Discover all you need to know about visiting

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Morning in Buenos Aires

Option 1: join a free walking tour (or DIY)

Start your day in Buenos Aires nice and early. With only one day, you want to fit in as much as possible.

One of the best things to do in Buenos Aires is to join one of the free walking tours. This popular tour covers the city’s main historic and political highlights. The tour normally begins at 10:30 am at Teatro Colón, but the correct start time is listed on the official website. It’s a great way to learn more about the city, especially if it’s your first visit to Buenos Aires.

Tip: despite being a free tour, it’s important to book your spot in advance. You can do this on the website. The tour also operates on a tip basis, so remember to take some cash to tip your guide.

The walking tour explores the famous Recoleta area, including various parks and historic monuments. It includes Plaza San Martín, Avenida de Mayo, the Tower of the English, the Kavanagh Building and ends at Plaza Francia.

From here, you can visit the famous Recoleta Cemetery before grabbing lunch. La Biela is a famous cafe in the area, a traditional spot to grab a coffee or some food.

Note: you can easily do this walking tour yourself. You won’t get the commentary or history from a guide, but you’ll have the freedom to go at your own pace.

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If you do decide to do your own walking tour, I would begin at Plaza Francia and work your way down from there, stopping at the following:

  • Plaza Francia
  • Cementerio de la Recoleta (La Recoleta Cemetery – entry fee)
  • Cross Avenida 9 de Julio, the largest avenue in the world
  • Visit Plaza San Martin
  • Walk down Florida Street and spend some time shopping
  • Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada

Extra tip: if you’re feeling energetic, walk to El Ateneo Grand Splendid. This is an old theatre converted into a bookstore. It’s beautiful inside.

Option 2: join an organised tour

The free walking tour in Buenos Aires is an excellent option. However, if you’re hoping for something a bit more in-depth, consider including one of these organised tours in your Buenos Aires itinerary.

Private tour
If you only have one day in Buenos Aires, you might prefer to have a private guide take you around the city. This tour is one of the highest-rated tours in Buenos Aires. It covers popular cultural and historic tourist spots, as well as La Boca.

Small group walking tour
This brilliant group walking tour of Buenos Aires covers a much larger area than the free tour. This includes historic sights plus the areas of San Telmo and La Boca. There is also transport to and from your accommodation and between some destinations.

Bike tour of Buenos Aires
For something a little bit more adventurous, consider a cycling tour around Buenos Aires. This tour covers areas including La Boca and San Telmo. They have a morning or afternoon tour, so you could do the walking tour in the morning and the cycling tour in the afternoon.

Afternoon in Buenos Aires

Explore a neighbourhood

Spend your afternoon exploring one of the city’s many vibrant neighbourhoods. While there are 48 neighbourhoods (or Barios), there are only several worth exploring with just one day in Buenos Aires.

Here are some of the neighbourhoods to consider:

La Boca
Visiting the colourful neighbourhood of La Boca is one of the best things to do in Buenos Aires. This vibrant spot is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire city.

La Boca is where European immigrants first landed in Buenos Aires. It sits at the mouth of the River Matanza, which is filled with history.

The area is especially famous for its colourful houses made of wood and tin. With a rough economic past, the residents of La Boca couldn’t afford to paint their houses one colour. Instead, they would use leftover paint and scraps from the shipyard to build and paint their houses.

La Boca is also believed to be the birthplace of Tango. Strolling down the main street in La Boca, Caminito, you’ll no doubt see at least one live performance.

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If you’re a football fan, be sure to visit La Bombonera Stadium, home to the famous Boca Juniors team. Throughout La Boca, you’ll find murals and street art dedicated to the team.

This lively area of the city is an absolute must-visit, even if you only have one day in Buenos Aires. It’s a true cultural center filled with local restaurants and street performers, and it’s a great place to spend the afternoon.

Note: La Boca has a rough past and isn’t known as the safest area of the city. While the tourist streets themselves are generally trouble-free, be aware of phone snatchers and pickpockets. It’s also not the place to wander away from the tourist areas.

San Telmo
This traditional area of Buenos Aires is an absolute must if you want to immerse yourself in local life. It’s a beautiful area with stunning architecture, cobblestone streets, traditional cafes, and local markets. San Telmo is exactly how I pictured Buenos Aires to be.

If you are visiting Buenos Aires on a Sunday, be sure to include a visit to San Telmo. The area comes to life as antique markets line the streets almost all the way down to La Boca.

San Telmo Market is a must-visit in the area. The market is filled with delicious Argentine food stands, souvenir shops and fruit and vegetable stands. The market is especially lively at weekends. Be sure to visit Coffee Town – it’s some of the best coffee in Buenos Aires. It’s right in the centre of the market.

Tip: you can walk between San Telmo and La Boca. It’s about thirty minutes. If you have the time, I highly recommend trying to squeeze in both, especially at the weekend.

Microcentro (San Nicolás & Montserrat)
If you’ve not had enough history after your walking tour of Buenos Aires, consider spending your afternoon in the city’s centre, known as Microcentro.

This busy area is home to several notable buildings, including various museums and Teatro Colon.

If you want to explore this area of Buenos Aires, consider this free walking tour of central Buenos Aires.

If I’m being entirely honest, I would consider exploring another area of Buenos Aires. While this area has lots of history, areas such as San Telmo and La Boca have a lot more to offer.

If you do a ‘do it yourself’ walking tour in the morning, you could finish in this area to get a feel for it.

Palermo
If you want to visit a trendy area of Buenos Aires, consider Palermo. Known for its street art, restaurants, and social scene, Palermo is a lively neighbourhood in Buenos Aires.

Palmero can be divided into three smaller areas: Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, and Palermo Chico. Each is a short walk from the other. In Palermo Soho, you’ll find famous street art, as well as most of the restaurants and trendy bars.

Personally, I’d consider visiting Palermo in the evening to get a feel for the area and prioritise La Boca or San Telmo in the afternoon.

Palermo comes to life at night with a variety of wine bars, craft beer spots and delicious restaurants to try. However, if you’re limited on time, Palermo is still a great option during the day. Be sure to check out the famous street art in the area.

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Evening in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires comes to life at night. From watching a classic Tango show to joining one of the world’s best food tours, there are so many ways to spend an evening in Buenos Aires. Hopefully, you end up with two evenings in Buenos Aires so you can make the most of the famous Argentinian nightlife.

Here are some of the best things to do in Buenos Aires at night.

Watch a Tango show

I’m not sure any trip to Buenos Aires is complete without watching at least one Tango show in the city. Buenos Aires is the birthplace of Tango, and it’s believed it all started in La Boca.

If you spent your afternoon in La Boca, you may have already caught a show at one of the restaurants or on the street. However, there are several fantastic classic Tango shows available in the city.

It’s worth noting that Tango shows tend to start quite late, normally around 10 pm. If you’re hoping for an early show, consider this early Tango show with the option of transfers. The show begins at 8 pm, a little earlier than others.

One of the best Tango shows in Buenos Aires is La Ventana. This historic show takes place in San Telmo and includes live folk music and, of course, plenty of Tango. There is also the option to add dinner.

Another famous Tango show in the city is El Viejo. This traditional performance also comes with the option to add dinner.

Join a food tour

Consider adding a street food tour to your one-day itinerary. With limited time in Buenos Aires, a food tour will allow you to experience some of the delicious food the city is known for.

One of the best food tours in Buenos Aires is this tour with Sherpa. The tour takes you around Palermo to try some of the famous food this area is known for. This includes traditional Argentinian foods such as steak and empanadas, as well as some up-and-coming restaurants. Wine is also included in the tour. It’s been voted as one of the best food tours in South America and the world as a whole.

Sherpa Food Tours also offers a food tour in San Telmo which begins late morning.

Visit Palermo

Palermo is one of my favourite places in Buenos Aires. This lively spot shows the city’s diversity and is the place to be if you want to experience the nightlife. The area is filled with bars, cafes and some of the best restaurants in Buenos Aires.

You can join a food tour in Palermo or explore the area on your own terms. If visiting during the week, the area tends to stay quiet until around 8 or 9 pm.

I spent two weeks living in Palermo and spent most of that time testing out the best cafes, bars and restaurants. I’m working on a full guide to Palermo, but in the meantime, here are some of my favourite spots in Palermo:

Cafes:

  • Adorado
  • Malcriada (amazing cake)
  • Rita’s
  • Lab. Training
  • Kira
  • Full City

Casual bars:

  • Baum bar (great happy hour)
  • The Wine Bar (another good happy hour)
  • Snailey Walker
  • Temple
  • Patagonia Brewing Co

Restaurants:

  • Bushi (not quite in Palermo, but incredible ramen)
  • Hierro Parrilla
  • Don Julio
  • Minga Parilla
  • Nino Gordo
  • Koi
  • The Night Market (Asian street food)
  • Asian Cantina

Tip: Puerto Madero is another lively spot to grab some food and drink.

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Where to stay in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is a large city made up of 48 neighbourhoods (known as Barrios). Narrowing down where to stay can be tricky, especially if you only have one or two nights in the city.

If you’re sticking to the itinerary mentioned above, the best place to stay in Buenos Aires is the Recoleta neighbourhood. This traditional yet lively area is the perfect place to stay in Buenos Aires when you’re short on time. It’s close to the major historic attractions, offers a local experience, boasts plenty of tasty food and drink spots and has many affordable accommodation options.

If you’re planning to explore La Boca or Palermo, you’ll need to take public transport or a taxi from Recoleta.

Palermo is another popular place to stay. However, to see the main historic attractions, you’ll need to take a taxi or public transport.

Related read: discover all about Buenos Aires including where to stay, what to eat and how to get around

What to eat in Buenos Aires

It’s no secret that Argentina is home to some of the best food in South America, and Buenos Aires is a great place to see what all the fuss is about.

Even with just one day in Buenos Aires, you can try a selection of famous dishes. If you opt not to do a food tour, here are a few dishes I would recommend trying:

  • Empanadas: these traditional pastries are stuffed full of fillings. You’ll find them sold all over the city.
  • Steak: Argentina is known for its steak, and no trip to Buenos Aires would be complete without trying some.
  • Choripan: this traditional dish is barbequed sausage on bread. It’s simple but delicious.
  • Medialunas: similar to a croissant, this popular dish is eaten alongside coffee.
  • Dulce de leche: a little bit like caramel, this is a real local favourite in Buenos Aires. You can find it in many shops and add to sweet treats such as ice cream and coffee.

This is just a brief list and there are plenty more incredible dishes to try in Buenos Aires.

How to get around Buenos Aires

Where you stay in Buenos Aires will determine the best way for you to get around.

For those staying in the Recoleta area, it might be possible to explore on foot without taking any transport. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes. During my day in Buenos Aires I walked over 25,000 steps.

If you want to visit other areas, such as Palermo or La Boca, I would suggest getting a taxi or Uber to save time. While public transport is very affordable in Buenos Aires, it can be quite slow. With just one day in the city, it’ll be much easier to use taxis.

Discover more about how to get around Buenos Aires, including how to use their Subway (Subte) system.

It’s a good idea to have Google Maps downloaded offline. Buenos Aires is a big city, and it’s easy to lose your bearings.

If you do opt to try the Subway system, Google can help or try Moovit.

Hop-on hop-off bus
This style of bus allows visitors to travel between tourist attractions and get on and off as many times as needed. They’re a popular way to explore cities around the world and often come with an open roof, allowing you to see more of the city.

They’re not my personal favourite way to explore a city as I feel you are restricted to certain places. However, if you only have one day in Buenos Aires, it could be a good way to fit as much sightseeing into your itinierary as possible.

Gray Line operates the most popular bus tour in Buenos Aires. They offer 24, 48, and 72-hour options. The tour covers the major sights, including Plaza de Mayo, La Boca, and even Chinatown.

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Tips for your day

With only one day exploring the city, you don’t want to waste time figuring everything out. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your visit to Buenos Aires:

  • Wake up early: I’d recommend starting your day as early as possible. This will give you more time to explore and see as much as possible. With only one day in Buenos Aires, you want to make the most of the time you have there.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: Exploring any city always involves a lot of walking, and Buenos Aires is no different.
  • Download Google Maps offline: The Wi-Fi in Buenos Aires isn’t the most reliable, so it’s a good idea to download an offline version of a map.
  • Have some cash to hand: While most places in Buenos Aires take cards, it can sometimes be more expensive to pay this way. Wherever you are in Argentina, carrying cash is always a good idea. The best way to withdraw money in Argentina is to use Western Union. I’ve spoken all about this in my Buenos Aires guide.
  • Plan your food: Buenos Aires is filled with incredible places to eat. However, the culture in Argentina is a little bit different to what you might be used to. For starters, most cafes and coffee spots don’t open until 8 or even 9 am. Many restaurants also don’t open until later in the evening. Make sure you plan your Buenos Aires itinerary with this in mind, especially if there’s somewhere specific you want to eat.
How to Spend One Day in Buenos Aires (Ideal Layover Itinerary) (2024)

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