24 hours in Buenos Aires
It’s wishful thinking to imagine that Buenos Aires can be experienced in just a few days. Anyone wanting to absorb it all will find their time taken up with fairs, food, architecture, and museums. But don’t be discouraged – we have a plan to help you discover the city — at least the center — in 24 hours.
By Daniel Góngora
Photos: Getty Images
This city is not the place to go on a diet, as will be obvious as early as breakfast. Cafés that blend traditional pastries with new flavors and themed settings are in vogue. Our starting point is the narrow Arroyo Street in the Recoleta neighborhood, which is filled with art galleries and elegant old buildings. Any of the cafés here will do just fine. My favorites are M Kaffee, with its lovely façade and pink interior, and Maru Botana, helmed by a renowned chef.
Follow Arroyo Street and pause a moment by the Embassy of Israel Plaza, which was the site of a terrible attack in 1992. The commemorative monument pleads for peace among nations. Walk down Juncal Street to the Retiro neighborhood and seek out the Monument to the Fallen in the Falklands, ironically situated across from the Monumental Tower, donated by British residents in 1916. The nearly 200-foot tower marks a former gateway for immigrants and now serves as an information center for the city’s museums. Continuing with our tour, we come to the remodeled train station in Retiro and another unusual feature: a totem pole from the Kwakiutl First Nations group in Vancouver, donated by the Canadian Embassy in 1961.
Backtrack a few steps and take Eduardo Madero Avenue for about half a mile behind the city’s banking district to Cecilia Grierson Street. This is Puerto Madero, a new neighborhood that consists of elegant buildings that house the elite of Buenos Aires. The revamped dockside areas are lined with exclusive restaurants. Continue on Grierson, pass the bridge, and take in the old port and the immigration museum on the left side.
Walk another half mile to the Ecological Reserve. These 865 acres provide bike-friendly recreation, table games, views of the expansive Río de la Plata, and picnic areas. Nothing could be more local than enjoying a day outdoors with a choripán (chorizo sandwich) or bondiola (pork) sandwich. Exiting the reserve to the right will put you on a boulevard packed with food carts offering every possible variation on meat between two slices of bread.
Head along Dr. Tristán Achával Rodríguez Avenue and leave Puerto Madero via Macacha Güemes. A walk of a mile and a half brings you to the Kirchner Cultural Center. The imposing structure, formerly the Palacio de Correos (Central Post Office), opened in 2015 after extensive renovations. The new concert halls host an infinite variety of free performances. About 500 yards further on you’ll find the “Pink House” (Government House), which overlooks the celebrated Monument to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
Take Mayo Avenue, a living monument to the history of the city, and marvel at the façades, gates, balconies, and cupolas as you stroll by. Stop at the Barolo palace, inspired by The Divine Comedy. Enter through hell in the lobby, climb the stairs through purgatory, and reach the heavens in the cupola, a beacon at the top looking out over a wonderful panorama of the city.
It’s time for dinner. You can’t miss out on this chance to become acquainted with the dining traditions and exquisite cuisine of Buenos Aires. The local mate (tea made from yerba mate leaves) is accompanied by facturas: sweet dough balls filled with soft caramel, pastry cream, or quince jelly. Mayo Avenue is home to some of the city’s “Notable Cafés”: Tortoni, recognizable by the long lines of visitors; the recently-remodeled 33 Billares; and London City. Borges, Gardel, and Cortázar used to hold court in lively get-togethers at these cafés.
As lights begin to punctuate the night, the pizzerias fill up and the atmosphere grows more relaxed. Stroll down Corrientes Avenue to the beat of Fito and choose among musicals, revues, dramas, or standup. Corrientes is the principal street for mainstream theater, but there are also many options for alternative theater.
This is the city that doesn’t sleep, so there is still time to explore before the clock ticks over into a new day. As you leave the theater, you’ll realize that Corrientes will spoil you for choice. For supper, I would recommend Paseo la Plaza, a tucked-away alley that features both good food and live shows. Round out the day by dropping in at an interesting bar, like The Cavern, which has an onsite Beatles Museum that features the largest collection of band memorabilia outside of England.