The Buenos Aires 4-Day Weekend: Steak, Malbec, and Tango

Buenos Aires, Argentina
scrollah / Shutterstock

As Latin American metropolises go, Buenos Aires is unusual. Other big cities are frenetic and, to be frank, overwhelming to the outsider. You ride in the backseat of your taxi from the airport in Rio or São Paulo or Lima and wonder, “How the hell am I gonna get the hang of things here in just a few days?” (Somehow, you always do.)

But in Buenos Aires, even in the outskirts of town, you sense this air of calm. (Maybe that’s the origin of its name, which means good airs or fair winds.) As soon as you arrive, you skip that awkward step of acquainting yourself with your surroundings. You are already in the mix.

Next to you in that mix is a river of red wine, piles of bread, and parillas packed with meat. You’ve got tango. Artisan markets. World-class art museums and lush public parks. And you’ve got the fair winds at your back, making the entire weekend a breeze. Here’s the Buenos Aires travel guide enjoying this fair city at its best, and to its fullest.

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The indoor pool at the Alvear Palace Hotel
The indoor pool at the Alvear Palace Hotel Courtesy Image

Buenos Aires Travel Guide: Where to Stay

Either of the Palermos (Soho and Hollywood) are central to the nightlife and hipster culture. The Clubhouse Hotel can score you a private pool with bar service—the sought-after combo by Porteños for those long summer days. If you want something more upscale and European, stick to Recoleta, namely the Alvear Palace Hotel, which has one of the best wine bars on its rooftop deck (in addition to relatively affordable and luxurious rooms).

Alternatively, post up at the equally grandiose Faena in off-the-grid Puerto Madero, especially if you plan to see one of their famed tango cabaret shows during the weekend.

Thursday: Stick With the Classics

Why waste any time? Dive right into the malbec at 416 Snack Bar in Palermo, which sprinted out of the gate as the city’s coolest after-work, late-hour wine joint. It’s brother to the Toronto wine bar by the same name, but its wine selection is vastly more Argentine. (If you want a warmup to dinner, then snack on their tapas. I love the spicy Korean fried chicken myself.)

You’ll then meander across Palermo to Don Julio for a late dinner. (By Argentine standards, it’ll be a normal or early dinner. Basically, you should never take your first bite of dinner before 9:30 or 10 p.m.) Make a reservation. It’s one of the most popular with visitors because it is arguably the best steakhouse in town.

Then, get some rest, because you’re surely jet-lagged and have a full weekend ahead.

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Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place of Evita Perón
Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place of Evita Perón Scott Biales DitchTheMap / Shutterstock

Friday: Instant Immersion

Morning: Art for Breakfast

Warm up with brunch at La Alacena in Palermo. (Is it too early for meatballs? Never.) Then, you’ll get your art fix at MALBA, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, followed by an oxygen fuel-up inside the nearby Japanese Gardens and Botanical Gardens. (If you have time, you can check out the underwhelming Evita Museum, just because it’s between the two. You’ll pay Eva homage immediately hereafter, though, so don’t feel too compelled to visit.)

Afternoon: Hola, Evita

It’s late afternoon now, but a good time to visit the otherwise blistering-hot Recoleta Cemetary, which is where Ms. Perón is buried. It’s got rows of mausoleums, and hers is neatly tucked among the others. Happy searching! (There’s a map to make it easy for the logistics-obsessed.)

Get a late Argentine-fare lunch at nearby Los Galgos (with wine of course), and then peruse the Recoleta boutiques with your eyes on the clock: 7 p.m. means it’s time for negronis at Presidente.

Evening: The Palermo Bar Tour

Go back to your hotel and freshen up (Or take a power nap, since the locals are doing it.) You’ll have a late dinner at Nola, which brings Cajun heat to Palermo (and brings the cool crowd along with it). You’ll head out on foot into Palermo for the rest of the night, crawling between hipster cocktail bars like Isabel, Faraday, and the wine bar Ser y Tiempo.

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Painted houses on Caminito Street in La Boca
Painted houses on Caminito Street in La Boca Jess Kraft / Shutterstock

Saturday: Street Fairs and Tango

Morning: Or, Whenever the Hell You Wake Up

Morning? Ha! After last night, your morning starts at 11 a.m. Still, it’s time for breakfast, so get to Ninina for fresh-baked goods and tasty eggs. (Try to sit close to the bakery window so you can watch the ornate production backstage. The guy making croissants absolutely mesmerized me for at least an hour.)

Afternoon: La Boca and Recoleta

You’ll start your afternoon with a couple hours in lively, colorful La Boca. In this barrio, you’ll see tango dancers in the cobbled side streets, or at the local artisan fair along the main tourist thoroughfare, El Caminito. If you’re up for more art, check the exhibition calendar at modern art museum Fundación Proa.

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Head up to Recoleta after, to check out the very bohemian Feria Recoleta. (Plaza Francia is a good landmark to find the fair). It’s another chance to stock up on artisan and antique gifts and mementos (like jewelry, pottery, or textiles), and to snack your way through the afternoon. (Or save yourself for the lamb kebabs at Florentin nearby.)

A pair of tango dancers in San Telmo in Buenos Aires
A pair of tango dancers in San Telmo in Buenos Aires gary yim / Shutterstock

Evening: Two to Tango

Your evening plans are up to you, but I suggest it include tango of some sorts. La Catedral teaches classes and is a good place to watch (and dance with) professionals, while enjoying a bottle of wine. Or, you can go big with a guns-blazing dinner performance, Rojo Tango, at Faena. (Book ahead, of course.)

If you need to make time for dinner, get to Artemesia in Palermo. Their organic, mostly vegetarian menu is as fresh and filling as you can get. (Bookmark it for brunch too, on any day except Monday.) Or, if you’re craving meat, you need to do a proper smoky asado platter, and can get one at Miranda, also in Palermo.

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Sunday: Markets and (Even More) Steak + Malbec

Morning: San Telmo

Get your morning carboload and caffeine fix at Selvaje Bakery in Palermo. (Try the choco buns, if you’re undecided or if you respect yourself.)

Then, start the day with a trip to the San Telmo Market (in San Telmo of course) to stock up on other artisan goods and totable antiques. (You can snack your way inside the market itself, too, though the fair stretches far past its starting point of Plaza Dorrego.

Casa Rosada, the president's house
Casa Rosada, the president’s house Brendan van Son / Shutterstock

Afternoon: Casa Rosada and Puerto Madera

The San Telmo Market will lead you directly to the Casa Rosada, the famed “Pink House” where the president resides. (Basically, it’s like the White House. But it’s pink. ¿Comprendes?) And yes, now is the time to sing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” under your breath.

If you aren’t staying in Puerto Madera, and if you aren’t going to a tango show at Feria this weekend, then meander back across the bridge into the secluded red-bricked, waterfront district, just for a look. (And maybe a coffee or lunch at Lobo Café.)

Evening: More Steak

You need to bookend the trip with another steak feast. (Yes, need to.) Many steak restaurants are closed on Sundays, but not one of the best—La Carniceria in Palermo. And you’ll order the malbec, obviously.

This is the one night you’ll go to bed at a normal time. (That is, 1 or 2 a.m., since you’re still eating dinner late with all the locals.)

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Monday: The Parting Shot

Hierbabuena is worthy of your final meal in Buenos Aires. I love a last-day stroll through the park, and if you haven’t already visited Bosques de Palermo (also called Parque Tres de Febrero), then now’s the time.

This park has everything: running paths, sprawling lawns, beautiful lakes (populated with beautiful swans), fountains, footbridges, a rose garden, and more. It’s the perfect spot to soak up your last bit of the good Argentine airs.

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