Stopover In Buenos Aires: How To Spend 24 Hours In The Paris Of South America
Buenos Aires has earned the nickname "Paris of South America" for its suspiciously European architecture and incredible fashion scene. After spending a couple of days here myself in January 2023, I can confirm, it is a truly unique city that feels like a mixture of Paris, Rome, and New York with a Latin American twist. In fact, while it has a nickname linking it to France, I thought Buenos Aires had a much more Italian feel to it, especially when considering the culinary scene.
If you love Western Europe, you'll fall in love with Buenos Aires instantly. It's a common stopover en route to many other South American destinations like El Calafate, Sao Paulo, Ushuaia, or Mendoza. Where possible, make the most of that layover and travel away from the airport into the heart of the city (you can take a taxi or an Uber, and it takes around 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic). Here's how to spend the perfect 24 hours exploring Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Where To Stay
Buenos Aires is a very spread-out city with lots of neighbourhoods, parks, and green spaces. While it's generally a safe travel destination, there are some parts of the city that are better than others for foreigners to base themselves while visiting.
Palermo is a trendy neighbourhood with a young crowd and lots going on at all hours of the day and night. From tango classes to asado restaurants and nightclubs, there is always something to do in Palermo. This is where we stayed during our visit to Buenos Aires and found it to be a very walkable and charming part of the city. It takes a little longer to get to Palermo from the airport than staying in San Telmo, but for travelers who want to explore the area in the evening and go to lively bars, this is the better neighbourhood to stay in.
In terms of booking an Airbnb versus a hostel versus a hotel, these can all be found in Palermo with something for every budget. We chose to split an Airbnb with friends and it was a lovely way to experience what living in an apartment in this city would be like. But there are also lots of trendy hostels and hotels to choose from.
For a budget traveler, San Telmo might be a more affordable place to stay in Buenos Aires. This is the oldest barrio (neighbourhood) in the city and has a distinct charm that is different from Palermo. Staying in San Telmo also positions you closer to La Boca which is the colourful, lively neighbourhood known for Caminito or "little walkway".
Where To Eat
Buenos Aires is a great destination for foodies with a wide variety of cuisines to choose from every night of your stay. We did our best to try as much Argentinean food as possible during our short stay in Buenos Aires but we also had to have a sit-down Italian meal, and you should too. Italian cuisine is a huge part of the gastronomy scene in Buenos Aires and Argentina in general since there are a lot of Italian immigrants and people with Italian heritage living there. As a result, the Italian food in Argentina is phenomenal. Another reason it's more like the Rome of South America. Here are some of my favourite places to dine in Buenos Aires:
Calden del Soho
Il Gran Caruso
You can check out my full blog post on where to eat in Argentina for details about more incredible spots!
Top Things To Do In A Day
With just 24 hours in Buenos Aires, you might have to make some tough choices about how to spend your time in this massive city. Here are some of my favourite experiences and top recommendations for how to spend your time and get the most out of a short visit to Argentina's capital city.
Go Shopping In La Boca
La Boca is a colourful neighbourhood along the Riachuelo River which is home to the famous Caminito, or little path, lined with vendors and restaurants. It's a must-visit spot in the city for an afternoon of shopping, eating, and enjoying a lively atmosphere.
Take A Tango Class
Buenos Aires is the birthplace of the dance known as the Argentine Tango so there's no better place on earth to learn about this dance style than in the capital of Argentina. We took a tango class at La Viruta Tango in Palermo and had a blast. The class was separated into beginner and advanced so if you (like me) have no idea what you're doing when it comes to the tango, fear not - there is something here for everyone!
Walk Around A City Park
I was shocked by the number of massive parks and green spaces dispersed throughout Buenos Aires. I'm not sure where else in the world you can see as many expansive parks in a country's capital. You'll undoubtedly find your way to one of them while exploring the city, but The Buenos Aires Eco Park in Palermo is especially beautiful. There is lots of wildlife wandering around the park and it spans a whopping 18 hectares.
Go To San Telmo Market
Even if you're staying in Palermo and not San Telmo, make time to visit the San Telmo market. The historic indoor market has vendors selling all kinds of delicious foods and is open daily from 9 AM to 8 PM. This is one of the best places in the city for some affordable and authentic empanadas.
Where To Go Next
From Buenos Aires, there are lots of accessible destinations in South America to reach by bus, boat, or plane. Hop on a short flight to El Calafate and begin and exploration of Patagonia, crossing over into Chile to trek in Torres del Paine. Or, take an overnight bus west to Mendoza for some wine tastings. It's also possible to take a boat to Uruguay (even as a day trip) and explore the charming town of Colonia del Sacramento.