We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. Accept | Find out more


Three Perfect Days: Buenos Aires

The stylish South American capital with an epic history stakes its claim as an international center of cuisine, culture and design

Author Jon Marcus Photography Javier Pierini and Yadid Levy

Café Tortoni, the oldest coffee shop in Buenos Aires

Picture 14 of 14

DAY ONE | You check in at the Hotel Panamericano (1) on Avenida 9 de Julio — said to be the widest boulevard in the world, with seven lanes in each direction, plus four more each way on parallel side streets. From the hotel’s grand lobby, with its ornately tiled floor and soaring ceilings, you follow the tuxedoed bellman to your room among the upper suites and studios, and take in the commanding view of El Obelisco, a monument built in 1936 to commemorate the city’s 400th anniversary.

January is summer in South America, so you go outside and explore the grid of streets fanning out from El Obelisco. At the Plaza de Mayo (2), the symbolic center of the city, you get your bearings with a private tour from Eternautas (named for a time traveler in an Argentine comic strip), led by students and professors from the University of Buenos Aires. The guides separate Buenos Aires fact from mythology (of which there is no shortage) while recommending the hippest cafés and dance halls, or milongos.

Tour over, it’s time for a late lunch at Café Tortoni (3), the oldest coffee shop in the city, having opened in 1858. The Tortoni is situated on Avenida de Mayo, which locals, known as porteños, call the “Spanish Avenue” for its architecture. The café is decidedly French, however, with dark wood, stained glass, historical photos, small tables and neighborhood intellectuals holding court beneath ornate high ceilings. “The tourist who arrives in Buenos Aires has the entire city in the Tortoni,” Argentine author José Gobello has said.

An after-lunch stroll down Avenida 9 de Julio brings you to the Teatro Colón (4). So extraordinary is this building that it’s harder to get tickets for the one-hour tours than for a performance; booking ahead was smart. Past the gorgeous lobby and anterooms, the U-shaped auditorium is itself a breathtaking symphony of velvet and gold leaf. In addition to operas from April through December, there are concerts almost every Thursday and low-price standing-room spots high in the balconies, where the acoustics are purportedly the best. Sometimes there’s a free chamber concert scheduled in the gilded patrons’ room, which the local aristocracy modeled on the Palace of Versailles.

Showing up for dinner any earlier than 9 p.m. is déclassé in Argentina, so you have plenty of time to amble along Avenida Corrientes (5), lined with bookshops and theaters. For your merienda, or teatime snack, you pull up a stool at the bar in one of the many pizzerias and enjoy a little people-watching along with your Argentine pizza, which is greasier than what you’ve had elsewhere (though deliciously so), with a doughier crust.

Before heading back to the hotel, you join the flood of workers coursing through the chaotic pedestrian retail strip of Calle Florida and make a quick stop for a cucurucho clásico, a cone of Argentina’s famously rich ice cream, at the Freddo (6) window. You opt for the chocolate amargo, studded with big chunks of chocolate — and are instantly hooked. Fortunately, though maybe not for your waistline, there are Freddo cafés all over town.

After a nap at the hotel, you arrive for your 10:30 dinner reservation at the extraordinary restaurant housed in the Panamericano, Tomo 1 (7), which serves haute riffs on classic porteño fare in a sleek contemporary setting. You’re saving room for all the world-renowned Argentine steak you’ll be eating tomorrow, so you order the classic spinach ravioli. Sated from the food and a few glasses of local malbec from the extensive wine list, you call it a day.

2 Responses to “Three Perfect Days: Buenos Aires”

  1. Sebastian Says:
    January 5th, 2012 at 9:02 am

    It’s quite curios to see the fascination of foreigners with Evita Peron. The picture they have of Evita comes probably from the movie or the play and has no connection to the real character. Many Argentineans have a very different and much less favorable opinion of who she was and what she did. At the same time and again based in a film, Juan Peron is view as a dark power behind her, also false. There would be no Evita without Peron and he was the driving force behind the changes that improved the living conditions of most workers in Argentina.

  2. Eva Says:
    July 29th, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I think the author missed the mark. Most Argentineans go to Fervor for the seafood and fish, not the steak. Shopping on the same day in Palermo and in Recoleta is like shopping on Madison Avenue and in Brooklyn all in one afternoon. Buenos Aires is a large cosmopolitan city and it takes time to get from one place to another. Argentineans take you past the Evita Peron photo, say take a look, you’ve seen enough. There’s so much more to this wonderful South American city with locals who speak Spanish, act like Americans, and think like Italians.

Leave your comments