No matter how soap-opera-like its politics, or exaggerated its inflation, Argentina’s capital never loses its charm. The city’s nonstop spawning of new restaurants and arts spaces is a testament to the endless creativity of Porteños, as its residents are called. Its century-old cafes and gorgeous tree-lined streets have always been a draw, but visit now for its culinary scene and gimmicky yet ineffably cool speakeasies. Buenos Aires loves to embrace reinvention, and it shows.
1. Latin American Art | 3:30 p.m.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba) is one of the best art museums on the continent. The modern, light-filled building (admission, 60 pesos or about $6.55 at 9 Argentine pesos to the dollar) is truly a necessary stop, with its vibrant permanent collection, where artworks are arranged chronologically and linked to their corresponding art movement. Highlights include works by the Argentine artist Antonio Berni and Frida Kahlo. The temporary exhibitions are almost always thought-provoking (and if you need a snack, the croissants in the cafe are excellent).
2. Perfumes in Palermo | 6 p.m.
Casa Cavia is a complex — restaurant, cafe, bar, garden, bookstore and florist — in a two-story home that dates to 1927 and has been remodeled into a stunning indoor-outdoor space that’s a harbinger of the new Buenos Aires design aesthetic: modern with a tip of the hat to retro. Pop in for a peek at the grand interior — high ceilings, arched doorways and Art Deco-inspired furniture — then walk through the garden to the perfumery, where more than 100 fragrances are on display, from passionfruit to the signature “Biblioteca de Babel” scent, a homage to Jorge Luis Borges and a nod to the publishing house on the second floor.
3. Coffee and Wine | 7:30 p.m.
Argentines stay out late, so fortify yourself with a caffeine stop at LAB Tostadores de Cafe, a roastery and one of the best of Buenos Aires’s new crop of modern coffee shops, where espresso is served in an industrial chic interior. Then stroll four blocks up Calle Gorriti, a popular shopping street, to Ser y Tiempo, a dimly lit wine bar that opened in 2014. A blind taste test of three excellent Argentine wines (200 pesos) is conducted on its own or over dinner, and will help you learn to distinguish a torrontés from a chardonnay. It’s also a wine shop, so stock up here on lesser-known local vintages. If you’re looking for something more casual, stop at the nearby Trova, which offers themed flights (“Argentine Malbecs,” “Summer”), almost all Argentine (flights from 65 to 110 pesos).
4. Modern Argentina | 10:30 p.m.
Head to the quietly trending Colegiales neighborhood for dinner (around 1,300 pesos with wine for two) at Astor Manduque Porteño (the name translates, roughly, to “where locals eat”). The chef Antonio Soriano is a leading light of the new school of Argentine cooking, and his oft-changing menu is packed with creative dishes, which recently included blood sausage tempura and a salad of beef tongue. There are just eight dishes on offer at any one time, and diners can opt to try three, five or all of the choices, with course size diminishing proportionately. Add the wine pairing, which doesn’t skimp on quality or quantity.
5. Coffee at Cao | 10 a.m.
Many of Buenos Aires’s legendary bar-cum-cafes, or bares notables, with their career waiters and queues for tables, are packed with tourists. Make the journey to San Cristóbal, a residential neighborhood with its own landmark bar that dates back to 1915, Bar de Cao. Here you’ll find glass-fronted cabinets stuffed with bottles, hanging legs of jamón and original wooden fixtures, with a minimum of tourists. Sit by the sunny windows, order café con leche (23 pesos) and a medialuna croissant (7 pesos). But save room for lunch.
6. Leisurely Lunch | 12:30 p.m.
Build up an appetite with a walk down Avenida Independencia, a busy street lined with shops and cafes, humming with the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the capital. Stop at Aramburu Bis, the more informal second restaurant of the superstar chef Gonzalo Aramburu. His much fancier Aramburu is around the corner, but the Bis version, with its country store aesthetic, is one of the best restaurants in town (tasting menu lunch for two, with wine pairing, 1,100 pesos). Every dish is perfectly executed, like the starter of beef tartare adorned with the yolk of a quail’s egg, mustard ice cream and a miniature fry basket of shoestring potatoes. The wine list includes selections from up-and-coming Mendoza wineries — add the wine pairing to your tasting menu and plan on a three-hour lunch.
7. Afternoon Tango | 4:30 p.m.
Tango is less popular than Argentina’s tourism materials would have you believe, but no one has told the over-60 crowd. Check out the dedicated dancers at La Milonga de los Consagrados (55 pesos to enter, one-drink minimum), where the seniors keep the dance floor packed, working their moves to music, which, though played on a computer, sounds as if it’s coming from a Victrola. Along one side of the dance hall, which exudes faded grandeur, men sit at tables trying to catch the eye of a potential partner on the other side. Taking photos is frowned upon (this is a local activity, not a tourist event), so sit back with a glass of champagne (26 pesos) and enjoy the show.
8. Live at the Power Plant | 8 p.m.
Once an electric power plant, the Usina del Arte was reopened as the city’s most impressive arts space in 2012 in La Boca, a portside postindustrial neighborhood, and it now hosts art exhibitions and an eclectic range of live music in two beautiful auditoriums. Performances range from the Buenos Aires Philharmonic to big band tunes to poetry/music combos, so check the website, usinadelarte.org, ahead of time. It’s also worth visiting during the day for a tour (free, 45 minutes) of the building’s striking Florentine Renaissance-style exterior and beautifully reformatted interior.
9. Steak and Sweetbreads | 10 p.m.
Going to an Argentine parrillada (barbecue restaurant) is practically compulsory here, but eschew the huge, tourist-filled dining rooms and book-long menus of the old standbys like Don Julio’s or Parrilla Peña and head instead to La Carniceria. This 24-seat modern parrillada opened in late 2014 and usually has just two (enormous) steaks on the menu, along with a roster of traditional starters brought into the 21st century (dinner for two, around 750 pesos). The beef comes from the owner’s farm and is smoked in-house, and the chorizo is homemade. Try the sweetbreads, which are glazed with honey and surrounded by kernels of corn.
10. Party in Secret | 12 a.m.
Nights out in Buenos Aires can last until 6 a.m. — too long for just one bar. Hit up several, sampling the best of the city’s speakeasy culture at bares secretos. Start at Frank’s, making sure to grab the password from the bar’s Facebook page ahead of time (it’s hinted at in the daily post, your first guess is usually right). Give the password to the bouncer, who will direct you to a phone booth; dial the number he gives you; a door will open, and you’re in a long bar full of people drinking some of the city’s best cocktails (around 100 pesos). Ask the dapper bartenders for a Bison TT (vodka, green tea, ginger syrup), and people-watch from a red velvet sofa before moving on to Victoria Brown. Walk through the streetside cafe and open the door in the brick wall at the back. Inside is a steampunk fantasyland, with bartenders who mix drinks like the Desde Cuba Con Amor (120 pesos), a combination of aged rum, citrus and bitters that is literally smoking. Then get a modern take on Argentina’s traditional love of bitters at 878, a popular speakeasy. The dimly lit main bar is usually packed, but if you push through a door in the far wall, you’ll find another, somewhat quieter bar.
11. From Peru, With Love | Noon
After a late night, do like the locals and have a leisurely Sunday lunch. Porteños were waiting with bated breath for La Mar to open, which it did in April 2015, thanks to the reputation of its celebrity chef Gastón Acurio. The Peruvian trendsetter’s Palermo Hollywood cebichería is sleek, with a spacious patio. Tuck into the degustación de ceviches, three flavorful ceviches, some served in their own fishy marinade known as leche de tigre. Add a couple of causas — dollops of mashed yellow potato topped with everything from olive cream to raw salmon (lunch for two, around 600 pesos).
12. The Sport of Kings | 2 p.m.
At any given time, seven of the eight best polo players in the world hail from Argentina, and the sport is experiencing a revival of sorts, at least according to the ultra-charming Ezequiel Moreno of Polo Tour. He runs half-day polo lessons (1,400 pesos, includes transportation) at the sprawling Estancia La Martina belonging to polo’s foremost dynasty, the Cambiaso family, where you’ll learn how to ride a horse, whack the ball with a mallet and do both at the same time, all in lush green environs just 40 minutes from the city center.
The Glu Hotel. Despite the slightly off-putting name, the Glu (Godoy Cruz 1733; thegluhotel.com; doubles from $150) is a charmer: all the room are suites with comfy king-size beds, and the staff members are some of the friendliest and most helpful in the entire city.
Fierro Hotel. With a great location in Palermo Hollywood, the Fierro (Soler 5862; fierrohotel.com; doubles from $129) is great value, with the amenities (pillow menu, Nespresso machines) of a much more expensive hotel. The suites, some with balconies, are spacious, and the ground-floor restaurant, Uco, does one of the best brunches in town.
Correction: October 9, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a marinade used in ceviches. It is leche de tigre, not tigre de leche.