Steak, tango and wine are what Buenos Aires is best known for, but the Argentinian capital has much more to offer than the typical tourist trifecta. In a city where the old world Europe of grand boulevards and turn-of the-century mansions and a contemporary Latin America of street art murals and flashy
highrise buildings sit side by side, layers of history and culture are as dense as dulce de leche ice cream. Meanwhile, a new wave of sophisticated restaurants, galleries, boutique hotels and bars has made Buenos Aires more vibrant than ever.
Out of Buenos Aires’s 47 barrios (areas), Recoleta is the most elegant and makes a perfect starting off point. Stroll through streets of ornate old buildings and then wander through the narrow pathways of Cementerio de la Recoleta, where the elaborate statue-adorned tombs of the city’s most notable inhabitants (such as Eva Perón) are just as photogenic. Get some empanadas from El Sanjuanino – widely touted as the city’s best purveyor of Argentina’s famous savoury pastries - before hailing a taxi to Palermo Soho.
Along with nearby Palermo Hollywood, these two informally named neighbourhoods are the city’s private homes. At the perennially popular Casa Felix (colectivofelix.com), the six-course menu served in the owner’s beautiful home features unusual ingredients in creative Latin American dishes. Dinner ends after 1am, which is the best time to catch some live music.
There is a diverse music scene which ranges from places like Los Cardones (cardones.com.ar) – where traditional Argentinian folk bands entertain a crowd of lively locals who sing along with gusto to the lyrics – to Niceto Club (nicetoclub.com), which hosts local and international acts playing anything from baroque cabaret to indie rock on two dance floors.
Visit the birthplace of tango in La Boca, the port where the city’s first Italian immigrants arrived, which has colourful houses stacked like Lego blocks. Have lunch at one of the many cafés before heading off in the afternoon with a guide from Buenos Aires Street Art (buenosairesstreetart.com) for a street art walking tour.
In Palermo Hollywood, Tegui (tegui.com.ar) is ranked among Latin America’s best restaurants for its contemporary take on Argentinian cuisine: think
tenderloin with chimichurri sauce and charcoal-grilled potato and seared tuna in almond gazpacho. For an after-dinner nightcap, choose between the garden or marbled bar at Milión (milion.com.ar), a restored 100-year-old French mansion, or walk behind the “secret” entrances at a hidden speakeasy bar, such as Floreria Atlantico (floreriaatlantico.com.ar).
Night-owl porteños (as Buenos Aires’ stylish inhabitants are known) do late brunches and one of their favourite spots is Café Crespin (cafecrespin.com.ar) for French toast and hot cakes in the up-and-coming Villa Crespo
neighbourhood. Across town to the east are the romantically crumbling old buildings of San Telmo, where there’s an antiques and art market every Sunday on the cobbled streets around the Plaza Dorrego.
Café culture forms an important part of the Argentinian city’s history and heritage, so there’s no shortage of atmospheric places to have afternoon coffee and cake. The 150-year-old Café Tortoni (cafetortoni.com.ar), the city’s oldest, has hosted Buenos Aires’s most celebrated intellectuals (including writer Jorge Luis Borges) over the decades, while Las Violetas (lasvioletas.com) is an aesthetic feast of white-jacketed waiters, ornate woodwork and marble floors.
For dinner, the fine dining iLatina (ilatinabuenosaires.com) offers five-course tasting menus of exquisitely presented Latin American food such as roasted corn and Oaxacan mole in mescal and Ecuadorian truffles with Patagonian sea salt for dessert. To see in your last night in the city, skip an overpriced touristy tango show and instead take a taxi to La Catedral (lacatedralclub.com), a bohemian milonga (tango club) in a converted warehouse. Get a spot at one of the candle-lit tables as you wait until way past midnight for the talented dancers to take over the floor to the songs of Carlos Gardel.
WHERE TO STAY
The boutique Fierro Hotel (fierrohotel.com), located on a quiet street in the heart of Palermo Hollywood, offers spacious minimalist rooms, a rooftop pool and excellent breakfasts.