With tango rhythms in the air, world-class steaks on the table, proud traditions and great architecture, Buenos Aires isn’t known as the Paris of the southern hemisphere for nothing. Not that Portenos, natives of the city, would call it this — they’re a fiery bunch, protective of their Argentine traditions. That’s why you’ll find locals lining up to watch gaucho demonstrations at weekly fairs, two 10-story steel-sculpted portraits of Eva Peron towering over the city, and crowds gathering nightly for milongas, traditional tango dance nights, where people of all ages pile in to practice with strangers. With winter approaching in the southern hemisphere, now’s the time to visit Buenos Aires, as the mild temperatures bring the city alive again after the stifling summer heat. This is the season for events — and here’s how to plan your trip around them.
BA Beat: The city may be more famous for its tango than drums, but La Bomba de Tiempo is changing that. Every Monday in Abasto’s Konex Cultural Center, the percussion group blends Argentine rhythms with Central American and African beats. ciudadculturalkonex.org
Soccer star: Make a soccer pilgrimage to the Diego Maradona Stadium. This is where the soccer legend started out, and the museum is filled with memorabilia from former players and fans. argentinosjuniors.com.ar
Fair play: Traditional food, arts and crafts, folkloric dance and performing gauchos — all descend on the Mataderos neighborhood every Sunday for the Feria de Mataderos fair.
Plaza de Mayo: This is the political, historical and spiritual center of Buenos Aires. The capital’s main square is surrounded by both church and state: the pink presidential palace, the Casa Rosada, complete with the balcony from which Evita delivered her speeches; the classical temple-style cathedral, over which current Pope Francis used to preside; and the Cabildo, the seat of government in colonial times and now a museum.
Recoleta cemetery: Argentina’s great and good are buried at the Recoleta cemetery, whose crumbling tombs and grand mausoleums make for one of the most decadently beautiful cemeteries in the world. Follow the crowds to the Duarte family memorial, Evita’s last resting place.
Caminito Tango: You know the image: tango-dancing couples draped over each other in front of brightly colored shacks piled on top of one another. That’s the Caminito, a living museum in the working class La Boca neighborhood, famous for its tango links and artisan stalls.
WHERE TO EAT
Miranda: Argentina’s parrilla tradition gets a glorious update at this urban-style grill in trendy Palermo Hollywood. parrillamiranda.com
Retro La Morada: One of the best places to try empanadas (stuffed pastries) in Buenos Aires — the flavors are sublime. lamorada.com.ar
El Cuartito: Thanks to Italian immigration in the past, Portenos are very big on pizza — and El Cuartito is one of the top places to try the oven-baked specialty. T: +54 11 4816 1578.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Faena: Philippe Starck has stylishly blended old and new in Buenos Aires’ most glamorous hotel, the Faena, a converted warehouse in upscale Puerto Madero. faena.com
NH City: Enjoy sweeping views of the Plaza de Mayo from the rooftop pool of the art deco NH City, near the Cabildo. nh-hotels.com
Hotel 9 de Julio: Vast duplex rooms at exceptional prices make the Hotel 9 de Julio the best value in town. htl9dejulio.com
Museo Evita: It may be tiny, but it packs a punch. The Museo Evita contains memorabilia and possessions of Argentina’s iconic first lady, including some of her clothes, along with small exhibitions about her life. The bar-restaurant upstairs is very trendy. museoevita.org
CAFF: For tango that’s not aimed at tourists, head for the CAFF (Club Atletico Fernandez Fierro), a cultural center with regular milongas (dance parties), concerts and professional performances. Sanata Bar is also popular with locals, with tango lessons taking place every Sunday. caff.com.ar sanatabar.com
Museo Santa Felicitas: The fascinating Complejo Historico Santa Felicitas in the Barracas neighborhood spans a church and plaza, an underground tunnel complex housing a local history museum, and the Templo Escondido, a church that was never consecrated. museosantafelicitas.org.ar
Tango festival: The annual Buenos Aires Tango Festival runs from August 12-25, attracting big names from the world over to perform with concerts, exhibitions and, of course, dance shows. tangobuenosaires.gob.ar
Food week: There’s more to Argentinian food than steak, and at the twice-yearly Buenos Aires Food Week in September, they’ll prove it with outstanding prix fixe menus at some of the city’s finest restaurants. bafoodweek.com
City culture: Buenos Aires is a fiercely cultural city, and June sees the Festival Ciudad Emergente in Recoleta. Music, literature and poetry are all featured through exhibits and performances. festivales.buenosaires.gob.ar
WHERE TO SHOP
San Telmo: Craft markets are big in Buenos Aires, with arty San Telmo one of the best areas to find artisans selling hand-crafted jewelry and accessories. The Feria de San Telmo market is centered on Plaza Dorrego every Sunday from 10am-4pm, with stalls selling crafts, antiques and one-of-a-kind items. feriadesantelmo.com
Colegiales: Rising rents mean ‘showroom shopping’ (appointment-only stores in designer studios) is how locals like to shop. The Colegiales neighborhood is full of secret showrooms for jewelry, clothes and shoes — tour them with personal shopper Sophie Lloyd, of Shop Hop BA. shop-buenosaires.com
Galerias Pacifico: The jewel of Buenos Aires’ main shopping street, Florida, is the Galerias Pacifico, a stunning Beaux Arts mall, complete with the frescos and cupolas that earn it national monument status. galeriaspacifico.com.ar
Palermo Soho: The heart of Buenos Aires’ boutique scene, with stores selling everything from clothing and accessories to interiors. The less crowded Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Zoologico are also worth a wander.
WHEN TO GO: Buenos Aires is situated in the southern hemisphere, and its seasons are the reverse of the US, with hot, humid summers and relatively mild winters. Winter through spring is generally considered the best but most popular time to visit, as the city comes into its own in the crisper climate.
TIME: UTC –3.
DIAL CODE: +54.
CONTACT: INPROTUR. argentina.travel