About Buenos Aires

European in appearance, New World in its freewheeling spirit but with a sensuousness that’s all its own, Buenos Aires lives up to its billing as South America’s cultural capital. While drafting an itinerary is straightforward enough – watching tango and eating barbecued grass-fed beef will top most people’s list – the Argentine capital rewards those willing to improvise and go with the flow: so don’t be surprised to find yourself tearing up those best-laid plans.

Begin your discovery of Buenos Aires in and around Plaza de Mayo, the city’s historic
heart. From here you can stroll up Avenida de Mayo, an architectural tour de force lined with turn-of-the-20th-century gems like Palacio Barolo (www.pbarolo.com.ar). To trace the roots of tango, head south to La Boca. Famous for its brightly painted tenements, this neighbourhood is also home to Diego Maradona’s former football team, Boca Juniors (www.museoboquense.com). Balance out the nostalgia with a tour of Palermo’s MALBA museum (www.malba.org.ar), whose permanent collection of modern South American art is world class.

The same could be said of the grilled steak that is the mainstay of Argentine gastronomy. San Telmo’s La Brigada (www.parrillalabrigada.com.ar) is a traditional parrilla (steakhouse) where tuxedoed waiters ‘carve’ the lomo (tenderloin) with a dessert spoon. For a more contemporary menu in a stylish downtown setting try Aldo’s (www.aldosvinoteca.com), whose wine cellar is an A to Z of the best Argentine vintages. Adventurous, meat-weary diners throng Tô (www.torestaurant.com), a French-Japanese – or “Frapanese” – fusion restaurant in Palermo Viejo.

Where there’s good beef, there’s good leather, so be prepared to go home with more handbags and wallets than you strictly need. Downtown, Casa López (www.casalopez.com.ar) offers a terrific selection of his and hers accessories. Recoleta’s Arandú (www.arandu.com.ar) specialises in high-end traditional gifts such as leather riding crops, polo boots and finely engraved silver maté gourds. For a shopping experience that’s more about browsing than splurging, visit the Sunday market (www.feriadesantelmo.com) in San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego.

If you’re lucky enough to be here in springtime you can flash your new gear at the world’s most important polo tournament, the Argentine Open, held in Palermo during November and December (www.aapolo.com). Art lovers might want to arrange their trip around May’s arteBA (www.arteba.org), Latin America’s biggest art fair. Another big draw is August’s Tango Festival and World Championships (www.tangobuenosaires.gob.ar), a city-wide celebration of Argentina’s unique contribution to popular culture.

You can, of course, attend a tango show any night of the year; the dinner plus performance at Esquina Carlos Gardel (www.esquinacarlosgardel.com.ar) has the correct ratio of razzmatazz to authenticity. Toast the chimes of midnight at Milión (www.milion.com.ar), a palatial bar in upmarket Recoleta and then dance into tomorrow at Jet (www.jet.com.ar), a nightclub overlooking the Río de la Plata. (A one-word tip for those unaccustomed to burning the candle at both ends: siesta.)

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