Buenos Aires isn’t a Latin American city at all. Opulent Baroque architecture makes you feel you’re in Paris; yellow-roofed taxis and Porteños (as the locals are called) rush around as if they’re in New York; and there are more theatres and cinemas than London’s West End. But catch a few bars of a melancholic tango from a taxi radio, glimpse a few moves of the erotic dance itself in the dark interior of a milonga, or sniff the deliciously smoky whiff of steak sizzling on the grill at a parrilla restaurant, and you know immediately: you’re in Buenos Aires.
The city’s dramatic history is palpable everywhere: you can imagine the crowds greeting Evita on the balcony of the Casa Rosada in Plaza de Mayo, where mothers of those who ‘disappeared’ in the 1970s Dirty War still parade in protest every Thursday afternoon. And the stunning Belle Epoque architecture along Avenida de Mayo and in Recoleta reminds you of Buenos Aires’ wealthy heyday at the start of the 20th century, when Argentine beef and wheat exports made it ‘the breadbasket of the world’.
Porteños live well, their hunger for fashion fed by abundant designer boutiques, and their desire to pose in cool places spawning an overwhelming array of chic bars and superb restaurants. If you love cities, a week will leave you wanting more. And even if you don’t, a couple of days will start your trip with a bang.
Finally, if you want to escape the city for a couple of days in the land of gauchos (Argentine cowboys), it's only an hour or so's drive to The Pampas - fertile plains fringed by the Atlantic coast - where you'll find some lovely estancias (cattle ranches) turned into boutique hotels.
Photos by Fuentes/Fernand, Luis Argerich and Miguel Cesar.
Avoid the classic ‘free walking tours’ and sign up for the delightful BA Street Art tour, which is perfect for seeing the city’s non-touristy murals. It includes the biggest mural in Argentina painted by Alfredo Segatori and the stunning 3-D turtle by Martin Ron.
1. Los Galgos has longtime been a famous café/bar, but a 2015 remodelling has enhanced its nostalgic feel and appearance. Come for charcuterie picada platters and a properly made cortado.
2. Proper is as cool as it gets right now in BA, with an open industrial kitchen and wood-fire oven warming a menu of small plates, that changes daily. Think pork flank with red bean ketchup or sea bass with chermoula and pancetta broth.
3. Ice cream is as popular as steak in this city. Best of the best is family-run Rapa Nui heladería, where you’ll find 8 types of dulce de leche alone.
The delightful nature reserve, Costanera Sur, feels far removed from the city, despite its proximity to the downtown area. Hire bikes to explore its 350 hectares, which are a haven for wildlife and birds.
We love this stunning beautiful bookshop, housed in a former theatre. The original ceiling frescoes have been retained, the former ‘boxes’ are now tiny reading rooms and the old stage is now a café, its crimson stage curtains swept majestically to the sides. (Av. Santa Fe 1860, Capital Federal)
This pretty resort with its jungly river delta is just 10km north of the city. Take a train from San Isidro and go on a boat trip for a couple of hours, visit the weekend craft market or rent a cabin for a night on one of the many islands.