The sights and sounds of Buenos Aires are unlike anything else in South America. Look down one street and you’ll find stunning neoclassical architecture and urban design, while just one street further you’ll be hit with the overwhelming scent of fresh empanadas and pizza by the slice. The official language of Argentina is Spanish but don’t be surprised if you also hear Italian being spoken in the streets. This melting pot of Eurocentric culture is due to the fact that the population of Argentina is made up mainly of Italian immigrants, dating all the way back to the early nineteenth century.
There’s a lot that can be said about the history of colonization within Argentina, but the Spanish and Italian influence in present-day Buenos Aires, and Argentina as a whole, has resulted in arguably the best wine culture in the Americas, as well as a plethora of art and music that is entirely unique to the capital city. Buenos Aires is known as the birthplace of tango, it has some of the most decadent culinary practices and the unique architecture and infrastructure will transport you straight to Europe — all without having to wrestle with Central European Standard Time jet lag.
Argentina might have its own issues to sort out — it’s currently dealing with the worst inflation rates on the planet — but the capital city of Buenos Aires is sure to leave curious travelers feeling enchanted. The sizzling city is alive and bustling with layers upon layers of culture and culinary offerings to explore. Here’s exactly how to get the most out of a weekend escapade to the sexiest city in South America:
Where to stay
Most of the high-end hotels and residences are clustered around La Recoleta and Retiro neighborhoods, which makes it super convenient for getting to and from the major hotspots in Buenos Aires. If you’re looking for a high-rise resort-style property you’ll want to check into the Park Tower, a Luxury Collection Hotel. The 23-story five-star hotel was built in the nineties but offers stunning Baroque-inspired architecture and design complete with a rooftop pool and two rooftop tennis courts. If you have a penchant for a good city view you’ll want to request a south-facing room for floor-to-ceiling views of the bustling Avenida Leandro N. Alem.
If you’re looking for uncompromising luxury and comfort you’ll want to drop your bags at the Alvear Palace Hotel in La Recoleta. The stunning hotel dates back to 1932 when it first opened its doors to accommodate the influx of European travelers to Argentina, and retains its opulent old-world charm by way of its refined Louis XV and Louis XVI-inspired rooms and suites and gold leaf-dotted lobby and restaurants. The Four Seasons Buenos Aires, on the other hand, offers a similarly luxurious experience with slightly more modern touches throughout the property — including a stunning Italian-inspired pool and exterior grounds and one of the best cheese and charcuterie boards in the city.
What to do
There’s a lot to see and do while visiting Buenos Aires, whether it’s taking in the tastes and smells at the city’s many markets or absorbing the architecture and culture in some of the most beautiful properties in the world. Start the day by exploring La Recoleta Cemetery; it might sound drab or dreary but the rows and rows of marble mausoleums make this cemetery the most beautiful in the world. You’ll also find a handful of noteworthy gravesites, including the beloved former first lady of Argentina Eva Perón.
You might be tempted to visit the bohemian brightly-hued streets of La Boca where tango dancers perform on the Caminito and steakhouses are aplenty — but we suggest skipping the tourist hotspot in favor of a tango performance at Bar Sur. The speakeasy-inspired bar and restaurant was a favorite of the late Anthony Bourdain and while it has become much more popular for tourists to catch a tango show it’s still worth the visit. The professional tango dancers swirl around the compact bar and allow patrons to better understand the art of tango in an intimate and moody atmosphere.
The Perfect Weekend in South America’s Hidden Gem of a CityWhere to stay, as well as what to eat and do in Uruguay’s capital city.
In case you haven’t figured it out already, Buenos Aires is a city ripe with art and culture to explore and appreciate. If you’ve been guilty of getting lost in the likes of the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art then you’ll want to block out at least a few hours to explore the top art museums in the Argentino capital. Make sure to pay a visit to the Museum of Latin American Art as well as the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (also note that the latter offers free admission for all visitors).
Named the “world’s most beautiful bookstore” by National Geographic, literature lovers and architecture fiends alike should pencil in a visit to El Ateneo Grand Splendid. The stunning bookshop and cafe is housed within the former Teatro Gran Splendid — a tango venue dating back over a hundred years to 1919. The sprawling bookstore features still-in-tact theatre boxes, bright crimson curtains and a plethora of Spanish-language books shelved around the grand auditorium.
Where to eat and drink
The European influence and unique positioning within Latin America mean that the culinary scene in Buenos Aires is decadent and delicious, with flavors and techniques blending together from various points on the globe. Start your day at Café Tortoni, a French-inspired coffee shop dating back to 1858 when it was the go-to address for the city’s elite. These days, the historic cafe is popular among tourists and usually has a long line of foreigners waiting to catch a glimpse of the original nineteenth-century architecture and history. Don’t want to wait in line? Walk a block down the street to La Junta de 1810; a casual coffeehouse and bar serving up housemade empanadas, delicious medialunas (a sticky-sweet Argentine version of a French croissant) and strong espresso in a cozy dining space frozen in time. Note that La Junta de 1810 (along with many other restaurants in the city) is cash only.
No trip to Argentina is complete without (over)indulging in local meats expertly grilled on the wood- or charcoal-fueled parilla grill. It’s not hard to find a decent asado meal in Buenos Aires, but there are certain restaurants offering a more elevated experience than others. For lunch, try your luck at a reservation for Don Julio. The top-rated asado restaurant and butcher shop offers some of the best cuts of meat in the city (and that’s saying a lot for a city like Buenos Aires). You’ll want to book your reservation as far in advance as possible to ensure you get a spot during your trip as Don Julio tends to get booked up weeks (sometimes months) in advance.
If you’re plant-based or prefer to avoid red meat — not to worry. Buenos Aires might be known for its beef but the city also has its fair share of vegetarian-friendly restaurants and dishes. Don’t believe us? Head to La Reverde Parrillita Vegana in the Monserrat neighborhood. The granola-leaning restaurant is casual and easygoing with a no-frills dining space but the vegan meats are out-of-this-world delicious. If you’re traveling alone or looking for a lighter meal you’ll want to order a choripan or seitan-based milanesa sandwich but if you’re with a group be sure to try the parrillita vegana board: an overflowing assortment of vegan-friendly steak and other cuts of “meat” that you’ll swear has to be the real deal.
The Argentino art of the siesta is alive and well in Buenos Aires with most locals only hitting the restaurant after 10 pm. If you don’t want to dine alone while instantly pegging yourself as a foreigner, consider heading back to your hotel for a rest and refresh — or take the extra time to indulge in pre-dinner drinks. The Florida 165 Rooftop Bar in the Retiro neighborhood offers stunning views of Calle Florida and beyond as well as a comprehensive bar stocked with local beer and seasonal cocktails.
If you want to dive head-first into Argentino wine culture you’ll want to post up at the Vico Wine Bar in the trendy Palermo neighborhood. This wine concept bar features dozens of local Argentino and Uruguayan wines all plugged into tasting machines that spit out small, medium or full-sized glasses of vino. You’ll receive a tasting card upon arrival, which allows you to sample small tastes of any and all wines on tap before choosing a full-sized glass (or, alternatively, you can simply sip small glasses all night). There’s also a sommelier available to walk you through the different regions and flavors of Argentina if you want a little guidance before getting started.
If you’ve managed to make a little space for dinner after your asado lunch, consider indulging in Argentine empanadas and pizza before heading back to your hotel room or heading out to explore porteño nightlife. Head to Los Nonos De Palermo if you’re feeling for casual takeout; the compact restaurant serves delicious wood-fired empanadas and pizza by the slice (we suggest ordering a slice of the onion-topped Fugazza — a favorite in Argentina). If you’d rather dine in, consider grabbing a table at the bustling El Cuartito, the oldest pizza restaurant in the city, dating back to 1932.
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