Visitors’ Guide to Buenos Aires, Argentina

The best guidebook that is more than a guidebook is my travel memoir, TANGO AN ARGENTINE LOVE STORY. Many readers have told me they read it while here in Buenos Aires and followed the places I wrote about and loved doing that.

City of 100 Barrios –  Buenos Aires natives are called Porteños, because this is a port city. The residents are very tied to the barrio where they were born. Most visitors love the hip Palermo, the chic Recoleta, and gentrified San Telmo, which lays claim to the birth of tango along with La Boca, which features the kitchsy but must-see El Caminito. There is Almagro which has a museum dedicated to tango icon Carlos Gardel and lots of candy-colored tango shoe stores and Las Cañitas, which is really a sub-barrio of the Belgrano barrio. Many visitors like Puerto Madero – it is quite nice, but has a “reconstituted” feel unlike the other “organic” barrios. It’s not on the top of my list.

TANGO SHOWS – Esquina Carlos Gardel, 3200 Carlos Gardel; (54-11) 4867-6363;; Esquina Homera Manzi, 3601 San Juan Avenue; (54-11) 4957-8488,

TANGO-themed lodging (see below for lots more lodging recommendations) I have now danced and slept (not on the same nights) in Mansion Dandi Royal. It’s quite luxurious and a splurge. I highly recommend it. It’s in San Telmo: Piedras 922/936 – San Telmo  Phone: (+54 11) 4361-3537 / Fax: (+54 11) 4361-6021 Email: Maria’s Tango House – I never stayed here, but did take a yoga class in this handsomely restored home: tel-fax 0054-11-4308-0891Caseron Porteño Hotel, on Ciudad de La Paz 344; is in Belgrano barrio. It offers lots of tango classes, outings. I never stayed here but took a tour once and many of my friends have loved it; phone (0)11 4554 6336. The San Telmo Loft is not especially tango-themed, but I’m listing it here because its caretaker is tango savvy and one of the best sources of info—like a built-in concierge—on the city. I attended an intimate party at the loft and it is romantic.

Tango Teachers in Buenos Aires – As a wise tango friend said to me once, “Asking for a recommendation for a tango teacher is like asking me to tell you who to pick for a best friend.” It’s that personal but connecting with a teacher here is like falling off a log (or tripping on the city’s cobbled streets). But, if you’re new to BA, you need to start somewhere, so I’ll make some recommendations, especially for beginners. Eduardo (and Rachel) of  Taxidancers – is wonderful especially for beginners. Oscar Casas – is in my book – good classes, good teacher. Escuela Argentina de Tango (three locations in Buenos Aires) also has loads of classes, great teachers, every level, every style. I love Manuco Firmani, known as Juan at Mora Godoy school on Pueyrredon ( TIP: Nearly every milonga (the venue where tango is danced) has classes beforehand. There are more than a hundred milongas in Buenos Aires. Pick up the free tango magazines, especially the Tango Map Guide, with all the information you will need on milongas, classes, teachers, shoes, etc. Ask your hotel where to find these magazines—milongas give them out for free. Read my recommendations on Tango for Armchair Observers.

So you don’t tango . . . Peñas – Tango is only Argentina’s most famous “folk” dance. There is also the chacarera, zamba, and Chilean cueco. Peñas are clubs where “folclorico” dancing and live music occurs are enjoying a huge renaissance. The are energetic, interactive, and some have wonderful menus – with delicious indigenous foods. The most popular one is Peña de Colorado on Guemes in Palermo. Jazz – There is a great little jazz club in Palermo, called Thelonious at 1884 Salguero. Clasica y Moderna on Callao at Cordoba also often has live music at night.

Top tourist attraction – – – The Recoleta Cemetery is the city’s top tourist attraction, in part due to the mystique of Eva Peron. Her art deco crypt is modest relative to many other cottage-size mausoleums here, but the whole graveyard is a worth seeing. I recommend the English tour at 11 a.m. (an hour), given daily. Nearby the cemetery, visit the lovely little white church and the Café La Biela with its amazing rubber tree on the terrace. This café is Parisian-like and atmospheric. It’s worth a coffee or small libation, but the food is average – so save your big appetite for elsewhere (below). TIP: La Chacarita Cemetery is even better. Tango singer Carlos Gardel’s crypt is there.

STREET FAIRS – Street fairs or ferias, are popular with visitors. San Telmo’s Defensa Street on a Sunday is huge, lively and well attended (pickpocket alert, beware). But the one also on Sundays in Mataderos, the former livestock-slaughter barrio, is the best, according to me, with many more locals in attendance – for the food, artisan goods, street dancing. AND, there are lots of urban cowboys (gauchos) there, competing in spell-binding equine events. Recoleta’s feria, Plaza Francia (Libertador near Pueyrredon) is good, too, on Sunday.

CLASSY STROLLING – – – The 16-lane Libertador is often called the Champs Elysées of BA. For about 1 ½ to 2 miles, it bisects Paris-style cafes, parks, plazas, majestic embassies, and several museums of note. Start around Pueyrredon & Libertador and go to the Palermo park, Tres de Febrero. Don’t miss the park’s stunning rose garden, Patio Andaluz, and the sculpture, Flor de Juventud, the long pergola along a lake, fountains, sculptures, gazebos, the gangly ombu, the tree that is not really a tree. The Hippodromo is right after the park, a feast of neo-renaissance architecture. Another green place in a big city include the Reserva Ecologica, with  hectares of green space to breathe in, bird watching, walking along the river Plate.

MUSEUMS OF NOTE – – -I never tire of the free Museo de Belles Artes (Libertador at Pueyrredon). Also, not too far away, and also impressive are MALBA and the eye candy Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativos in a neo-classical mansion. The Museo Evita, in a mansion on Lafinur, is small and fun. In the Palermo park, Tres de Febrero, is a lovely small museum, Eduardo Sivori, with a wonderful inner-courtyard café with great lemonade.

EATS – Buenos Aires has these wonderful traditional cafes where you eat cheap and well, just like an Argentine. See my New York Times article for all the info.

MORE RESTAURANTS I LOVE: Oviedo on Beruti and Ecuador in the Recoleta has been my favorite restaurant. It’s at the high end – has a great menu, Spanish influenced – good fish, quail, lamb, suckling pig, nice wine list. Sotto Voce, more Italian, also at the high end and very good, buzzes with famous or rich. La Cupertina, in Palermo Hollywood, on Cabrera. Cervantes (in my book) cheap parrilla (Argentine grill), has a big open dining room (mostly Argentines there) on Peron between Callao and Riobamba. You get heaps of food, so share. La Cabrera on Cabrera, near about Armenia, in Palermo Soho, is popular parrilla, more upscale experience, more expensive. I love the dinky (locals, cheap, great) neighborhood parrilla like San Cayetano, in my barrio, Recoleta, on Arenales right at Austria. La Pharmacie – on Charcas at Vidt in Palermo is cheap, neighborly, and has good pizza, pasta, parrilla, empanadas.

PIZZA – It’s everywhere in BA but not all is good. El Cuartito is a real Buenos Aires experience and great pizza. It’s at 937 Talcahuano near Cordoba. If you like thin crust you’ll Pizza a la Parrilla on Scalabrini Ortiz near Loyola.

VEGETARIAN-friendly/Organic – – – Despite the abundance of grass-fed beef, vegetarians are not left to graze in the pasture. They  have many choices in Buenos Aires. Natural Deli is not strictly vegetarian but uses excellent, quality ingredients and is health-conscious. Three locations: Barrio Norte: Calle Laprida 1672, 4822-1228; Las Cañitas: Calle Gorostiaga 1776. 4777-0418. Bio, at 2199 Humboldt, is popular. Krishna Indian vegetarian is in Palermo – great, intimate ambience on Malabia 1833 (between Costa Rica and Nicaragua Streets). Green Life vegetarian buffet is gorgeous and as good as it looks, and cheap. It’s on Av. Corrientes 1915, near Riobamba. La Casa de Ohsawa 415 Ciudad de la Paz is macrobiotic – so it has some fish and meat, but is mostly vegetarian. It’s in Belgrano, a sweet, tree-lined residential barrio. Lotos, 1577, Córdoba,  a Chinese buffet, vegetarian and vegan, only open until 6pm.

FAMOUS CAFES – – – No doubt you’ll stumble upon your own favorite café or bar-café—they are ubiquitous. The famous ones include Tortoni, Las Violetas, and Cafe de los Angelitos, each is rife with history and eye-pleasing architecture and pretty good menus (except for Las Violetas – don’t do more than tea or coffee there).

ARCHITECTURE – – – The French and Italian influence is immediately recognizable here, some of it in shambles, but a lot of it preserved. Any one of the three are photo ops: Palacio de Aguas Corrientes – On Riobamba near Corrientes. The most amazing Palace of Running Waters looks as if it is wearing a hundred broaches in coral, turquoise, and ochre enamel. It once channeled tons of water for the city. The scene of a macabre crime in Tomas Eloy Martinez’s acclaimed novel, The Tango Singer (wonderful literary read), the building now houses a small museum with guided tours—toilet seats and fixtures never seemed so interesting. Try it. Palacio Barolo – on Avenide de Mayo (not far from Tortoni Café) is the sumptuous design of Italian architect Mario Palanti who was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy–tours available. The palace has a designated heaven, hell, and purgatory. The Tango Moda clothiers above the 16th floor (heaven) is a great place to see the cupolas and views of the city. The Teatro Colon, closed, re-opened, closed, due to re-open (can change any minute)- tours available. Check its Web site. See world-class opera, music, ballet for a fraction of what these high arts cost in the U.S. Or just ogle the structure that takes up a whole block.

Ex-cellent Libris – bookstores-cum-cafes – – – You gotta love a city in a Catholic country that has more bookstores than churches. Despite (or because of?) all their (dysfunctional) government woes, Argentines have a high literacy rate. Three book-worm-friendly ones—with English-books sections: Ateneo (I prefer the one on Santa Fe near Callao), Clasica y Moderna (Callao near Cordoba), and Libros Cuspide (one in the mall on Vicente Lopez, near Recoleta cemetery, is best). Zivales on Callao at Cordoba is a great store for books and music.

Ice Cream – Most but not all of the helado (ice cream) here is equal to or better than gelato. The flavors, like dulce de leche, crema rusa or crema Americana, are fantastic and unique. I DON’T recommend Freddo which is everywhere and too gummy in texture. Persicco is excellent but its prices have gotten out of hand. There are many little ice cream places that are good and one really good mom and pop parlor is right at the corner of Pueyrredon and General Mansilla.

Day and two-day trips – – – If cowboys are your weakness, my favorite trip outside the city is to San Antonio de Areco, (has a whole chapter in my book)  – – – a scenic and classy working gaucho town in the pampas, with plazas, cafes, restaurants, great artisan shopping. I always stay at least a night and prefer two. You reach it by a 1 3/4 hour bus ride (frequent departures) from Retiro (alert: pickpocket heaven). Try the buslines, Chevallier or General Belgrano. San Anton has lovely boutique-y inns, posadas. A couple of high-end estancias are nearby, but you need a car or taxi to reach them. They are mentioned in my book, TANGO, in the chapter Even Cowboys Dance Tango. If you are sincerely interested in having a guide, Pato (in the same chapter), email me for her info. Where to stay in San Anton: If you email me, I’ll share my favorite cozy corner where I lodged in my book. I’ve stayed at both of the following and they are lovely: Posada Draghi, Matheu 380 2760 San Antonio Areco, Buenos Aires Province; (0)2326 454 219. Posada De La Plaza Alvear 480, 2760 San Antonio de Areco, Buenos Aires 02326 45-2955 ‎

Many people enjoy a day trip to El Tigre or taking the Buquebus across the broadest river in the world, Rio de la Plata, to Uruguay’s Colonia de Sacramento. I’ve enjoyed both.

Viva Zapatos! Tango Shoes – – – – In my collection of, oh, two dozen or so tango shoes, I have pairs from NeoTango, Victorio, and Darco’s, all good labels. But my Fattomano’s handmade shoes are tops. I just got my first pair and they are divine. They are flexible in the front of the foot – metatarsal area – where I need it for my adornos while dancing. But they have sturdy metal support in the arch. And they fit my high arches. And, and: They have not cardboard filler, but all leather, and thick cushy insulation where your foot repeatedly hits the floor most. They are heavenly. And I love the design – gold on gold with straps that snap – easy to close and open. Juan the shoe maker is the first guy to really get how different my two feet are. Allow about two weeks here to have them made – with a fitting or two between. Fattomano is at 4464 Guatemala, near Scalabrini Ortiz.

LODGING IN BUENOS AIRES – – – Aside from two splendid nights at Dandi Mansion, I’ve only ever stayed in one hotel here, Hotel Savoy – very good; it’s on Callao. But I was with a big group (2005) so it was part of the package. I have mostly lived in apartments – if you are looking for one, try the site, – it has a solid reputation with many foreigners.  I have either personally visited the places listed below, or I am listing them because I trust National Geographic Traveler (my source for the list), since I have worked with that publication. The $ ratings are NGT‘s.

The best places to stay in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)


The Cocker – – – “An expertly recycled mansion in one of the city’s most historic and atmospheric districts.”—Matt Chesterton, editor, Time Out Buenos Aires guidebook. Five-suite guesthouse in San Telmo kept in impeccable shape by English owners, who named the locale for their friendly dog Rocco. Lovely stay, especially for the price. Avenida Juan de Garay 458; tel. 54 11 4362 8461.

Ayres Porteños Hostel – This totally tango-theme hostel in the popular neighborhood of San Telmo is super economical, with about 100 beds in its 30 rooms. Peru 708; tel. 54 11 4300 7314.


Mansion Dandi Royal “Perfect for tango junkies, it’s a beautifully restored mansion in San Telmo, with its own tango dance studio.”—Brian Byrnes, co-author, Fodor’s Buenos Aires. Five floors of 30 rooms featuring glass-pane doors, period frescoes, tango channels, and tango music. Breakfast included. Pool, gym, and two outdoor patios. Piedras 922/936; tel. 54 11 4361 3537.

Bobo Hotel and Restaurant – Restored home turned boutique hotel in the happening district of Palermo Soho, walking distance to the Plaza Serrano and many hot restaurants, bars, and shops. Each of its seven spacious rooms has a funky theme, design, and name, such as “pop,” “classic,” and “minimalist.” Guatemala 4882; tel. 54 11 4774 0505.

1555 Malabia House – “One of the first designer guesthouses in this ultra-hip barrio and still one of the best.”—Matt Chesterton. An urban bed-and-breakfast with 15 rooms housed in a former convent in the heart of Palermo Viejo (Old Palermo). Malabia 1555; tel. 54 11 4833 2410.

Grand Boulevard Hotel – In the center of everything, this moderately priced hotel features a sweeping view of the historic obelisk. Thick windows block out the noise from the roaring traffic on Avenida 9 de Julio. Bernardo de Irigoyen 432; tel. 54 11 5222 9000.

Castelar Hotel and Spa – Classic hotel with 151 rooms in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires opened in 1929, and was once frequented by writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. Lots of dark wood, leather, and an old-style café take you back to another era. Avenida de Mayo 1152; tel. 54 11 4383 5000.

248 Finisterra – Cool and inexpensive boutique hotel in the super-hot Palermo neighborhood of Las Cañitas. Its 11 rooms are small, but elegantly furnished, with dark wood furniture and lots of Argentine leather; some overlook the vine-covered garden. Rates include breakfast, but the best part is the location. Báez 248; tel. 54 11 4773 0901.

Moreno Hotel – “Huge suites (up to 807 square feet [75 square meters]), the full gamut of gadgets (LCD TVs, fast Wi-Fi, etc.), and even a Berlin-in-the-’30s-style basement cabaret.”—Matt Chesterton. Thirty-nine “bedrooms” and lofts in a new boutique, art deco hotel in San Telmo. Onsite theater features tango and other live music. Moreno 376; tel. 54 11 6091 2000.


Marriott Plaza Hotel – “The grand dame of the city’s grand old hotels. You can feel the history in the walls of the 99-year-old building.”—Brian Byrnes. The recently renovated Marriott and many of its 320 elegant rooms overlook the San Martin Plaza in Retiro. Florida 1005; tel. 54 11 4318 3000.

Esplendor Boutique Hotel – “Sleekly designed…but warm and comfortable.”—Marcelo Ponozzo, co-editor, Guia Total Buenos Aires (Total Guide Buenos Aires). Classic French facade with a newly remodeled avant-garde interior; softly illuminated walls highlight local artists’ renderings of famous Argentines such as Evita Perón and Che Guevara. Features 51 rooms in a great downtown spot. San Martin 780; tel. 54 11 5256 8800.

Home – “The designer patio and garden is probably the best place for an al fresco aperitif in BA.”—Matt Chesterton. Each distinctly decorated room includes plush mattresses and iPod connectors. Outdoor pool, small spa, and Resto Bar; loads of hip restaurants, shops, and bars nearby. Honduras 5860; tel. 54 11 4778 1008.

$$$$ LUXURY (Note: yes, these are muy muy caro, very expensive!)

Alvear Palace Hotel “It’s very classic, and it’s very close to everything in Recoleta.”—Michael Luongo, author, Frommer’s Buenos Aires. A gem in the heart of one of the most elite neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. Majestic lobby and immaculate 210 rooms—mostly newly remodeled suites—ooze Old World decadence. New, high-tech spa. Avenida Alvear 1891; tel. 54 11 4808 2100.

Faena Hotel and Universe – “You feel like you’re in the center of a parallel universe.”—Brian Byrnes, co-author, Fodor’s Buenos Aires. The beautiful and the famous like to see and be seen in this lush Puerto Madero hotel. French architect Phillipe Starck designs; lobby and room walls are lined with red velvet. The 110 rooms include great sunset views of the city, flat-screen televisions, and Egyptian cotton linens. Martha Salotti 445; tel. 54 11 4010 9000.

Four Seasons Hotel – “Those with a spare U.S. $10,000 should spend a couple of nights in the seven-suite mansion with its round-the-clock butler service.”—Matt Chesterton, editor, Time Out Buenos Aires guidebook. High-class, high-priced digs in a Belle Epoque mansion with 138 guestrooms and 27 suites in Recoleta. Posadas 1086; tel. 54 11 4321 1200.

One more – moderate:

Nuss Hotel is in Palermo on El Salvador 4916 – I met a pair of honeymooners here whom I was guiding to a milonga, and it did seem romantic; phone 4833-6222 or –


  1. Fabulous guide! I am going to enjoy following your suggestions in December. I want to see the cowboy town!