City Guide: Buenos Aires
Located on the banks of the River Plate, Buenos Aires is a stylish and cosmopolitan city, with a distinctive European flavour. It is known the world over as being the home of Tango and of the fashionable inhabitants, known as Porteños, but there is more to this city than meets the eye. Read our guide to Buenos Aires to discover what else awaits in the 'Paris of South America'.
Symbol of the City: Nothing represents Buenos Aires better than a pair of sharply-dressed dancers gliding and pivoting to a classic tango song. Combine that with the bright façades of the historic La Boca and you have a proposition so distinctive that even the famous footballer Diego Maradona and tango singer Carlos Gardel have to play second fiddle.
Star Attraction: Choosing the star attraction in a city as diverse as Buenos Aires is no easy task, but there is one barrio that perhaps captures the essence of this city better than any. Nestled between the bustling centre and La Boca is the neighbourhood of San Telmo seems to take you back in time, to a place of crumbling architecture, traditional cafes and dusty antique shops. Every Sunday its main street is host to a lively flea market offering a variety of tourist knick-knacks, paintings, antiques and crafts. However, the main attraction of San Telmo is its array of old-time cafes such as Bar Seddon, or Café Dorrego (below), complete with a dirty chess-board floor, terse yet immaculately dressed waiters, photos of old-time tango singers hung on every wall and hundreds of names and messages carved into the wooden bar. Outside on Plaza Dorrego, tango dancers effortlessly exude the class, style and passion that has made the city famous
Hidden Gem: A ten minute taxi ride from San Telmo is little-known Calle Lanin. This impressive street is the work of local resident Marino Santa María, who transformed it in 2011 with tiles and mosaics, creating a huge array of eye catching designs across more than thirty buildings. Beyond this street the painter is also know for his murals of Carlos Gardel which dot the city. Although it isn’t advisable to visit this street after dark, it most certainly is worth a brief stop of the way to La Boca.
Eat & Drink: Argentina is famed for its delicious empanadas, so it's no surprise to find these stuffed pastries on sale throughout the capital, and making a perfect afternoon snack. Nothing could be more Argentine than the Parilla, the traditional barbecue restaurant found all over the city offering charcoal-cooked cuts of meat, sausages, melted Provolone cheese and root vegetables. Paired with a glass of Malbec, the country’s most emblematic red wine, a well-cooked steak is probably one of Argentina’s finest gastronomic pleasures. If you have the chance, you may like to try yerba mate, a hot herbal infusion often drunk among friends through a metal straw. Somewhat bitter and peculiar to the uninitiated, it is a drink that Argentinians the country over swear by, even carrying it with them on the street.
After Dark: Buenos Aires is the city of tango, so attending a late night show is a must. The dancers are the most accomplished in the city, and often show off a variety of styles accompanied by the emotive tones of traditional Argentine tango music, performed by live orchestras. Restaurants and bars also tend to open very late, so night-owls will always have plenty to keep them busy.
Escape: The vast countryside surrounding Buenos Aires is known as the pampa; vast flat grassland around which are dotted traditional estancias. Many of these can be reached within an hour or two by road from the capital and are one of the best ways to get an authentic insight into traditional Argentine life in the countryside. Days here are spent riding horses, watching polo, learning about the life and work of the gauchos and enjoying the best barbecues of your life.
When to Go: The best times to visit Buenos Aires are generally during the Spring (September to November) and Autumn (March to May). This is when temperatures are comfortable, with frequent sunshine, and not too many visitors crowding the streets. November is a good month in particular as it brings with it the blooming of the distinctive Jacaranda tree throughout the city, adding a splash of purple blossom to the city. Summer (December to February) brings hot and humid weather and more tourists, whilst the winter (June to August) tends to be chilly and rainy with few visitors.
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