There’s something magnetic about Buenos Aires. It has a magic which wafts down cobbled streets lined with grand European architecture. It swirls through the sultry Tango clubs. It bellows through Boca football stadium. It’s hard to pinpoint what gives Buenos Aires its charm. Perhaps it’s the to-die-for food. Or the welcoming locals. Or the long list of iconic sights. More than likely it’s all of these, the city’s huge character erupting with a fiery Latin pizazz. Buenos Aires draws visitors in without them even realising. A long, tumultuous history, marked by times of great difficulty, has created resilient, proud residents who live life to the fullest. There’s a decidedly South American flair combined with a European elegance. You’ll find contemporary street art murals alongside Belle Epoque architecture. There are barrios (neighbourhoods) oozing personality, hip art galleries to explore, and leafy parks bustling with street artists.
When Madonna stood on the balcony of the Casa Rosada in her role as the legendary Eva Perón and belted out Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, it cemented this already iconic building as a must-see. Standing in the midst of Plaza de Mayo, the rose-hued Casa Rosada – the name translates as Pink House – is the city’s presidential palace. From this vantage point, presidents have addressed the crowds in Plaza de Mayo, a place where protests and politics have played out in dramatic fashion over the years. The Cathedral Metropolitana and Cabildo – former town hall – also take pride of place here. While it may be an unusual sightseeing spot, the Recoletta Cemetery shouldn’t be missed. Eerily beautiful and historically significant, the cemetery is one of BA’s most famous landmarks. Stray cats wander between the extravagant tombs and mausoleums, making their homes among Argentina’s most elite figures. Wander aimlessly or grab a map and follow it through the alleyways to the final resting place of Eva Perón. Nowhere in Buenos Aires could contrast more with the quiet of the cemetery than flamboyant La Boca. The neighbourhood’s colourful buildings line the cobbled lanes, housing funky art galleries, cool craft shops and quirky cafés. It’s the sort of place where tango dancers burst into spontaneous performances in the street, and artists create masterpieces in their tiny workshops and galleries.
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
There are cities that never sleep, and then there’s Buenos Aires. Dinner is eaten late, and from there the night stretches out in a colourful, musical blur of sexy music and fruity cocktails. From tiny bars to theatres where live orchestras play their sultry tunes, dancers strut their stuff in a grand tango spectacle. When you’re ready to give it a go yourself, the city’s dance halls – known as milongas - are the place to learn the basics and get swept up in the passion of a social dance. If we can offer just one piece of advice, then it would be to follow in the footsteps of the locals. We don’t just mean when learning the tango, but by having a mid-afternoon nap. You’re going to need it.
If you want to truly experience Buenos Aires then you’re going to need three things: tango, steak and wine. Few places on the planet can grill a perfectly sliced side of beef like the Argentinians. For a melt-in-the-mouth meat experience, the parillas (steakhouses) are a cultural institution. Wash it down with a hearty red wine from the country’s acclaimed vineyards, finish with a scoop of ducle de leche ice cream and you’ll be ready to work it all off tangoing the night away. Packed into the hundreds of cute neighbourhood cafés and sitting on park benches you’ll spot locals sipping on metal straws and wooden cups. Yerba mate is to Argentina what coffee is to Europe. This hot caffeinated herbal drink is a cultural icon, best shared with friends in a round robin of sips. No trip is complete without trying it at least once – and the cups make for fantastic souvenirs.
IN SEARCH OF THE GAUCHOS
All around Argentina’s capital lush, fertile flatlands stretch under bright blue skies as far as the eye can see. The Pampas are the breadbasket of the country, the grazing land for the fat cattle which feed a nation. Venture out of the throbbing city and spend a day appreciating nature and gaining insight into the history of Argentina and its gauchos (cowboys). A visit to one of the vast estancias (ranches) offers a glimpse into the fiercely protected gaucho culture. From the wilds of the Pampas, to the flair of the city, there is only way to truly experience Buenos Aires. Throw yourself in, leave your inhibitions behind and get swept up in the passion of Argentina’s flamboyant capital.