Warm, wild and animated, the capital city of Argentina is guaranteed to set your senses alight. Lizzie Frainier loses her heart to the birthplace of the seductive tango
Why go? The passion of Buenos Aires can not exaggerated. You’ll find it in the food, the people, the music and the grape. The city celebrates old traditions just as much as its new creative openings, and combines belle époque buildings and tree-lined avenues with a pumping South American energy. October brings spring, leaving the streets painted bright violet by blooming jacaranda trees.
What to do Buenos Aires has 48 vibrant barrios so start by hitting up some of these varied neighbourhoods. The corrugated-iron houses of La Boca are painted bright primary colours, while in El Caminito you can watch impromptu street tango and browse art stalls. In San Telmo, antique enthusiasts peruse the Sunday market along Calle Defensa. Get stuck into the city’s past by swapping museums for the vast Cementerio de la Recoleta cementeriorecoleta.com.ar graveyard. There are thousands of ornate tombs and mausoleums and 70 of them have been declared as historic monuments – think Paris’s Père Lachaise on a much bigger scale. Then spend your afternoon exploring the impressive collection at Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires malba.org.ar which is arranged chronologically to really give you an idea of the continent’s diverse art movements. How should you end your day in the home of tango? Skip the glamorous shows in the centre and head to a milonga (evening of dancing). Pick up the basic steps in a class at La Catedral lacatedralclub.com before rubbing hips with the locals.
Where to stay For the best in boutique hotels, head to Palermo neighbourhood. New restaurants and bars are popping up here all the time and its central location makes it a good base. Stay at Casa Sur Palermo 00 54 11 4770 9452, casasurhotel.com/palermo and find yourself surrounded by geometric wallpaper and Acapulco chairs. Chill out on the huge terrace or whizz past hip galleries on the free bikes. Nearby, Home Hotel 00 54 11 4779 1006, homebuenosaires.com is the stuff eco design dreams are made of. Lounge on deck chairs by the solar-heated pool before unwinding in the all-natural spa. The stylish themed rooms at Legado Mitico 00 54 11 4833 1300, legadomitico.com celebrate Argentina’s diverse history. Choose tango legend Carlos Gardel for romantic reds and a guitar hanging on the wall, or iconic writer Jorge Luis Borges for your own mini-library. On the other side of town, Mio Buenos Aires 00 54 11 5295 8500, miobuenosaires.com makes for an indulgent stay. Enter through doors made from recycled oak barrels to rooms with hand-carved wooden bathtubs.
Where to eat and drink It’s no secret that carnivores will feel right at home; there’s a parrilla (grill) on almost every corner. Don Julio 00 54 11 4832 9654, parrilladonjulio.com.ar is a staple with cuts from every part of the cow and large glasses of malbec. At La Brigada 00 54 11 4361 5557, parrillalabrigada.com.ar the rare steak is so tender that waiters slice through it with a spoon. But the city isn’t just about meat and grape. New puertas cerradas open regularly. The literal meaning is ‘closed doors’, and these restaurants operate for a few nights a week in someone’s home. Try the five-course tasting menu at Casa Felix 00 54 9 11 4147 8100, colectivofelix.com – you’ll only get the address when you make a reservation but you can rest assured the food will be seasonal and stand-out. I Latina 00 54 11 4857 9095, ilatinabuenosaires.com started as a puerta cerrada but it now has a permanent site serving dishes such as zingy ceviche with green mango and coconut. Buenos Aires is filled with night owls and most restaurants don’t open until 9pm. To keep you going, head to La Morada 00 54 11 4343 3003, lamorada.com.ar for a spicy beef empanada (pasty).
Time running out? Argentines are the best polo players in
the world. Watch the top athletes in action at Campo Argentino de Palmero aapolo.com from September to December.
Trip tip To satisfy your sweet tooth, go for a big scoop of dulce de leche ice cream in one of the countless parlours set up by Italian immigrants. We love Cadore heladeriacadore.com.ar where the sweetened condensed milk is boiled for up to 16 hours.
Currency is the peso and the time is four hours behind GMT. Flight time from Dubai to Buenos Aires is 19.25 hours.
Buenos Aires Ciudad is the city’s tourism board’s website with helpful tips for sightseeing. turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar
Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig (Arena, $12) tells a beautiful story about two men in a Buenos Aires prison who form an unlikely alliance.