48 hours in... Buenos Aires
Sarah Gordon on the Argentinian city of grand architecture, sensual tango and late-night cocktails…
where everything comes to a standstill for football.
Why go now?
As the mercury drops in the UK, Buenos Aires is bathed in spring sunshine. Majestic jacaranda trees lining the city's boulevards are in blossom, creating a haze of violet, and the city comes alive with events as locals shake off winter and throng the streets.
Get your bearings
Nearly three million people call the captivating metropolis of Buenos Aires home. Set on the Río de la Plata – River Plate – estuary, it is divided into easy-to-explore barrios (districts), each with its own unique ambience and charm. Travel between them on South America's oldest metro – a grand duchess at 104 years old – and discover a city constantly humming with energy.
The glamorous Faena Hotel is housed in an old granary building in rejuvenated Puerto Madero. It is a delight of thick red carpets, velvet drapes and an outdoor pool with a golden crown fountain. For gleaming white marble decor, 11 individually designed rooms and beautiful works of art at every turn, try Recoleta's Hub Porteño, while the stylish Mine Hotel is another boutique spot in artsy Palermo, set around a pretty patio.
... being the Paris of South America. The city blends grand Belle Epoque architecture with a seductive Latin ambience. It exudes the effortless style of its northern namesake with tree-lined boulevards and landscaped parks, while its opera house and many concert halls formed the city's reputation as a great cultural capital.
The National Congress
Step inside the ornate gates of Recoleta cemetery to discover a maze of grand tombs and soaring mausoleums, the exclusive final resting place of the great and the good, including controversial and beloved first lady Evita Perón. Puerto Madero is considered one of the greatest port transformations in the world and is now a stylish riverside barrio of galleries, bars and chic hotels. Combine it with the neighbouring Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, where locals go for weekend picnics, walks and bike rides.
Sample old-world Buenos Aires at Las Violetas, a refined cafe that first opened its doors in 1884. Soaring columns, huge stained-glass windows and a leather-bound menu of lunch dishes, pastries and afternoon tea platters will whisk you back to the city's glamorous 19th-century heyday.
Plaza de Mayo is the city's main square and is where the Madres de Plaza de Mayo still gather every Thursday at 3.30pm to campaign for their missing children, who disappeared during the military regime of 1974-83, known as the Dirty War. On weekends, the square's pink-hued Casa Rosada presidential palace is open to the public and you can stand on the very balcony where Evita Perón used to speak to her adoring public.
A flower shop by day and decadent bar by night, Florería Atlantico, in upmarket Recoleta, is where the locals go for experimental cocktails grouped into the nationalities of 19th-century immigrants to the city. Step through the giant refrigerator door to try gin cocktails from Inglaterra and fernet-based drinks from Italia, created by top Buenos Aires mixologist Renato Giovannoni.
Dressing for dinner
You can't visit Buenos Aires without tucking into a juicy steak. For traditional elegance try family-run Don Julio Parrilla, where meats sizzle on the grill and endless wine bottles line the walls. Or visit the colonial house where Pulpería Gauchos on an estancia Quilapán dishes up gaucho (cowboy).worthy steaks with wines served from penguin-shaped jugs. For stylish eats, savour the molecular 12-course tasting menu at intimate Aramburu, among Latin America's best 50 restaurants.
Night on the town
Discover the sensual heart of the city through one of its many tango shows, often performed in grand old dance halls while the audience enjoys a three-course meal. If you would rather try it out for yourself, head to a milonga, where locals dance late into the night. Maldita Milonga showcases live music while relaxed La Catedral del Tango offers classes for beginners.
One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires, San Telmo is graced with once-grand houses and cobblestone streets. Its bohemian ambience is amplified on Sunday mornings when Mercado San Telmo takes over Plaza Dorrego, selling antiques that wouldn't look out of place in the surrounding homes. Tango dancers perform on street corners, while younger artisans sell unique souvenirs on Defensa Street.
Tree-lined avenues, parks and ornate mansions with wrought-iron balconies make Palermo one of the city's most desirable areas. It is divided into various sub-districts and Palermo Viejo is a haven for shoppers. Designers have opened independent boutiques selling everything from clothes and shoes to jewellery, creating a stylish design district that is also dotted with trendy cafes and restaurants.
Football is perhaps Argentina's greatest passion and Boca Juniors is its most famous football team. The working class neighbourhood of La Boca is traditionally the home of Italian immigrants who painted their houses bright colours using paints from the nearby shipyard. It is also home to La Bombonera, the home ground of Boca Juniors. Time your visit with a match to experience the raw passion and energy of the fans, just remember to keep your wits about you and your hand on your wallet.
Crypts in Recoleta cemetery
Out of town
Just outside Buenos Aires, the rolling countryside is dotted with rural estates, or estancias. These farms have been turned into lavish country hotels where visitors can see gauchos training polo ponies, go horse riding and enjoy al fresco asados (barbecues). Alternatively, twin the Argentinian capital with the faded charm of Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, the pretty city of pastel houses and narrow, winding streets is just a short, one-hour ferry ride away.
Cox & Kings recommend the 11-Day / 8-night Wonders of the New World escorted group tour.
Offering an outstanding introduction to Argentina and Brazil, this journey combines the elegance of Buenos Aires with exotic and flamboyant Rio de Janeiro. The tour also visits the awe-inspiring waterfalls of Iguazú shrouded in their own mist, they thunder amid tropical jungle and stretch for kilometres along the border.
Speak to one of Cox & Kings' Latin America experts to find out more.Share:
- Tags: Argentina, Art & Architecture, Culture & History, Food & Wine, Hotels, Journalist, Latin America