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Things to Do During a Weekend in Buenos Aires
If you’ve ever dreamed of steamy back rooms where sophisticated men and women twirl, dip, and slide across the dance floor with more passion, sensuality, and poise than you’ve ever mustered at any one time, then Buenos Aires is a must.
Not to mention the men and women are clad in their finest evening attire - full tuxedos, sleek gowns, stilettos, attitude. And never mind that they could be anywhere from 18 to 70 years old while showing little to no discernible difference in vigor and beauty -- despite the fact that it’s past 5 a.m.
Buenos Aires is an enchanting city, full of wrought-iron balconies lined with flower boxes, long avenues of old European-style architecture, and bustling neighborhoods rich with street art. Its affinity for intimate sidewalk cafes, elegant fashion, and artistic flair lead some people to call Buenos Aires the Paris of Latin America -- but as any porteño would tell you, it’s so much more.
Exhibit A: tango
Such it was that one night, I found myself at 5 a.m. in a steamy back room full of elegant men and women twirling, dipping, and sliding across the dance floor with more passion, sensuality, and poise than I had ever mustered at once. I sat at a corner table with my fellow travelers sipping endless bottles of the finest Malbec and admiring the dancers’ dramatic, elegant movements, thoroughly enthralled at the whole affair.
It was a midweek night in early December, and we had just arrived in the city the day before. Upon arrival, we had mentioned to our attentive Airbnb host that we were interested in seeing tango. He breathed a sly smile -- “I think I may know just the place.” As it turned out, he happened to manage a milonga -- a tango bar.
There are two general species of milongas: extravagant tourist shows and nondescript local digs. Both are magnificent in their own right. The extravagant tourist shows often come with dinner and drinks, paid professional dancers in full costume, and ticket prices upwards of $80 per person. The nondescript local digs, on the other hand, are essentially just nightclubs specific to tango where local people go to drink and dance. They are significantly less orchestrated, but performed with no less flair. Instead of watching from an assigned theater booth, you clutter around a side table alongside dancers taking breaks to drink and chat. Instead of paying $80+, you pay around $5 for the entrance fee and $10 for a bottle of wine to share. Instead of arriving for a firm 9 p.m. or so start time, you arrive any time after 11 or midnight -- bearing in mind that the dancing often heats up around 3am.
We opted, of course, for the nondescript local dig. The place was so nondescript, in fact, that we unknowingly walked right by it four times before realizing where the entrance was. It was called Milonga Parakultural, and it was fabulous. Tucked away in the bohemian neighborhood of Palermo Soho, this place boasted a live orchestra, lavish attire, and dancing that had us enchanted for hours.
So that’s definitely one thing you’ll want to do in a weekend in Buenos Aires. Besides the tango, Buenos Aires is home to a number of must-see sites and neighborhoods.
If you only have a weekend, here’s what I’d recommend you do:
- Start in the center of downtown. Here you’ll see the Casa Rosada, the Plaza de Mayo, and a slew of fancy government buildings. Be sure to read up on Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo during the Dirty War -- one of the most fascinating pieces of Argentine history.
- Walk north up the pedestrian Florida Street for performers, architecture, and shopping.
- Cut back south and west over toward the Obelisco, the grand Avenida 9 de Julio, and the famous Teatro Colon. You’ll definitely want to step inside the theater -- and tour if you can! It’s one of the most lauded in the world for its acoustics.
- Stroll up to Avenida Santa Fe and walk west. Don’t miss the old theater turned modern bookstore, El Ateneo Grand Splendid.
- Head north to el Cementerio de la Recoleta, an above-ground mausoleum of marble and stone that holds many Argentine aristocrats from the past centuries.
- A bit farther north you’ll find a smattering of worthwhile museums: the MALBA, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo.
- Continue northwest into Palermo to a large green space, specifically a rose garden called Paseo el Rosedal. Nearby Paseo de la Infanta offers chic cafes and restaurants.
- If you’re up for it, head back to city center for a night out! Otherwise enjoy some well-earned rest for tomorrow.
- Again start in the city center, but this time walk south through San Telmo, one of the oldest areas. Be sure to stop through Paseo de la Historieta and San Telmo Market.
- Continue down to La Boca, and specifically el Caminito. Stepping into La Boca is stepping into vibrant world of color, music, and character. Spend some time wandering around here, grab a bite to eat, stay awhile and appreciate the vivacity.
- Metro or Uber back to where you’re staying and get ready for a night of drinks and tango in Palermo Soho!
- Stay in Recoleta for centrality. This is a more modern / ritzy area nice to stroll through and go out in.
- Food and drink to try:
- Asado -- some of the most highly acclaimed grilled beef in the world.
- Afternoon merienda of a small coffee and pastries.
- All the red wine. Mendoza, Argentina is the Malbec capital of the world. Due to its overall abundance in Argentina, it’s shockingly cheap -- $15 buys you a bottle of high-shelf, exquisite red. $8 buys you a quality bottle fit for a dinner party.
- Mate, famous tea prepared in a hollowed-out gourd and sipped through a metal straw.
- Getting around:
- On foot. I always advocate for walking as the best way to get to know a city. Life happens on the street. The first time I went to Buenos Aires, I was there with a friend for a total of a mere 40 hours. In that time, we walked 35 miles.
- Uber. Another excellent option, available throughout the main areas of the city, and quite cheap. Our rides averaged $2-$6.
- Metro. The metro system gets you anywhere you need to go for less than about 50 cents per ride. In rush hour, it’s a speedy option.
And above all, enjoy! Remember, you only have a weekend :)
About the Author
Raised in Indianapolis, Kimberly now writes and travels from Montevideo, Uruguay. After studying global politics, she worked for a small tech company until a 2016 Fulbright grant plopped her in Uruguay. She’s since finished the grant but opted to stay abroad, continuing to advance her Spanish, bop around South America, and soak up all the learning and dancing she can.
Read more of Kimberly’s blogs