A Top 10 Taster Of Buenos Aires

3 December 2014

Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, oozes the sophisticated style of Paris or Milan, but with added Technicolor. There is a distinct Argentine culture here – one of polo playing, maté sharing, tango dancing, passionate revolutionaries.

Here’s my top ten for a taste of Buenos Aires:
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1. Plaza De Mayo

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 Plaza de Mayo and La Casa Rosada

The best place to start exploring this city and learn something of its history is in the famous Plaza de Mayo (May Square) where you can wave at the “Pink House” palace balconies that Evita once waved back from.

Everything significant in Argentina’s political history had its central point here. Say Hueque Tours, provide excellent guided torus of the city, along the way giving you a history of Argentina, told with enough passion to engage even a teenager.
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2. The Colours Of La Boca

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 Dancing the Tango in La Boca

Buenos Aires first port and one of the poorest districts was long ago painted with leftover ships’ paint, so the buildings here create a vibrant palette, all leaning on each other at various angles, revealing hidden alleyways that are great fun to explore.

La Boca is also the birthplace of the Tango and there is a great selection of Tango restaurants here where you can enjoy a lunchtime Argentine steak and watch the floor show.
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3. Maradona’s Home Ground

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 Mural to Maradona outside of Boca Juniors football club

While you’re in the neighborhood, it’s worth visiting nearby La Bombonera, home ground to Boca Juniors football club, and if by chance you time happen to be here at the right time it’s worth trying to get yourself tickets for a game – especially if it’s a ‘super clasico’ between arch rivals Boca Juniors (blue and yellow) and River Plate (red and white).

The rivalry between these two clubs is so great that the Coke signs adorning the stadium are black and white – the only place in the world that Coke have made this concession.

Diego Maradona played for Boca Juniors before going on to global infamy with the controversial “Hand of God” goal that knocked England out of the World Cup in 1986.
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4. The Many Mercado (Markets)

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 Scrumptious food in the Mercado de Recoleta

There are markets all over the city and three that are definitely worth a visit include Mercado de San Telmo, Mercado de Belgrano and Mercado de Recoleta.

Inside each you’ll find a range of arts and crafts, antiques, bric-a-brac, cheap food and, quite often, spontaneous dancing, or a “Milonga”. Musicians and dancers will invite passers-by to join them in a dance which usually creates quite an audience.

Outside Recoleta, join the locals as they lounge away the afternoon on the grassy slopes, sharing a maté with friends.
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5. Recoleta Cemetery

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 Wandering through the Recoletta Cemetery

This is where the remains of Eva Peron were finally laid to rest, ironically amongst the nobility she once fought so hard against.

Set in 5.5 hectares, the property contains 4691 vaults, all above ground, giving it the appearance of a miniature city.
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6. Pushbikes Through Palermo

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 Palermo Park

La Bicicleta Naranja will deliver bikes to your hotel and provide a guide to take you through some of the cities parks. It’s a great city to cycle through with bike paths everywhere and hardly any hills.

Make your way to the vast Palermo Park, where, on the weekends, it would seem, most of the city comes out to play. Everywhere you look there are people cycling, roller-blading, taking aerobics classes (yes, really), picnicking, dancing and rowing boats in the lakes.
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7. Tango And Milonga

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 Diners in Cafe Tortoni

There are plenty of venues in Buenos Aires where you can take in a Tango performance and enjoy a juicy steak. Argentina is of course famous for both.

At Café de los Angelitos you’ll be served a 3-course meal, accompanied by a fine local red wine while watching the history of Argentina being told through the language of Tango.

Slightly cheaper is Cafe Tortoni, one of the oldest cafes in the city who serve up a decent steak and run tango shows every night.

For a free dance performance that you can join if you choose, visit La Glorietta in Belgrano on a Sunday night at 8pm, where the locals gather together for a communal display of music and dance.
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8. Steak And Empanadas

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 Gourmet steaks await you in Buenos Aires

If you’re more interested in steak than tango, there are plenty of places to choose from such as Club Eros in Palermo district, El Desnivel in San Telmo, where you’ll find people with a love of beef that would make vegetarians reconsider, and El Federal where you can also taste their amazing home brew.C

Alternatively, for a great steak-free dinner, try the delicious empanadas at El Sanjuanino in Recoleta (Posadas 1515).
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9. Malbec At The Alvear Palace Hotel

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 The lobby bar in the Alvear Palace Hotel

The Alvear Palace Hotel is easily one of the most beautiful and luxurious hotels in the world but if you can’t afford to stay here, at least visit for a few drinks in the lobby bar.

The hotel was built in 1932 by a Buenos Aires businessman, who had been to Paris and wanted to bring some of that Belle Epoque grandeur to his hometown.

The lobby bar retains that French granduer and they have a superb range of Argentinian reds on offer.
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10. Sneak Into A Speakeasy

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 Inside Franks Bar

When it’s fashionably late enough in the evening to do so, find one of Buenos Aires secret bars.

Franks Bar is hidden on a quiet street in Palermo. There is a (very) small sign on the door that says, “Franks” but you would never notice it unless you knew it was there.

First you need to get past the doorman (make up a password – anything will do) and you’re led to a phone booth. Enter a secret code into the phone (the doorman will help you) and a hidden door will open, revealing a rather opulent looking 1930s prohibition-style bar.

Here, waist-coated bar tenders will mix you a relatively cheap cocktail and there’s a range of late night snacks on the menu.

Deborah Dickson-Smith

Deborah plays the mother role in a blended family of seven. She's a travel blogger, diver and passionate eco warrior. She has lived in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Edinburgh, London and now resides in Sydney’s northern beaches with her Brady Bunch-style family - all seasoned travellers. Follow Deborah on Twitter @where2nextblog or visit her blog, Where to Next?, all about travelling with teens and mid-life style.