Buenos Aires is a bright city of melancholia set to a dance-step; a tango town of once-fabulous wealth and now of nostalgic mansions gone to delicious decrepitude; the city of jackbooted generals and the Mothers of the Disappeared, of Maradona and even, briefly, of Madonna.
There’s more to Buenos Aires than memories of tarts, tango and generalissimos. This city of Belle Epoque elegance and endlessly wide avenues is like no other Latin American capital. From the red, pink and blue houses of Caminita to the centre’s grandiose edifices, it is a city of fascinations.
Where to stay in Buenos Aires
In addition to its hip-swinging culture, the city is also host to a slew of high-end luxury hotels to make your stay as decadent as possible.
Alvear Palace Hotel: The most elegant and comfortable luxury hotel in Buenos Aires. It glories in its Louis XIV and Empire style – all marble, gilt and elaborate stucco. The suites on the ninth and tenth floors have the best views over the Parks and the River Plate.
The Mansion: A century-old palace with period rooms and suites. The eleventh and twelfth floors of the main building allow faraway views of the madness of the Avenida 9 de Julio (Avenue of the 9th July), Buenos Aires’ massive, multi-laned main street, with obelisk commemorating the city’s 400 years.
Faena Hotel: Rock-star glamour finds its home at uber-designer Philippe Stark’s edgy take on luxury hotels, all done up in piano black and red leather.
Two to Tango
They say the dance reflects the soul of Argentina: melancholy, wistful, erotic. It originated in working-class neighbourhoods, such as San Telmo itself, as a rough and ready musical style often accompanied by obscene lyrics. Later it was refined, and embraced, by all of Argentina. There’s nothing better than to linger on the street, talking to the artists and watching the tango dancers: Buenos Aires at its brilliant best.
Cafe Dorrego: As an entre to this most theatrical of dances, head for the Sunday morning antiques market in the bohemian barrio of San Telmo, where dancers perform in front of the Cafe on Plaza Dorrego. Watch as dancers twirl and pout in the shadows of evening, accompanied by the haunting banoneon concertina and the raspy voices of elderly men.
Confiteria Ideal: If you’re misguided enough to think you can do it too, join in on an afternoon milonga – an up-tempo style of tango and a participatory event, where you can take lessons.
Gran Cafe Tortoni: Established in 1858, the robust European cafe culture revels in this beloved venue, undoubtedly the granddaddy of old-school Euro-style, with its red velvet curtains, stained glass ceilings and waiters in black suits. The cafe is only one of the dozens of locations that host the annual Tango Festival; ten days filled with music, dancing and even cinematic competitions.