Tango and gaucho culture, world-class wines and parrilla, art, and snow-capped mountains – a luxury tour of Argentina has much to offer those traveling to South America, and it all starts at the capital, Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is the gateway to the rest of the country, and likely the first introduction most travelers have when coming to Argentina, on their way to destinations like the wine region of Mendoza or the winter wonderland of Patagonia – however; Buenos Aires is far from a fly-over city.
With a diverse and dynamic culture brought together by indigenous, and immigrant European cultures, the most visited city in South America is popular for good reason – foodies, wine lovers, and culture seekers have an endless amount of things to do, see, eat, and experience. Featuring wide boulevards, neoclassical architecture, and a cache of avant-garde museums, this sophisticated city is a must-see as the first stop on your luxury tour of Argentina. Though we encourage you to get to know the ins and outs of the city and spend more time here, if you’re starting off your luxury tour of Argentina and have two days – we have some recommendations.
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– Day 1:
• Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
Not only does this museum house the largest public art collection in all of Latin America, but it also has an impressive collection of European impressionists; influenced largely by the wave of European immigrants that arrived in Argentina. The museum does an impeccable job of educating about the history and development of Argentine artists in a global context. Among its more than 12,000 pieces, two collections stand out: its collection of nineteenth-century European art, considered the most important in the region, and its collection of Argentine art, considered the most valuable of its kind worldwide. For even more art, visit the neighboring Latin American Modern Arts Museum, or MALBA, which specifically focuses on 20th and 21st-century Latin American art.
• Shopping in Palermo Soho
The colorful, tree-lined, bohemian neighborhood of Buenos Aires is home to Buenos Aires’ finest boutiques – from clothing stores and specialists in leather goods to bookstores and wine shops. Stroll along Jorge Luis Borges, Gurruchaga, or Malabia streets on a Saturday and see Porteños and expats alike visiting the open-air markets on Plaza Serrano and Plaza Armenia. Plaza Serrano is particularly notable because the bars surrounding the square open their doors for independent vendors to showcase their goods. It’s a great spot to look for vintage shirts, Argentine hats, and dresses in addition to accessories and handicrafts.
Surrounding both of the markets are myriad bars and restaurants, ideal for taking a break. After shopping away in Palermo, visit Boutique del Libro, one of the most charming café bookstores in the city. Sit among designers, writers, and the city’s most creative and order your favorite blend while browsing the abundance of bilingual books.
• Parilla with wine at Don Julio
Carne culture in Argentina is alive and well, and there are few foodie experiences more quintessential to Argentina than enjoying a traditional parrilla or “grill”. Though every Porteno will tell you about their favorite parrilla in the city, Don Julio is certainly a favorite of many with its consistently flawless cooking and top-of-the-line service – a rarity in a city like Buenos Aires. Though Don Julio is not a hidden gem, it is popular for good reason.
If you’re looking for dinner and a show – ask to be seated at the bar for a front-row seat at the grill and enjoy succulent chorizo, a cheesy slab of provoleta, and the main event: big hunks of grilled meat, never marinated, and heavily seasoned with parrillero salt, served on a plate. Chimichurri and salsa criolla sauces accompany the table, and steaks can be ordered with simple but delicious sides like salads or fried potato guarniciones.
• Dancing tango at Cafe Tortoni
Located on Avenida de Mayo, just steps from the Plaza de Mayo, Cafe Tortoni was founded in 1858 as a meeting place for Argentina’s most famous artists and scholars. The historic cafe is worth the visit alone for the vintage Buenos Aires feel, but even more so as one of the most authentic places to learn about the history of tango, and experience a tango show.
While here, take a worthwhile detour upstairs to the World Tango Museum to see the National Academy of Tango’s Belle Époque mansion and tango artifacts stretching back to the birth of Argentina’s most famous dance. Then, while being served dinner, enjoy the magic of one of the oldest and most authentic tango shows in the city and experience the passion, live.
• Visit a speakeasy
Following an evening of tango in Buenos Aires, an unforgettable weekend night continues with an inside look at the city’s swelling speakeasy scene. Inspired by the illegal pubs and drinking clubs of the 1920s Prohibition era in the United States, Buenos Aires’ speakeasies offer superior cocktails and old-world environs, often without full published addresses, some requiring a secret password to enter. Buenos Aires nightlife is getting even more unique with the emergence of secret speakeasies popping up around the city. The city has always been famous for its classic wine bars, exclusive cocktail bars, and pubs serving artisanal beers but this new breed of speakeasy bars are quickly sprucing up the bar scene and even gaining some international recognition. One of the best in the city, Harrison Speakeasy is a high-concept bar with equally well-considered cocktails, so The Harrison Speakeasy ticks all boxes.
In the classic speakeasy fashion, there’s a lot of stirred brown cocktails like the Monkey Powder: a mix of Scotch, sherry, apricot brandy, cinnamon, and lime, alongside some fruiter concoctions like The Butcher, which blends bourbon with extra brut sparkling wine, pineapple juice, raspberry cordial, lime and bitters.
– Day 2:
• Visit a bakery in Buenos Aires
If there’s one thing to know about bakeries in Argentina, it’s that breakfast pastries, or facturas, always make some sort of an appearance on the morning table. Confiterías, or bakeries, line almost every major neighborhood block, and if you ask any Porteño – they probably have a longstanding barrio favorite that holds a special medialuna in their hearts. Many of these bakeries were opened by immigrant groups that arrived in Argentina long ago – like British, Spanish, Italian, French, and Danish – and you’ll notice those influences in the types of pastries that are made.
Today, many new bakeries are inspired by Argentina’s sweet past, but they are breaking baking traditional rules and forming their own paths. Though it’s difficult to visit the “wrong” confitería, one of our favorites is La Pasta Frola, one of the oldest in the city, the bakery has been around since 1910. Known for their Italian, Spanish, and German selection, the bakers wake up early each morning to make more than 20 different kinds of pastries, a variety of cakes, chocolates, and even lunchtime sandwich specials.
• The San Telmo Fair
Cobblestone streets, a faded grandeur, and a large street market put San Telmo on tourists’ maps. Tourists find San Telmo romantic and the most ‘Porteño’ of Buenos Aires. The barrio is gentrifying and has narrow streets, so it’s not as dangerous as in the past, but be careful at night. A favorite with tourists, San Telmo, has charming locations and is great for antique hunting. Each Sunday shoppers linger around a giant open-air market as tango strut moves around the street.
• Recoleta Cemetery
Recoleta Barrio of Buenos Aires is the final resting place of many of Argentina’s wealthiest and most famous families and personalities. The most celebrated Argentineans, including Eva Peron and her family, are buried at this elaborate cemetery, where mausoleums replicate chapels, pyramids, and Greek temples. The layout of the cemetery was designed by the French engineer Próspero Catelin and was remodeled in 1881 by the Italian architect Juan Antonio Buschiazzo. The cemetery includes graves of some of the most influential and important Argentinians, including several presidents, scientists, and wealthy characters.
• Dinner at Julia
Voted as one of the World’s Best 50 Restaurants, recently opened Julia already has a host of loyal fans. The chef and owner, Julio Baez has over 16 years of experience cooking internationally before returning to Buenos Aires. The single-page menu lists dishes that combine ingredients in innovative and delicious ways: sausage with celery, beef tongue with grapefruit and tapioca, and curried cashews with kefir; the entire menu changes monthly and is focused on seasonal produce and rotating ingredients. The wine list is also short and sweet, packed with new bottles from innovative small bodegas; try the Malbec from Bodega Pielihueso, if available.
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