Buenos Aires, Argentina

PaperPlane | August 5th, 2008

Words by Terry Carter & Lara Dunstan

Buenos Aires often gets lazily labelled the ‘Paris of the South’, yet BA is very much its own city. While you sometimes need to check Paris for a pulse, it’s hard to get Porteños (BA residents) to have a good lie down. When they do, it’s probably because they’re visiting their shrink – there’s one for every 30 Porteños. And while Porteños may be party people, they’re also Latin America’s most complex people. It’s this complexity that makes BA an endlessly fascinating city.

Spanish explorer Pedro de Mendoza christened it ‘Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre’ or City of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds in 1536, but it wasn’t until immigration laws passed in 1867 that the city began to see waves of immigrants hit its shores: Spanish, English, Italian, French, Irish, Japanese, Polish, Ukrainian, Syrians and Lebanese, and in more recent decades, Chinese, Koreans, and Latin Americans. Each culture has left its marks, from the Italian and French architectural flourishes around the city, to the Italian-influenced local slang lunfardo, the language of tango, to the prevalence of sushi bars on every street.

Once known for their predisposition to nostalgia and melancholia – and who could blame them with such a brutal history, decades of violent military dictatorships, and periods of abject poverty – Porteños now have a renewed sense of optimism and vitality and BA is experiencing a cultural renaissance. There’s an energetic arts scene, an inventive fashion industry, a music scene that will leave you whip-lashed from genre hopping, great restaurants popping up like mushrooms, and red wines as smooth as a baby’s bottom. If you can’t have a good time here you need to see a shrink.

Despite its frenetic nature, BA is a perfect place to chill. <strong>There are fascinating barrios (’hoods) to discover, museums to explore, and parks to kick back in where locals share their love of maté (the national herbal tea) while the paseo de perros (dog walkers) wrangle a dozen pampered pooches. Lingering over a smooth café cortardo (thank the Italians for the great coffee) and churros (sugary fried dough pastries from Spain) in an atmospheric café is obligatory. A visit to San Telmo to browse the markets, sip a beer in the sun, and witness the rebirth of live tango music – complete with upright pianos dragged onto the street – is a fine way to spend a day. If you want to keep the pace slow, take an afternoon siesta because a night out in BA ends with sunrise. To be fair, you won’t be seen dead dining before 9pm so you can fit in a decent disco nap before heading out for a brilliant steak, unquestionably the best in the world. A few bars and couple of clubs later your head hits the pillow as the sun hits the horizon. While Porteños take it in their stride, visitors fade after a few nights of BA hedonism. Porteños have a lust for life that’s contagious. Conversations about football, politics or philosophy are treated with equal passion, as is talk of food, wine and art. Porteños have perfected the art of living. Just make sure you get some sleep before you get here…


Buenos Aires has some of the world’s most luxurious five stars – the Four Seasons, Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau, and Alvear Palace in Recoleta to name a few – and a seemingly endless array of backpacker digs in the downtown and San Telmo. Where the city excels, however, is in its stylish boutique sleeps. BA is dirt-cheap for travellers and nowhere is a better bargain to be had than in a mid-range hotel, where the rate will be closer to a budget place in Europe and the quality more akin to a top end. They’re also located in BA’s most engaging barrios, San Telmo, Montserrat and Palermo Viejo. Alternatively, you can rent an apartment. BA is a long-haul destination by anybody’s measure and an increasing number of travellers are choosing to kick back in the city for a week, two, or even a month or more, so much so that getting your own place has almost become de rigueur.

Faena Hotel + Universe

BA’s hippest hotel is an adventure in design. As you’d expect from a creative collaboration between Philippe Starck and flamboyant BA fashion entrepreneur Alan Faena, the hotel is wonderfully theatrical. There’s a dramatically lit entrance, French-inspired cabaret, library bar, an extraordinary all-white restaurant, and a stunning rooftop swimming pool. The location lets it down, however, and while Puerto Madero is set to become a vibrant cultural precinct at Faena’s initiative, for now, apart from a few eateries and bars and the striking Santiago Calatrava-designed bridge, there’s little to do. Hotel and design junkies will still want to stay, so our advice is: book one night, don’t leave the hotel, and explore BA after you check in to one of our other suggested sleeps. Doubles starting at $400 include access to the spa and hammam.

Fena Hotel and Universe, Martha Salotti 445, Puerto Madero. + 4010-9000; www.faenahotelanduniverse.com

Quirky Youkali is BA’s most unique sleep with an idiosyncratic style. Its German expat Latin American literature-loving owner Gerd Tepass named the intimate hotel after the tango ‘Youkali’ composed by Kurt Weill whose ‘Youkali’ was a place of fantasy. Gerd’s Youkali is equally dreamy. In a 19th century building in increasingly hip Monserrat – an architectural gem of a barrio – the spacious, light-filled, high-ceilinged rooms feature polished wooden floors and mismatched pieces of whimsical furniture. Picture Nanna’s faux baroque bedroom setting, a retro 1950s sideboard and a disco-ball. The rooms change colour like glaciers, thanks to a combination of lighting, silver-blue hues of the walls, and the sun’s movement. Downstairs, in the icy white minimalist bar-restaurant, dine on delicious modern German cuisine and sip on sublime cocktails (try the Pisco-based Peruvian Lips) as you listen to the resident DJ. Hotel services include massages and Spanish lessons! Rooms start at $70.

Youkali, Estados Unidos 1393, Montserrat Ph: 4381-6064; www.youkali.com.ar

My BA Hotel
Located in leafy residential Belgrano, My BA Hotel is the kind of low-key boutique hotel where you quickly feel at home. Housing a friendly café which locals like to drop in to on their way home, the elegant 1940s building, furnished with gorgeous art deco finds, has elegant open spaces where you’ll enjoy lingering over cocktails before heading out. While the stylish rooms are super comfortable, you won’t want to stay in for long with Belgrano’s markets, cafés, parks, and Chinatown close by. Rooms start at $140.

N/A Town and Country Hotels, Zabala 1925, Belgrano. + 4787-5765; www.newage-hotels.com

Home Hotel
When local girl Patricia O’Shea and her English husband DJ-music producer Tom Rixton moved to Buenos Aires from the UK, they wanted to establish funky digs where visiting family and friends could stay. So they created Home. While the retro wallpaper, groovy vintage furniture and shagpile rugs might remind you of your childhood home, as you’d expect from a music producer the spacious rooms come with a quality sound system, CD library, flat screen TV, Wi-Fi, and iPod connection. Friday nights see neighbours dropping in for delicious tapas, Argentine wine and DJ. Doubles from $115.

Home Hotel, Honduras 5860, Palermo Viejo. + 4778-1008; www.homebuenosaires.com

The Cocker

Playfully fusing old-world charm and contemporary cool in a completely original way, The Cocker is one of the most surprising hotels we’ve discovered. Our favourite room has elegant French windows, high ceilings and polished wooden floorboards yet centre-stage is the most innovative and funkiest ‘four-poster’ bed invented – the two-storey white cube has a sleek bathroom above its ‘canopy’! With private sun decks, terraces and balconies, a tranquil rooftop garden, and a library with grand piano and fireplace, The Cocker is a perfect urban escape. Doubles from $80.

The Cocker, Ave Juan de Garay 458, San Telmo. www.thecocker.com (web bookings only)

BA Apartments
Living like locals is the aim of many travellers to BA these days. Tango or Spanish lessons have become mandatory and the chance to hang out here long enough to put both to use on a regular basis is appealing. Apartment rental agencies are popping up everywhere but our favourites are ‘Living Like Locals’ and ‘Living in Buenos Aires’. Both have fabulous properties all over BA, from small studios with spectacular views and sun terraces to spacious light-filled lofts. Most come with mod cons, from DVD players to espresso makers. While weekly rates start at $350, you can rent the same apartment for $650 a month, amounting to as little as $21 a night!

www.living-like-locals.com, www.livinginbaires.com


Eating in BA? It’s all about the beef. What you’ve heard about the lomo (beef) in Argentina is true. Those big happy cows spend their lives wandering around the pampas grazing on long fresh grass. It’s gotta be good for them. And it is – the meat is lean and delicious. A meal at a parrilla (grill) is obligatory, as is washing down that hunk of meat with a brilliant local Malbec wine. We lied, though, there is more to eating in BA than beef. There are excellent Italian, French and Asian restaurants, especially Japanese, and the sushi helps offset the inevitable bloat from the steakfest. Try the local snack, empanadas (baked pastries stuffed with meat or cheese), sold at neighbourhood empanaderias, parillas and casual eateries – perfect if you’re having a few brews. BA’s drinking scene is a blast with everything from all-day corner café-bars where everyone shares longneck beers to hip lounge bars that don’t get happening until after midnight. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

La Brigada

San Telmo is full of parrillas, but La Brigada reigns supreme. In a classic old space filled with football memorabilia and photos of local celebrities (some of whom will probably be chowing down while you’re there), La Brigada is rightfully renowned for its meats and excellent wines. Culinary adventurers and Anthony Bourdain wannabees should demand the amazing sweetmeats. If you see a bloke beaming a shiny set of whites at you – yes, the one with non-ironic mullet and handlebar moustache – that will be owner Hugo who’ll be pleased you’ve ordered the house speciality. Book ahead.

La Brigada, Estados Unidos 465, San Telmo. + 4361-5557

This slice of Nordic cool fits in well with the hipsters that inhabit Palermo Hollywood and Sunday brunch here (going well into the evening) is the best time to see BA’s too-cool crowd unwind. While nobody comes here for the service, it’s the variety of vodkas and Scandi cuisine that keep the place humming like a swarm of bees. We just wish they’d move it to the mountains for winter; the fireplace is killer.

Olson, Gorriti 5870, Palermo Viejo (Palermo Hollywood). + 4776-7677

Bar Uriarte
A stylish lunch stop by day during a Palermo Soho shopping excursion, at night this spacious contemporary eatery is one of the barrio’s sexiest spots for dinner and drinks. You can prop up the bar and work your way through the vinos por coppa (wines by the glass), meet friends in the funky lounge area and have some snacks, or hit the high-ceilinged restaurant for some Italian classics, including scrumptious wood-fired pizzas. On a sunny day reserve a table in the courtyard.

Uriarte, 1572, Palermo Viejo (Palermo Soho). + 4834-6004; www.baruriarte.com.ar

Brasserie Petanque
While there is some highly fancied French fare on offer in BA, we always find it hard to go past this authentic Parisian-style brasserie in San Telmo. It could be the warm, unpretentious and buzzy atmosphere, the easygoing elegance of the place, or the great service, but it’s most likely the combination of excellent Argentine beef and French technique – evident in the superb steak tartare – that keeps the punters coming back.

Brasserie Petanque, Defensa 596, San Telmo. + 4342-7930; www.brasseriepetanque.com

Gran Bar Danzon
This glam bar and restaurant attracts an unusual combination of arty young groovers and loose-tied and tired after-work revellers. Even more odd for a late night city like BA, the place fills quickly after its 7pm opening. And we admit we can be counted among the regulars who get there early to study the chalkboard for new wines by the glass and hours later are still watching the friendly waiters mix wicked cocktails. It’s just as well they serve great food – creative fusion cuisine – otherwise we’d all have trouble negotiating the stairs on their way out.

Gran Bar Danzon, Libertad 1161, Retiro. + 4811-1108; www.granbardanzon.com.ar

Bar Plaza Dorrego
In colonial San Telmo, opposite Plaza Dorrego, this antique café-bar is one of the city’s most characterful – picture rickety wooden tables, faded tango pictures, and mirrors on the wall. Low-key on weekdays when you can sip a café cortado at a window table while you watch the tango dancers strut their stuff on the square opposite, weekends sees this place get packed with post-market shoppers. Wait for a pavement table then to be close to the action.

Bar Plaza Dorrego, Defensa 1098, San Telmo. + 4361-0141

El Federal

Another of San Telmo’s atmospheric old café-bars – this one has been around since 1864 – El Federal has a fantastic wooden interior with a long decorative bar. While it’s great for lunch or a coffee during the day – the vibe is very laidback – the place really buzzes at night when locals come for the house red and picadas – big breadboards of antipasto-like snacks.

El Federal, Cnr Peru & Carlos Calvo, San Telmo. + 4300-4313

Mundo Bizarro

This local institution manages to pull off a fire-truck-red retro look that takes its inspiration from a 1950s American diner crossed with a grungy 1980s goth bar. The place doesn’t get happening until after midnight, but arrive a bit earlier if you want to score a comfy velvet booth. The DJ is excellent but the kitsch television shows and old movies projected on the wall will also keep you entertained.

Mundo Bizarro, Serrano 1222, Palermo Viejo. + 4773-1967


Ideally placed for some bar hopping on the Las Cañitas strip, super-cool Kandi should be your first stop. Arrive around 11pm and settle into one of the caramel leather seats up front if you want to people-watch. If you’re feeling social, take a position at the bar and order a cocktail, the local drink of choice. The food is good if you’re happy to eat late with the local hipsters.

Kandi, Báez 340, Las Cañitas. + 4772-2453

Soul Cafe & Supersoul
After taking in the scene at Kandi, stumble down to these seventies-inspired soul sisters for some excellent cocktails. These retro bars feature hanging dice lamps (Soul Café) and comfy booths (Supersoul) and get crowded late. If you get here early, pull up a barstool, order a drink, and practice your Spanish on the friendly bar staff.

Soul Cafe & Supersould, Báez 252, Las Cañitas. + 4776-3905


Buenos Aires is like a good local pub. Laidback by day, the place buzzes at night, there’s a lively program of entertainment, the people are friendly, and you can always find someone keen to have a chat. During the day, BA takes it easy. Compared to other big cities around the globe, office workers start late and leave early; the only time you see them rush is when they’re going to lunch or heading home. On weekends, Porteños leisurely stroll San Telmo’s cobblestone streets, browse Recoleta’s busy markets, and laze about in Palermo’s parks drinking maté with their friends. At night, the city is jumping. Crowds chatter outside concert halls and theatres as they wait to see performances. Tickets for shows are always sold out, venues always packed. Dance clubs open at midnight, are crammed soon after, and vibrate with clubbers dancing until dawn. And then the next day it all starts over again.

Stroll San Telmo
Relaxed weekdays when students share beers at pavement tables, San Telmo come alive on weekends when the main drag, calle Defensa, floods with an ocean of people. Beginning near the downtown, hippies line the street selling handicrafts and handmade jewellery, all the way down to Plaza Dorrego where an antique market takes over for the weekend. Pianos are pulled onto the pavement and tango orchestras perform. Sunday night, when the bric-a-brac is packed away, a tango milonga (social dance) takes place on the square.

Shop & Bar-Hop Palermo Viejo

Fashionistas, foodies and film types love funky Palermo Viejo and its barrios-within-a-barrio, Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. In the area around Plaza Serrano, Soho’s streets are home to cool boutiques, restaurants and cafés, and an edgy fashion market on weekends. On the other side of the tracks (a railway line runs between barrios), the streets of Hollywood (named after the media, film and animation companies in the ’hood) are lined with hip design shops, eateries and bars. It’s wide leafy streets feature wonderful colonial architecture, making for a pleasant afternoon’s wander as much as for a fun night’s bar hopping.

Mellow Out At Malba

This is one world-class modern art museum and it’s worth spending a few hours here. It has a top-notch collection of vibrant Latin American art, including a fabulous Frida Kahlo, some playful installations and cool conceptual art, along with excellent temporary exhibitions, such as the brilliant David LaChapelle show this year. Add to that, the museum is housed in a stunner of a building, it has a buzzy café, an art-house cinema, and there’s a super gift shop with a great selection of Argentine design products, DVDs, and gorgeous coffee table books on art and photography.

Malba, Ave Presidente Figueroa Alcorta 3415, Palermo. + 4808-6500; www.malba.org.ar

Take A Walk In A Park
BA’s bosques are beautiful green bundles of activity so make sure you take a walk in a park. Palermo’s 3 de Febrero is the most popular and Porteños treat it like a playground. They jog, bike, walk dogs, roller-blade, skateboard, play roller hockey, take aerobics and tai chi classes, workout with personal trainers, juggle, strum guitars, picnic with friends, or simply take a stroll. Whatever they do, they always do it with a thermos of maté under their arms. How do they do that?

Cnr Avs del Libertador & de la Infanta Isabel, Palermo

Survive A Superclasico

To ask whether Porteños are passionate about football (soccer) is the equivalent of enquiring about the Pope’s religious denomination. Everybody supports a local team so choose one now. The two frontrunners are Argentina’s most famous team, Club Atlético Boca Juniors (the working-class heroes) and River Plate, known as los millonarios (the millionaires). A match between them at Boca Juniors’ La Bombonera (the Chocolate Box) stadium is as exhilarating as it is frightening – go with a tour company such as Tangol if you want to witness the most exciting local derby in the world, the Superclásico – and live to tell the story.

Boca Juniors La Bombonera, Estadio Alberto J Armando Brandsen 805 Ph: 4362-2260; www.bocajuniors.com.ar; Tangol, Florida 971, Microcentro, + 4312-7276; www.tangol.com

Try Some Tango
Nothing screams Buenos Aires more than the sultry dance of tango and everyone wants a taste of it when they get here, whether it’s watching a slick dinner show or taking tango lessons. Avoid the over-priced tourist shows and have some fun watching the relaxed burlesque-style acts at Los 36 Billares, complete with an old-skool MC! This is where working class Porteños go for a good time and huge steaks. If you fancy tangling your legs with a stranger’s, try the tango classes at faded old dance hall Confiteria Ideal. A milonga (social dance) follows lessons and this can be entertaining in itself.

Los 36 Billares, Avenida de Mayo 1265. + 4381-5696; www.los36billares.com.ar; Confiteria Ideal Suipacha 384, Microcentro. + 4601 8234; www.confiteriaideal.com

Get Teary At A Pena
A night out at a peña, a traditional folkloric music club, is a must. Tango is tame by comparison – the peña is where emotions really run high! Depending on the performer – from indigenous Northern Argentine pipe bands to classical folk guitarists – you can expect anything from spontaneous exuberant folk dancing to sentimental teary-eyed sing-alongs. La Peña del Colorado is unquestionably BA’s best. Staff and patrons are warm and friendly, the program is varied, and the musicians brilliant. Book a table close to the band, try some maté if you haven’t already, and order the empanadas, the tastiest we’ve ever had.

La Pena del Colorado, Güemes 3657, Palermo. + 4822-1038; www.lapeniadelcolorado.com

Coasting The Clubs
BA has a pumping dance club scene. What would you expect from the city that gave birth to Hernán Cattaneo, once resident DJ at BA’s legendary Pacha? While there are clubs scattered all over the city, BA’s best and biggest – Pacha, Mint, Caix, and Jet – are on the Costanera Norte (North Coast), a ten-minute taxi ride from Palermo Viejo. This is where the big-name DJs spin. While clubs open around midnight, Porteños don’t line up until at least 2am and rarely leave before 7am. Our tip? Sunglasses.
www.surfacebookings.com.ar, www.buenosaliens.com, www.pachabuenosaires.com, www.mint-argentina.com.ar


‘Feria De Mataderos’ Slaughterhouse Market
Each weekend in outer-BA barrio Mataderos (Slaughterhouses), the ‘Feria de Matadores’ (Slaughterhouse Market!) is a lively celebration of gaucho culture. Locals do the chacarera and chamamé folk dances (no tango here!), chow down on trad dishes like locro (northern Argentine stew) and choripanes (sausage sandwiches), buy traditional crafts (get your poncho here), and cheer on the gauchos in the sortija, the art of speering a ring dangling from a ribbon while wildly galloping on a horse! Bravo!

Feria de Mataderos, Mataderos (taxi: $10). www.feriademataderos.com.ar

International Festival Of Independent Film

Argentina has a rich film history and produces some of Latin America’s most interesting films. See the latest indie flicks from Argentina and Latin America, along with foreign films, at the Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente each April. Most movies are screened in the cinemas at the excellent Abasto shopping mall.


‘Our Horses’
Many BA festivals are centred on traditional culture. Our favourite, ‘Nuestros Caballos’ (‘Our Horses’), held in March, is focused on everything horsey. Porteños love their ponies (think about it: polo, horse-racing, gauchos…) and there are plenty here, along with impressive riding demos and races, stalls selling gaucho gear, ponchos, leather, and products from the pampas, such as delicious smoked cheeses and meats.


Art Weeks
Artists, art lovers, and art buyers descend on BA for a week mid-May for its contemporary art fair, arteBA. Hundreds of art galleries, institutions, and dealers participate, and the city is abuzz with all things arty. A similar event, ‘La Semana de Arte en Buenos Aires’ (Art Week) is held September and embraces all media forms with concerts and performances.

www.arteba.com, www.lasemanadelarte.com.ar

Join over 60,000 sweaty dance music lovers celebrating the start of summer at this excellent electronic music festival, one of the biggest and best, featuring some of the world’s greatest DJs. An offshoot of the original Creamfields, held in Liverpool (UK) in August, this one is held in November – and we like it more!

Local Hero - Agustin Montjel

Buenos Aires-born Agustin Montiel is an illustrator who trained in visual arts in BA and plastic arts in Paris. A fan of comic books and architecture, he’s typical of many creative Porteños trying to get ahead: Agustin is a globetrotter – job in Paris, summers surfing Portugal and Spain, winters snowboarding the Alps, you know the deal. Currently working as a video games animator, he lives on the slopes of arty Montmartre, returning to Buenos Aires every chance he gets. Agustin has a list of things he loves to do each time he returns to BA.

Hit The Streets
I walk from Congreso along Avenida de Mayo to Plaza San Martin. The architecture is incredible. On Avenida de Mayo, there’s amazing Palacio Barolo, a homage to Dante’s Divine Comedy. The guided tour takes you to Hell, Purgatory and Heaven! Plaza San Martin is beautiful – met my French girlfriend there! – with great views of the modernist Kavanagh Building, once Latin America’s highest tower.

Av de Mayo 1370, Congreso

Go Shopping – Galeria 5ta Avenida
People like Paris for shopping but I prefer Buenos Aires. My favourite place to shop for clothes is Galeria 5ta Avenida. It’s full of lots of little shops selling second hand clothes. You can get great retro gear, cool jackets especially, and there are a few shops selling vinyl records.

Galeria 5ta Avenida, Avenida Santa Fe 1270, Retiro. + 4811-1108; www.galeria5taavenida.com.ar

Comics, Books, Music – Avenida Corrientes

I always stock up on comics, books, and music when I return to BA. Avenida Corrientes is lined with bookshops and record stores. I love this street – I walk the whole length of it. There are fantastic second-hand stores between calle Junin and Uruguay. You’ll find me there buying Charly Garcia and Astor Piazolla.

Eat Pizza – Palacio del Pizza
There are many pizzerias on Corrientes but this is the best. It never shuts. It’s the most popular and the people who come here are as real as the pizzas. This is where you’ll enjoy the most authentic Argentine pizzas – they’re very thick and very cheesy. They’re great with beer.

Palacio del Pizza, Avenida Corrientes 751, Microcentro Ph: 4322-0441

Drink Beer – Buller
I like going for beers in the bars in Retiro. You have everything from typical English and Irish pubs to artier bars like Dada, but my favourite is Buller. It’s a microbrewery and their beers are amazing – they do a tasty one with honey but I like their dark dry stout. This is the place for beer connoisseurs.

Buller Pub, Paraguay 428, Retiro. + 4313-0287; www.bullerpub.com

Shoot Pool – Los 36 Billares
This is where ordinary Argentines come to watch tango but I come here to shoot pool with my friends. Downstairs you’ll find a basement full of billiard tables, and old guys playing dominoes and chess. I love the atmosphere here.

Los 36 Billares, Avenida de Mayo 1265, Congreso Ph: 4381-5696; www.los36billares.com.ar



Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
Argentina’s most revered writer and one of the world’s great 20th century writers, Borges was versatile and prolific. He wrote poetry, fiction and non-fiction, much of it after he went blind. While a lot of his writing was set outside his hometown of Buenos Aires, his most memorable stuff is arguably about his beloved BA, such as the poem ‘Fervor de Buenos Aires’. Look for the translation by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.

Buenos Aires: Cities of the Imagination by Jason Wilson (ed)
This wonderful anthology is like a travel guide written by poets, philosophers and novelists. Wilson has structured the book geographically, so you can read the evocative ways in which different writers have captured a particular barrio and its people, mood, sights, sounds, and smells before you visit the neighbourhood.


Neuva Reinas (2002) by Fabián Bielinksy
This hilarious award winning flick by star director Bielinsky may have you hiding your pesos away in a money belt tucked down your pants, but it’s a must-see. Bielinksy’s bustling BA swarms with swindlers and pickpockets, but it’s an accurate portrayal of some of the city’s grittier (many would argue more interesting) urban pockets.

Sur (1987) by Fernando Solanas
Canne’s 1988 Best Director award went to Solanas for his moody masterpiece Sur (South). Set around La Boca’s deserted docks and San Telmo’s back streets, it follows the homecoming of a political prisoner just released from jail, at the end of Argentina’s military dictatorship in 1983. Dark, with a melancholic tango soundtrack, Sur captures the nostalgia of the period, very different to today’s optimism.

Santa Milonga by Daniel Melingo
With booze-soaked vocals and a Tom Waits-like delivery and observations, former punk/rocker Daniel Melingo holds up a middle finger to tango and then makes love to it, in a career twist that makes sense. Check out the video Narigón for a peek into Melingo’s world.

Bajofondo Tango Club by Bajofondo Tango Club

While we could have listed some local rock (or rock nacional, as it’s called), it’s not half as interesting as what’s happening in tango. Along with the overhyped Paris-based Gotan Project, Bajofondo Tango Club are pioneers in tango electronica, whose definition is actually wider than those two essentials, including elements drum n’ bass, trip-hop and chill-out – think sunset with a long strong drink.

Lara Dunston and Terry Carter are a travel writer-photographer team who’ve written over 20 guidebooks and articles for Lonely Planet, Lifestyle+Travel, The Independent and National Geographic Traveler. Read more about BA on their blog Grantourismo www.charlesandmarie.com/gt/

Americas, Argentina, Buenos Aires, Miscellaneous

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