Clearly defined in the popular tango — "Buenos Aires, la reina de la Plata" — Buenos Aires is the Silver Queen. Along the banks of the Río de la Plata, the city spreads out its eclectic culture of art, music and incomparable nightlife. Buenos Aires was born with its eyes looking toward Europe, and as a result, it displays a touch of Madrid and a touch of Paris. Some assert this mix of styles surpasses the originals. However, the city does reveal its own stamp as well: the tango districts, the ubiquitous colectivo buses, the magic of the coffeehouses, and above all, the dynamism of the proud inhabitants, the Porteños. In this city, there are the poor areas, the large accordians, the spirit of the tango and deeply-entrenched folklore throughout the place. The passage of time has brought urbanism, the avant-garde and tourism which has been caught up by the enchantment of a country that is capable of creating new scenes.
Tourists favor this picturesque district for its rich history and vibrant colors: greens, yellows, reds and purples highlight the urban scenery. Genoese immigrants chose these colors for their classic conventillos or tenements. These colors also dominate the works of the painter Benito Quinquela Martín, who immortalized his beloved barrio. In La Boca , you can eat lunch in a picturesque cantina while enjoying a fine tango show. Other attractions of the district include the exhibitions organized by the Proa Foundation , and the Museo de Cera or wax museum. Up the street in the so-called Vuelta de Rocha area, one will encounter Caminito, the famous street that inspired the popular tango song of the same name. Every weekend Caminito hosts a craft fair where you can purchase anything from a painting to a typical Argentine mate drinking gourd. Also in the area is the soccer stadium, Bombonera , which is home to one of Argentina's finest soccer clubs, Boca Juniors.
Continuing down the riverbank, we find the recently transformed district of Puerto Madero . In this renewed space and social scene, Porteños have found yet another excuse to celebrate life and dine with friends in the innumerable restaurants, cafes and discos that populate this fantastic sector by the river.
Prior to its official inauguration in September of 1998, this section of the port had fallen into disrepair. Today, luxurious restaurants, offices and movie theaters have replaced the ancient brick silos, making this the city's most exclusive district, preferred by tourists and business travelers. All the streets of Puerto Madero carry the names of women. The Boulevard Azucena Villaflor directly connects the city to the river. Every Saturday and Sunday, another street, Calle Vera Peñaloza becomes a pedestrian-only zone, where the public can skate, ride bicycles or stroll. Nearby one will find the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur , a natural oasis in the heart of the concrete jungle.
This district preserves colonial-style houses along narrow cobblestone lanes, illuminated with pretty wrought iron lanterns. In San Telmo , one breathes the history of Buenos Aires. Visit the church of Santo Domingo or investigate the city's cultural heritage in the City Museum .
The Bohemian character of the district flourishes every weekend at the antique fair held in Plaza Dorrego and the picturesque cafes that surround it. There, one can buy anything from an antique wedding dress to a 1900 table setting, or one can enjoy the improvisations of the street performers. Also worth visiting are the Pasaje de la Defensa, an 1880 mansion converted into a commercial gallery, and the picturesque street Balcarce with its concentration of bars, restaurants and tango houses.
This is another historic district, where evidence of Buenos Aires' past surprises visitors at every turn. In colonial times, Monserrat was the political, economic, social and cultural center of the city. Here, the Porteños defended themselves against English invasions. One can still experience history in Monserrat today just by visiting a few of the buildings, streets and underground tunnels that traverse the district. Take a stroll through Manzana de las Luces , contemplate the architecture of the Iglesia de San Ignacio and pass by the Cabildo de Luján. Then take a rest in the historic Plaza de Mayo . Another option is to sit down for coffee in one of the many cafes. The more restless can learn the two-four rhythm in a tanguería.
Without a doubt, this is the city's most elegant district. The opulence of the houses and manors symbolizes the splendor of the Argentine aristocracy. The area is a meeting point for tourists and locals with an interest in international design and aesthetics.
During the day, take a stroll through the gardens of Plaza Francia , which fills each weekend with dancers, living statues, street artists and astrologers with the future in their hands. A world of possibilities can be found at the adjacent Buenos Aires Design , the traveler can find souvenirs and a plethora of fine restaurants. Other areas of interest located around Plaza Francia include the Centro Cultural Recoleta , the Palais de Glace , and the famous "City of the Dead."
During the middle of the 19th Century, this was the summer home of many local families. Today, it contains much of the city's social and cultural activity. Attractions include the Museo Histórico Sarmiento , the Museo Casa de Yrurtia and the Museo de Arte Español ¨Enrique Larreta¨ . And for those who prefer outdoor activities, there is the Barrancas de Belgrano, four hectares (ten acres) of undulating ground where one can sunbathe, jog or enjoy the dog show provided by the dog walkers.
Belgrano is one of the busiest, most dynamic areas of the city, with people coming and going by train, bus and subway, and with bars, cafes and kiosks everywhere. If you want to shop, Belgrano is a paradise for the modern consumer. Cabildo gives the impression of an authentic open-air market street. Chinatown is one of the area's newest attractions. In addition to the typical Chinese restaurants, there is a Buddhist monastery, and every February there's a celebration of the Chinese New Year.
In Palermo, there is something for everyone. Here some of Buenos Aires' most expensive restaurants intermix with the bars of the Feria Plaza Serrano . On weekends, the Palermo Woods and Rose Garden are ideal spots for walking, playing soccer, and for boat rides. Other nearby attractions include the Jardín Zoológico , the Galileo Galilei Planetarium and the tea offered in the impeccable Japanese gardens.
Three hundred years after its second founding in 1580, the port city of Buenos Aires started to thrive on the banks of the río de la Plata. Over this 25 kilometer (15 mile) slope, the city grew and developed, especially in the areas of fine food production, and meat and grain export. The diversity of immigrants who settled in Buenos Aires brought a variety of cultures and, of course, flavors to the region.
Like any bustling metropolitan city, Buenos Aires offers a broad array of dining options. The city is now host to an increasing number of Asian and European restaurants, but is still best known for its parrillas (steak houses) and Italian restaurants. Pizza is as popular here as in any college dorm room. There are a few other things one should keep in mind about dining in Argentina. Breakfast usually consists of medialunas (mini croissants with powdered sugar), or other small pastries, and coffee of course. Americans expecting bacon and eggs will be ridiculed. The most popular time to go out to dinner is probably between 8:30p and 10p. Wines are very common, especially the local red Malbec, which is bold and smooth, often inexpensive, and goes well with many different meals. Coffee is as popular as wine. Most waiters speak English and often Italian. For dessert, dulce de leche (caramel) is king. Don't forget to try a cup of mate (traditional Argentine tea), which is as essential to Argentina's culinary culture as the famous Argentine beef.
Parrillas are like enormous steak houses that throw every cut on the grill, and they are some of the best and most well-known restaurants in the city. Siga La Vaca is a great place for a large group. One flat fee and you get all you can eat beef, side dishes and enough wine to draw a bath. Another option on the beautiful docks is the Spettus Steak House . Specialty dishes vary, but the best thing to do is ask the chef what the best-looking cut of beef is for the day and you won't be steered wrong. One note of caution: be careful what you order because they will serve you parts of the cow you probably thought weren't edible. If you're not in the mood for steak after mulling that over, try Pizza Banana . They offer pizzas with some outrageous fruit and seafood toppings. Don't forget to wear comfortable shoes because the dance floor gets crowded in the evenings.
San Telmo is another neighborhood known for its restaurants, but the real focus is on tango. Often these two go hand-in-hand as dinner precedes a music or dance show. San Telmo has a reputation for being a bit touristy and consequently being overpriced, but there is still a lot to see and taste here. At La Trastienda , you can order a few empanadas and watch actors, dancers or musicians, depending on the day. La Divina Comedia is as much a social destination as it is a restaurant, very much in accordance with the Argentine way.
Recoleta is the most refined neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Some of the most renowned international dining spots are located here. The famous La Biela is a very traditional cafe/bar with a lot of local flavor, especially suitable for racing fans. It was once a mecca for racing aficionados and has since retained much of that appeal. For a decidedly upscale outing, Lola is the perfect choice. One of the trendiest places in Buenos Aires, Lola serves contemporary French and European cuisine and is adorned with the artistic works of Hermenegildo Sabat. Champagne is a must, as is the Nahuel trout with pine nuts. For something less ostentatious, there is Circolo Italiano , which offers lots of different dishes, all reasonably priced, including a tantalizing mushroom risotto.
Palermo is probably the hottest area in Buenos Aires. There are lots of young people, lots of new bars, and yes, restaurants springing up left and right. El Trapiche is great for large groups, but don't be surprised if you have to wait - this place is constantly crowded. Another option is Katmandú for Nepalese/Indian food and an intimate atmosphere. Or try Thymus for characteristically classy French cuisine, including spicy grilled deer, at surprisingly low prices.
Barrica Restaurante & Bistrot , which also features live tango, is located in this neighborhood famous for its Italian immigrants. For tapas along the seafront try La Ribera where you can try some spicy seafood and right near the crafts market.
Mexican food can be hard to come by in the city, but Frida Kahlo in Belgrano serves tasty tacos and lots of tequila. Nearby Sucre offers a more stylish dining experience, but you'll need a bit more cash. There are also plenty of economical restarants that serve wonderful food and great wines, try Zurich Confitería , a place where the young hang out, and Oviedo , where you can search through a list of international wines.
A classic tourist destination is Cafe Tortoni in the incomparable Plaza de Mayo . Coffee and pastry dishes here are popular, but the classic decor is the real selling point. Not to mention loads of wine and regular tango and jazz shows. Famous politicians and literary figures used to frequent this famous spot, which is rumored to be the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires. And for those looking for a pint of Guinness, go to Temple Bar , named after the Dublin neighborhood. For a traditional setting, try Asador La Estancia , this restaurant serves food in the style of the gaucho or the Argentine cowboy. It has been in business for 30 years and regarded as an institution. The most visited Italian restaurant in the downtown area is Broccolino , a place where the multi-lingual staff will certainly help you decide on one the tasty plates.