Buenos Aires is thriving, thanks to avant-garde museums, sophisticated new hotels, and creative restaurants that span the Argentine city's colorful barrios.

By Colin Barraclough
July 10, 2013
Courtesy of the Faena Arts Center

A dizzying mix of Europe and Latin America, colonial and contemporary, laid-back and fast-paced, Buenos Aires has a buzz all its own. In recent years, forward-thinking gallery directors, hoteliers, and chefs have reinvigorated the city with innovative projects, from the contemporary Faena Arts Center, in Puerto Madero, to the wine-themed Mío Buenos Aires hotel, in tony Recoleta. And with much-touted dance and music festivals on the horizon (including next month’s tango celebration), the stylish capital is now more appealing than ever. Buenos Aires at your fingertips? Look no further.

Buenos Aires: Stay

Buenos Aires’s hottest hotel openings. Plus, the classics we love.

Hotel Boca Juniors: The world’s first soccer-themed hotel pays homage to Buenos Aires’s much-adored team Boca Juniors. Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott is responsible for the creative design, in which concave glass walls allow sunlight to flood the ample rooms. Best For: Fútbol fanatics. $$

Hotel Club Francés: Since its opening in 1866, the storied French Club has drawn generations of politicians and writers. While the city’s intelligentsia still congregates at the lobby bar, the upper floor was recently turned into a 28-room hotel filled with antiques and period furniture. Best For: Travelers with a passion for history. $$$

Hotel Pulitzer: Hidden in Microcentro, this whimsical hotel earns our praise for its nautical interiors. The highlight: steel-trimmed modular furniture. Best For: Stylish affordability. 907 Maipú. $

Mío Buenos Aires: Doors fashioned out of wine-stained barrel slats, hardwood floors, and bathtubs made from caldén tree trunks warm the interiors at vintner César Catena’s newcomer. Best For: In-the-know oenophiles. 465 Avda. Presidente Manuel Quintana. $$$

The Classics

Algodon Mansion: Although only two years old, this Belle Époque gem has already become the standard-bearer for luxury. $$$

Alvear Palace Hotel: International A-listers, from Prince Charles to Donatella Versace, have stayed at this 80-year-old grande dame. $$$

Four Seasons Hotel: Book a suite in the original 1920 building, decorated with ornate mirrors and toile de Jouy wallpaper. $$$

Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt: This stylish Recoleta property includes a Neoclassical mansion and a contemporary minimalist tower. $$$

Lay of the Land

A guide to the city’s essential neighborhoods.

La Boca: The working-class district retains a flavor of the city’s early immigrant days, from the façades of Caminito to unsung Italian trattorias.

Microcentro: Best for daytime sightseeing, downtown has the lion’s share of landmark buildings.

Palermo Viejo: Buenos Aires’s young and hip convene here for the edgy boutiques and bars set in ivy-covered town houses.

Puerto Madero: Weekenders come to the restored port to stroll across the Santiago Calatrava–designed Puente de la Mujer bridge and dine at upscale restaurants.

Recoleta: Argentina’s oldest monied families live in this well-heeled enclave. Blue-chip boutiques and elegant hotels attract the city’s sophisticated set.

San Telmo: By day, this historic neighborhood shines with its cobblestoned lanes. At night, a savvy crowd is drawn to the after-midnight bar scene.

Getting Around

The Subte, or metro, is the most efficient means of transportation. Expect to do a lot of walking. Taxis are also a great option and are affordable and easy to hail.

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000

Buenos Aires: Shop

Silversmith Marcelo Toledo is one of the finest jewelry designers in the city. We love his re-creations of Eva Peron’s gem-encrusted necklaces. Aromatic herbs sourced from Patagonia and the Pampas region infuse the perfumes at Fueguia (1680 Avda. Alvear). For slim cocktail dresses in black and white, don’t miss Ramírez. Brazilian clothing designer Oskar Metsavaht creates sleek silhouettes from organic materials at Osklen (1245 Posadas). You can’t beat the selection of colorful leather jackets at Murillo 666 (666 Murillo). Rug maker Graciela Churba (1774 Godoy Cruz) crafts her patterns in ochers by hand-dyeing sheep’s wool before weaving on a traditional loom.

Beyond the City

Visit criollo and gaucho artisans in the colonial town of San Antonio de Areco, a two-hour drive northwest.

Carve out an afternoon for the two-hour trip east to Carlos Keen, a refurbished former railway station that hosts art shows.

If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, head to Tandil, a popular hub for hiking, biking, and rock climbing four hours south of the city.

Buenos Aires: See + Do

A tour of the city’s art and historical gems for culture hounds.

Housed in a renovated grain mill, the just-opened Faena Arts Center (1169 Aimé Painé) is a cathedral-size museum dedicated to works by artists such as Cuban duo Dagoberto Rodríguez and Marco Castillo, who are known as Los Carpinteros.

Swing by Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (350 Avda. San Juan) to see 20th-century pieces in the industrial and video arts. Highlights include Antonio Seguí silk-screen prints and Alberto Heredia sculptures.

Ruth Benzacar, in Retiro, is a must for lovers of avant-garde art. The spacious gallery showcases the best from both emerging and established Argentine artists (Flavia Da Rim and Miguel Ángel RÍos, to name two).

At Malba, you’ll find a permanent collection of more than 500 paintings, sculptures, and objects from top Latin American talent. There’s also a screening room that showcases independent films.

Buenos Aires: Eat

Craving grilled steak? Just-caught fish? Four spots guaranteed to please your palate.

For years, only fishermen could access the jetty that juts from the Avenida Costanera into the Río de la Plata. This changed with the opening of El Muelle, an excellent seafood spot on the pier that quickly won a loyal following with salads of fresh king crab and grilled wreckfish. Avda. Costanera Rafael Obligado and Avda. Sarmiento. $$$

Chef Diego Gera whips up intensely flavored signature dishes such as crisp-skinned suckling pig paired with quince purée at the purple-hued Leopoldo, in Palermo. After dinner, head to the restaurant’s patio for cocktails and live DJ music. 3732 Avda. Cerviño. $$$

After scoring hits with steak house Sucre and lounge Gran Bar Danzón, restaurateur Luis Morandi opened Sanbenito, an Art Deco–style restaurant in Belgrano that serves hearty comfort foods, from tender osso buco with gnocchi to braised lamb shoulder accompanied by carrot purée and Rösti (fried potato pancake). 2136 Avda. Federico Lacroze. $$$

Renowned Argentine chef Darío Gualtieri recently took the reins at the long-loved bistro Social Paraíso. His mission: to shake up the menu with cutting-edge dishes like Patagonian prawns cooked in palm oil and coconut milk and Sichuan-pepper ice cream with passion-fruit mousse. It’s no surprise that patrons keep coming back. 5182 Honduras; 54-11/4831-4556. $$

Kitchen Confidential

What could be better than an intimate dinner party thrown at the house of a local chef? In Buenos Aires, puertas cerradas (or underground supper clubs) are drawing in-the-know travelers.

At Almacén Secreto Club (3266 Gregoria Perez; $$), beef-and-bean locro stews are matched with Malbecs.

Christina Sunae serves Thai-style pork and green curries at Cocina Sunae ($$).

Paladar Buenos Aires (Acevedo and Camargo; $$), in the Villa Crespo barrio, is one of the city’s most sought-after tables, thanks to chef Pablo Abramovsky’s fresh market fare.

Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150

Buenos Aires: Local Take

Three insiders share their favorite places in the city.

Alejandro Digilio

Chef, La Vinería de Gualterio Bolívar
San Telmo was pretty rough around the edges until a decade ago. Around that time tourists began discovering the area’s hidden jewels. The antiques stores on Defensa and the retro housewares at Cualquier Verdura (517 Humberto Primo) are fun to browse, but I also love what’s left of old San Telmo: the covered, 19th-century Mercado de San Telmo and the café Aconcagua (502 Estados Unidos; 54-11/4362-3826; $), a spot for the old guys from the barrio.

Gabriela Horvat

Jewelry designer
I live near the Paraná River delta in Tigre, a 30-minute drive from downtown Buenos Aires. Every morning I take my dog for a walk on the riverbank Paseo Victorica. Afternoon tea on the veranda at the Tigre Boat Club is lovely; you can watch hundred-year-old boats on the water. For a culture fix, go to the restored Museo de Arte Tigre (972 Paseo Victorica), which features Argentinean paintings from the late 19th through the 20th century.

Aldo Graziani

Sommelier, Aldo’s
I opened the bar Tercer Tiempo in the late eighties, when Palermo was mostly residential. These days the neighborhood is full of hip spots. For lunch, locals go to La Pulpería (1667 Uriarte; 54-11/4833-6039; $$), an old-fashioned diner that serves a delicious oyster-mushroom sandwich. Nearby, Bolivia (1581 Gurruchaga; 54-11/4832-6284) stocks a great selection of men’s clothing, from casual floral-print shirts to slim-fitting suits. Come nighttime, I love Mundo Bizarro (1222 Serrano; 54-11/4773-1967), a cocktail lounge with a great rock-and-roll vibe.

Tango Beats

Sharpen your milonga moves with our dance-filled itinerary.

2 p.m.: Book a class at the salon Confitería Ideal, in a grand 1912 mansion in Microcentro.

10 p.m.: Watch Rojo Tango, the hottest tango show in town, live at Faena Hotel & Universe’s El Cabaret.

12 a.m.: Ready to strut your stuff? Head to San Telmo’s Centro Región Leonesa (1462 Humberto Primo; 54-911/4147-8687). It’s the best place to dance with locals.