Argentina’s capital, synonymous with steak and tango, has been a tourist hotspot for more than a decade. But there is another city just off the beaten path — and it’s the combination of Buenos Aires’ thriving art scene, legendary nightlife, and friendly locals that keeps visitors coming back.
1. Sip on reds and whites. Visit local wine bar La Cava Jufré in the Villa Crespo neighborhood and join porteños for a glass (or two). Be sure to try Bonarda and Torrontés, lesser-known varietals that do well in Argentina’s unique terroir (glass, approximately $8).
2. Try some offal. A día del campo at a ranch in San Antonio de Areco, just 70 miles from Buenos Aires, offers a chance to sample the Argentine asado (barbecue), which includes an array of grilled offal (organ meats), such as chinchulín (intestines), molleja (sweetbreads) and morcilla (blood sausage) ($100, El Ombú de Areco).
3. Live for the night. The city’s recent obsession with craft cocktails can be explored at Florería Atlántico (Retiro), Yonkos (Recoleta) or Verne Club (Palermo) before dancing the night away. Just don’t show up at any boliches (dance clubs) before 2 a.m.
4. Take center stage. The majestic El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a former theater in Barrio Norte, has been transformed into what’s been called the world’s “second most beautiful” bookstore. Relax with a book on the ornate stage where legendary tango artists once performed.
5. Pick a team. Soccer is more than just a sport for Argentines: It’s a passion. You can see why by checking out the city’s biggest soccer rivalry (and liveliest match) between Boca Juniors and River Plate. LandingPadBA offers tickets with transportation and a guide (price varies).
6. Find your rhythm. Head to La Bomba del Tiempo, a live drum show on Monday nights in the Abasto neighborhood. The musical director leads the improvised performance by communicating with the 16 percussionists using more than 70 unique hand signals ($4).
7. Pony up. After soccer, polo is arguably Argentina’s favorite pastime. Head over to the Palermo Polo Field to see a match. Tournaments take place on the weekends in November and December (ticket prices vary).
8. Shop ’til you drop. You’ll find Argentina’s hip young designers as well as more established boutiques, such as Carla Danelli and PRÜNE, in Palermo Soho, named for its resemblance to New York City’s neighborhood. Visit Murillo Street just north of Palermo Soho for quality leather products.
9. Evoke Evita. Recoleta neighborhood in downtown Buenos Aires offers a snapshot of Argentine history and culture, from Eva Perón’s tomb to the National Museum of Fine Arts, to the iconic Floralis Genérica, a steel flower sculpture designed to open and close with the sun (free admission to museum).
10. Revel in baritone and soprano. Catch a show at the historic Colón Theater, which has hosted talents from Luciano Pavarotti to Plácido Domingo. The theater, renovated and reopened in 2010, also offers guided tours ($17).
Bons is an editor for Americas Quarterly