It’s hard to pinpoint the most famous export of Buenos Aires – it could be Jorge Luis Borges or Malbec, but then again, the tango might be the winner. It’s clear to see how the iconic dance was born in a city full of passions, where it isn’t just the moves that are sensuous, but the art, the food, the people.
To delve into the intriguing history of Buenos Aires, visit the National Museum of Decorative Arts in the Recoleta neighborhood. Housed in the ornate neoclassical home of the Errázuriz Alvear Family Palace, it’s the only mansion of that era that is open to the public. (The rest were destroyed or remain private, as hotels and embassies.) The house is frozen in time, with its luxurious collection of sculptures, paintings, tapestries, weapons, books, ceramics and furniture on display. Each room harks back to a different historical era, like the grand, double-height Great Hall with walls covered in tapestry and wood, reminiscent of 16th-century English Tudor style. It’s easy to imagine the parties thrown in the mirror-paneled Regency-inspired ballroom, or the dinners hosted in the baroque dining room that takes its cues from Versailles.
When you’re ready for your own feast, amble over to nearby Casa Cavia, which offers a banquet for the senses. The elegantly historic building is now home to a restaurant, bar, bookstore, publishing house and a flower shop, where no detail is spared. The cocktail menu is printed on a record, and each libation is a musician’s favorite drink, including David Bowie (gin, yellow pepper nectar, lime) and Bob Dylan (peach, bourbon, aged rum, Grand Marnier, clarified milk). The artfully arranged cuisine is bait for food influencers, but it tastes as good as it looks, especially when enjoyed in a lush courtyard garden with a soothing pool. Work off your meal by exploring the rest of the house, which will spark major design inspiration.
For your own home away from home, rest your head at the Park Tower Hotel. The elegant rooms boast fantastic views of the city, overlooking Plaza San Martin. Sample new Argentine cuisine at their chic St. Regis Restaurant. For a family-friendly option, stay at the adjoining Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel – kids will love the pool, while parents will love the vistas.
The place where you’ll probably be able to see the most famous Argentines in one place is Recoleta Cemetery. The mausoleums are works of art in themselves. It contains the graves of presidents of Argentina, scientists, Nobel Prize winners, the founder of the Argentine Navy, a granddaughter of Napoleon, and Eva Perón. To take in the place where she gave her famous stirring speech, visit Casa Rosada, where she stood on the balcony to address the crowds in Plaza de Mayo below. Known for its signature rosy hue – which came from mixing cattle’s blood with white paint, a common practice in the late 19th century – the building houses the president of Argentina’s offices.
To get a glimpse of Argentina’s past and present, go back in time again at The Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernández Blanco, which has a sprawling collection of Spanish and Latin American art in a 1920s mansion in the neocolonial Peruvian style, with a tranquil garden. Everything from silver from Bolivia to baroque instruments to religious paintings to furniture is exhibited. At the other end of the spectrum is the Malba Museum, displaying Latin American art from the early 20th century to the present in a strikingly modern space. Its mission is to show the depth and breadth of Latin American art both to locals and the world at large.
Though Buenos Aires is a bustling city, locals love their green spaces and parks. This is especially evident at The Buenos Aires Botanical Garden in Palermo. Declared a national monument in 1996, it has five greenhouses and approximately 5,500 species of plants, trees and shrubs. Walking around the peaceful grounds, which are dotted with sculptures and monuments, it’s hard to believe you’re in the center of the city. For a flower of a different sort, the Floralis Generalis has been capturing the hearts of locals and tourists alike since it was installed in 2002 by local architect Eduardo Catalano next to the National Museum of Fine Arts. The massive 105-foot-wide moving flower sculpture is powered by the sun; its petals open in the morning and slowly close at sunset.
To really connect with nature – not just metal – venture outside of the city to Estancia El Ombú, a gaucho ranch in San Antonio de Areco. There’s nothing quite like taking in the Argentine countryside while on a horseback ride as the property’s many dogs run alongside you. Fuel up back at the ranch with a traditional barbecue meal, with as much meat as you can eat, served in several different cuts and styles. But don’t forget to save room for the beef empanadas, which are so delectable that they steal attention from the steak. Post lunch, take in traditional folk songs and dances performed by the ranch hands (quite the multitasking people!), with an explanation of where they come from and what they mean. Finally, watch a soothing “doma india,” a nonviolent horse taming technique that is a signature of the gauchos. If the taste of meat whet your appetite for more, back in Buenos Aires, chow down at La Cabrera Restaurant for quintessential Argentinian traditional cuisine.
No visit to Buenos Aires is complete without exploring Palermo Soho, the city’s trendiest neighborhood. Tour guide Eugenia Girardi (@eugenegirardi on Instagram) shares her insider’s perspective by taking you to her favorite local spots. Her walking tour kicks off with a chocolate and ice cream tasting at Rapanui, an artisanal shop with delectable handmade sweets. Next, Santi Pecci, a specialist in street art and its meanings, guides you through Russell’s Passage, the most iconic graffiti street of the city, explaining the cultural significance behind the works. The tour ends with a tasting at Mate&Co, a 100 percent organic yerba mate shop known for its unique blends of flowers, spices and fruits. Mate is the signature drink of Argentina – essentially it’s their version of morning coffee. Afterwards, amble through the Plaza Armenia crafts fair, then through the streets of Palermo. You might catch people dancing tango – you never know in Buenos Aires.