Take a weekend in . . . Buenos Aires
From a fashionable supper club to a visit to Evita’s tomb, there’s more to the Argentinian city than steak and tango
In front of tango mural in Palermo Viejo
Trees in a nature reserve in Buenos Aires
Evita’s tomb at Recoleta Cemetary
Sure you can have a tango-filled, steak-fuelled weekend in Buenos Aires. But Argentina’s capital and largest city also has a much more contemporary side that has been emerging from its traditional roots and European influences for years now. Blame it on a creative class of Porteños, as the locals are known, who have turned the Latin metropolis into a vibrant, cosmopolitan community. And it’s a movement that keeps evolving. From hidden supper clubs to bankrolled art galleries to buzzing boutiques, the sprawling city is a study of sophistication on the rise. But that doesn’t mean you should bypass the old timey cafes and parrillas. Partly what makes the city so irresistibly alive right now is its checkered past peeking through its new personality.
1 National ghosts
Jump right into the city’s history at the famous Recoleta Cemetery. You’ll join stray cats and roaming tourists who drift among the more than 6,400 above ground mausoleums. Their mishmash of styles from Art Nouveau to neo-Gothic reflect the different eras in which the moneyed classes were buried. The cemetery, covering four city blocks, became the final resting place for presidents and generals, poets and businessmen. It’s also a remarkably pretty and peaceful parcel of land. That is, until you discover the glossy black Duarte Family crypt, where Eva Perón, or Evita, was buried and where crowds appear like ghosts to flash cameras and lay flowers in respect for Argentina’s former “Spiritual Leader of the Nation”.
2 Evening aperitivo
You can mark the end of the day by the traffic in the streets and the number of Porteños sitting at cafes. Aperitivo, a casual evening drink, is a popular pastime and one of the city’s oldest cafes, La Biela, is just a stone’s throw from the famed necropolis. Join the suave men with white hair and pressed suits inside the sweeping corner space, lined with warm wood and decorated with framed photos and artifacts that illustrate its long affiliation with racecar driving. Or opt for a plastic chair on the sprawling terrace. Either way, you’ll be joining a 150-year lineage of patrons who have included politicians, actors, artists and writers, including Jorge Luis Borges, who lived just down the street. To give your evening extra kick, order coffee with liqueur and cream, from about 60 Argentine pesos or €7.50.
3 Insider dining
By dinnertime you’ll feel right at home in Buenos Aires, at least if you reserve a spot at Casa Felix, the private supper club in the airy home of Diego Felix and Sanra Ritten. The couple, he’s Argentine, she’s from San Diego, were on the forefront of the city’s private restaurant trend when they opened their doors in the quiet, tree-lined residential Chacarita neighbourhood in 2007. Since then, they’ve become one of the most popular dining spots in town, serving a five-course, Latin American-inspired, pescatarian meal in their home three nights a week (one night a week during the Argentine winter months). At the start of the night, a mix of tourists, expats and locals bond in the backyard garden over welcome drinks, concocted with local pisco (brandy) and hors d’oeuvres inspired by ingredients that come right from the garden, like fontina wrapped in chayote leaves.