Sexy, alive and supremely confident, this beautiful city gets under your skin. Like Europe with a melancholic twist, Buenos Aires is unforgettable.
1.CEMENTERIO DE LA RECOLETA
Meander through the maze of narrow lanes lined with elaborate mausoleums in what must be the world’s most ostentatious necropolis.
This ‘city of the dead’ was BA’s first public cemetery, though it quickly became exclusive; Argentina’s most illustrious historical figures are buried here, including Eva Perón (‘Evita’). Myriad styles decorate the crumbling tombs, from art nouveau and art deco to neoclassical and neo-Gothic.
There are also wonderfully flamboyant statues to discover, so pay your respects to Evita before getting lost among the marble angels.
2. TANGO SHOW
Nothing captures the essence of Buenos Aires like the sensual and melancholy tango, and no visit to the city is complete without experiencing tango in some form.
Watch it in a San Telmo or La Boca street fair, see a slick show at a theatre or join a milonga (dance event) at dozens of venues.
Tango classes are often held before milongas, so take part – or just watch, but don’t look too long at that handsome stranger across the room; a stare is an invitation to dance, and you could be breaking some hearts.
3. FOOTBALL GAME
In Buenos Aires, futbol isn’t just a game. The national pastime inspires near-religious passion in porteños, clearing the streets and sending spectators into fits of ecstasy and anguish as they huddle around TV screens or brave the explosive stadium crowds.
The atmosphere is particularly boisterous (read: out of control) when River Plate and arch-rivals Boca Juniors face off during the much-anticipated superclásico games. The tension is palpable, and for two hours on a Sunday afternoon here, nothing else really matters.
4. STEAK DINNER
Believe the hype: Argentine beef is some of the best in the world. Eat, drink and be merry at one of BA’s hundreds of parrillas (steakhouses), where a leisurely meal begins with waiters pouring Malbec and carving generous slabs of prime beef.
Parrillas run the gamut from neighbourhood joints to classic establishments to upscale restaurants, so there’s a price for every pocket. One thing is certain: expect some of the best meat you’ve ever eaten.
5. PLAZA DE MAYO
Founded in 1580, Plaza de Mayo is the stage on which many of the dramatic events in Argentina’s history were played out, from military bombings in 1955 to Evita’s emotional speeches to massive union demonstrations (still going today).
Most of the time, however, it’s a peaceful place where families feed pigeons and the odd pickpocket makes off with a tourist’s camera (stay sharp and you’ll be OK!).
If you’re here on a Thursday afternoon, you might witness Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo: mothers peacefully marching for social-justice causes.
This is an edited extract from Lonely Planet Buenos Aires (7th Edition) by Sandra Bao © Lonely Planet 2014. Published this month, RRP: NZ$39.99.