Of all South America’s capitals and major cities, Buenos Aires – aka Capital Federal, Baires, BsAs or simply BA – has by far the most going for it. Seductive and cultured, beguilingly eclectic and in constant flux, it never bores, seldom sleeps and invariably exerts a mesmerizing power over its visitors. Though clearly influenced by the great European capitals, it is a city that nonetheless has it own distinct personality, thanks partly to its deeply entrenched traditions, such as drinking tea-like mate, partly to its proud and hospitable, extravagant and attractive inhabitants – known as Porteños – and partly to its location. To the north and east of the city flows the caramel-hued Río de la Plata (River Plate), the world’s widest river estuary, while to the south and west extends the verdant grassy plain of the Pampas, punctuated by sleepy towns, clumps of pampas grass (cortaderas) and the odd ombú tree, in whose broad shade the gauchos traditionally rested. Away from its extensive harbour facilities, stacked high with containers, and ever-busier cruise-ship docks, the city has tended to shun the river, while its outer suburbs seem to meld seamlessly into the Pampas beyond.
Buenos Aires also enjoys an incomparable lifestyle. Restaurants, bars, cafés and nightclubs to suit every taste and pocket, a world-class opera house, myriad theatres, cinemas and galleries and splendid French-style palaces underscore both its attachment to the arts and its sense of style. Another boon are its countless parks and gardens and the abundance of trees lining the streets – around one-fifth of which are still picturesquely cobbled – and providing shade in the many lively plazas that dot the huge conurbation; they add welcome splashes of colour, particularly when they blaze with yellow, pink and mauve blooms in spring and early summer. The squadrons of squawky parrots that populate them help visitors forget that this is the world’s twelfth-largest city: there are nearly fourteen million inhabitants in the Greater Buenos Aires (Gran Buenos Aires) area, which spills beyond the Ciudad Autónoma’s defining boundary of multi-lane ring roads into Buenos Aires Province.
Indeed, on the map and from the air, the metropolis looks dauntingly huge, stretching over 40km from north to south and more than 30km from west to east. Yet BA’s compact centre and the relative proximity of all the main sights mean that you don’t have to travel that much to gain a sense of knowing the city. Of the city’s 47 barrios (neighbourhoods) you will most probably be visiting only the half-dozen most central. The city centre – comprising the tiny, historic neighbourhoods of San Nicolás and Monserrat – is a hectic place, particularly during the week, but from the bustle of pedestrianized Calle Florida, to the fin-de-siècle elegance of Avenida de Mayo and the café culture of Corrientes, the area is surprisingly varied in both architecture and atmosphere. Providing a quiet counterpoint, the converted dock area of Puerto Madero runs alongside it to the east, beyond which is the unexpectedly wild Reserva Ecológica, one of the city’s most unusual green spaces.
The south of the city, containing its oldest parts, begins just beyond Plaza de Mayo. Its narrow, often cobbled streets are lined with some of the capital’s finest architecture, typified by late nineteenth-century townhouses with ornate Italianate facades, sturdy but elegant wooden doors and finely wrought iron railings. Once seedy, but increasingly gentrified, San Telmo is primarily known for its avant-garde artists, its antiques fair and its tango haunts, while resolutely working-class La Boca, further south still, is so inextricably and fanatically linked with its football team, Boca Juniors – whose main rivals, River Plate, have their stadium in middle-class Belgrano – that many of its buildings are painted blue and yellow. The north of the city is the leafiest and wealthiest part of Buenos Aires. You may well opt to stay in one of the boutique hotels or guesthouses of Retiro, Recoleta and Palermo, head there to shop or dine, or just to wander the labyrinth cobbled streets so beloved of the great Argentine short story writer Jorge Luis Borges. The bulk of the city museums lie within their boundaries, too, with themes as varied as science and Spanish-American art, immigration and Eva Perón.
Buenos Aires lends itself perfectly to aimless wandering, and its mostly ordered grid pattern makes it fairly easy to orient yourself. The boundaries of the Capital Federal are marked by the Río de la Plata to the northeast and by its tributary, the Riachuelo, to the south, while Avenida General Paz forms a semicircular ring around the west of the city, connecting the two. Cutting right across the middle, Avenida Rivadavia, an immensely long street runs east–west for nearly two hundred blocks from Plaza de Mayo to Morón, outside the city limits. The other main east–west thoroughfares are avenidas Corrientes, Córdoba and Santa Fe, while north–south the major routes are Avenida L. N. Além – which changes its name to Avenida del Libertador as it swings out to the northern suburbs – Avenida Callao and Avenida 9 de Julio – a car-oriented conglomeration of four multi-lane roads.
Buenos Aires was named in honour of Nuestra Señora de Santa María del Buen Aire, provider of the good wind, the patron saint of the Spanish sailors who first landed on the banks of the Río de la Plata estuary in 1516. The first successful settlement came in 1580 but, though the Spanish found the horses and cattle that they brought over from Europe thrived, the fertility of the land made little impression on them. They were more interested in precious metals, and named the settlement’s river the Plata (silver) in the belief that it flowed from the lands of silver and gold in the Andes.
Expansion was slow, however, and Buenos Aires remained a distant outpost of the Spanish-American empire for the next two centuries, with smuggling being the mainstay of the local economy. In 1776, in an attempt to shore up its empire, Spain gave the Argentine territories Viceroyalty status, with Buenos Aires as the capital. It was too little, too late: boosted by the defeat of two attempted British invasions, the Viceroyalty declared independence in 1810, freeing the area from the last vestiges of colonial hindrance.
But it was the industrial revolution some half century later that gave the capital of the new republic the opportunity to exploit and export the great riches of the Pampas, thanks to technological advances such as railways and refrigeration – which enabled Europeans to dine on Argentine beef for the first time. Few cities in the world have experienced a period of such astonishing growth as that which spurred Buenos Aires between 1870 and 1914. Massive foreign investment – most notably from the British – poured into the city and Buenos Aires’ stature leapt accordingly. European immigrants, over half of whom were Italians, flocked to the capital, and the city’s population doubled between 1880 and 1890. Most of the old town was razed and an eclectic range of new buildings went up in a huge grid pattern. The standard of living of Buenos Aires’ middle class equalled or surpassed that of many European countries, while the incredible wealth of the city’s elite was almost without parallel anywhere. At the same time, however, much of the large working-class community endured appalling conditions in the city’s overcrowded conventillos, or tenement buildings.
But by the mid-twentieth century the period of breakneck development had come to a close as the country slid into a long period of political turmoil and economic crisis. In September 1945, Buenos Aires saw the first of what was to become a regular fixture – a massive demonstration that filled the city centre. Rallies of almost religious fervour in support of Perón and his wife Evita, who came out onto the balcony of the Casa Rosada to deliver their speeches, followed at regular intervals until Evita’s death and Perón’s deposition.
In the last thirty years, Buenos Aires has been the most visible face of the country’s economic rollercoaster. The temporary stabilization of the currency in the 1990s brought a new upsurge in spending by those who could afford it – and an infrastructure to match. Smart new shopping malls, restaurants and cinema complexes sprung up around the city. But Buenos Aires entered the twenty-first century in retreat, as a grinding recession led to weeks of protests and looting that came to a horrendous head in December 2001, when widespread rioting led to dozen of deaths. Demonstrations and roadblocks by unemployed piqueteros became part of the fabric of everyday life in the city during the messy recovery that followed, with the sad sight of cartoneros rooting through rubbish the most obvious example of the economic problems, and growing crime an inevitable offshoot of this rise in poverty.
However, with the country celebrating its bicentennial in 2010 – and despite some backwash from the global financial crisis – Buenos Aires is looking in good shape. Long overdue repairs have been carried out, welfare plans have reduced (though not eradicated) the worst poverty, and international tourism has been an engine of recovery, leading to dozens of new gourmet restaurants and boutique hotels. Problems remain – traffic, crime, shantytowns and the still frequent roadblocks – but, from the perspective of its 200th birthday, Buenos Aires has cause to look forward with cautious confidence at the next hundred years.Read More
Tango has gained a whole new audience in recent times, with an increasing number of young people filling the floors of social clubs, confiterías and traditional dancehalls for regular events known as milongas. Even if you don’t dance yourself, it’s still worth going to see one: the spectacle of couples slipping almost trance-like around the dancefloor, as if illustrating the oft-quoted remark “tango is an emotion that is danced”, is a captivating sight. Apart from the understated skill and composure of the dancers, one of the most appealing aspects of the milonga is the absence of class – and, especially, age – divisions; indeed, most younger dancers regard it as an honour to be partnered by older and more experienced dancers.
While the setting for a milonga can range from a sports hall to an elegant salon, the structure – and etiquette – of the dances varies little. In many cases, classes are given first. Once the event gets underway, it is divided into musical sets, known as tandas, which will cover the three subgenres of tango: tango “proper”; milonga – a more uptempo sound; and waltz. Each is danced differently and occasionally there will also be an isolated interval of salsa, rock or jazz. The invitation to dance comes from the man, who will nod towards the woman whom he wishes to partner. She signals her acceptance of the offer with an equally subtle gesture and only then will her new partner approach her table. Once on the dancefloor, the couple waits eight compases, or bars, and then begins to dance, circulating in a counter-clockwise direction around the dancefloor. The woman follows the man’s lead by responding to marcas, or signs, given by her partner to indicate the move he wishes her to make. The more competent she is, the greater number of variations and personal touches she will add. Though the basic steps of the tango may not look very difficult, it entails a rigorous attention to posture and a subtle shifting of weight from leg to leg, essential to avoid losing balance. The couple will normally dance together until the end of a set, which lasts for four or five melodies. Once the set is finished, it is good tango etiquette for the woman to thank her partner who, if the experience has been successful and enjoyable, is likely to ask her to dance again later in the evening.
Watching real tango danced is the kind of experience that makes people long to do it themselves. Unfortunately, a milonga is not the best place to take your first plunge; unlike, say, salsa, even the best partner in the world will find it hard to carry a complete novice through a tango. In short, if you can’t bear the thought of attending a milonga without dancing, the answer is to take some classes – you should reckon on taking about six to be able to hold your own on the dancefloor. There are innumerable places in Buenos Aires offering dance classes, including cultural centres, bars and confiterías and, for the impatient or shy, there are private teachers. If you’re going to take classes, it’s important to have an appropriate pair of shoes with a sole that allows you to swivel (no rubber soles). For women, it’s not necessary to wear heels but it is important that the shoes support the instep. At a milonga, however, a pair of well-polished heels is the norm, and will act as a signal that you are there to dance. Any woman going to a milonga, but not intending to dance, should make that clear in her choice of dress and footwear; go dressed to kill and you’ll spend the night turning down invitations from bemused-looking men.
Jewish Buenos Aires
Jewish Buenos Aires
Argentina is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, currently estimated at around 200,000, although this is around half the size it was at its peak in the mid-twentieth century. The majority live in Buenos Aires; the more well-to-do in Belgrano, and the lower middle classes in Once. The latter is where you’ll find most of the city’s kosher restaurants, especially on the streets around Pueyrredón between Córdoba and Corrientes. Approximately eighty synagogues dot the city, including the huge non-Orthodox Central Synagogue, along with more than seventy Jewish educational institutions.
The first Jewish immigrants arrived in Argentina from Western European countries around the middle of the nineteenth century; Jewish refugees later fled here in large numbers from pogroms and persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe, and were commonly known as “rusos”, a term still often used erroneously to refer to all Jews. Perón’s government was one of the first to recognize the State of Israel, but he also halted Jewish immigration and infamously allowed Nazi war criminals to settle in Argentina, including Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer who masterminded the systematic massacre of Jews. Eichmann was later abducted from a Buenos Aires suburb by Israeli secret agents and whisked off for trial and execution in Jerusalem. Jews suffered particularly harshly during the 1976–83 dictatorship, often because they were artists, intellectuals, left-wing sympathizers or anti-junta militants rather than for overtly religious reasons, although many junta members and torturers were openly anti-Semitic; it is estimated that over 1000 of the disappeared were Jewish.
More recently, the Jewish community was the target of two of the country’s most murderous terrorist attacks: a bomb explosion at the Israeli Embassy in 1992, in which around thirty people died, and another at the headquarters of AMIA, the Argentine Jewish association, in 1994, which killed at least 86 people. Despite a long-running investigation, the perpetrators have yet to be found, with locals who had been accused of complicity, including police, cleared in 2004. In 2006, Argentine prosecutors officially accused the Iranian government and Hezbollah of the crime, a charge Teheran adamantly denies. A monument in Plaza Lavalle remembers those who lost their lives.
Borges and Buenos Aires
Borges and Buenos Aires
This city that I believed was my past,
is my future, my present;
the years I have spent in Europe are an illusion,
I always was (and will be) in Buenos Aires.
- Jorge Luis Borges, “Arrabal”, from Fervor de Buenos Aires (1921)
There’s no shortage of literary works inspired by Argentina’s capital city, but no writer has written so passionately about it as Jorge Luis Borges. Though he was born in the heart of Buenos Aires, in 1898, it was the city’s humbler barrios that most captivated Borges’ imagination. His early childhood was spent in Palermo, now one of Buenos Aires’ more exclusive neighbourhoods, but a somewhat marginal barrio at the start of the twentieth century. Borges’ middle-class family inhabited one of the few two-storey houses on their street, Calle Serrano (now officially renamed Calle J. L. Borges), and, though his excursions were strictly controlled, from behind the garden wall Borges observed the colourful street life that was kept tantalizingly out of his reach. In particular, his attention was caught by the men who gathered to drink and play cards in the local almacén (a sort of store-cum-bar) at his street corner. With their tales of knife fights and air of lawlessness, these men appeared time and again in Borges’ early short stories, and, later, in Doctor Brodie’s Report, a collection published in 1970.
Borges’ writing talent surfaced at a precocious age: at 6 he wrote his first short story and when he was 11, the newspaper El País published his translation of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince. However, it was not until he returned from Europe in 1921, where he had been stranded with his family during World War I, that Borges published his first book, Fervor de Buenos Aires, a collection of poems that attempted to capture the essence of the city. Enthused by his re-encounter with Buenos Aires at an age at which he was free to go where he wanted, Borges set out to explore the marginal corners of the city. His wanderings took him to the outlying barrios, where streets lined with simple one-storey buildings blended with the surrounding Pampas, or to the poorer areas of the city centre with their tenement buildings and bars frequented by prostitutes. With the notable exception of La Boca, which he appears to have regarded as too idiosyncratic – and perhaps, too obviously picturesque – Borges felt greatest affection for the south of Buenos Aires. His exploration of the area that he regarded as representing the heart of the city took in not only the traditional houses of San Telmo and Monserrat, with their patios and decorative facades, but also the humbler streets of Barracas, a largely industrial working-class neighbourhood, and Constitución, where, in a gloomy basement in Avenida Juan de Garay, he set one of his most famous short stories, El Aleph.
For a writer as sensitive to visual subtlety as Borges – many of his early poems focus on the city’s atmospheric evening light – it seems particularly tragic that he should have gone virtually blind in his 50s. Nonetheless, from 1955 to 1973, Borges was Director of the National Library, then located in Monserrat, where his pleasure at being surrounded by books – even if he could no longer read them – was heightened by the fact that his daily journey to work took him through one of his favourite parts of the city, from his apartment in Maipú along pedestrianized Florida. As Borges’ fame grew, he spent considerable periods of time away from Argentina, travelling to Europe, the US and other Latin American countries – though he claimed always to return to Buenos Aires in his dreams. Borges died in 1986 in Geneva, where he is buried in the Plainpalais cemetery. Borges pilgrims in Buenos Aires will find a commemorative plaque at no. 2108 on Calle Serrano, inscribed with a stanza from his Mythical Foundation of Buenos Aires.
Day-trips from Buenos Aires
Day-trips from Buenos Aires
For all its parks and tree-lined avenues, Buenos Aires is nonetheless predominantly urban, and it can be nice to get away from the hectic tumult for a day or two. Immediately surrounding the city limits as you cross the Avenida General Paz ring road, the Capital Federal spreads into greater Buenos Aires. Largely residential, the most appealing suburbs are those to the city’s north – the Zona Norte, an affluent suburban world of riverine villas where the subtropical heart that lies beneath Buenos Aires’ European veneer starts to show through. Most worth visiting is San Isidro, which preserves a villagey charm and worthwhile historic quarter that can be accessed via the Tren de la Costa or taxi (about $50). Further on but still easily in day-trip territory you will reach Tigre, a kind of cross between Venice and the Everglades, at the edge of the verdant Paraná Delta.
To the east of the city, meanwhile, boats cross the Río de la Plata to the small Isla Martín García, a steamy island that appears to have walked off the pages of a children’s adventure story. Once used as a penal colony, it is now mostly given over to a nature reserve (visits via Cacciola Turismo in Tigre; 011/4749-0931, www.cacciolaviajes.com). You can also reach the Portuguese colonial historic town of Colonia in Uruguay, or even visit pleasant Montevideo, the capital of Argentina’s rioplatense neighbour – both destinations are served by Buquebus, whose ferries and catamarans depart regularly from Puerto Madero (011/4316-6500, www.buquebus.com).
Go a little further beyond the city in any other direction and you will swiftly emerge in the emerald green pampas, Argentina’s heartlands. Magnificent estancias (farmsteads or ranches) and traditional Pampean villages are close enough to reach as a day-trip, though if possible they really warrant at least one overnight stay. The capital of Buenos Aires province, La Plata, an orderly city with a large, old-fashioned natural history museum, is also only an hour or so on the bus from Retiro.
Buenos Aires’ popularity with international visitors means that many of the city’s best accommodation – at all levels – is frequently full. With around half of all the country’s hotels in the capital, you will always be able find somewhere to stay, but if you are fussy about where you lay your head, you are advised to reserve in advance. At the budget end, there are dozens of hostels, mostly cheerful, well-run places in converted nineteenth-century mansions. If you baulk at dormitory living, consider a private room at a hostel or a costlier but homely B&B, which tend to be a better deal than the city-centre budget and mid-market hotels, many of which can be rather grim. The city has also seen a surge in upmarket boutique hotels, altogether more pleasant (though naturally more expensive) places to stay, catering principally to international visitors and scattered throughout the central neighbourhoods. Wherever you spend the night, a fan or air conditioning is really a requirement in summer, and heating a big plus in winter. Discounts can sometimes be negotiated, particularly if you are staying for more than a few days, but note that credit cards may entail a surcharge. Breakfast is not always included at the budget hotels, but in any case you’ll probably get a better start to the day in a nearby confitería.
Buenos Aires is Latin America’s gastronomic capital and, with many places offering excellent quality for the price, eating out here must count as a highlight of any visit to Argentina. In addition to the ubiquitous pizza and pasta restaurants common to the country as a whole, the capital offers a number of cosmopolitan cuisines, ranging from Armenian and Basque to Thai and Vietnamese. Foodie fashions are enthusiastically adopted; Peruvian haute cuisine and mini-gourmet restaurants in the intimate space of someone’s house are currently all the rage. The city’s crowning glory, however – though you have to be a meat eater – are its parrillas, whose top-end representatives offer the country’s choicest beef cooked on an asador criollo – staked around an open fire. There are plenty of humbler places, too, where you can enjoy a succulent parrillada in a lively atmosphere.
You can learn a lot about Porteños from a little discreet people-watching in the city’s cafés. People stream through all day, from office workers grabbing a quick medialuna in the morning to ladies of leisure taking afternoon tea to students gossiping over a beer or juice in the evenings. They’re not quite the hotbed of revolutionary activity they were in the 1970s, but they’re still in many ways where you’ll find authentic Buenos Aires – over an excellent espresso, usually served with a welcomingly hydrating glass of water. Confiterías are traditional tearooms that also specialize in biscuits, cakes and pastries to accompany the tea and coffee, although the dividing line between these, regular cafés and even restaurants (many serve full-blown meals, at very reasonable prices) can be quite blurred. Most are open from about noon to 8pm.
More than anything else, one institution in Buenos Aires, and indeed the rest of the country, serves as a constant reminder of Argentina’s strong Italian inheritance: the heladería, or ice-cream parlour. Ubiquitous, varied, extremely popular and the subject of fierce debate as to which is the best, these minefields of temptation serve millions of cones and cups daily, and dispatch hundreds of boys on motorbikes to satisfy the needs of those who cannot be bothered to go and out and buy in person.
Drinking and nightlife
Drinking and nightlife
If you’ve come to Buenos Aires eager to experience the city after dark you will not leave disappointed. Porteños are consummate night owls and though nightlife peaks from Thursday to Saturday, you’ll find plenty of things to do during the rest of the week too. Worthwhile venues are spread all over the city, but certain areas offer an especially large selection of night-time diversions. The city’s young and affluent head to Palermo’s Soho and Hollywood to strut their stuff year-round, and the Costanera Norte as well in the summer. El Bajo, as the streets around Reconquista and 25 de Mayo are known, offers a walkable circuit of bars and restaurants as well as the odd Irish pub, while San Telmo harbours some eclectic and charismatic bars in amongst the tango spectacles. Though some bars open all day, most don’t really get going until around midnight. Increasingly, the smoother bars run so-called after offices on weekdays to fill the early evening slot, but these are almost invariably rather sleazy. Websites with worthwhile listings include wwww.adondevamos.com and wwww.wipe.com.ar; for dance clubs, the best listings website is w www.buenosaliens.com.
The arts and entertainment
The arts and entertainment
There’s a superb range of cultural events on offer in Argentina’s capital, ranging from avant-garde theatre to blockbuster movies and grand opera with a wealth of options in between. One of the best features of Porteño cultural life is the strong tradition of free or very cheap events, including film showings at the city’s museums and cultural centres, tango and a series of enthusiastically attended outdoor events put on by the city government every summer; street performers are also of very high quality.
Tango is so strongly associated with Buenos Aires that a visit to the city really isn’t complete unless you immerse yourself in it at least once. The most accessible way for visitors to experience tango is via the tango espectáculos. These generally rather expensive cena shows (dinner followed by a show) are performed by professionals who put on a highly skilled and choreographed display. Many hotels and hostels offer excursions to them, and they’re mostly attended by foreign visitors, though there’s usually a smattering of locals too. Porteños who are tango fans tend to prefer to go either to music recitals – with no dancing – or to milongas to dance themselves. A milonga refers to a moveable event rather than a specific venue, so the days, times and locations of these change frequently; many are situated in the city’s outer barrios, with entry usually around $10 to $20. El Tangauta (wwww.eltangauta.com) is a free magazine with listings, which can generally be picked up at tourist kiosks, hotels, cultural centres and record stores.
There are also regular tango festivals, with a host of free shows and hundreds of classes and milongas – the biggest is the Tango World Championship and Festival, held in August in recent years, and the Día del Tango, celebrated on and around December 11 (Carlos Gardel’s birthday).
Shopping in Buenos Aires is a pleasure unmatched elsewhere in South America. While goods tend to be more Western and familiar than those you will come across in, say, Bolivia or Peru, you can nonetheless count on finding some highly original items to take home.
Palermo Soho is the place to head for independent designer clothing stores, while malls scattered throughout the city house both Argentine and international chains. Shops selling books and music are strung along Avenida Corrientes between 9 de Julio and Callao. Others stretch out on Florida north of Avenida Córdoba, together with a bevy of craft, T-shirt and leather stores aimed at tourists, many of them in covered arcades or galerías. Contemporary art is on sale at the scores of smart galleries that line Retiro, with several along Avenida Alvear, while anyone looking for colonial paintings and antiques should head for San Telmo. The best handicrafts are found in their home provinces rather than in Buenos Aires, but the next best alternative are the craft markets. Other typically Argentine goods include mate paraphernalia, polo wear, wine and world-class leatherware. A box of widely available Havanna alfajores makes a good present, or take a jar or two of dulce de leche away with you to satisfy cravings. For outdoor gear, there is a whole row of camping and fishing shops along the 100 to 200 block of Calle Paraná, just off Corrientes. If you’re heading south, bear in mind Ushuaia and many Patagonian towns are just as well stocked as Buenos Aires, although prices may be higher down there.
Gay and Lesbian Buenos Aires
Gay and Lesbian Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is increasingly considered the major urban gay tourist destination in Latin America. Although the scene can be a disappointment for those looking for specifically gay and lesbian locales, for a lot of gay and lesbian tourists the very attraction is a lack of any “ghetto”, with San Telmo the nearest the city comes to such a phenomenon. As in many Latin American cities, exclusively gay places are not always the best places to go out in any case, especially when it comes to restaurants; anywhere fashionable, with a “mixed” crowd, will most likely prove a better option.
There is also an increasing open-mindedness on the part of its inhabitants and authorities – in 2009 Buenos Aires became the first place in Latin America to sanction gay marriage. The streets, plazas and parks of Buenos Aires can be very cruisy, making them likelier places to meet people than bars or discos, where people tend to go out in groups of friends. Gay Buenos Aires (www.gay-ba.com) is a booklet and website in English and Spanish; it carries comprehensive details of meeting-points, clubs, restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, gay-friendly shops and so forth. Most venues will also hand out a free gay city map, BSASGay (www.mapabsasgay.com.ar), with all the latest locales. Women are far less well catered for than men, but information about events and venues for lesbians can be found at the website www.lafulana.org.ar.
The long-established heart of gay Buenos Aires is the corner of avenidas Pueyrredón and Santa Fe, where nondescript Confitería El Olmo is still the place to hang out on Friday and Saturday evenings for free entrance flyers or discount vouchers, and to find out where to go. Palermo has increasingly become the main magnet, especially Palermo Hollywood, while San Telmo has ambitions to become the Porteño “Village”, or Chueca. For gay milongas, try La Marshall (011 4912 9043, www.lamarshall.com.ar), which holds one at Maipú 444 in the centre at 10pm on Wednesdays – though, as with all milongas, you should check it hasn’t moved on before setting out.