Buenos Aires has one of the most diverse bar scenes in South America. The last few years the Argentinean capital has become completely obsessed with craft beer and door cocktail hideouts, while still keeping it chic with wine bars as of course, local gems serving ice-cold one litre Quilmes beer bottles with no attention whatsoever to interior design. Add chatty porteños, a young expat community and visitors looking for a good time to the mix and you have an excellent place for a fun night out. Read on for the ten best bars in Buenos Aires.
Set in the beautiful 122-year-old San Telmo market, Nilson is an intimate little wine bar facing Calle Carlos Calvo. Serving wine by the glass you can familiarise yourself with a carefully selected range of Argentine whites, rosés and reds without having to go through a whole bottle. The wine on the handwritten blackboard is divided into three different categories; light, medium or full-bodied, and covers everything from white torrontés from Cafayate in the north to big, bold cabernet sauvignons from Mendoza in the west. The atmosphere is intimate and cosy and the perfect place to wind down after a full day of sightseeing.
For all those cheese lovers out there’s also a small selection of cheese to accompany your vino al paso (wine by the glass); the chevrotin – a delicious Argentine version of the French white goats cheese – comes with the best bread you’ve tried in Buenos Aires and goes well with a glass of Mendoza red from Revolución Garage. On Thursdays, there’s live jazz.
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Serving the best vermouth in town, including special blends served on tap, Café San Juan is the place to go for a South American take on the classic Spanish aperitif accompanied by tapas. Take a seat at the bar at the front (there's a restaurant in the back), order a vermouth a la casa with Cinzano 1757 and a Korean pork bao (steamed bun) with kimchi. The bar is small– there are only a dozen bar stools – so you probably have to squeeze in between after-office suits,porteños, tourists and regulars.
You’re not likely to stumble across Dock’s Bar in Palermo – the metal door with no sign and the doorman dressed in a suit and an earpiece makes it look more like a members club than a bar. Which is kind of the point – Docks bar is part of a new fashion in Buenos Aires; hip secret speakeasies. Once you get inside this popular bar is all about the cocktails and the maritime theme: there's a lighthouse in the middle of the room, the waitresses are dressed as sailors and cocktails served in anchor-shaped jugs. You even have to listen to a short introduction about the history of the bootleg booze trade from London to the US in the 1920sbefore you can enter. The place is packed on weekends.
For the best craft beer in town, you need to venture out from Buenos Aires' bar hub number one, Palermo. You'll find Strange Brewing in Colegiales, an up and coming neighbourhood with a more local hipster flair. The slightly strange (on-brand) logo of a racoon mounting a dog sets the tone but don’t let the jovial and eyebrow-raising symbol fool you – this place takes its beer seriously and serve and make some of the best IPA's in the city. They don’t take reservations and the place is usually packed.
Sophisticated and classic, Verne Cocktail Club serves some of the finest cocktails in town – and is a well-deserved addition to our list of the best bars in Buenos Aires. With bartenders dressed in white shirts and black ties, dim lighting, brown chesterfield-inspired sofas and red carpets the atmosphere is sophisticated and classic.Take a seat at the bar to watch the skilled and knowledgeable bartenders make your desired cocktail to perfection or invent one based on your likings. The menu is inspired by Jules Verne’s 80 Days Around the World; the Royal Pear with Beefeater Gin, Carpano Dry and pear nectar gives you a taste of the British capital whilst the Bombay and Indian Tonic with a bold twist of 12-year-old Talisker whiskey, Fernet Branca and curry takes you right to India. The bar arranges cocktail-themed nights throughout the week.
Vico Wine Bar put wine on tap on the map in Buenos Aires. In a city where you struggle to find anything else than the house red served by the glass, Vico Wine Bar in Villa Crespo is one of few (if not the only) bars in the city serving that only serves red wine by the glass. It’s the perfect place to get familiar with Argentine wines and you can even choose the size of your serving. Surprisingly they also do excellent cocktails and their gimlet is one of the best in town. If you’re hungry don’t worry – order a cheese and cold cut platter including brie, blue cheese, mortadella and salami sprinkled with figs and walnuts. There’s also a branch in Palermo.
Café San Bernardo is situated on busy Avenida Corrientes in Villa Crespo and it's an old-school local’s place at heart. The bar has been around since 1912 and is classic no-frills. The place is spacious with big fans on the walls and the odd Quilmes beer crate on the floor – it's a great choice for an inexpensive night out. Share an ice-cold litre of beer, shoot some pool, and eat classic heavy Argentine minutas. The service is traditional – all waiters are male and the majority over 50. The bar organises truco tournaments if you want to have a go at the trick-taking card game that's very popular in Argentina.
416 Snack Bar in hip Palermo Hollywood is perfect for a date or just to sip delicious cocktails with friends in a sleek environment. The atmosphere is trendy yet romantic with very dim lighting and candle lit high tables with bar stools. On the menu you find delicious and innovative drinks flavoured with chilli or rose water, a few selected Argentine wines by the bottle and small plates with international flavours; think Indian daal, Korean pork buns and steak tartare (the owner hails from Canada and brings a dash of Toronto to Buenos Aires).
Formerly Dachshund and Hot Dogs, now called Artisano after a change in ownership, this bar is off the beaten track in Almagro and one for travellers wanting to branch out from the classic Palermo pub crawl. This is where Almagro locals come to chat over a beer and eat innovative hot dogs; some with guacamole and caramelised onion, others with provolone cheese and chimichurri mayonnaise. They serve craft beer on tap and get extra props for a complete second menu for vegetarians.
One for the bohemian art lovers, this popular neighbourhood bar would not look out of place in the movie Amélie. Busy even during the week, join the local crowd at Musetta to share a bottle of wine, eat pizza, drink beer and engage in deep conversations. The interior is charmingly eccentric with black and white checked flooring, a piano and books lining the walls.
For more on Buenos Aires check out our updated Where to Stay guide.
Top image: People sitting outside the Meridian 58 restaurant in the trendy area of Palermo Viejo known as Soho. Buenos Aires, Argentina © Yadid Levy/APA Digital