One of South America’s most cosmopolitan and culturally rich cities, Buenos Aires sits on the western bank of the River Plate, a 78-square-mile block divided into 48 barrios or neighbourhoods.
Argentina’s capital has been nipped and tucked over the past decade. The introduction of Metrobus bus and cycle lanes (including free bike hire) has helped to ease congestion, while love has been showered over the city's green spaces. And, yes, the architecture that resembles Paris still exists, wrought-iron balconies living harmoniously alongside modern apartment blocks, red-brick warehouses and a mix of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Brutalist styles.
BA is a big city, and deciding which barrio to base yourself is an important consideration. To help you decide, we’ve put together this area-by-area guide on where to stay in Buenos Aires.
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The political and historical heart of Buenos Aires, Microcentro comes alive during the week thanks to thousands of office workers on the nine-to-five beat; come evenings and weekends, the buzz dies down. Plaza de Mayo square is the ideal starting point, its four streets lined with key sights such as Casa Rosada (home to Argentina's president), the Metropolitan Cathedral – Pope Francis's former parish and the Cabildo (Town Hall).
It’s also home to cheesy Calle Florida, packed with hawkers and informal money exchange touts. There are still a couple of gems to be found here – the time warp bar notable Florida Garden, the Galerías Pacifico shopping mall with its ceiling frescoes and the Centro Cultural Borges are all worth a look.
For luxury living: NH Collection Buenos Aires Centro Histórico
A stone’s throw from Plaza de Mayo, rooms are well-appointed; splash out on a presidential suite for ceiling-to-floor Microcentro views or make a splash in the rooftop swimming pool.
For budget stays:Milhouse
This three-storey townhouse with a homely vibe ticks all the boxes for backpackers. Friendly staff keep guests entertained with an array of activities, from tango classes to football matches.
The barrio of choice for Argentina’s wealthy upper class (both living and resting in peace), Recoleta is best known for its architecturally magnificent cemetery crammed with lavish mausoleums (including Eva Perón’s relatively modest final quarters), posh Avenida Alvear lined with swanky boutiques and the city’s most expensive properties and the colonial-style Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar church.
For luxury living:Palacio Duhau-Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
Big budgets should book a suite in the stunning early 20th-century palace but you can still enjoy VIP treatment staying at the extremely comfortable new-build block on the the other side of the lush garden.
For budget stays: Voyage
Enjoy old-world vibes at this small hostel that houses five private rooms and eight dorms across an century-old mansion.
Leading from Plaza de Mayo is Avenida de Mayo a tree-lined boulevard packed with architectural gems that leads you to Argentina’s political heart, Congreso. As you wander north, landmarks include the Casa de la Cultura, which offers free tours, Café Tortoni (prepare to queue for coffee and churros) as well as the Museo Mundial de Tango and the marvellous, eclectic, Palacio Barolo (book a private tour to see inside). The avenue ends at Plaza del Congreso, dominated by the Greco-Roman style Congreso Nacional (and possibly get caught up in a demonstration, a feature of life in BA).
For faded grandeur:Castelar
Spanish poet Federico García Lorca stayed at this pleasant, old-fashioned hotel located on a prime piece of Avenida de Mayo real estate. Rooms sport large and comfy beds, and there’s also a sauna and spa.
For budget stays: Bauen
This time-warp hotel was the bee’s knees in its heyday, until management closed it down in 2002. Employees, however, were having none of it and took it back over as a worker-led co-operative. Rooms are a misfitting array of styles, but the location and the price are top-notch.
Buenos Aires’ bohemian heart is firmly ensconced in San Telmo where faded grandeur and crumbling façades meet cobbled lanes and street art; it’s a joy for art lovers and architecture fans hunting down Instagrammable images such as Casa Mínima, the narrowest house in the city, former tobacco factory turned modern art museum (MAMBA) and spontaneous tango dancers hot footing it around Plaza Dorrego.
Stop by indoor market Mercado de San Telmo for a weird and wonderful mix of hip dining spots, butchers and antiques sellers during the week; on Sundays, Plaza Dorrego makes way for dozens of antiques stands, Calle Defensa fanning out from this focal point to be taken over by artisans in both directions. If you're wondering where to stay in Buenos Aires and you have a creative bent, San Telmo is your place.
For a swim above the city:Mansion Vitraux Boutique Hotel
Featuring a rooftop pool with panoramic city views, and situated in the historical San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, next to Dorrego square.
For hotel-meets-hostel:Circus Hostel
With the friendliness and ambience of the former but the comforts of the latter (including en-suite bathrooms and a decked swimming-pool), Circus is in the thick of the barrio.
Buenos Aires’ dining and nightlife hub, Palermo is also its largest barrio, divided up into unofficial areas such as Hollywood, Soho and Botánico. It’s also the greenest, home to Parque Tres de Febrero, Japanese Gardens, Carlos Thays Botanical Gardens and Plaza Alemania.
Shopaholics adores Soho’s cute boutiques and weekend street markets at Plazoleta Cortazar and Plaza Armenia, while those after a bite to eat – followed up by bar or pub crawling then sweating it all off in a nightclub – go out in Hollywood.
For a stylish stay:Home
This masterpiece of modern architecture and hotel design is so carefully thought out, from the outdoor pool area to the breakfast room, there really is no place like it.
For a hotel close to nightlife: Hotel Clasico
This modern hotel is situated 650 yards from Plaza Serrano Square and not far from the bustle of Soho.
Abandoned for decades, Buenos Aires’s docklands – where converted red-brick warehouses and high rise apartment blocks converge – were regenerated in the 1990s, offering up an unexpectedly shiny side to the city. Traverse the trails and grasslands at the Reserva Ecológica nature reserve, step aboard the two museum ships ARA Presidente Sarmiento and ARA Uruguay, or check out exhibits at the Faena Arts Center and Colección de Arte Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat.
For contemporary luxury: Faena
Top designer Philippe Starck overhauled this former grain warehouse to create a hospitality wonderland favoured by rocks stars: it features a hammam, a restaurant decorated with unicorn heads and, of course, extremely plush rooms.
For better-than-budget:Hotel Madero
Cool design and light spacious rooms, some with outdoor hot tubs, make this a fantastic – and well-priced – option in the barrio.
Top image: City of Buenos Aires © Shutterstock