While Buenos Aires is more than just tango and grilled meat, we still love to embrace what makes a culture so unique when taking a break from our routine lives. And if you don’t have quite the regular 9-5, it’s still a wonderful escape when traveling to a new country to dive into the culture and see what makes them, well . . . them.
After searching through various travel blogs, magazines, review sites, and personal experiences – I’ve compiled a list of some favorite places to check out while in this Argentine city. But first, the most beautifully written description of the long-standing tradition comes from Four Seasons Magazine:
“It developed in the city’s bars and brothels, practised by immigrants from southern Europe who in the 50 years from 1860 turned a compact city of 90,000 into a teeming metropolis of more than 1 million.
Without a common language, the newcomers invented their own—Lunfardo, an impenetrable dialect infused with the oaths and supplications of a hundred mother tongues. Squatting 10 to a room in tenements and shanties—unsettled, uncertain and consumed by nostalgia—the immigrants poured their frustration into music and song.
The tango later passed from bordello to bourgeoisie, but glimmers of its darker roots can still be seen at the city’s milongas, or open-floor neighbourhood dance nights. Beginners and aficionados hone their steps as singers recount tragic tales of hardship and struggle, of love won and lost, of prostitutes and drugs and of silent death that strikes on a dark night.”
So when looking to experience “real” tango outside the tourist hubs like La Boca and San Telmo, you’ll want to try a milonga or a real tango music / dance hall.
La Virtua – Late Nights, Early Mornings
The most popular one that locals, some of the city’s top dancers, and tourists alike frequent is La Virtua. This is a late night spot as the crowds don’t get big until 3:30 to 4:00AM, so take a late afternoon nap and get ready to dance to the early hours of the morning.
Milonga Parakultural at Salon Canning – A Long Standing Institution
Another popular spot on the not-to-miss list is Milonga Parakultural at Salon Canning. Having been around for over 15 years, the milonga draws a diverse crowd including people of all ages and levels of dancers. They also have live music and performances almost nightly.
La Milonga de Los Zucca – Where the Best Dressed Shine
If you’re just looking to watch and want to see some of the best dressed men and women at the party, dress up yourself and head over to La Milonga de Los Zucca for an evening out. Located in a grand hall, you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time to when the original immigrants brought tango to the Latin streets of Argentina. But, it is just on Thursday evenings, so don’t miss out on the wonderfully traditional evening.
La Catedral del Tango – Dive Bar with a Tango Twist
For those of you who are brave enough to try out those dance moves you learned on YouTube or at some bar around the corner, La Catedral del Tango is one of the best spots to go. With the feeling of that New Orleans jazz dive bar with a Latin twist, you won’t see the top dancers take the stage. But it is a wonderful place to practice late into the night before you step out on to the floor at some of the more prestigious milongas.
And for all you need to know about arriving to Buenos Aires, check out my Hipmunk post live on their site before you book your flights!