Buenos Aires: An ageless Latin Seductress

27.03.2014

The most enchanting characteristics of Argentina’s capital may not be entirely genetic in terms of having grown from an indigenous seed – as accounts perhaps for other metropolises. Buenos Aires’ obvious charm is much rather the result of the Old World wanting to settle in the new one without abandoning their familiar ways and traditions. Immigrants arriving to the country during the nineteenth century created a fascinating mix of distinct ‘European’ style neighbourhoods by lending their foreign identities to acquired territory: Madrid is now in Avenida de Mayo, Paris in Recoleta and Alvear Avenue or Naples in La Boca. Downtown Buenos Aires exudes the atmosphere of grand colonial times to this date. Spanish, Italian and French cultures made sure to also leave their legacy in sectors such as education, art, architecture and gastronomy.

Native and European ingredients were blended into a random cocktail of cultures and races that goes down well, the dark political ages of a country suppressed by a military junta are long gone. Today a new wave of expatriates seeking a fresh challenge in life enriches the ever increasing diversity in urban population. Buenos Aires has been moulded by many minds and hands – to become one of the most alluring and liveable cities on the globe. Could three million Porteňos err?

Conquering the neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires

Of Buenos Aires’ 48 neighbourhoods, so-called barríos, San Telmo is one of the oldest and perhaps the most popular one. Aristocratic families once used to live comfortably along its cobbled streets. Present-time visitors determined to experience a fair share of excitement, should come on weekends, when San Telmo turns into a turbulent circus bulging with activities, with international crowds noisily pushing through authentic streets, foraging for the treasures big or small that are offered on the antique market (not flea and not cheap!) or in one of the many shops. The opportunity to watch locals and tourists alike when giving their individual passionate Tango interludes means: you have now arrived in Buenos Aires! San Telmo is easily conquered on foot and about a ten minutes’ walk away from the city quarter of Recoleta, where up-market five-star hotels are ready to receive discriminating customers. The barrío of Palermo is considered Buenos Aires’ most elegant residential neighbourhood and a perfect choice when it comes to safety, more Tango, busy Sunday open markets, good shopping and: state-of-the-art hotels. A fine example of a luxury boutique hotel is the Algodon Mansion. www.algodonmansion.com

The conventillos of La Boca - one of the districts founded first.

The conventillos of La Boca – one of the districts founded first.

La Boca (the mouth) in the harbour area definitely has to be on the menu of any interested visitor. Images of conventillos – picturesque houses painted in brilliant colours typical of this district – are travelling the world. The building material was scraped together by poor immigrants and mostly consists of remnants from the shipyards nearby, like wooden planks, metal and corrugated iron sheets. There are bars, canteens and inns, many serving Italian food abundantly plus a couple of good museums lining the two dominant streets, one of which is Caminito. While in La Boca it is advisable to be on guard, at night especially.

A cultural heritage: the plethora of cafés and bars

Buenos Aires is brimming with atmospheric cafés and bars! A considerable number of them now carries the quality brand ‘cafés notables’, after having been declared a cultural heritage by the government. One of them is El Gato Negro in Avenida Corrientes in the San Nicolás quarter, but the one whose fame shines furthest is undoubtedly the legendary Tortoni:

Café Tortoni - a legend.

Café Tortoni – a legend.

Now in Avenida de Mayo No. 825, the purportedly oldest café in town was founded by a French immigrant in 1858. With its distinct interior, the traditional menu, its waiters and its specific customers alike it has become the archetype of the Buenos Aires café bar. Albeit the name was simply copied from a trendy café in Paris! Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Tortoni has been a reliable haven for intellectuals, famous artists, influential politicians and quite regular downtown folks as well. Within its walls, the Argentinian past has successfully been preserved in pictures, poems and by the busts opulently decorating the inside, telling visitors the touching story of this unique meeting place – which is also a popular venue for Jazz and Tango shows. www.cafetortoni.com.ar

Puerto Madero – the city’s most contemporary – and expensive – quarter spreads out in the old docks, which have been restored and converted into a busy lifestyle area. Delicious food is to be had in hundreds of tantalising outlets – just in case the stomach grumbles during a stroll along the fashionable banks of the Rio de la Plata.

Situated right here is the Faena luxury hotel, which also manages a notable venue only two blocks away: the Faena Arts Center, a large, two-storey gallery done by Foster & Partners is located in the refurbished Los Molinos building. The first floor featuring high warehouse ceilings is ideal for large parties and exhibitions requiring space, whereas the second also allows configurations using temporary partitions. www.faena.com

Another target for the discerning client may be the Park Tower, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Avenida Leandro N. Alem 1193 in the barrío of Retiro. A Starwood member, the hotel offers 181 Biedermeier-style guest rooms and six board and meetings rooms plus a well-equipped business centre. Adjacent is the Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel & Convention Center, which provides additional meeting and convention facilities accessible through the hotel’s lobby. www.starwoodhotels.com

TANGO everywhere!

Dancing Tango in the street

Over the past years, Tango has experienced a breathtaking revival sweeping the entire world off its twitchy feet. Tango schools – where dance enthusiasts practice along melancholy bandoneon music to the point of exhaustion – are still sprouting like mushrooms. There are many variations of the traditional Tango, one must know: Tango argentino – canyengue – Uruguayan – liso – salon – orillero – camacupense – milonguero – nuevo – show – ballroom and: Finnish.
See, how Finnish Tango works in writing:

Quote Wiki: It is danced in very close full thigh, pelvis and upper body contact in a wide and strong frame, and features smooth horizontal movements that are very strong and determined. Dancers are very low, allowing long steps without any up and down movement, although rises and falls are optional in some styles. Forward steps land heel first except when descending from a rise, and in backward steps dancers push from the heel. In basic steps, the passing leg moves quickly to rest for a moment close to the grounded leg. Dips and rotations are typical. There is no open position, and typically feet stay close to the floor, except in dips the follower might slightly raise the left leg. Unlike in some Latin American tango styles, in Finnish tango there is no kicking of any kind, and there are no aerials. Quote ends

Every August the city hosts the Buenos Aires Tango Festival, a nine-day carnival of events, including shows, exhibitions, free classes, milongas and concerts at a variety of venues. It is followed by the prestigious World Tango Championships later in the month.

When duty calls for MICE

Buenos Aires also offers an abundance of MICE facilities suitable for events of all shapes and sizes: Three exhibition centres with a total surface of more than 150.000 s.qm and state-of-the-art technical services and 4- and 5-star hotels with 500+ halls and individual capacities for up to 2,400 persons. Unconventional spaces making unusual venues – like former factories, soccer stadiums, restaurants, theatres, cultural centres and even some hangars inside the Aeroparque Metropolitano regional airport, complement classical alternatives. Not to be omitted: the large number of sensational cafés and bars catering for the leisure side to business, 74 in total.

www.buenosairesbureau.com

www.turismo.gov.ar

Copyright for all photos: ©INPROTUR.