Buenos Aires Nightlife
Tel: 54 11 4834 6969
Chilean fun lover Juan Santa Cruzthe driving force behind Casa Cruz, celebs' favorite Palermo dining spotopted for the same blackened walls and iconic gilt doors at next-door Bar Isabel. Glitzy dressing will get you into the seventies-inspired interior, where banks of ceiling lights pulsate to upbeat house, and waiters sell "Isabelinas," casino-type chips used at the bar as scrip. The drink menu varies with the hour, kicking off with the hangover-soothing Bamboo (dry sherry, vermouth, and orange bitters) and aperitifs based on Campari, Cynar, and champagne; heavy-hitting martinis, punches, and pink gins emerge after midnight. Guests grab a plate of octopus carpaccio and retire to the white marble, jasmine-trailed courtyard, where logs crackle in the fireplace even on steamy summer nights.
Tel: 54 11 4361 0141
Perhaps the most celebrated dive in all of Buenos Aires, Bar Plaza Dorrego has been pouring one icy-cold chopp (draught beer) after another for nigh on a century. The creaky old joint—with its checkered-tile floors, wooden tables gouged with graffiti, dusty bottles lining the walls, and ancient cash register—is the perfect perch for observing the doings of the Sunday-afternoon feria in Plaza Dorrego.
1891 Avenida Alvear
Tel: 54 11 4808 2100
Tucked into a corner of the Alvear Palace's colossal interior of towering columns, breccia marble, and gilt ornamentation, the Art Decoinspired Cigar Bar is a delightfully cozy den. Paneled with walnut and beveled mirrors and stuffed with walnut-and-leather chairs, it's snug enough for smokers to eavesdrop on gossiping sultans, business moguls, and upper-crust locals as they savor a puff on Cuba's best. Discreet barmen, who know their gutsy Churchills from their svelte Cohibasthe menu ranks each cheroot by smoking time and girthoffer pertinent comment on the four-dozen Cognac and Armagnac bottles behind the black marble bar, and pick out a hand-printed Lindt chocolate, flavored with South American herbs and fruits, to match your smoke.
Tel: 54 11 4307 6689
Housed in a former San Telmo general store dating back to 1798, El Viejo Almacén offers a vibrant example of how good—and surprisingly uncheesy—a full-on, traditional tango show can be. The venue was launched in the late '60s by the tango artist Edmundo Rivero, who has lovingly re-created the mood of an old-time milonga with a two-hour revue propelled by a classic orquesta (a tango ensemble that leans heavily on the bandoneón, or button accordian), four sets of bailarines (dancers) and a retinue of singers. The saucy spectacular is served up with a dinner that runs in the direction of empanadas, pasta, and steak.
Tel: 54 11 4811 1108
The ultra-designed, ultracool Gran Bar Danzón's bistro menu showcases spiffy renditions of Argentine classics, but the real draw is the bar, with its 200-plus Argentine wines, expertly mixed cocktails (including the lavender-infused vodka concoction known as a Stacy Malibu), and well-heeled crowd, which tends to stick around until dawn on live-jazz nights.
Tel: 54 11 4804 0449
This airy old-school café opposite the Recoleta Cemetery (be sure to check out the giant gomero, or rubber tree, out front) is a bona fide Buenos Aires classic. The city even designated La Bielawhose name refers to the connecting rod in an auto engine and whose walls are plastered with racing memorabiliaan official cultural landmark. Although it's mostly known as a place to spot local TV stars, grab a toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich, or peruse the paper over a café con leche, La Biela stays open until three in the morning, serving a variety of beer and spirits.
597 25 de Mayo
Tel: 54 11 4893 2332
This all-purpose bar, café, and late-night discotheque offers a sophisticated take on the familiar cram-them-in-until-somebody-faints ethos of most B.A. nightclubs. At Tuesday night's Soirée Française, which ramps up with a soothing Francophilic soundtrack before shifting into electronica mode, the hip crowd drapes itself around the outsize aqua-blue bar for pastis cocktails and then floods the dance floor until all hours.
Open Mondays through Saturdays.
Lying far outside the complex rules and social restrictions of tango, Argentina's folk music, or música folclórica, reemerged to a new popularity during the 1960s. A blending of the waltzes, mazurkas, and polkas of Eastern Europe with elements of indigenous and gaucho cultures resulted in robust rhythms such as the chamamé and the chacarera. Closely associated with rural life, the traditional dances are best seen at a rustic peña, or folk music jamboree, but this popular Palermo music hall provides a glimpse of the genre's sentiment and nostalgia.—Colin Barraclough
Open 8 pm until late.
Tel: 54 11 5279 5279
In operation for 80-odd years, Luna Park—with its landmark neon signage—has seen its share of history, from the 1935 funeral of tango legend Carlos Gardel to the chance encounter, in 1944, between Juan Perón and a certain señorita named Evita. The cavernous room—a former boxing arena—has also played host to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Luciano Pavarotti, Ray Charles, Oasis, and, more recently, the White Stripes.
Tel: 54 11 4361 3537
Mansion Dandi Royal, the luxurious "Residential Tango Academy" housed in a 1903 San Telmo mansion, opens its Salon Dandi ballroom to the city's tangueros every Wednesday night for a milonga event called Milonga Bacana. The atmosphere of the relatively compact hall, with its bentwood chairs and neat corner bar, is refined yet cheery, a perfect place to watch (or join) the old pros, tourists, and acolytes of the Dandi's tango seminars, cutting loose with such steps as the mordida (a bite or, more loosely, a sandwich), gancho (hook), or ochos (figure eights).
Tel: 54 11 4815 9925
Housed in a three-story mansion built in 1903 by the wealthy Allemand family, Milión encompasses three high-ceilinged dining rooms, two exterior terraces, and a warren of candlelit nooks. Beautiful porteños of all ages come to preen and flirt on the sweeping marble steps, or wander idly with a cocktail through a creeper-draped garden dominated by a towering loquat tree. The Allemands' piano, family portraits, marble fireplaces, and wall ornamentation remain intact, yet Milión is far from stuffy: Waiters are wont to wear T-shirts and dreadlocks, yet they display impeccable manners. An impressive cocktail list includes hard-to-find single malts Caol Ila and Glen Ord, making the first-floor bar popular with louche night owls, but the real attraction is the standout cuisine: sweetbreads with salad and quail eggs, tuna steak dripping with lime, and a lamb tenderloin roasted with onions and wild rice.
5510 Niceto Vega
Tel: 54 11 4779 9396
The highlight of this Palermo Hollywood hot spot is the jam-packed Thursday dance party known as Club 69. It's been B.A.'s essential night out since 1998, now back at its long-time Niceto Club venue after a lengthy sojourn in the boondocks. With a revolving cast of local and international DJs, Club 69 kicks it with funk, disco, and house; there's even an over-the-top stage show to keep things interesting.
Tel: 54 11 4773 1098
One of a smattering of B.A. hot spots known by number and not by name (Ocho7Ocho refers to the bar's street address), this diffusely lit, sofa-strewn speakeasy cultivates the air of a private club. Its unmarked doorway on a darkened block in up-and-coming Villa Crespo is just far enough from the cooler reaches of Palermo Viejo to dissuade all but the most determined nightspot habitués. It's worth a visit for the inventive cocktails alone, many mixed with Hesperidina, a B.A.-born spirit of quinine, gentian, and orange peel that's celebrated and lamented in equal measure for its powerful kick. The personable staff also takes great pride in 878's collection of hard-to-find single-malt Highland whiskies.
Open daily 8 pm to 2 am.
Punta del Este
Tel: 54 11 4827 4415
Well-heeled locals drawn to the laid-back vibe and melodic electronic sounds at Sabbia Liquor Bar's lounges in glam Punta del Este and party beach resort Pinamar now have somewhere to dance at vacay's end. Sabbia's sofa-lined midnight-till-late space in Recoleta resembles a wind tunnel, its corrugated-metal roof underlit in scarlet, tables and couches demarcated by white voile curtains. Cocktails are served upstairs (we like the passion fruit caipiroska), Med-inspired dishes in the restaurant below. Sabbia heaves on usually beat-starved midweek nights; on weekends, it fills with under-30s warming up on their way to an all-nighter.
Tel: 54 11 4776 3905
Owned by musician Fabián von Quintiero, SuperSoul (like Soul Café, its parent establishment next door) has a determinedly rock 'n' roll feel. The microscopic room is sweaty and loud, the decor runs to disco balls, and the overall effect is disarmingly fun. It's a perennial hot spot in bar-crawl-friendly Las Cañitas.
In the mid-1850s, Buenos Aires was a modest settlement of 90,000 residents. A trickle of European newcomers drawn by open immigration and unlimited land soon became a flood. By 1914, the population had rocketed to 1.5 million. Squatting ten to a room in the tenements and shanties of poorer barrios such as La Boca, Pompeya, and Barracas, the immigrants poured their nostalgia and pent-up frustration verging on violence into the tango form. In its early days, the tango was practiced by same-sex couples in bordellos—by female prostitutes to kill time between tricks, by men to net the choicest girl. A century on, the dance is now respectably mainstream, but a glimmer of its darker roots can still be felt at one of the city's milongas, or open-floor tango dances, where experienced milongueros strut their stuff alongside beginners and aficionados. Unlike tourist-oriented tango shows, milongas tend to take place in brightly lit social clubs in far-away barrios. Music is played in tandas, or sets, divided by minute-long breaks reserved for the ritual choosing of partners for the next tanda. Invitations to dance, always made by men, are dispensed with when a man simply catches a woman's eye and gives a quick nod; to turn a man down, a woman should simply ignore the nod. Despite appearances, most people are there just to dance. Matinee dances are more suited to beginners.
El Niño Bien
1462 Humberto Primo
Tel: 54 911 4147 8687
A haunt for genuine experts, El Niño Bien is held in a glorious Belle Époque ballroom in the deeply unfashionable Constitución district.
1180 La Rioja
Tel: 54 11 4957 7157
Visitors can dance, learn, or just watch the exuberant color and passion when the experts get it right at this authentic milonga in run-down San Cristóbal.
Tel: 54 11 4541 9776
Despite its uninspiring location on a basketball court in a neighborhood social center, the Sunderland Club boasts a 90-year history and immense credibility with genuine tangueros.
Tel: 54 11 4774 6357
The venue, an Armenian social club, resembles a Ping-Pong hall, but La Viruta's location in Palermo Viejo and its eclectic mix of tango, swing, rock, and Argentine folk music has been pulling in the crowds for a decade. Dinner is available until 3 am; medialunas (croissants) are served at dawn.
Tel: 54 11 5265 8069
Confitería Ideal has been featured in most movies shot in Argentina, from Evita to The Tango Lesson. Matinee and evening milongas are held amid the building's decaying grandeur of marble stairways, mahogany paneling, and peeling plaster.
Tel: 54 11 5325 1630
Located amid disused warehouses, La Catedral, held in a former granary, is delightfully shabby. Eccentric oil paintings and macabre sculptures adorn the walls, while young, louche dancers contend with chipped floorboards, all-pervading darkness, and dust clinging to every surface. Milongas are sometimes interspersed with poetry recitals or concerts.