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Concierge.com

Tango Milongas, Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires
Argentina
Concierge.com's insider take:

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
Constitución
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.

Club Gricel
1180 La Rioja
San Cristóbal
Tel: 54 11 4957 7157
www.clubgriceltango.com.ar

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.

Sunderland Club
3161 Lugones
Villa Urquiza
Tel: 54 11 4541 9776
www.sunderlandclub.com.ar

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.

La Viruta
1366 Armenia
Palermo Viejo
Tel: 54 11 4774 6357
www.lavirutatango.com

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.

Confitería Ideal
380 Suipacha
El Centro
Tel: 54 11 5265 8069
www.confiteriaideal.com

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.

La Catedral
4006 Sarmiento
Abasto
Tel: 54 11 5325 1630
www.lacatedralclub.com

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.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.