Buenos Aires: Faded Elegance, High Design

Beautiful, decrepit, hedonistic, and temperate. Buenos Aires is a city of charming contradictions. You’ve heard about the steak and the Malbec, but you can also get arguably the best Italian food outside of Italy, and the world’s best gelato. And the experience of eating in the city’s restaurants is almost as good as the food itself. There’s nothing quite like saddling up to a communal table at one of the many parrillas: steakhouses-to-the-extreme where entire sides of beef, pork, and goat are skewered whole and roasted all afternoon on giant grills before being carved up and slapped onto your plate.

Wherever you go in BA you’ll find plenty of meat, wine, and tango. Any guide will point you in those directions. But at roughly 77 square miles and almost 3 million people, it can be an overwhelming destination. Besides hitting museums, lounging in plazas, and watching soccer games, the best way to get to know BA is by digging deeper into one or two neighborhoods.

Buenos Aires’s currently trendiest barrio, or neighborhood, Palermo, is a good bet with its fabulous shopping and bars. But everybody goes there. If Palermo is like today’s SoHo, the San Telmo neighborhood is the East Village of a few years back. A working-class zone with cobblestoned streets and wrought-iron balconies, it has recently been colonized by young designers who have opened up clothing boutiques and stationery and housewares shops. Nightlife includes a burgeoning club scene catering to younger folks, and mixed crowds at atmospheric old-fashioned bars. There are good places to eat, see tango, and shop for antiques. But most important, you’ll feel like you’re mingling with the locals rather than being a tourist.

San Telmo is also close to the center of town, within walking distance of must-see attractions like the Casa Rosada, the Obelisco, the Teatro Colón, and Downtown. We’ve selected the best restaurants, bars, tango spots, shops, and hotels in the neighborhood or nearby. With this guide, you’ll be able to spend a week getting a month’s worth of insider BA experiences.

Photographs by Fèlix Busso
Background image by Leonardo Fernandes de Aguiar