Little Black Book to Buenos Aires

By | Category: Travel destinations

It’s time to treat yourself to a break in Buenos Aires – arguably one of the most exhilarating cities on the planet – now that winter has arrived in South America and the tourists have thinned out. Want to know where to eat, stay and play? Kaye Holland has the answers

Frank’s Bar
There are good bars and then there are great bars. Frank’s – a secret, speakeasy bar in Palermo (a little corner of perfectly manicured paradise where men carry tiny dogs and immaculately turned out women sweep from chi chi boutiques to buzzy bars) definitely falls into the latter category. Carrie Bradshaw and the girls would feel at home here sipping swish cocktails, expertly mixed by cool staff such as Carlos, Matias and manager Nicolas Castro, who look as though they’re straight out of an Argentine Abercrombie ad. A few tips: Frank’s is super hip and upscale, so dress up if you want to get past the imposing Cuban bouncer (you’ll also need a password) and come early if you want to chat, as it gets pumped later on.

Sky bar
Situated on the 13th floor of the chic Hotel Pulitzer, Sky bar is one of the best bars not only downtown but in the whole of BA owing to its spectacular views (the terrace offers copious Instagram opportunities) and fabulous drinks menu – which will appeal to both wine connoisseurs and cocktail enthusiasts alike. Consequently it’s incredibly popular – particularly on a Thursday night when BA’s camera loving clientele clamour to get a table. Not before midnight, mind – Porteños are lively lot crowding into bars well into the wee small hours, regardless of whether they have to work the next day. Staff are sharp, on it and forever polite making this a glamorous place to start or end your sojourn in Buenos Aires.


Dinner at Sarkis

Dinner at Sarkis

After a few drinks, you’ll need to eat…. Fortunately food is family in Buenos Aires – a  big part of life and culture. Guidebooks harp on about Sarkis and for good reason: excellent eating is still a bargain at this veteran Middle East restaurant. The go to dish is the lamb in yoghurt sauce but the boquerones (marinated sardines) and falafel are two other simple yet satisfying dishes that prove that you don’t have to spend a lot to eat well in Palermo. Unless you like a a queue, go early or at lunch-time: after 9pm the line snakes half way around the block. And arrive with an appetite – portions are plentiful.
Thames 1101 (011 4772 4911)




For something more sophisticated, try Elena at the Four Seasons Hotel –  the BA bolt hole of choice for stars ranging from Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall to U2 and Madonna. I’m not usually one for staying to the confines of a hotel but Elena – a stunning two storey courtyard restaurant – is worth making an exception for. Rich interior furnishings – including a glass doored dry ageing case, marble butcher’s table manned by an expert chef and locally-sourced antiques – seamlessly blend South American and European cultures in true Buenos Aires fashion, with hand-crafted finishes by local artisans adding a unique character. It’s the perfect place to throw yourself into a feast of local cuisine: think a selection of meats loved by locals, from precision-cut dry aged steaks to  Argentinian kobe beef expertly prepared on the rotisserie.

La Poesia
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Porteños love to hang out in historic cafes (which, with their unique, elegant stained glass windows, are a million miles from the identikit Costa coffee shops that plague the high street at home) eating medialunas (small croissants), sipping Cortado coffee (forget your usual Flat White), perusing the papers, posing, people watching, fighting, kissing and laughing until late into the night. Cafe Tortoni is arguably the Rolls Royce of cafes and only a stone’s throw from Plaza de Mayo, aka the heart and soul of BA, where Evita used to address her legions of fans. But coffee lovers who don’t want to be surrounded by tonnes of tourists, can indulge their cravings at La Poesia. The old world atmosphere at this San Telmo spot, is a further draw.

San Telmo

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The ramshackle barrio of San Telmo has long been a favourite with Buenos Aires’ artists owing to their (historically) low rents. San Telmo is popular with tourists too, thanks to its legendary Sunday market on Calle Defensa. This is the place to barter with the locals and buy everything from second hand books to bombilla – the metal straw used to drink Argentina’s beloved Mate (a bitter herb drink). There’s also enough arts and antiques on sale, to decimate your baggage allowance. Even if  retail therapy isn’t your thing, do go: listening to the San Telmo stallholders sing and shout about their stuff is half the fun.

La Viruta
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Whichever neighbourhood you find yourself in, tango clubs (milongas) abound. BA is the capital of tango and, as such, the sexy yet melancholy strut attracts a cult like following – young and old alike will dance until dawn and not only at weekends. Even if you’ve got two left feet, venues like  La Viruta are worth visiting for the atmosphere and phenomenal people watching alone. But have a power nap before you head out: Buenos Aires is the real city that never sleeps and if you leave a milonga much before 4am (when it comes to partying, Portenos don’t do things by half), you’re an amateur…. Another option is La Catedral. Situated on Sarmiento, in an bohemian warehouse, this is quite possibly Baires’ coolest tango club.

Todo Tango

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Presuming you want to try tango (well when in Rome…), tango shoes can be picked up almost anywhere in Buenos Aires but the best boutique is arguably Todo Tango at 251 Supaicha. The Mother of all tango shops, Todo Tango is filled with enough glittering shoes to make any Imelda happy. And if you pay in cash, you’ll qualify for a 10 per discount. Close by lies Confiteria Ideal. This downtown tango institution was featured in Sally Potter’s film The Tango Lesson and is the perfect spot to sign your new shoes up for a lesson. (As Argentine novelist, Ernesto Sabato, wrote: “Only gringos  [foreigners] dance tango for fun”).
Todo Tango (251 Suipacha); Confiteria Ideal (Suipacha 380)

El Ateneo bookstore
Book lovers rejoice! Book shops may be shutting down left, right and centre in every other city but Buenos Aires is brimming with brilliant bookshops so much so, that choosing the best is like trying to select the spottiest dog in a kennel full of Dalmatians. Since you ask however, my pick would be El Ateneo Grand Splendid – voted the world’s second best bookshop by The Guardian, no less.
This stunning space was once a theatre – something the balconies, white and gold-leaf boxes, crimson stage curtains and high painted ceilings bear testimony to. Subsequently El Ateneo attracts as many photographers – and gourmands (the stage has been turned into a majestic cafe) – as it does book-worms.
www.yenny-elateneo (1860 Avenue Santa Fe)

The Clubhouse

The Clubhouse pool

The Clubhouse pool

Looking for somewhere to work? You’re in luck: co-working in Argentina is on the rise but, as remote offices go, The Clubhouse stands head and shoulders above the competition. By day this Palermo Soho destination for all things cool serves as a much needed work sanctuary for the creative industries, in a metropolis plagued by poor WiFi. By night it’s a lively scene straight out of a magazine: model-esque staff serve top notch cocktails around the prettiest of pools, while other ‘after work’ events include art exhibits, tastings, talks by opinion leaders, theme parties, fashion shows and private dinners. The Clubhouse also features four distinctive rooms (like the guests, no two rooms are the same) should you end up burning the midnight oil.

Terrie the expat hairdresser
Chances are you’ll end up staying longer in the Paris of South than planned (trust me, it does happen), in which case you’ll reach a stage when your locks will need some love. But don’t make the mistake of booking an appointment at a local salon – no matter how salubrious it may seem – unless, ladies, you want ends shaped like a triangle or highlights the colour of custard. Rather take yourself off to Terrie Orr – an Irish-born hairstylist and colour technician who swapped Belfast for Buenos a decade ago. Terrie, and her adorable pup Sorrito, will solve your hair dilemmas from the comfort of her Sinclair apartment – with a side of chat and coffee.
For appointments and prices, visit or email

133 Libertad
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Most people will tell you to stay in a hotel in Palermo but personalIy I’d advise avoiding the pre packaged path, and checking into Airbnb abode, where you’ll get character and local charm rather than inflated prices. There are lasting memories to be gained from staying at 133 Libertad – a gorgeous courtyard apartment that will have you checking house prices before you leave. Many of the rooms boast patios and all are tastefully furnished – proof sophistication is possible on a shoestring budget. The atmosphere is instantly relaxing and the hosts Matias and Cande, a friendly and unfeasibly good looking young Porteno couple, will go out of their way to make sure you fall under the spell of BA. The  central location can’t be bettered either, enabling you to hastily tick of the sights and then lose yourself in the street life.


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