This is the lush land of prime steak, good wine and beautiful people. This capital city, built around a bright pink palm-tree flanked palace where Evita once lived, has a European feel – but a pulsing Latin heart. The tango is passionate, the traffic is chaotic, and the people are fiery. But everyone is up for a party and they go on all night. Expect to eat dinner at midnight in BA and hit the clubs no earlier than 3am. You’ll be stumbling home at seven in the morning and it’s not uncommon to see smartly-suited business men sipping on traditional highly caffeinated tea as they make their way into work having been up all night.
But BA also has a serious side – In 2001 when the economy collapsed, everyone in Argentina who had not moved their money from the banks lost every penny. They took to the streets drumming on pots and pans in protest. And still today banknotes are horded under mattresses and protests against the government are rife – in fact, a day without getting caught in a march (and arriving late at your destination) is a rare occurrence. Plan for this wherever you go.
Beyond the bustling metropolis of BA, Argentina boasts some stunning landscape. Head down to Patagonia, where you quite literally reach the end of the world: the town of Ushuaia is the furthest South you can get before the Antarctic and it’s a lawless mix of madmen on the run and frontier cowboys who see off cruise ships headed for the ice-bergs. Elsewhere in Patagonia you can trek across huge glaciers overlooking bright blue lakes and frozen waterfalls. These are the wilds of an adventurer’s dreams.
The Argentina coach network is immense and will take you anywhere you want (often complete with complimentary wine and chairs that recline all the way back). From Buenos Aires regular buses depart to wine country in the West, where you can tour vineyards, to the quaint university town of Cordoba, said to have the best-looking women in the world, to Iguazu Falls on the Brazil border.
Things to do
La Boca, football capital
There is no country in the world that loves football – or their players – more. Maradona is pretty much considered a saint in the area where his club was based. Colourful La Boca is jammed full of cafes in his name and huge murals and statues depicting the superstar. Also don’t miss a Boca Juniors vs River Plate game. You think you know rivalry? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
This is the resting place of the glitterati. Here, ornately engraved crypts and baroque mausoleums tell dark, tragic stories of the rich and famous, including that of Eva Peron. Creepier still is the colony of cats that roam the cemetery, said to be guarding over their owners’ graves. Hours 7am-6pm, entrance free, English language tours 11am, Tuesday and Thursday.
San Telmo Market
On Sundays, the streets of this arty neighbourhood are jam-packed with buskers, food stands, and table after table of antique tat. Tango dancers gather crowds next to dreadlocked hippies selling bracelets made from mysterious Amazonian beans. Stalls are open every day from 10am, but Sundays are the busiest.
Dance the tango
This passionate, fiery dance sums up everything there is to know about Argentine history. Learn some of the steps at a traditional ‘milonga’ or tango class. The atmospheric candlelit warehouse, La Catedral, in Sarmiento runs famous classes every evening starting at 6.30pm. Tuesdays are the most popular. Lacatedralclub.com
BA is considered the street art capital of the world. Almost everywhere you look, brightly coloured murals and tags decorate crumbling brick walls. In fact, some of the most famous graffiti in London has been produced by Argentine artists. The Graffitimundo tour takes you to the well-known spots as well as the ‘underground’ locations. Group tours, Wednesday- Saturday, £15.55. graffitimundo.com
Where to stay
Travellers from all over congregate here to dance the night away at the city’s best clubs and continue the debauchery into the morning. The centrally located 19th-century building offers free breakfast, a well-stocked bar and many lessons and activities. Dorms in this party hostel start at £10 a night. Milhousehostel.com
Art Factory Hostel
This one-of-a-kind hostel is jam-packed full of original work from budding Argentine artists. The vibrant, eclectic space is an experience of its own and it’s also just a few minutes’ walk from San Telmo market – perfect for exploring the city’s artier side. Dorms start at £7. Artfactoryba.com.ar
Located in the more upmarket, trendy drinking area of Old Palermo, this hidden gem also has a tranquil garden, sunny terraces with hammocks and a resident dog. More of a guesthouse than a hostel, doubles start at £12.
Food and drink
No visit to BA is complete without a meal at this legendary steak restaurant. Expect mouth-wateringly thick cuts of perfectly cooked sirloins, accompanied by every condiment under the sun. Although try not to be alarmed by the numerous pictures of cows on the walls. Parillacabrera.com
To enjoy an empanada, which is a traditional Argentine snack – pastry stuffed full of juicy meat, chicken and corn, or cheese – head to this cosy little cafe hidden off a main street. The impressive range of flavours can be enjoyed at the bar, which is jam-packed with football paraphernalia and vintage toys. Lamorada.com.ar
This bar and restaurant is set inside a stunning early-20th-century French mansion. Adorned with pastel window frames and twinkling fairy lights this is possibly the most romantic and beautiful spot in the city. The food can be pricey but go just for a drink or tapas, which can be enjoyed in the courtyard under the stars. Million.com.ar
La Bomba de Tiempo
Nothing beats to the tempo of BA quite like La Bomba. The 17-piece improvisational drum group uses African tribal beats and Argentine folk rhythms to whip the gigantic crowd in to a frenzy. The fact that beer is only served in two-pint plastic cups helps too. Prices have soared due to its popularity but it’s worth the pounds. Every Monday at 7pm, £37. Ciudadculturalkonex.org