Locals, called portenos (people of the port), are proud of their elegant city with its famed tree lined Avenida de Mayo, calling to mind the Champs Élysées. The beautiful belle Époque architecture and broad boulevards surely evoke Paris, even more enchanting when the jacarandas are in bloom. Stroll the world’s widest boulevard and view the magnificent marble and bronze buildings lining Avenida 9 de Julio.
It’s hard not to imagine Eva Peron speaking from the balcony when visiting the presidential palace, Casa Rosada - the same spot Madonna sang the famous ballad in the film Evita. Head to the Evita Museum for videos, paintings and stylish outfits the Argentine icon wore. Next stop is at the Recoleta cemetery, with lavish mausoleums of the city’s rich and famous. When you see the adoring crowd, you have found Evita’s flower-strewn monument.
Take a tour to the top of Palacio Barolo, designed to resemble Dante’s inferno, and see sweeping views of the city. Don’t miss a backstage tour of the opulent, grand Teatro Colon where Parvarotti and Callas performed. Marvel at El Ateneo, the spectacular theater turned bookstore where you can read while sitting in box seats. Visit the Malba where works by Frida Kahlo and Diego share the walls with Argentinean masters. Head to Palermo for excellent eateries, creative boutiques and glorious parks with rose gardens. Fashionable Recoleta boasts exclusive designer shops and stylish restaurants. Sunday, the action is at the famed outdoor San Telmo Antiques Fair for everything and anything. Enjoy a soccer or polo match and cheer with the passionate portenos, who surely know how to have fun.
Dine In Style - Steak and Malbec
Buenos Aires’ restaurants are famous for their steaks, with no shortage of parrillas (Argentine steakhouses) My favorite is Cabana Las Lilas, where I enjoyed the tastiest ribeye, cooked abasto (medium-rare), with a glass of my favorite Malbec - ‘Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino’. There are plenty of superb non-meat dining options. Oviedo Restaurant delivers delectable fish, Sotto Voce for mouth watering Italian, and Peruvian cerviche is all the rage.
No visit to Buenos Aires is complete without a taste of the tango at one of the city’s show palaces. I liked Esquina Carlos Gardel, performed in a gorgeous art nouveau theater with orchestra. Take a tango lesson with the excellent teachers at Academia Nacional del Tango. Now you’re ready for a milonga, a tango salon in a ballroom setting. You can try the dance yourself or just sit and marvel at the sexy kicks as the couples whirl around the room. For milongas I recommend Salon Canning, Confiteria La Ideal and La Viruta.
Cafe Culture - Notables
Buenos Aires is famous for its café culture, teeming with locals who meet with friends and kick back an espresso or café con leche. Dozens of these historic, establishments have been designated as café notables. The most famous is glamorous Café Tortoni, which attracts both a literary and bohemian crowd. Another favorite is La Biela, which offers outdoor seating, ideal for people watching. Sip a coffee and glimpse the handsome portenos, fashionably dressed.
There are many high-end hotels in Buenos Aires. I stayed at the 5-star Intercontinental, frequented by both business and leisure travelers. This luxury hotel with stunning 1930’s décor, is situated in the heart of the city in historic Montserrat, with the major tourist attractions. Additionally, it’s not far from the port, making it an ideal choice for visitors who are embarking on a cruise. A glamorous apricot marble lobby with handsome carved wood furniture, grand piano and plants create a lovely tropical ambiance. Spacious rooms and suites elegantly decorated with posh furnishings, potted palms and flowers boast king-size beds with plush linens, duvets and oversize marble bathrooms with tubs. Guests enjoy a full service spa, heated pool, fitness center, club lounge, lobby bar, regional and international cuisine at Mediterraneo and Argentine Grill at Terraza del Virrey. The very helpful, excellent concierge is always at the ready to satisfy your clients every whim. www.ihg.com
Not to be missed is a jaunt to the very ‘in’ Tigre Delta, just a forty-five minute car or train ride from Buenos Aires. The charming town of Tigre showcases palm fringed streets, quaint houses and lovely outdoor eateries overlooking lush flowered gardens and the river. This subtropical delta paradise also boasts richly forested islands and shimmering waterways. Recently launched, the waterfront luxury Intercontinental Nordelta Hotel in picturesque Tigre, offers spacious stylish rooms done in sleek earth tones with beautiful delta views, a glamorous Argentine inspired restaurant, a newly redone full service spa, outdoor pool and outstanding Sentidos del Delta amenities, developed in house. The concierge can arrange river excursions and day trips to the islands to spa, sun, swim and lounge.
Maita Barrenechea is the ultimate Argentine specialist for your high end client. Known as the curator of ‘sublime’ experiences, she arranges culinary dinners with star chefs in private homes, art immersions including openings, personal shopping at top designer showrooms, plus access to anything fabulous in Buenos Aires. www.mai10.com.ar