He grabs the back of her head and they stare into each other’s eyes. They twirl rapidly, then stop dramatically. Legs flick. She dips down to the floor, stopping just in time. Their eyes connect and he pulls her up and into a close embrace. They move around the dance floor in a spinning blur of color and movement. This is Tango Argentino. The heart, the soul, the pulse, the passion of Buenos Aires…
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INSPIRATION: Experience Argentina: Tango Buenos Aires
If I say “Buenos Aires”, tango probably comes to mind. (Well, maybe steak does too.) Tango is passionate, dark, dramatic, sexy. Tango was born in Argentina and Uruguay, a hybrid of African rhythms, Cuban moves and European music. It has roots in Spanish flamenco and Cuban habanera, with elements of Uruguayan candombe and Argentinean milonga. It dates from the 1890’s and became popular in the early 1900’s. Its popularity has not waned; in Argentina, tango is everywhere (the genre is called Argentine Tango after all!).
There are many ways to experience tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I recommend them all. I totally fell in love with tango when I was there. I was in Buenos Aires en route to Patagonia (read about glacier tours in Patagonia here and here). The other main access point to Patagonia is Santiago in Chile (read about taking a food tour and winery tour in Santiago here).
But this time I was in B.A. and was determined to catch as much tango as possible. I love to experience things as much as possible when I travel, so I wanted to learn how to do the tango, as well as see a professional show and mingle with local Portenos as they danced the night away.
Here’s how to experience tango in Buenos Aires (and the highlights for each):
- Watch a tango show. RECOMMENDED TANGO SHOW: El Viejo Almacen (daily)
- Dance at a milonga. RECOMMENDED MILONGA: Maldita, San Telmo (Wednesdays)
- Take a tango class. RECOMMENDED TANGO CLASS: Group class at Conventillo Cultural Abasto
- See tango in the street. RECOMMENDED STREET TANGO: Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo (Sundays)
- Gay tango (classes & milongas). RECOMMENDED GAY TANGO: Tango Queer (Tuesdays)
So, let’s look in more detail at each of these options. I’ll share my own experiences, some experiences of fellow travelers, and some recommendations others have made.
WATCH A TANGO SHOW
If you want to be entertained, then you have to see a tango show. Buenos Aires has the best tango performances in the world.
Note that a “dinner and a tango show” combination is common; however, the food is notoriously average and in most places the dinner IS optional. It makes for a complete night out, but you can easily have dinner somewhere else then catch the show.
So, where to see the best tango show in Buenos Aires, Argentina?Â There are so many to choose from, that deciding which tango show in Buenos Aires to see can be hard to do. To make your decision easier, here are the best tango shows in Buenos Aires:
Balcarce 799, San Telmo
I went to this show. If you want to see a tango show in San Telmo, the heart of tango, then this is a great option. Dinner is possible, but it is actually served in a restaurant across the street. When dinner is finished, you move across the street into the tango hall. It makes it easy to skip dinner! We had dinner elsewhere and then went to see the tango show. Two drinks were included in the price.
It’s located in an historic 18th Century building and feels intimate, as tango should. Tables are assigned before you arrive, and I had read some reviews online complaining about their table, but we got a table near the front and it wasn’t full the night we went, so there were no bad tables. There is an upstairs section that would give you a bird’s eye view of the stage. The stage was fairly small with a piano, violin, base and two accordions accompanying the dancers.
There were three couple who performed. Some were group dance numbers with all six dancers and others were dances with just one couple, so all of the tango dancers were highlighted. In between the dance performances were singers performing some vocal numbers and an Andean band during the intermission, which was a popular break between the tango.
Was it the best tango show in Buenos Aires? Well, it was the only professional Buenos Aires tango show I saw, so it’s hard to say, but I thought it was GREAT! I can’t rave about it enough! I had looked at several of the tango shows and venues online and this one seemed the best tango show in Buenos Aires, while still having an authentic old-world feel.
If you want to go there, you can book the El Viejo Almacen tango show here.
Martha Salotti 445, Puerto Madero
This is often touted as the best tango show in Buenos Aires. It is over-the-top opulence, located in the five-star Faena Hotel in Puerto Madero. As the name suggests (“rojo” is Spanish for “red”), there is lots of red. Red carpet, red banquettes, red curtains, red dresses… Red is the color of passion and this is passionate, beautiful, stunning! It’s not cheap, but considered by many of the rich and famous as the best place to see tango in Buenos Aires. A friend of mine saw this show and LOVED it!
The price includes a three-course dinner, drinks, private transfers to the show and, of course, one of the top tango shows in Buenos Aires. Book the Rojo Tango dinner show here.
Avenida Rivadavia 2100, Balvanera
This is located in an historic cafe, and is another of the best tango shows Buenos Aires has. You can book just the show, or dinner and the show together for a complete night out. Book the show (with pickup from your hotel) here.
Balcarce 431, San Telmo
A classic tango show that also includes other performances such as folk music, singers and two orchestras. Again, you can book tango and dinner or just the tango show. La Ventana also offers classes in tango (see below). Book the La Ventana tango (and optional dinner) here.
1064, 5 de Julio, San Telmo
The name says it all -“ it’s a gala tango show. Buenos Aires does them well. Another San Telmo classic. Book the Gala Tango show (and optional dinner) here.
Av. Alicia Moreau de Justo 2150, Puerto Madero
I have heard good things about this show – another easy choice. Book the Madero Tango show here.
Florida 165 Galeriames
The list of top tango shows in Buenos Aires wouldn’t be complete without this classic. Book the Piazzolla Tango show here.
DANCE AT A TANGO MILONGA
Arguably the best tango in Buenos Aires is not the flashy shows (though I love them), but the tango that real people dance. If you want to experience authentic tango, not for tourists, then go to a milonga. Buenos Aires has plenty to choose from.
Milonga actually has three meanings. The most common meaning is an organized event or a place where people can go to dance tango. So, you go to a milonga to dance. Many have classes early in the evening before the dance itself starts, which is super helpful for beginners. Some also have performances. However, at their heart, they are places for Portenos to go to tango the night away.
So, how do you choose which milonga to go to? Not all milongas are the same. Some are good for beginners; some best for expert dancers; some are for early birds and some for night owls. As a traveler to the city, it can be hard to know which are the best tango clubs Buenos Aires has to offer.
One easy option so to take a tour.
If you want to experience an authentic Milonga, Fiona from Passport and Piano recommends a tour with Tango Nightlife.
“Joe, our guide was a dancer himself and he was keen to show us two completely different Tango clubs in the Buenos Aires.
The first was a traditional old dance hall, with a reasonably large floor and a DJ playing music from the 1920s and 30s. This dance hall followed the traditional format in which three dances are performed with the same partner, then the DJ plays an entirely random tune while everyone swaps partners.
The second Milonga was called Maldita. It was packed when we arrived at, and I was glad that Joe had booked a table for us in advance. The clientele was much younger, and there was a stage with a live orchestra. The music was much more angular and dramatic with some excellent dancers performing flamboyant moves.
At the end of the night when the orchestra finished there were a few dances led by professional couples. These were fantastic, and some of their footwork was impressively quick.
Although this tour was reasonably expensive at 240 dollars for three people, it did include transport, entrance to the milongas and a drink at each venue. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and would highly recommend it.“
This sounds like a great way to experience a Buenos Aires tango club without feeling intimidated. You can book the tour with Tango Nightlife here.
Another way to visit Maldita is to take a tango tour with a tango expert who will show you the milonga and explain all about it, and then take a lesson there. Book this tango tour and lesson at Maldita here.
To help make it easier to decide where to go, here are some of the best tango bars in Buenos Aires:
Best milongas, Buenos Aires for Beginners:
Per 571, San Telmo
- Monday and Wednesday (Wednesday is best)
- Classes at 9:00pm. Music starts 11:00pm (Orchestra Tipica El Afronte performs Wednesdays).
- Get there before 10:30pm if you want a table. Table reservations are possible.
- If you’d rather go with someone who knows all about it, you can book a tango tour and private lesson at Maldita here.
Sarmiento 4006, Almagro
- Every day, but Wednesday and Saturday are most popular.
- Beginner classes 6:00pm – 7:00pm daily. Music starts 11:00pm.
- Informal and often packed.
Best traditional milongas in Buenos Aires
El Beso (La Casa del Tango “the House of Tango)
Riobamba 416, Balvanera, 1st Floor
- There are different milongas each night:
- Mondays and Saturdays: Misteriosa Milonga. 3:00pm – 8:00pm
- Mondays: Milonga Practilonga de la Academia. 10:30pm – 12:30am
- Tuesdays: Milonga Cachirulo. 9:00pm – 3:00am (see below)
- Thursdays: Milonga Lujos: 7:00pm – 2:00am
- Fridays: Milonga el Abrazo: 3:00pm – 8:00pm
- Saturdays: Milonga de las Morochas. 10:30pm – 4:00am
- Sundays: Milonga de los Domingos. 10:00pm – 4:00am
- They are also have tango classes throughout the week – see below.
Los Cachirulos (two nights | two locations)
Avenida Entre Ros 1056, Buenos Aires: Saturday 9:00pm – 4:00am and
Riobamba 416, Balvanera, 1st Floor, (at El Beso): Tuesday 9:00pm – 3:00am
- Some claim this is the best milonga in Buenos Aires. Arrive around 10:00pm – 11:00pm.
Milonga Parakultural at Salon Canning
Scalabrini Ortiz 1331, Palermo Soho
- Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays
- All levels lessons 7:00pm – 9:00pm and Intermediate lessons 9:00pm – 1:00pm. Milonga starts 11:00pm.
- Things pick up around 11:30pm, but get there earlier to get a table. Reservations are possible.
Best late night milongas, Buenos Aires
When the milonga you’re at closes and you still want to keep dancing, head to the late night milongas. These milongas really don’t get started until the wee hours of the morning.
Armenia 1366, Palermo Soho (in the basement of the Armenian Cultural Center)
- Lessons are available Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
- Live shows some Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays (check their website for details)
- Arrive around 2:00am. Best around 3:00am – 4:00am. Closes 6:00am.
- Friday and Saturday desayuno (breakfast) of medialunas (croissants: literally half moons) and coffee is served after 4:00am.
- The place to go after the other other milongas close. Feels like a nightclub where everyone dances tango.
Av. Cordoba 4175, Buenos Aires (upstairs)
- Mondays and Thursdays
- Arrive around 3:00am (1:30am to get a table). Again, people go here when the other milongas close.
It’s easy enough to go by yourself, as long as you follow some basic (mostly unwritten rules).
- Check the dress code before you go. Some milongas are casual, but especially on the weekends, many Portenos dress up and you should too.
- People usually use eye contact to ask someone to dance. Look for it, make eye contact and nod in reply, then they will approach you.
- The guy should lead the woman back to her table or chair after the dance.
- Look to see which direction people are dancing in and follow the same direction.
- When you arrive and see an empty seat, check with someone to make sure it is OK to sit there. Sometimes regulars expect to have their regular seat available when they arrive.
- Speak Spanish if you can. Milongas are mostly filled with Argentinos and you shouldn’t assume they speak English.
- Don’t get too trashed. Have fun, but rowdy behavior is definitely frowned upon.
If this seems too intimidating, you can book a shared tango lesson and a visit to a milonga here.
TAKE A TANGO CLASS IN BUENOS AIRES
Of course, it’s fun to see a tango performance, but what better way to fully immerse yourself in tango than to dance it yourself. Milongas are fun, but it’s hard to join in if you can’t dance. So take your tango experience to the next level and learn tango in Buenos Aires. Milongas often start the night with tango lessons, dance studios hold tango classes and private lessons, and it is easy to book a single class or a whole course.
Buenos Aires tango lessons are often in Spanish, but you can find classes in English too, if you don’t speak Spanish. The cost of tango lessons in Buenos Aires varies – click on the links below to see prices and to book a class if you decide to take a class or course.
There are different options for tango classes in Buenos Aires:
Private tango lessons in Argentina
Take a 90-minute lesson at a dance studio with a professional teacher and up your game before hitting the dance floor at a milonga. Book a private tango lesson here.
Group tango lessons in Buenos Aires
For something more social, take a one-hour group tango lesson at the Conventillo Cultural Abasto, then a 30-minute tour around the Barrio de Abasto. Book this group tango lesson here.
The House of Tango, El Beso has classes throughout the week (in Spanish). If your Spanish is OK, you can contact them directly to book a class. Check out their website here.
Milonga tour and tango lesson
Visit the famous Maldita milonga and get a lesson there, plus a tour of a couple of milongas in the city. Book the milonga tour and tango lesson here.
Combine a tango lesson with a tango history tour
Start at the Cafe de Los Angelitos, then visit the Carlos Gardel Museum and learn about Argentina’s most famous tango dancer and tango history, then take a tango class at the La Catedral Club. Book the tango history tour and lesson here.
Tango course, Buenos Aires
If you want to get more serious than a one-off class, and really want to learn tango in Argentina, then you want to find a Buenos Aires tango school and take a tango course. Buenos Aires has several. Book a one-week tango course here.
Combine a tango lesson with a show
Get the best of both worlds – and appreciate the incredible artistry of the performers on a whole new level. You can have a whole day in Buenos Aires experience with a city tour, then dinner and the tango show at La Ventana, followed by a one-hour tango lesson by expert dancers. Book this tour/ show and lesson here.
Tango and wine anyone?
A two-hour private lesson at La Ventana followed by a wine tasting. Sounds like pure heaven to me. Book the lesson and wine tasting here.
Â SEE TANGO IN THE STREET
It’s easy to see a free tango show. Buenos Aires has great street tango. Incredibly talented dancers perform outdoors in areas frequented by tourists. Two classic spots for street tango in Buenos Aires are:
This street (Little Street) in La Boca neighborhood is most famous for its brightly colored houses. However, it’s also Buenos Aires’ tango street. You will often find couples performing tango here for tips. Buenos Aires street tango is often just as good as many expensive shows, so it’s worth stopping and watching the tango dancers. Buenos Aires at its best!
But outdoor tango is not just buskers. One of the best milongas in Buenos Aires is outside.
Plaza Dorrego/ San Telmo Market
Erin Mushaway of Sol Salute gives the details:
“As the antique vendors dismantle their stands at the end of the San Telmo Market, tango dancers put on their dancing shoes. The back corner of Plaza Dorrego turns into an outdoor milonga every Sunday night at around 7:30. It’s an excellent opportunity to see an unproduced tango show.
The dancers here are locals that come every week to dance purely because they love the dance. There won’t be any costumes, and some may not even wear the proper footwear, but the passion is there all the same.
To have the perfect Sunday in Buenos Aires, spend your afternoon perusing the market on Defensa Street. As the market winds down, stick around to watch the tango dancers until dinner at once of the many excellent restaurants nearby.“
GAY TANGO, BUENOS AIRES
Did you know that tango was originally commonly danced between two men? The story goes that is started out being danced in the brothels and men couldn’t practice with their wives, since respectable women didn’t dance it, so men practiced with each other outside the brothels. These days tango is very respectable, but gay tango is alive and well in Buenos Aires.
I really wanted to try tango myself, but felt uncomfortable going to a regular straight milonga or taking a regular group class. Fortunately, there are several options for gay men and women to tango. Gay Buenos Aires is centered around San Telmo and there are a few gay milongas.
Buenos Aires Club / Madilta, Per 571. Lesson at 8:30pm and milonga is 10:00pm – 2:00am.
Stefan and Sebastien of the Nomadic Boys gay blog share their experience:
“One of our favorite tango experiences in Buenos Aires was dancing together (as a gay couple) at the Tango Queer milonga in San Telmo.
Milongas are tango halls, where you can go to see a live show or take classes. Tango Queer takes place every Tuesday evening at the Buenos Aires Club in San Telmo. It has classes at 8:30pm and later in the evening turns into a show with live musicians and professional dancers.
We loved it and highly recommend it to gay couples. We were total beginners when we went, and were not the only ones. We quickly made friends with others and had a fantastic time learning the basic first steps. Once we got a feel for it, we were able to dance around the room together. We wouldn’t quite feel comfortable dancing as a same-sex couple in any other milonga, so this was already refreshing.
Dancing with your partner to tango is mesmerizing and very romantic. It felt like we were transported to another era, in the 1940s/50s, together, locked in this mutual embrace.“
Read more in their gay travel guide to Buenos Aires.
Lugar Gay Guesthouse, Defensa 1120, San Telmo. Saturday 6:30pm – 8:30pm lesson + small milonga.
Kevin and I weren’t in Buenos Aires on a Tuesday, but we did arrive Saturday, just in time for the weekly 6:30pm gay tango lesson at Lugar Gay. This is actually a gay guesthouse (you can stay there – and there is a gorgeous rooftop terrace with wonderful views over the neighboring church. Book Lugar Gay here). Note the address above – there is just a plain door with no name labelled on it, so you need to know the address.
It was kind of a strange place to have a tango lesson, but everyone was very friendly and the teacher Edgardo was a professional teacher.
Kevin and I were the only two absolute beginners, but Edgardo did a good job of setting us up with the basics then teaching others more advanced steps, then coming back to us throughout the night. We were in a side room, so it actually felt like less pressure with no one else watching us. We learned to walk forward and backward, then walk together (leading and following), plus a sideways step, and then the proper hold.
We finished off with a mini-milonga and joined everyone else for three dances. We swapped partners after each dance, and the more experienced dancers were told that all we could do was walk, but everyone was very accommodating and encouraging. I was terrible and was very self-conscious BUT everyone was very friendly.
This is held once a month. There is a class at 8:30pm and the dance at 10:00pm. Call or email for details (they speak English – or at least the guy I spoke to did).
- Phone: +54 – 11-5368-9219
- Cell/ mobile: +549 – 11-5458-3423
- Email: [email protected]
- Bar La Paz Arriba
Avenues Corrientes and Montevideo. Every Monday night. Class at 9:30pm (with Edgardo) and the milonga/ dance at 10:30pm.
Map of Buenos Aires Tango Halls
The verdict: Tango B.A.
Tango was definitely one of the highlights of Buenos Aires for me. I loved watching a tango show, seeing it on the street, learning (at least a little) how to dance the tango myself, and then trying it out.
|TOTAL TC SCORE||87|
|Authenticity of experience||17|
|Quality of interaction with culture/ environment||17|
|Difficulty to arrange||18|
PRACTICAL TIPS: Buenos Aires
Other things to do in Buenos Aires
There are a lot of awesome experiences you can have in Buenos Aires that will make your vacation a unique travel experience.
How to get to Buenos Aires
There are two main airports in Buenos Aires. The international airport is Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE). The domestic airport, Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP), is across town, not too far from central Buenos Aires, right on the river. If you are flying to Patagonia, you will most likely use the domestic airport. I met some people who hadn’t realized there were two airports and went to the wrong one (and missed their flight), so check your tickets.
If you are heading out of town, you can rent a car easily in Buenos Aires. Rent a car here.
How to get to / from Buenos Aires airport
The easiest way to get from the international airport (EZE) to the center of Buenos Aires is a private transfer, which you can book here. There are also taxis, but when I arrived, there was a two-hour wait for taxis, so I really recommend arranging a private transfer in advance. If you do decide on a taxi, make sure you book a radio taxi from a booth at the airport. There is one inside the terminal and a smaller one outside. There are also counters for private car services. They are just after customs and also after you enter the main terminal area.
If you are travelling to/ from the domestic airport (AEP), book a transfer here. There are also taxis.
Getting around Buenos Aires
Taxis are common. There are radio taxis and regular taxis. Radio taxis have “radio taxi” on the roof and you can call them. I had read to only take radio taxis and not flag taxis on the street, but we did and never had any problems (which is not to say that having problems is not possible – exercise caution).
I took taxis a lot – they are easy and not that expensive.
There is an easy-to-use metro/ subway in Buenos Aires called the Subte. There are six lines. You need to buy an electronic Sube card and charge it with more money as needed at the ticket office (boleteria). One trip is $13.50 (pesos) no matter how far you go. Make sure you go in the correct entrance because at some stations there is no connection between the platforms going in opposite directions. For full information on taking the Metro, check out this blog post.
There are buses everywhere, but to be honest, the Metro or taxis are easier.
Where to stay in Buenos Aires
Best* accommodations in Buenos Aires:
|Best guesthouse in Buenos Aires||La Casa de Bulnes||9.3||Check availability and prices here|
|Best Bed & Breakfast in Buenos Aires||La Querencia de Buenos Aires||9.6||Check availability and prices here|
|Best apartment in Buenos Aires||Studio en Microcentro||9.8||Check availability and prices here|
|Best luxury hotel in Buenos Aires||Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires||9.5||Check availability and prices here|
|Best mid-range hotel in Buenos Aires||Hotel UOM Buenos Aires||9.2||Check availability and prices here|
|Best budget hotel in Buenos Aires||Buenos Aires San Carlos Hotel||9.0||Check availability and prices here|
|Best hostel in Buenos Aires||Caravan BA | Hostel Boutique||9.7||Check availability and prices here|
* Based on highest booking.com ratings at time of writing.
Where is Buenos Aires and what is the currency?
Buenos Aires is the capital city of Argentina in South America. It has a little faded grandeur from its glory days, but I like that. It’s the gateway to Patagonia, but well worth a visit in its own right.
The currency in Argentina is the Argentine Peso (ARS). The symbol used for pesos is the same symbol used for dollars – $. Like the dollar, pesos are used to describe the currency in several countries including Chile and Mexico, but like the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc. who all use the dollar, the peso in Argentina is a different currency from that in other countries.
Check out the exchange rate here.
Visa requirements for Buenos Aires
Visa requirements do change, so always check whether or not you need a visa to travel.
Best time to visit Buenos Aires
The best time to visit Buenos Aires is the spring (September – November) and fall/ autumn (March – May). Summer (December – February) gets very hot (average 83°F/ 28°C) and winter (June – August) can get quite chilly (average 52°F/ 11°C). Snow is extremely rare but it has happened. I was there in September and the nights were pretty cold, and was there again in November and it was really lovely.
Planning and packing for Buenos Aires
Whenever I plan a trip, I always use a combination of blogs and guidebooks. I usually use the Lonely Planet, but have also used the Moon guidebooks if the Lonely Planet doesn’t have the region I’m travelling to. If you are just going to Buenos Aires, which I did on my first trip, I would get the Lonely Planet. You can buy the Buenos Aires Lonely Planet here.
If you are travelling around Argentina, buy the Argentina Lonely Planet here.
I returned to Buenos Aires as part of a trip to Patagonia, which is Argentina and Chile, so I used the Moon guidebook. Although Buenos Aires isn’t in Patagonia (which is the southern part of South America), Santiago and Buenos Aires are gateways to Patagonia, so the Patagonia guidebook includes sections on both cities. Buy the Moon guidebook for Patagonia here.
When you are ready for your trip, check out my Essential Packing List.
Additional consideration: Travel Insurance
You should absolutely never travel without travel insurance. My father’s partner ended up in a hospital for a week when she was travelling and would have incurred a bill of about $100,000 if she hadn’t had travel insurance! A great insurance option is World Nomads. You can book it right here.
Why do I like WorldNomads.com? Its backed by specialist insurers and global assistance partners, so you buy it online and claim online. In addition, they are a company that cares about sustainable travel and they give you a chance to make a difference by making a micro donation to support a community development project when you sign up.
So, you’re all set. Enjoy Buenos Aires and the tango!
Do you have any stories of Buenos Aires? I’d love to hear them. Comment below.
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Read about more Latin American experiences:
- Seeing glaciers in Argentina
- Experiencing the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentine Patagonia
- Hiking French Valley in Chilean Patagonia
- Cycling down the Andes in Ecuador
- White water rafting in Peru
- Making chocolate workshop in Guatemala
- Taking a food tour in Santiago, Chile
- Tasting wine in the Maipo Valley, Chile
- Watching the Semana Santa parades in Taxco, Mexico
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