Esquire's travel correspondent Tom Barber befriends Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires is comprised of distinct districts or barrios, each with a deliciously different vibe — La Boca, famed for its passionate football fans; Recoleta, where the money gravitates; Puerto Madero, the up-and-coming hipster area; and Palermo, the heart of all-night action. And we mean
all-night. Rule one in BA: don’t even consider going out until after 10pm, and expect to be going strong until dawn on local beers, wines and cocktails — surrounded by strikingly good-looking women.
Yes, readers, the female porteñas (“port dwellers”, as the locals are known) are every bit as attractive as you’ve heard. Meanwhile, the porteños (males) are equally pimped out in their riding breeches astride a pony. That’s why we recommend going now, after the early-December end of the polo season. Not that we fear the competition — but there’s nothing wrong with levelling the playing field
Because the Argentinian football season is in full swing, and there’s nothing more memorable than watching the legendary Boca Juniors at their intimate — and intimidating — La Bombonera stadium (above)
There’s been an explosion of new boutique properties popping up: our favourite is the Faena Hotel in Puerto Madero. The rooms are slick, and the on-site bistro, bars, pool, theatre and spa all make it hard to escape to the outside world. Expect to spot at least one celebrity (Beyoncé, for example, loves it here).
Argentina is a country defined by its varied immigrants, of whom the Italians make up the majority (around half the population claim some Italian ancestry thanks to a massive influx in the 19th century), so you’d expect some top-drawer Italian grub. The most authentic is arguably at Palermo’s Il Ballo del Mattone, where daily specials are scribbled on a chalkboard and occasional art exhibitions lure a discerning crowd.
3| Have Dinner
Vegetarians need not apply in BA. Raging carnivores, meanwhile, should visit a parrilla or grill restaurant. Worth noting is Fervor in swanky Recoleta. Try the grilled rib-eye steak washed down with a local malbec (we recommend Catena Zapata), while shooting the breeze like a born and bred porteño. Despite being a harbour city, seafood restaurants are at a premium, but Fervor ticks this box, too.
Lovers of everything clandestine will dig Frank’s, where you need a code to get in. A secret door reveals a Twenties speakeasy interior and delicious cocktails. Try the Old French Style — single-malt, truffle-infused honey, bitters and orange.
One out of 10 for geographical accuracy, menswear boutique Bolivia (actually in Palermo) is a 10 out of 10 for anyone keen to get the porteño hipster look, selling a wide range of skinny jeans and T-shirts by local designers.
6| When In
See how the great and the good let their hair down at the private Oasis Clubhouse, BA’s take on the Soho House model. Strictly entre nous, there are one or two rooms available for non-members; you can buy a one-day pass, settle down by the pool and watch BA’s bikini-clad finest in action.
BA is a city with more than a passing frisson of sex in the air: cue the telos, or love hotels, discreetly located on most city blocks. Some are predictably seedy, but others are seriously upmarket. If the mood takes you, book an hour or two in a room complete with iced champagne and oysters at the General Paz.
The locals making tango look like the perfect embodiment of George Bernard Shaw’s observation that dancing “is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire”. Don’t, under any alcohol-induced circumstances, think that you can tango anything like as well.
Wearing red and white on match days in La Boca. The colours are those of Boca Juniors' deadly rivals River Plate.
BA flies direct to BA, appropriately enough.
Tom Barber is a founder of award-winning company Original Travel. originaltravel.co.uk