Buenos Aires, Argentina, travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights

THE ONE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Buenos Aires' oldest neighbourhood, San Telmo, is a cobblestoned charmer – a romantic mix of grand colonial mansions, imposing churches and atmospheric bars and restaurants. A vibrant cultural district, it's also home to a wide range of galleries, theatres and tango venues. Sundays are particularly entertaining, thanks to a lively market with hundreds of stalls and a mesmerising sideshow of food vendors, live performers and Grade-A people-watching.

THE ONE MUSEUM

Most guidebooks will steer you towards Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, a vast, stamina-testing establishment containing Latin America's largest public art collection. For something more manageable, and arguably more thought-provoking, check out MALBA, the Museum of Latin American Art. Housed in an appropriately contemporary building in Palermo, it has an impressive selection of 20th and 21st-century works, including paintings by Mexican masters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. See malba.org.ar

THE ONE CAFE

Don't go to La Biela for the coffee (it's average); go to savour the atmosphere of a literary icon. Designated a Place of Cultural Interest, this Recoleta institution features life-size models of its two most famous patrons, writers Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares. On a summer's day, the plum spot for a cafe con leche is the sun-drenched terrace, which has sweeping views across a park towards Recoleta Cemetery. See labiela.com

THE ONE CEMETERY

Roofs of mausuleums of the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires topped with figures of angels, people and mythical beings tra1-buenosaires
Photo credit: iStock
Reusage permitted for print and online

Photo: iStock

The grave of Recoleta Cemetery's most famous identity, Eva Peron, is surprisingly underwhelming, but the other 6000-plus tombs more than make up for it. You'll find everything from art nouveau towers to Greek temples to grand Baroque mini-palaces. Of course, it's the stories behind the stones that are most fascinating, so although you can buy a map and explore yourself, it's well worth joining a tour by an operator such as Buenos Tours. See buenostours.com

THE ONE SHOP

Even if you don't end up buying a book, it's worth visiting El Ateneo Grand Splendid just to marvel at its gloriously opulent interior. First, a grand theatre and then a cinema, it's third incarnation is as one of the world's most beguiling bookshops. Curl up with a tome in one of the ornate balcony boxes or linger in the cafe and admire its curtain-framed stage and intricate frescoed ceilings. See turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar

THE ONE THEATRE

Buenos Aires Argentina 9/2/2018: The Teatro Colón is the main opera house in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is considered one of the ten best opera houses in the world by National Geographic, and is acoustically considered to be amongst the five best concert venues in the world. tra1-buenosaires
Photo credit: iStock
Reusage permitted for print and online

Photo: iStock

To fully appreciate Teatro Colon's lavish interior and impressive acoustics (it's considered one of the best performance venues in the world), book ahead for tickets to an opera, ballet or classical recital. Even if you don't attend a performance, you can still take a 50-minute guided tour of this magnificent seven-storey building, which occupies an entire city block. Famous names to have graced the stage include Pavarotti, Nureyev and Stravinsky. See teatrocolon.org.ar

THE ONE BAR

You'll find stylish neighbourhood bars in every corner of the city but one worth hopping in a cab for is Gran Bar Danzon in Retiro. While some people come for the food (the sushi is excellent), we advocate finding a sofa in the low-lit lounge bar to savour its extensive wine list, which boasts 400 varietals by the glass. Cocktail-lovers won't be disappointed either, thanks to innovative recipes and expert mixologists. See granbardanzon.com.ar

Advertisement

THE ONE HOTEL

For unashamed indulgence, there's only one hotel to consider: the Alvear Palace. Ideally located in the heart of Recoleta, it's been hosting VIPs and dignitaries since it opened in 1932. The property exudes opulence (white-gloved butlers, crystal chandeliers and Egyptian cotton sheets) and thanks to an extensive 2016 refurbishment, it now boasts a sophisticated rooftop bar, pool and spa. Whether you stay or not (rooms from $720), afternoon tea in L'Orangerie is a treat-worthy splurge. See alvearpalace.com

THE ONE TOUR

Discover some of the city's best taverns and parrillas (authentic Argentine steakhouses) on this 2.5-hour walking tour of Palermo with local specialist Parrilla Tour. Pace yourself because you'll be sampling a selection of classic Argentine dishes including choripan (hot sausage sandwich), homemade empanadas and a slab of juicy grilled steak (with a glass of malbec, naturally). Finish off with an artisanal dulce de leche ice cream and a lie-down. See parrillatour.com

ONE MORE THING

Don't feel you have to be a die-hard soccer fan to attend a match at La Bombonera, Maradona's old stomping ground and the home of Boca Juniors. Irrespective of what's happening on the pitch, the atmosphere and passion is something that has to be seen to be believed. The surrounding area of La Boca is equally compelling (during daylight) with a colourful mix of bars, galleries and impromptu tango performances.

Rob McFarland was a guest of LATAM (latam.com) and Aurora Expeditions (auroraexpeditions.com.au).