Buenos Aires is the home of sensual, passionate tango. But most visitors to the city will only ever see the parts that have been crafted just for them. This includes the tango shows in the streets of La Boca (where few locals ever go), or the tango-and-dinner shows that are popular with visitors to the city. Below are some authentic tango experiences that will get you immersed in the local scene and show you what tango in “the Paris of South America” is like.Read More
Where to Experience Tango in its Birthplace, Buenos Aires
1. La Viruta
Palermo’s La Viruta knows how to cater to tourists, offering tango lessons in both Spanish and English. New skills can be tested out at the lively milongas on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but this place is definitely for night owls. The after-party of the tango world, people start showing up around 2 a.m., and the party continues all night. Many go out earlier in the evening and end up here when they don’t want to stop dancing. On weekends at 4 a.m. La Viruta serves a breakfast of medialunas and coffee. Get your order in early, because they tend to sell out to late night partiers who need a sugar and caffeine fix.
2. Salon Canning
This popular venue in Palermo has been around for almost 20 years and is one of the best places to go for a traditional experience with an excellent dancefloor. Although beginners may have a hard time keeping up, the Milonga Parakultural is a social, welcoming atmosphere that will encourage visitors to get out of their comfort zone. Performances usually begin around 2 a.m., but get there before 11:30 p.m. if you want a good table without reservations.
3. La Catedral
C1197AAH CABA, Argentina
With dance lessons offered at reasonable hours in the early evening, La Catedral is known as the best place in town to try out beginner skills. The old warehouse building floor fills with relaxed beginner and intermediate dancers who appreciate the laid-back and welcoming vibe. Wednesdays and Saturdays are the most popular evenings — the milonga starts at 11 p.m. No need to put on fancy tango clothing here, as the dress code is completely casual.
4. El Beso
This is a very local, high-quality milonga with expert dancers. It’s not the best place for beginners to join in, but it is always fun to kick back at a table and watch. El Beso is celebrated for hosting a gay milonga on Fridays starting at 10:30 p.m. in one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities on earth. In a city that refuses to sleep, Tuesday’s shows last until 5 a.m. for those ready to dance all night. But for those who can’t keep up with the late nights, stop by the club on Friday afternoons between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
C1069 CABA, Argentina
This large, modern space in San Telmo offers tango lessons earlier in the evening. And though it doesn’t offer a classically traditional atmosphere, the music and dance quality is very good. Orchestra Tipoca El Afronte often plays and is not to be missed. Make a reservation ahead of time (simply write to Maldita through Facebook) and ask for a table with a clear view. The music starts at 11 p.m., but aim to get there around 10 p.m. to get settled in before the younger crowds arrive. Wednesday is the buzzy, happening night of the week here.
6. El Viejo Almacén
Set in a small historic tangueria building in San Telmo, El Viejo Almacén was named a site of cultural interest in 1982. Locals revere it as one of the most classic tango houses of all time and will often remind visitors that it was here that the famous singer Edmundo Rivero took his first steps into the tango world. It’s the place to go to watch traditional, professional entertainers and get a feel for the roots of tango in Buenos Aires.
7. El Caminito, La Boca
Where better to experience tango than the actual neighborhood where it originated? El Caminito is a street museum in the neighborhood of La Boca, where immigrants from Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and other parts of South America immigrated during the 1800s and fused their respective musical traditions to create tango. The neighborhood is now full of street vendors, tango dancers, and its characteristically colorful painted houses.
8. Rojo Tango
Rojo Tango is one of the overpriced shows that the hotel concierges will try to sell you on, but it’s actually worth it if your budget allows. Held in the five-star, Philippe Starck-designed Faena Hotel of Puerto Madero, this is a high-class show held in a tiny venue. Dancers spill out among the tables, and the live band will never be more than a few feet away, making every guest feel as though they’re part of the show. This show runs on the side of sensual and may be too much for a conservative audience. Skip the recommended dinner on-site and eat beforehand, as the tango is much better than the food. No one is saying that this is the most traditional tango show in the city, but it is a beautiful one and perfect for a romantic night.