When it comes to tango, emotions ride high. From its beginnings, the dance and its two-four beat marked and reflected the character of Buenos Aires. Whether you want experience it through impassioned dancing or tortured lyrics, here are our picks of the city's top tango spots.
One of the most memorable ways to experience the best of this broody, melancholic, impassioned art form is through dancing it yourself.
For a novice-friendly floor, try La Ideal
or La Viruta
and Niño Bien
at El Centro Region Leonesa are popular with locals.
The hippest tangueros flock to La Catedral
and Parakultural at Salón Canning
For breaking the "he leads, she follows" rule, head to La Marshall
If you’d prefer a more passive appreciation of this fanciest of footwork, fear not: there are options that won’t require significant coordination. For many, the tango experience begins and ends with cena-shows
. These include drinks and a three-course dinner, and are entirely aimed at tourists (the only locals are businesspeople entertaining clients). Some are flashy affairs known as tango de fantasía
in expensive, purpose-built clubs—expect sequined costumes, gelled hairdos, and high-kicking moves. Others are relatively lower-key in older venues that once catered to porteños before tango tourism took off.
Best Atmospheric Surroundings
for the worn checkered floor and Old World bar.
Mansión Dandi Royal
for the art nouveau architecture.
Best for Blowing the Bank
for the gorgeous surroundings—and tangoers.
for varied, professional performances and first-rate food.
for classic café surroundings and polished shows.
El Viejo Almacén
for pedigree (founded by tango legend Edmundo Rivero) and high energy.
for fishnetted glitz and over-the-top embracing of stereotypes.
The average porteño is much more likely to go see tango musicians than tango dancers. Offerings range from orchestras churning out tunes as was done in Carlos Gardel’s day to sexy, bluesy vocals from divas like Adriana Varela; from pared down revisitings of the tango underworld by groups like 34 Puñaladas to anarchic young collectives like La Orquesta Típica Fernández Fierro. For tango that packs a punch, look out for electronic tango fusion from groups like Gotan Project and Bajofondo Tango Club.
Most Laid Back
Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso
for a hip, clubby vibe.
Bar de Roberto for gin-guzzling old-timers and impromptu performances.
Club Atletico Fernandex Fierro
for the roosty eponymous orchestra that runs it.
Gran Café Tortoni
for the historic setting and consistently excellent performances.
for the old-school orchestra and gorgeous surroundings.
for performances by stellar soloists and the occasional electrotango show.
More Tango Spots in Buenos Aires.
Photo credit: Chase Binder, Fodors.com member