(CNN)South America’s most glamorous metropolis, Buenos Aires sweeps visitors off their feet with an array of galleries, museums and restaurants, and fantastic fin de sicle architecture that won this city fame as the Paris of South America.
Few places match the passion and drama of the Argentine capital, the city that gave the world tango, immortalized Eva Pern and whose roller-coaster history has seen more ups and downs than Mickey Rourke’s movie career.
Don’t lament, and certainly don’t cry for BA.
Instead, embrace the brash, modern beauty of this fast-moving city, using this guide to the best of Buenos Aires.
Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
Asian-American expat and super chef Sunae wows diners each Thursday through Saturday with nights of spicy Southeast Asian cuisine at her leading closed-door restaurant.
The location for this supper club is Sunae’s own Buenos Aires home.
There, within a modern-chic space, she treats guests to a four-course menu that tours the best of Southeast Asian cuisine, featuring, for example, hot Thai soup followed by Vietnamese-style grilled pork marinated with lemongrass.
Each beautifully presented dish is infused with the rich flavors and fragrances of Sunae’s childhood.
As big as this place is, it’s still mostly filled with locals.
Run by the same family of Italian immigrants since opening in 1934, El Cuartito is a noisy, popular pizzeria located at the center of this fast-moving metropolis.
It serves the best slice of pizza in Buenos Aires.
Cooked in clay ovens, they emerge thin and crispy and are whisked to tables by chatty waiters.
The decor is as simple and as likeable as the food: strip lighting, Formica tables, and retro sports posters.
Astrid & Gastn
Peruvian cuisine is in vogue in BA and Astrid & Gastn is a leading exponent.
Sourcing the zingy, ocean-fresh flavors of Peru’s coast and the spices of its altiplano, this Latin American conglomerate creates dishes that go way beyond ceviche.
Its setting is a restored mansion, whose dining spaces are spread over three floors linked by a spiral staircase.
The regal front salon, where guests dine beneath portraits of wigged viceroys, is marvelous.
Buenos Aires’ most stylish cocktail bar, Isabel, styles itself on New York’s late lamented Studio 54.
It sparkles with 1970s glamour. There are mirrors for walls, oyster-shaped dining booths, and retro spotlights that glow on and off like HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
At the bar, lightning-quick mixologists whip up vintage cocktails like the Cosmopolitan and Singapore Sling.
Youthful, beautiful patrons pair their drink orders with sushi and caviar items that arrive on delicately tiered trays.
A live-music venue, Boris Club hosts Argentine and international jazz artists within a purpose-built space of industrial-chic decor and razor-sharp acoustics.
Shows time-travel across the jazz spectrum, with nights of Latin jams, jazz-tango fusion, and swing by popular house band, the Boris Big Band.
Enthusiasts hang out on a cool mezzanine or at one of the spots that hug the stage.
Food and wine are brought to you by a swishing waiting staff.
Possibly Buenos Aires’ most romantic drinking spot, Milin is a converted three-story Recoleta mansion that dates from the belle epoque.
Its design features art nouveau skylights, winding marble staircases, classical columns, terraces and, most memorably, an ornate garden that is perfect for sunset cocktails or moonlit wines.
Belying its stately elegance and glamorous clientele in one of BA’s most affluent areas are prices that are actually quite reasonable, including a happy hour that runs until 9 p.m.
There is a great dining menu, too.
Prado y Neptuno
This boutique best of Buenos-Aires cigar bar in Recoleta woos sophisticates with rolled tobaccos, premium wines and imported spirits.
Customers can arrange private tastings, at which a sommelier marries Cuban cigars with Argentine wines, cocktails and spirits.
The cigar-wine tasting is the most significant Argentine-Cuban pairing since Che and Fidel: a lusty Latin love-in that blends the creamy, fruity flavors of Argentine chardonnays with the smoky, hot notes of Cuban tobacco.
Prado y Neptuno, Ayacucho 2134; +54 11 4802 9872
Since 2005, this funky design store in Palermo has conducted fair trade partnerships with indigenous communities from eight Northern Argentinian provinces, harnessing millennia-old weaving techniques to create contemporary woolen designs.
They include 100-percent handcrafted rugs, garments and decorative objects sourced from sheep, llama and alpaca wools.
Channel your inner Stella McCartney here, too. At the in-store studio, English-speaking staff use chalkboards and computers to help customers create their own bespoke woolens to order.
Elementos Argentinos, Gurruchaga 1881; +54 11 4832 6299
Autora Bs As
Autora Bs As gathers together creations by over 300 leading Argentine designers and artists, forming a retail intersection for both.
Offerings include contemporary art — Cecilia Ivanchevich’s playful paintings of Argentina’s iconic beef cattle are worth the visit alone — and clothing, jewelry, books, decorative and other items by eco-conscious designers, who place an emphasis on reclamation and sustainability.
These include Neumtica, whose smart bags and accessories are sourced from recycled tire rubber, and Doris Vias, who fashions jewelry pieces from discarded zippers.
One of Argentina’s hottest young fashion designers, Agostina Bianchi has already dressed the windows of London’s Harrods department store with her limited-production garments and accessories.
Bianchi now has her own boutique in BA’s Soho district.
Her ethical, handmade womenswear collections meld delicate fabrics with sensual, delicate designs, affirming a stated dedication to the balance between form, function and femininity.
Agostina Bianchi, Thames 1733; +54 11 4833 9357
Casa Rosada (pink house)
The city’s central plaza, Plaza de Mayo, also known as Plaza de Protestas, has been the focal point for all celebrations and revolutions in Argentina’s rollercoaster history of booms and busts.
The pink Casa Rosada, the presidential house, dominates the square.
After 1945, Eva “Evita” Pern urged the masses towards revolution from its balcony and Diego Maradona lifted aloft the soccer World Cup there in 1986.
In 2001, furious Argentines tried to smash down the Casa Rosada’s grand portal as Argentina imploded under a mountain of international debt.
Cementerio de la Recoleta
The Recoleta Cemetery is a walled necropolis of over 6,400 tombs whose labyrinth of streets conserves the burial places of Argentina’s great and powerful.
Politicians, generals, artists, presidents and Eva Pern lie buried here in grandiose tombs of marble and bronze.
Evita’s vault, always adorned with flowers, is the cemetery’s most-visited sepulcher.
The last stop in the bizarre 24-year odyssey of her remains that included Italy, Spain and various points throughout Argentina, her final resting place lies at the cemetery’s heart.
Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA)
MALBA has one of the world’s finest collections of Latin American art.
The outstanding Museum of Modern Latin American Art showcases the works of this region’s greatest artists, including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Fernando Botero.
Its location is a sleekly geometric building whose minimalist interior really allows the art to shine: from the avant-garde of the 1910s to kinetic art of the 1960s and conceptual works of the contemporary era.
An excellent audio guide offers a run-through of this museum’s most emblematic pieces.
Buenos Aires is the uncontested tango capital of the world, offering ample means to watch, learn and perform this “dancer’s dance.”
Where To Watch Tango
Caf de los Angelitos
Show tango is more acrobatic than traditional tango and borrows from other dance forms.
This converted theater space hosts glitzy dinner-tango shows.
Its dancers wow audiences with spectacular renditions of Show Tango, a theatrical interpretation of the genre that embraces athletic leaps, high kicks and dramatic pirouettes.
Sultry tango crooners, backed by an eight-piece orchestra, also perform at this Las Vegas-style extravaganza.
When not staging some of the best live tango in Buenos Aires, this former site of Bar Rivadavia, which opened in 1890, is also a charming 24-hour caf.
El Viejo Almacn
Arguably Buenos Aires’ most authentic tango experience.
El Viejo Almacn uses the intimate setting of a restored colonial house in San Telmo to host dinner-tango shows featuring traditional and contemporary styles of the form.
Dancers and singers perform on a small, wooden stage with the support of a four-piece orchestra.
Choose between tables on a balcony or those adjoining the stage, where, steps from the action, the melodrama of the tango intensifies.
Where To Learn and Dance Tango
The atmospheric setting for this fashionable milonga is a converted, unmarked warehouse on an unlikely street.
It hosts more unorthodox nightly tango classes and dances that cater mostly to the beginner and intermediate levels; advanced dancers should try the La Maria class on Wednesdays.
La Catedral attracts the young and bohemian.
Beneath the vaulted ceiling of the warehouse, people tango, hang out at the veggie bar or lounge on shabby-chic sofas that ring the wooden floor.
La Confitera Ideal
La Ideal is a regular setting for tango films.
A tango haunt opened in 1912 — and seemingly unchanged since — Confitera Ideal hosts classes, dances and tango shows.
Classes and dances run daily, with both matinee and evening programs.
Tango shows take place on weekends amidst the Corinthian columns and Art-nouveau skylights of this venue, which Buenos Aires officials formally included among its list of Bares Notables for it cultural significance to the city.
Shows feature Salon Tango, a slower interpretation of the genre.