September 24, 2010 / 1:42 PM / 7 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in nostalgic Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters Life!) - In Buenos Aires, browsing through antique stalls, dining on steak, drinking Malbec wine and dancing the tango in atmospheric dance halls are a must.

<p>A crescent moon is seen over Buenos Aires at sunrise, September 6, 2010. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci</p>

But the cosmopolitan capital also boasts fashionable clubs blasting the latest electronic hits and a revamped dock area flush with luxurious skyscrapers and chic restaurants.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors to Buenos Aires get the most out of a short stay.

Friday

8 p.m. - Kick off your weekend with a stroll from the city’s landmark obelisk to Corrientes Avenue, the busy street where locals go for a night at the theater or a leisurely browse around the second-hand bookshops. Corrientes is Buenos Aires’ answer to Broadway, but the quaint bookstores that stay open into the early hours and faded theaters give it an Old World charm.

Pop over to the nearby Teatro Colon (www.teatrocolon.org.ar), an ornate opera house that reopened this May after a three-year restoration. Built in 1908, when Argentina was one of the world's richest nations, it offers a beautiful glimpse into the nation's wealthier past.

9:30 p.m. - Early dining is not fashionable in Buenos Aires, and Portenos, as residents are known, often tuck into dessert well after midnight. Join the pre-theater crowd at Pizzeria Guerrin (Corrientes 1368), one of the city’s oldest pizzerias, or dig into Argentine fare at tango-themed Chiquilin (Sarmiento 1599).

11 p.m. - Grab some last-minute tickets for a theater show, or enjoy the city’s nightlife. If you are fond of electronic music visit Milion (Parana 1048). But if you fancy a more mellow night try the Thelonious Club (Salguero 1884).

Saturday

11 a.m. - Enjoy brunch in fashionable Palermo, known for its leafy parks, boutique shops and trendy residents. As one of the largest neighborhoods, it is subdivided into Palermo Hollywood because of its concentration of production studios and Palermo Soho, which attracts a sophisticated, bohemian crowd, among others. Savor Scandinavian-inspired cuisine at Olsen (Gorriti 5870) or gawk at the funky, colorful decor at Lele de Troya (Costa Rica 4901). If you’re wistful for post-war charm, settle on the high-stools of El Preferido de Palermo (Jorge Luis Borges 2108), a small, grocery-style cafe.

12:30 p.m. - Browse through racks of stylish clothes or leather goods in Palermo’s plazas. Visit El Ateneo Grand Splendid (Santa Fe 1860), a majestic bookstore located in a stunning former theater. Dive into works by Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina’s best-known author, at the comfortable cafe located on what used to be the theater’s grand stage.

2 p.m. - On a sunny day, stroll over to the Japanese Gardens for some serenity among the city’s bustle. If it’s raining, hail a taxi and head to the MALBA museum (Figueroa Alcorta 3415) which features works by contemporary Latin American artists or to the National Museum of Fine Arts (Libertador 1473), which houses a collection including European paintings and sculptures. The MALBA has an excellent restaurant for a lunch-time break.

5:30 p.m. - Wander the maze of imposing, stone-built tombs at the Recoleta cemetery, where the city’s rich and famous are buried. Visit the grave of Eva “Evita” Peron but be prepared for the tour groups.

7:30 p.m. - Take a quick nap at your hotel and then indulge in a parrilla, a typical steakhouse where you can sample the country’s famed juicy cuts of grass-fed beef. Tuck into tender sirloin and fillet steak at high-end La Brigada (Estados Unidos 465) or at the more rustic El Desnivel (Defensa 855).

11 p.m. - Put on your dancing shoes and head to Buenos Aires’ tango halls, known as milongas. A boom in tourism has revived the appeal of the nostalgic dance, which was born in the city’s immigrant neighborhoods. Visit La Viruta (Armenia 1366), where you can enjoy a quick class in a simple setting or La Catedral (Sarmiento 4006) if you’re a more confident dancer.

Sunday

10 a.m. - Breakfast on buttery pastries and coffee in the picturesque Boca neighborhood, which was chiefly settled by working-class Italian immigrants. Simple wooden homes have cheerful pastel-colored facades, coated with leftover boat paint, and artists perform on the cobbled streets.

11 a.m. - Stroll through the crowded Caminito street, pausing to buy a few typical souvenirs on your way to the Bombonera soccer stadium. Swing by the epic blue and yellow stadium where Diego Maradona played his last game.

1:30 p.m. - Hop on a bus, or trek 30 minutes north, to lunch at a low-key cafe in the artsy San Telmo neighborhood. Settle down at Pasaje La Defensa’s (Defensa 1179) terraced cafe which overlooks a charming 19th century commercial gallery or the typical Bar El Federal (Carlos Calvo 395).

3 p.m. - Enjoy the festive crowd of mimes, artisans and tourists perusing the San Telmo flea market. Don’t miss the impersonator of famous tango singer Carlos Gardel, who is a weekly fixture at the fair. Wander the stalls laden with vintage jewelry and retro posters of the city.

5 p.m. - Wrap up your weekend in the political heart of the city. Walk up to the Plaza de Mayo to pose for pictures in front of the pink presidential palace, where Evita famously waved to her supporters. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, women dedicated to finding missing victims of Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship, still meet there weekly. Nearby, veterans of the 1982 Falklands War have set up camp to demand better pension benefits.

Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Patricia Reaney

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