The Best Bars in Buenos Aires

Due to sheer numbers alone, it’s a tricky task to choose the best cafés and bars in Buenos Aires. (First, a point regarding language: the words “café" and “bar” are practically interchangeable here.) From the city’s most old-fashioned watering holes to contemporary coffeeshops and afternoon tea service at a palatial hotel, Buenos Aires is packed with places to caffeinate or unwind over a glass of wine.

Carlos Calvo 599, C1102AAK CABA, Argentina
For a little old-school San Telmo atmosphere, you can’t do much better than this classic corner bar. Dating from 1864, the antique building started out as a pulpería (general store), the seedy center of a gambling ring and even a brothel before it was converted into the popular restaurant and bar it is today. On your way in, check out the antique cash register and the gorgeous vitraux (stained glass) over the long bar: it’s no wonder this place has been used as a film set several times over. Then pull up a chair at one of the rustic wooden tables, preferably by the windows for maximum people-watching potential. If it’s morning or time for merienda, ask for a cortado with medialunas; otherwise, order an ice-cold chopp (draft beer) and a monster-sized lomito (steak) sandwich.
Av. Rivadavia 3899, C1204AAD C1204AAD, Buenos Aires, Argentina
On weekends, the line to get into Las Violetas stretches halfway around the block. (A little much, you say, in a city that’s filled with lovely cafes?) No, in fact, the locals know what they’re doing. This gem of a corner cafe may be the most beautiful in the entire city, and coming here for weekend breakfast or afternoon tea is a proud tradition. Once you do have a seat—it’s much easier to pull off on a weekday—admire the stained-glass windows and old brass fixtures, and the prim and proper porteño couples of a certain age, out for their daily merienda. You’re off the tourist track here, in a barrio with few other attractions for travelers, so catching a glimpse of the neighborhood’s residents is part of the fun. On the way out, stop in the chocolate shop, located in one corner of the huge cafe, for a little souvenir to take home. But who are we kidding, those chocolates aren’t going to make it much further than your hotel room.
AAK, Libertad 505, C1012 CABA, Argentina
Teatro Colón, considered one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world, is a must-see for architecture fans and ballet enthusiasts alike. Around the corner is Petit Colón, one of the city’s most elegant cafés — and a perfect spot to stop for cappuccino and cake, or a glass of champagne, before or after the curtain call. Choose a table by the window for optimal people-watching opportunities of the theatre crowd passing by.
Av. de Mayo 591, C1084 AAA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is filled with historic bars and cafés, but London City, recently reopened after significant restorations, is worth seeking out for two reasons: its literary pedigree and its fantastic location. The café was the particular favorite of one of Argentina’s great writers, Julio Cortázar, who wrote his novel Los premios (1960) while seated here. Today, the outward-facing sidewalk tables on Avenida de Mayo are a perfect place to stop for coffee (or a glass of wine) and watch the world go by.
Av. de Mayo 825, C1084 CABA, Argentina
More than a local institution dating back to the 1850s, the Café Tortoni ranks among the world’s most famous salons. As vintage photos here show, the columned establishment has hosted more literary figures than you can count. Play billiards while you enjoy a latte, or order from the full restaurant menu.
806-900 Arroyo
An observer from the sidewalk might puzzle as groups of people march into this pretty flower store—and don’t emerge shortly with bouquets. The customers are not here for the blossoms but for what lies below. A door at the rear of the shop leads downstairs to a long speakeasy bar and an adjacent line of hard-to-snag tables. Sea monsters and fish scales emerge from the walls, and as the name Atlántico suggests, the seafood and old-school-aperitif recipes that European immigrants brought to Argentina when they crossed the eponymous pond are the inspiration behind cuisine and cocktails alike. The Spanish-style pulpo (octopus) or the jumbo prawns draw raves; reserve for dinner to avoid a likely wait. Or wedge into the bar to enjoy the innovative, much-ballyhooed mixology.
Francisco Acuña de Figueroa 1790, C1180ABH CABA, Argentina
For serious wine enthusiasts, this is the closed-door dining experience of choice. On Wednesday through Saturday at at Casa Coupage, a pair of sommeliers serve a seasonal tasting menu with wine pairings to nine tables inside their elegant Palermo apartment. In this intimate environment, dinner doubles as an informal wine course - the sommelier talks you through everything you taste, discussing the grape, terroir and winemaker, answering your questions, even helping you choose a few bottles to take home with you.
Chile 502, C1098 AAL, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Founded in 1982 by local poet Rubén Derlis, this café once served as a meeting place for writers, artists, and left-leaning thinkers anxious to speak freely after years of fear and oppression under Argentina’s late-’70s military dictatorships. Order the picada, a charcuterie and cheese sampler; lubricate with a traditional local-favorite drink like a Fernet-and-Coke or a Cynar, the tangy artichoke liqueur mixed with pomelo, a sour, grapefruit-flavored soda. Wood paneling and exposed brick, walls covered in photographs, and shelves packed with antique objets make La Poesía an inviting space to linger over a book from the lending library or listen to the live tango music played on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
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