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Alto Palermo shopping center
The cultural capital of South America, and one of the world's great gay destinations, Buenos Aires pulses with energy and is rife with diverse, historic, and colorful neighborhoods. Fans of shopping, wine, food, and gay nightlife will find plenty to see and do here. Here's a gallery exploring all there is to see and do in gay Buenos Aires, including such charming neighborhoods as Palermo Viejo, Palermo Hollywood, Recoleta, Belgrano, and San Telmo.
One of the city's swankiest shopping malls, the chic Alto Palermo shopping mall sits in the heart of the Palermo neighborhood, a short walk from Recoleta, along bustling Avenida Santa Fe. It contains a number of snazzy boutiques, among them Calvin Klein, Christian Lacroix, Zara, Christian Dior, Estee Lauder, Garbanino, Lacoste, Mac, Maria Vazquez, Paddle Watch, Rapsodia, and more. You can also get your caffeine fix at a spacious Starbucks - one of several mostly chain restaurants at Alto Palermo.Continue to 2 of 29 below.
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The largest gay club in the city, Amerika (Gascon 1040) is on the edge of Palermo in the Almagro neighborhood. This place packs in huge (as in 2,000 revelers) crowds and is open Thursday through Sunday nights. There are multiple levels to dance and observe the scene, and Amerika draws a nice mix of sweaty club kids, stylish lesbians, heteros who love the music and vibe, and...well...pretty much everybody who's anybody in gay Buenos Aires.Continue to 3 of 29 below.
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Bar Uriarte, in Palermo Viejo
Delightful dapper and quite chic, Bar Uriarte (Uriarte 1572, Palermo, 54-11-4834-60-04) occupies a long, narrow space on one of Palermo Viejo's most inviting cobbled lanes. Once inside, you'll discover a warmly lighted, handsomely outfitted restaurant with a long bar on one side and a couple of different dining areas - the one in back is quietest and best-suited to a romantic meal. It's not overstating things to call this one of the top few bar-and-grill venues in the city, and certainly one of the most stylish. Bar Uriarte has also become a highly sought-after locale for gay dates - the service balances knowledge and panache with friendliness and humor, and the food is superb. Few restaurants in the neighborhood show a more impressive list of wines by the glass and bottle, and the prices are quite reasonable. In the tony Recoleta district, you'd pay 50% for the same innovative regional Argentinean food (much of it prepared in a wood-fired oven) and vibe. Expect big... crowds on weekends, when it's best either to arrive a bit early or expect to wait a little for a table.Continue to 4 of 29 below.
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Bartok Cafe and Bar, Palermo Viejo
The quintessential old-world Palermo Viejo cafe and bar, Bartok (Costa Rica 4600, 54-11-4831-54-41) sits at one of the neighborhood's most popular intersections (Costa Rica and Armenia streets, right on the edge of Plaza Palermo Viejo). It's one of a number of eateries, many of them quite fashionable, overlooking the plaza, which is one of the neighborhood's very few green spaces. Although it's open throughout the day and for dinner as well, and it has a popular happy hour early in the evening, Bartok feels more like a cafe and is especially pleasant at lunchtime. If the weather's nice, grab a table along the sidewalk - there aren't many spots in the city with better people-watching. The food is light and affordable - salads, sandwiches, and the like, plus good coffee and a nice selection of beers, wines, and cocktails.Continue to 5 of 29 below.
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Bulnes Class, in the Palermo neighborhood
A reliably fun and somewhat trendy gay bar catering to a youngish, fashionable bunch of guys (and a smaller number of women), Bulnes Class (Bulnes 1250, Palermo, 54-11-4861-74-92) is centrally located in the Palermo neighborhood, an easy walk from Amerika disco and several other of the city's top GLBT hot spots, on an otherwise quiet residential street. The action is centered around a main bar, and comfy leather armchairs and banquettes along the wall provide a nice spot for schmoozing and people-watching. Earlier in the evening, this is one of the most popular gay hangouts in the city.Continue to 6 of 29 below.
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Cero Consecuencia gay bar, in Palermo
Drawing a mix of lesbians and gay bars and with a distinctly local, unfussy, neigbhorhood ambience, Cero Consecuencia (Cabrera 3769, 54-11-4825-17-77) is on a central street in Palermo, not far from Bulnes Class and Amerika disco. It's a diminutive place with an even tinier front patio, through which you pass to reach the bar. Drinks are cheap here, and the small dance floor is campy and inviting - perfect if you're out with friends looking to cut loose. The crowd is quirky and varied, with more lesbians than most of the bars in the neighborhood.Continue to 7 of 29 below.
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Calle Defensa, looking east toward San Telmo from Plaza Mayor
What's the best way to approach Buenos Aires' charming and gay-popular San Telmo neighborhood on foot? One excellent strategy is to start at the city's famed Plaza Mayor, and then proceed east along Calle Defensa. This photo is looking east in the evening toward San Telmo, a block in from Plaza Mayor. The narrow Calle Defensa runs for several blocks before piercing the heart of San Telmo, and its dignified but dilapidated colonial buildings, many of them now holding antiques shops, cafes, and bars.Continue to 8 of 29 below.
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Freddo ice cream parlor, in San Telmo
Portenos take ice cream seriously, and there are plenty of noteworthy artisanal ice cream parlors around the city. Among the chains, Freddo is probably the most reliable - it's pictured here on a street corner in the charming and gay-popular San Telmo neighborhood. But there are countless branches all over town. Enjoy a dish of the rich dark-chocolate flavor, or a thick and delicious cafe con leche flavor that bears little resemblance to the ersatz versions you might find outside South America. This particular Freddo is often inhabited by gay Portenos, but also note the swanky branch inside Patio Bullrich shopping center, or one of the locales in Palermo.Continue to 9 of 29 below.
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Havanna Cafe, San Telmo
A ubiquitous chain of coffeehouses and chocolate shop, Havanna San Telmo has nearly 30 branches throughout Buenos Aires - the one pictured here is along the engagingly shabby-chic main drag of San Telmo (it's at Rua Defensa 995), but there are others in Recoleta, Retiro, Puerto Madero, Abasto, and Palermo (and many other locales elsewhere in the country). Although you can find far more charming independent coffee shops and chocolate boutiques in the city, these often cozy cafes are a nice bet for espresso or cocoa after a long day of traipsing around the city. The branch in San Telmo is especially comfy and inviting, and it has more of a gay following than many of the others.Continue to 10 of 29 below.
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Be Trimos Hotel, in San Telmo
The trendy Be Trimos Hotel (Venezuela 649, 54-11-4136-93-93), formerly the Axel, occupies a stunning, contemporary building in what is conversely one of the city's most historic neighborhoods, San Telmo. It's a beautiful space with an airy, design-driven interior whose common areas include a spacious lobby that leads to the elegant bar and trendy restaurant. Outside by the pool, sip drinks at another bar, which is famed for its Sunday pool parties.
The positives of staying at this hipster haven that bills itself "hetero-friendly" but keenly targets a gay clientele is that the rooms are beautiful, done mostly in whites and off-whites, with a few bold colors for contrast, and with standard amenities like bathrobes and slippers, safes, Wi-Fi, iPod docks with speakers, and LCD TVs. And it's great fun staying on the site of one of the city's coolest lounges, gay or straight. If you're here on a weekend, you can chill by the pool at Sky Bar for the Sunday pool... parties, and the on-site restaurant serves reliably good mod-Argentinean food. Rooms aren't cheap by Buenos Aires standards, but they're not especially expensive either - about what you'd pay for a mid-range business hotel, and with far more style and social pizzazz.
Also, although Be Trimos is on the edge of the ever-gentrifying and richly historic San Telmo neighborhood, it's on a rather prosaic city block without much curb appeal. And San Telmo, though lovely, is slightly isolated from the rest of the city - in particular, Palermo Viejo, which has the bulk of the gay bars in Buenos Aires. Considering how cheap cabs are in this city, this isn't necessarily a big deal, but keep the slightly out-of-the-way location in mind if centrality is important to you. Apart from these small drawbacks, this is a top-notch hotel, and even if you aren't staying here, it's worth checking out the bars and restaurant.Continue to 11 of 29 below.
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Narciso Gay Underwear Boutique
With several fun boutiques around the city, the number-one gay underwear source in Buenos Aires is Narciso (Avenida Santa Fe 2517, and also Avenida Santa Fe 1714; and a mega Narciso branch at Avenida Sacalbrini Ortiz 431), a cheeky and fun designer with colorful, form-fitting briefs, trunks, boxer-briefs, g-strings, jocks, t-shirts, and bathrobes, plus a nice selection of jeans and clubwear. Narciso has been going strong since 2001 and has quite a following through mail-order and at its boutiques, throughout South America.Continue to 12 of 29 below.
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Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, view of a room
One of the natty rooms inside the ultra-posh and intimate Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, in the glitzy Recoleta neighborhood, just steps from Patio Bullrich shopping center. Here's a full review of this elegant hotel.Continue to 13 of 29 below.
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Phill Green boutique, in Palermo Viejo (closed)
Note: Phill Green has closed
Along trendy Costa Rica Street in Palermo Viejo, and overlooking Plaza Palermo Viejo, Phill Green (Costa Rica 4582) carries smart, dapper, and stylish men's clothing - the kinds of threads you could just as easily wear at a very low-keyed gay bar in the neighborhood or a swanky restaurant around the corner. On the upper level of the boutique, the prominent hair salon Victor Rubenoff opened a sophisticated barbershop in October 2008.Continue to 14 of 29 below.
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Abasto shopping center, in the Abasto neighborhood
It's not quite as chic as some of the city's other big shopping malls, like Alto Palermo and Bullrich, and it's also slightly off the beaten-tourist-path, but Abasto Shopping Center shopping center is notable for its setting inside a stunning, curvaceous 1930s Art Deco building that once housed a massive wholesome market of food suppliers. Today it contains a nice mix of mid- to upper-range shops and boutiques, a multi-screen cinema showing the latest features, and a handful of servicable restaurants. It's worth checking out just to see the building, and also to shop among a mostly local, untouristy mix of Portenos. The neighborhood is safe, and a not-unpleasant 15-minute walk from Palermo - it's at the corner of Avenida Corrientas and Anchorena.Continue to 15 of 29 below.
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Rio de la Plata, viewed from the terminal of Aeroparque Jorge Newbery
Although you can't see it from many parts of the city, the Rio de la Plata - which is said to be the world's widest river - forms the northeastern edge of Buenos Aires. One of the few spots where you are treated to a view is from the terminal at the smaller of the city's main airports, the municipal Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, which has mostly domestic air service (as well as to Uruguay, which is about 50 km across the Rio de la Plata). This image (pardon the slight glare and reflection) is taken from the terminal and gives a sense of the considerable width of the river - really a huge estuary. You can see a few freighters out there, but even on a clear day, you can't see all the way across to Uruguay.
The Aeroparque (locals tend to call is just that) is a relatively small and quite handy facility, and perfect for trips to any other part of Argentina. From the city center, it's just a 10-minute cab ride (without major traffic), and an affordable one at that. Flying is... perhaps the quickest way to travel to nearby Uruguay, but there are also ferries that cross from Buenos Aires to the historic city of Colonia, Uruguay, as well as to the capital city of Montevideo. Visit Uruguary's official tourism site has a helpful summation of your transportation options from Buenos Aires to Uruguay.Continue to 16 of 29 below.
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Rubenoff Barbershop at Phill Green boutique, Palermo Viejo (closed)
Note: Rubenoff has closed
Occupying the top floor of the tony Phill Green boutique overlooking Plaza Palermo Viejo and just a few steps down from Bartok Restaurant and Cafe, the Rubenoff Barbershop (Costa Rica 4582) is a chic and friendly hair salon - one of the nicest in the city, and with a gay-friendly, down-to-earth staff that's bilingual. Walk-ins are welcome, although it doesn't hurt to call ahead. The barbershop opened in fall 2008, but Rubenoff also has a women's salon in Palermo, a few blocks from Alto Palermo shopping center.Continue to 17 of 29 below.
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San Telmo's narrow, cobblestone streets
A glimpse of the old neighborhood in Buenos Aires, linksSan Telmo, after dark - the elegantly faded and worn facades of buildings and the narrow, cobblestone streets are typical of this district just east of the city center (see it on this map) and weirdly close the the uber-futuristic neighborhood of Puerto Madero (making for a great contrast). San Telmo has become increasingly gay-identified in recent years.Continue to 18 of 29 below.
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Antiques centers and malls along Calle Defensa, in San Telmo
Along Calle Defensa in the charmingly faded San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, you'll find several blocks (from about Avenida Belgrano east to Avenida San Juan) packed with noteworthy antiques shops, including a number of multi-dealer malls (such as the one pictured here). The neighborhood's reputation for antiques shopping is no secret at this point, but with Argentina's favorable exchange rate (for most visitors), great bargain can be found. Of course, getting all but the smallest items home with you poses another challenge. It's fun just to browse the many wares in these rambling multi-dealer facilities.Continue to 19 of 29 below.
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Avenida Santa Fe, in Palermo/Barrio Norte area
Broad, tree-lined Avenida Santa Fe is the east-west heart of Palermo and Barrio Norte, a gently winding road lined with both snazzy boutiques and rather ordinary chain shops and extending across much of Buenos Aires - from the far end of Palermo Viejo and Palermo near Las Canitas all the way into Recoleta and Retiro, terminating at stately Plaza San Martin. Brace yourself for a long stroll if you feel like tackling the whole thing. Avenida Santa Fe is by no means the most handsome or exciting street in the city, but strolling along it does give a real sense of upper-middle class Buenos Aires, and you'll pass some landmarks like Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays, Plaza Italia, Alto Palermo shopping center, and a very prominent intersection with Avenida 9 de Julio. For much of the way, the avenue also runs above the "green" Linea D subway line. It also happens that some of the city's most popular gay-underwear and fashion boutiques, such as Narciso, have branches along Avenida Santa Fe.Continue to 20 of 29 below.
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Taxis in Buenos Aires
Taxi cabs are abundant and extremely affordable in Buenos Aires, although just like in any big city, when it's rush hour and raining, you'll suddenly notice a dearth of cabs. A drawback is that many unlicensed or simply unscrupulous drivers to ply the streets and have been known to take tourists on circuitous routes or even, rarely, rob them. It's best to phone a licensed cab (you can always have your restaurant or a shop you're in do so for you), or grab one from outside a hotel, to be perfectly safe, anyway.
That being said, it's very easy to hail cabs from the street, especially if you're in a fairly crowded area. If anything about your driver strikes you as shady, or there's no meter in the cab (or the driver fails to start the meter), you should hop out and flag another. When the meter starts, the initial charge is AR$3.80 - then the charge increases AR$0.38 every 200 meters. As you ride through the city, the meter may seem to shoot up pretty quickly,... but rides are actually quite reasonable. From Palermo Veijo to Recoleta, for instance, you might pay AR$10 or so, which is only about US$3 or US$4. You're not expected to tip cab drivers, but there's no harm rounding up, and tips are greatly appreciated. One very important thing to keep in mind - always carry small bills with you when traveling by cab. Drivers don't carry much change themselves (or at least admit to carrying much change), and if you try to cover an AR$8 fare with an AR$20...or God forbid AR$50 or AR$100 bill, you may be in for an unpleasant standoff (i.e., the driver may demand that you get smaller change from a shop or restaurant).
If this all sounds a bit sketchy and annoying, fear not - cabs are generally quite handy and efficient for traveling from one neighborhood to the next, and if you know a word or two of Spanish, are traveling with friends, or at least look like you know what you're doing, you're unlikely to run into any bad situations.Continue to 21 of 29 below.
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Avenida 9 de Julio, look east from around Avenida Santa Fe
The grand thoroughfare of the Buenos Aires city center, Avenida 9 de Julio is six lanes wide and forms the border between several prominent neighborhoods: Retiro/Microcentro and Tribunales, Monserrat and Congreso, and San Telmo and Constitucion. This photos is looking east from roughly Avenida Santa Fe, toward the soaring Obelisco (Obelisk of Buenos Aires) monument.Continue to 22 of 29 below.
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Balcony above Jeansmakers boutique, at Soler and Julian Alvarez
Elegant, sometimes ornate, balconies are a notable feature of the many dignified townhouses you'll wander past as you explore Buenos Aires, especially the shabby-chic neighborhood of Palermo Viejo. This balcony is above the Jeansmakers boutique at the corner of Soler and Julian Alvarez streets.Continue to 23 of 29 below.
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Ornate balcony on house in Palermo Viejo
An elegant wrought-iron grill fronts the classic balcony of this lime-green townhouse in Palermo Viejo.Continue to 24 of 29 below.
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Colorfully painted door and facade, on a building in Palermo Viejo
Many of the vintage townhouses and buildings in the historic Palermo Viejo neighborhood have colorful doors with delicate trim and florid arches and similar decorative elements - frilly balconies are another common feature.Continue to 25 of 29 below.
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Graffiti on a building in Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires
Just about everywhere you look in the Buenos Aires cityscape, you'll find graffiti, some of it seemingly nonsensical and inscrutable, but other images (such as this one) quite clearly and evocatively rendered. This cartoon-like image appears on a building in Palermo Viejo, not far from the gay bar, Bulnes Class. Whatever your opinion of graffiti, it's a distinct cultural and visual aspect of the Buenos Aires.Continue to 26 of 29 below.
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Stencil and free-hand graffiti on a building in Palermo Viejo
Buildings throughout Buenos Aires, and especially in the artsy and creative Palermo Viejo neighborhood, are often covered with graffiti. In many instances, artists use stencils, as with some of the depictions on the wall of this building on a Palermo Viejo side street. Other times, graffiti takes the form of carefully drawn cartoon-like characters.Continue to 27 of 29 below.
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Bach Bar, a gay and lesbian cabaret and drag venue in Palermo Viejo
One of Palermo Viejo's friendliest gay and lesbian hangouts, cozy Bach Bar (José Antonio Cabrera 4390) is within a short walk of several other gay nightspots in the area. The two-room space is equally popular among women and men and tends to draw a crowd mostly in theirs 20s and early 30s. It can get a little cramped in here when there are live bands, cabaret shows, and drag performances on the small stage, but the mood here is always quite festive and free of attitude.Continue to 28 of 29 below.
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Bar 6 restaurant and lounge, a hip hangout in Palermo Soho
Trendy Bar 6 (Armenia 1676) is both a restaurant and lounge catering to a smart, well-dressed set in the heart of Palermo Soho's shopping and dining district. The high-ceilinged, simply furrnished spot with a giant white "6" painted on the front door serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a good selection of beer (Quilmes, Otro Mundo, Grolsch) and Argentinian wine. This gay-friendly lounge is popular as much as a place for cocktails as for the contemporary regional cuisine - consider salmon carpaccio, sweetbreads croquettes with arugula salad, braised-lamb risotto, and wok-seared vegetables and rice.Continue to 29 of 29 below.
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Flux Bar, a gay nightspot in the downtown Retiro neighborhood
One of the few gay nightlife options in central Buenos Aires, Flux Bar (Marcelo T de Alvear 980) is a stylish, quite popular lounge in the Retiro (or Plaza San Martin) section, just off the wide Av 9 de Julio boulevard and a short walk from many international hotels (as well as the swanky Recoleta neighborhood). There's dancing to DJs, occasional drag shows and tango classes, well-made drinks, and a cozy patio to keep patrons entertained - the crowd is mostly gay, but plenty of hetero allies also frequent Flux.
Alas, the night I hung out here I without my camera, so I had to snap this rather unflattering photo of the entrance (behind a security gate) during the day. But the bar's website has several photos showing the attractive interior.