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Having just wrapped up three months in Buenos Aires (on top of the six months I spent there in 2013), I’m publishing three posts: The Five Best Restaurants in Buenos Aires, What to Do Every Night of the Week in Buenos Aires, and What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Buenos Aires.
When I get to a new city, I always google “Best Place to Go Out [city] [day of week].” When you’re new, it’s hard to know where to go. In my three months in Buenos Aires, I found favorites for every night of the week. Also check out the end of the post for my monthly and yearly favorites and other resources for recommendations that differ from mine.
Buenos Aires has the best nightlife of anywhere I’ve ever visited. There’s something to do every night of the week, entrance and drink prices are cheap, and the people are beautiful.
Unfortunately the general motto seems to be “If you have to ask how late it starts, you’re not going to be staying up late enough.” Bars don’t get going on the weekends until midnight, and boliches (night clubs) don’t get started until 2 AM. They rage until at least 6 AM, though I can’t really tell you how late, since I’ve never made it that late.
To stay sane in Buenos Aires, I try to find fun things happening a bit earlier in the night. Based almost exclusively on places that draw a fun crowd–I don’t care about the music or drinks on offer much–here are my top picks:
Makena in Palermo is the place to be. They play a mix of rock, soul, and funk on Sunday nights starting at 11 PM. Free entry until 11:30 PM, though if you don’t show up on time, cover is less than $2.
Who can go out on a Sunday night until the wee hours of the morning? Mostly students, foreigners, and foreign students.
This is the second least fun event on the list, but it’s the best I can tell you on a Sunday night.
Bomba del Tiempo is a fantastically fun weekly drum performance. More than 3 million people have watched and danced to the two-hour drum show from a huge ensemble cast.
I like to arrive at 7 PM with a beer to drink while I wait in line to buy my ticket ($7) to get in early. The huge courtyard is a great place to chat with friends or make new ones. Last time I was there, they had even set up ping pong tables before the show.
At 8 PM, the show starts, and at 10 PM sharp, it ends. Hang out near the sides or back for a little more dancing space, and easier entry and exit to refresh your drink at the bar.
As you leave, people will be handing out flyers for after parties at bars within walking distance, but I’ve never had too much fun at one of these. I prefer to head out for a late dinner afterwards.
Cafe San Bernardo, in Villa Crespo, is a large, dingy bar with pool tables up front and ping pong tables in the back. The ping pong tables normally cost about $5 per hour to rent, but Tuesday nights after 10 PM, they’re free. This is the big night for groups of friends to come for pizzas, beers, and an occasional game.
Other than the ping pong, the atmosphere is similar to most Argentina pizzeria/resto/bars throughout the city. The same Quilmes beer is sold in the same liter bottles, and the same terrible pizza is dished out.
Only come with your friends if you’re good at ping pong on Tuesdays because winner stays on each table. If you’re not so good and just want to play more recreationally, come a different night and rent a table.
Also every Tuesday night for 7+ years, Hype (name of party) at Kika (name of boliche) in Palermo has raged from 2 to 6 AM. This is definitely my least favorite event in this post, and I didn’t even go this year, but how can you leave off such an iconic party on an otherwise rather dead night?
Head to Magdalena’s Party, a bar a few blocks away, earlier in the night to get a free wristband for Hype and have a few drinks before facing the 18 year olds at Kika.
Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, Mundo Lingo organizes language exchanges at bars in Buenos Aires for people trying to learn a new language or just trying to meet new people. The best one is Wednesdays at a bar I really like, Soria, in Palermo.
Show up from 9 PM to midnight and get sticker flags at check in to represent the languages you speak or are learning. After much pestering, I got them to start carrying Hawaiian flags. Mahalo!
Most people come alone or in pairs, so don’t worry about jumping into any conversation you see between people with the flag stickers. They just met and would love to meet you.
My favorite weekly event is Thursday’s After Office at Rosebar in Palermo. An “After Office” is kind of like an American Happy Hour event but later in the night and with more dancing.
The night kicks off at 7 PM, and I think there is food at that time to attract people to come early. If you make it onto the list and arrive my 9 PM, you can get in free. Arrive after 9 PM, and you pay about $8 to get in. The place starts to fill up at 9 PM and shuts down at 2 AM. Men must wear a collared shirt and shoes that aren’t sneakers.
The crowd is a bit older than at Rosebar on the weekend, with lots of folks coming from work who are in their mid-20s to mid-30s.
Office workers in groups of 2 to 20 spill onto the streets outside a string of identical bars with happy hour specials on Reconquista Street at Alvear Street from 6 PM on. (If you stop in for a drink, you’re just a few blocks from one of The Five Best Restaurants in Buenos Aires.)
Later in the night, I like to go to my favorite bar in Buenos Aires–Festival in Palermo. On weekends, there is a DJ, and occasionally you can head upstairs to see an art exhibit. There’s nothing exceptional about the place, but I think it strikes the right balance.
It’s mostly outdoors, so you can enjoy a perfect Summer night. The bouncer starts a one-in-one-out policy before the place is too full, so there are always plenty of people to meet without being overcrowded. There’s a great mix of seating and standing area, the latter a rarity in Buenos Aires, where almost every bar features people seated with their friends all night.
Try to arrive by 12:30 to avoid the line. If you come later, you’ll probably just wait for 5-10 minutes. There’s no cover, and everybody waits equally in the line.
Go back to Festival. It’s my favorite bar by a longshot.
Or if you’re up for a one-of-a-kind bar, try Jobs in Recoleta. This two-story warehouse has every game from pool to ping pong to oversized Jenga to board games, but the star of the place is archery.
You can shoot six arrows for under $3, and if you hit a bullseye you get a free beer.
Cover is about $5, and it includes a liter of beer or other drink or food options. Jobs mostly draws a very young crowd. I go with friends to see who has the best archery aim, drink some beer, and play Monopoly. I’ve never seen a bar with quite so many games.
Or if you want to spend $10+ per drink and hang out with some of the richest and best looking people in the city, head to Isabel in Palermo from 11 PM to 3 AM. This seems more like a place to take someone to impress them than a place to actually enjoy yourself.
The Best Rarer Events
Polo After Parties: Four in November/December
My favorite party ever in Buenos Aires was the after party for a polo match. Every November/December, for four consecutive Saturdays, there is a polo match at the Polo Grounds in Palermo. After the game, the parties take up the rest of the afternoon. They center on tents set up on the grounds by alcohol companies.
Some tents are public, and some are private.
Show up after the game, grab a ticket from someone leaving the grounds to show to the ushers to get on the grounds, and head to a public tent. Everyone’s dressed up a bit and having a ball.
Social Tattersall: Monthly After Office
My second favorite party ever was an After Office put on by a promotions company called Social at a venue called Tattersall. Check their Facebook page for their monthly event, but skip it if it’s not at Tattersall, which is near Palermo.
Sometimes their After Offices are held out on Punta Carrasco, near the Aeroparque (local airport), and those don’t draw nearly as big of a crowd.
Come Wine with Us
A once monthly wine-tasting-ish event with tapas in the Las Cañitas neighborhood. Check this page for announcements of when the monthly event is. This draws mostly a 30-something crowd from 7 PM to midnight.
Vuenos Airez is an online event guide with tons of parties and events listed.
The Guardian put out a Top Ten bar list for Buenos Aires. It’s how I found out about Cafe San Bernardo, and I obviously agree with Festival being on the list. I also really like Ferona.
Some of the others–namely The Harrison Speakeasy and Floreria Atlantico–are fake speakeasies, which are all the rage in Buenos Aires. I don’t like the whole fake speakeasy concept, but if you like that and mixology-type bars, check those out and Victoria Brown Bar in Palermo. Fake speakeasies are all the rage in Buenos Aires.
Bars come and go, but over the last 11 years of international travel and 55 countries, Buenos Aires has had the best nightlife in the world in my opinion. I don’t think that will ever change.