The Sound of Buenos Aires

You can't visit Buenos Aires without noticing tango's fingerprints on every corner. The captivating dance is truly embraced by Porteños and is celebrated nearly everywhere. You can find tango playing all across the city, whether piped in at Tango music stores or on street corners where dancers perform for tips. Hotels like The Abasto Plaza Hotel and the Casatango make the dance their central theme. Suffice it to say that visiting Buenos Aires without getting a good taste of tango is like visiting Rome and not eating pasta. It just shouldn't be done.

That being said, here are a handful of tips on enjoying tango when you're in Buenos Aires:
Get acquainted with tango music. You can't turn a corner in Buenos Aires without seeing something about Carlos Gardel - his face is more ubiquitous than Maradona's. To get familiar with Gardel, elevated to sainthood by Porteños, pick up a copy of 20 Tangos Clasicos: Viva Gardel Vol. 1. Also worthwhile is Astor Piazzola, a more recent legend who made his mark with newer tangos like Libertango. Of course, to get a fresh new take on tango, pick up the Tango Chill Session Volume I or Volume II.

See some live tango. If you go to the Sunday antiques market in San Telmo, you'll see dancers in some streets or in Plaza Dorrego. Another option is to go to a tango show. Rather than seeing a touristy show at a large hall like Señor Tango, visit a more intimate at a legendary spot like El Viejo Almacen or Cafe Tortoni. Tortoni shouldn't be missed, even if just to get a cup of coffee in the elegant 19th century atmosphere. Places like Tortoni offer more intimate shows with much lower cover charges.

Visit a milonga for a lesson or a night of dancing. Milongas, traditional tango dances, take place all over Buenos Aires. Many have free lessons on certain nights so be sure to check with each location. For a more traditional milonga, check out Confiteria Ideal in the microcentro. La Viruta offers tango classes and a large milonga in the basement of an Armenian community center in Palermo Viejo. The atmosphere is a bit bewildering but must be experienced and is only 8 pesos a person. If you decide to take a lesson, make sure you have a) good hearing and b) speak Spanish. As we can tell you, the large size makes lessons a bit overwhelming.

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