Whether you have a penchant for swanky cocktail lounges or no-frills pubs, live music venues or snooty wine bars, Buenos Aires does a fine job of catering to all tastes. There are literally thousands of bars spread around the city, and we’ve broken them down into useful categories.
As an unwritten rule, porteños tend to arrive at a bar, pub, or lounge around 10 p.m. and stay well into the early hours or until someone suggests moving on to a nightclub. Daytime drinking hasn’t quite caught on yet, although after-work drinking has, and many venues offer happy-hour drinks between 6 p.m. and midnight, depending on the generosity of the owner.
Great Bars to Meet Locals
A Palermo Hollywood classic is the ever-busy Sonoman (Fitzroy 1655, Palermo Hollywood). Ignore the bar at the front and head straight for the breezy garden. The well-priced drinks, decent cocktail menu, good music and sociable crowd make for memorable, long summer nights. If you casually raise your voice in your native tongue you may just attract some interest. Just around the corner is Ferona Social Club (Humboldt 1445, Palermo Hollywood), which takes on more of an underground house party philosophy. Ring the bell and wait to be let in, then join the crowds in the dimly lit living room or head to the rooftop terrace. It can get busy on weekends, so try to arrive before 2 a.m.
While the rest of Palermo Chico is lacking in nightlife, MULA (Cerviño 3178, Palermo Chico) takes center stage. Set up in lounge-club style, it’s a great place to sip cocktails and mix with a well-heeled and stylish crowd – you won’t find pub crawlers and foreign exchange students here. The music is a mix of live bands and local DJs, and on select evenings there are art exhibitions. The club is open from Wednesday to Saturday.
Tucked behind a concealed door and staircase on Avenida Córdoba is El Especial (Córdoba 4391, Palermo Viejo). The drinks are cheap, the vibe is unassuming and the only foreigners you’ll find here are the ones who are really in the know. Split your time between the stage area, where local rock bands perform, and the bar, where you can relive your youth by playing the likes of Pac-Man and Space Invaders. A short walk from here is Club Cultural Matienzo (ccmatienzo.com.ar, Pringles 1249, Villa Crespo), another easy-going spot that attracts a local, artsy crowd. It’s a big venue, spread over three floors with three bars, an events salon and terrace. As a cultural center, it has a busy agenda of events, from poetry recitals and concerts to movie nights and VJ parties.
Great Bars for Live Music
Argentines love their music, something evident in their ability to snap up every possible ticket for seemingly every possible concert. Buenos Aires also has some great places to listen to and discover great national bands. Two good spots are in San Telmo, Plasma (sitioplasma.com.ar, Piedras 1856, San Telmo) and Kirie Music Club (facebook.com/kirieclub, Bolívar 813, San Telmo). Plasma is a two-story bohemian cultural center that showcases local rock, pop and electropop. After the bands finish, VJs and vinyl DJs turn the venue into an informal nightclub. Kirie is a music venue, Mediterranean restaurant and whiskey bar. Music ranges from tribute acts and alternative rock to folk and new wave. Check their respective websites for a schedule of events, the majority of which are free.
If you’re in Almagro, visit Imaginario Cultural (Guardia Vieja 3799, Almagro). Upstairs is a firm favorite with big groups of friends; it’s open late, and it serves good cocktails, liter bottles of Quilmes and a menu of pizzas and burgers. The basement almost always hosts live music, and you’ll see the event host moving between the bar’s tables to promote his or her band. For a solid night of rock, you can’t beat Salón Pueyrredón (salonpueyrredon.com.ar, Santa Fe 4560, Palermo), located a few blocks from Palermo train station. It’s busy, boisterous and attracts a clientele that loves to bounce around. Another popular spot with rock ‘n’ roll lovers is The Roxy Live! (theroxybar.com.ar, Niceto Vega 5542, Palermo Hollywood). The main room is for live bands, usually rock or reggae and often Stones, Ramones and Zeppelin covers. In the side room, DJs spin a mix of dance, glam rock, funk and soul.
If you like jazz, there are two spots worth checking out in the Palermo Viejo area. One is the cool, dimly lit Thelonious Club (thelonious.com.ar, Salguero 1884, Palermo Viejo). Inside is a long bar, tables set against tall windows and leather sofas in front of the stage. Both local and international bands play here. The other venue is Virasoro Bar (virasorobar.com.ar, Guatemala 4328, Palermo Viejo), an intimate and welcoming bar that was once a revered meeting place of local jazz musicians. From Wednesday to Saturday, it hosts Argentine soloists and bands.
Great Bars for Music Fans
At Liverpool Bar (facebook.com/LIVERPOOLBARPALERMO, Arévalo 1376, Palermo Hollywood) there’s a huge appreciation for British music. So much so that the bar puts on regular Beatles, Oasis, Madchester and Brit Pop parties. Other nights are dedicated to glam rock, ’80s pop, ’60s and ’70s rock and even a sprinkling of Argentine music. Expect a hip crowd, t-shirts adorned with band names, skinny jeans and music-idol lookalikes. Over in San Telmo, DeBar (facebook.com/debar.buenosaires, Defensa 502, San Telmo) puts on similar events to Liverpool Bar. Enjoy nights dedicated to The Doors and Pink Floyd, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam, The Police and Genesis and the ubiquitous Stones and Beatles. VJs spin the tunes and play videos on a huge screen for all to see.
Another notable spot is You Know My Name (youknowmyname.com.ar, Marcelo T de Alvear 1540, Recoleta). Formerly known as El Living, this lounge and restaurant-cum-nightclub is a must for any music guru. From Thursday to Saturday, two VJs battle for music-video supremacy by playing everything from Depeche Mode and Human League to The Smiths and Oasis. The party starts around 1 a.m., with lines likely, although you can arrive early for dinner and guarantee yourself a prime spot. Back in Palermo, Makena Cantina Club (Fitz Roy 1519, Palermo Hollywood) is the place to be for soul and funk. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, and most nights start with a live band and continue into the early hours with DJs.
Great Bars for Beer-Drinkers
While Argentina is recognized the world over for its wine, Argentines themselves are progressively developing a taste for beer, and not ice-cold bottles of Quilmes and Brahma. More and more microbreweries are opening, with many providing their brews to the city’s pubs. One of the longest-running microbreweries is Antares, which originated in Mar del Plata in the late ’90s. Today Antares has bars in Palermo, Las Cañitas, San Telmo and various other cities across the country. The B.A. bars are all welcoming and similar in design (Antares is now a franchise). The beer menu includes honey beer, IPA, scotch and stout, among others. Arrive when the doors open to enjoy a genuine two-for-one happy hour. New on the beer scene is NOLA Gastro Pub (nolabuenosaires.com, Gorriti 4389, Palermo Viejo). It’s run by the stalwart closed-door chef Liza Puglia. On the menu are local craft beers, artisanal wines and superb Cajun cuisine.
The next three pubs are all under the same ownership and take on the style of a British pub. In San Telmo is Gibraltar (thegibraltarbar.com, Peru 895, San Telmo). The cozy atmosphere and sit-at bar attract homesick expats and backpackers, notably those who go to enjoy pints of Antares and Gambrinus beer. The food menu is good, too, and includes a mix of British pub grub, curries and burgers. Gibraltar is one of the few pubs that opens early, making it popular with daytime drinkers and Premier League football fans. Expect to line up on weekends after 10 p.m. Bangalore (thebangalorebar.com, Humboldt 1416, Palermo Hollywood) is hard to beat for straight-up beer drinking. This small pub packs in a good mix of locals, expats and tourists every night of the week. On offer are a good selection of beers and cider (again, Antares and Gambrinus), tempting jugs of gin and tonic, and a menu of curries and Indian tapas. Pop upstairs to the restaurant area for a quieter dining experience. The third in this collection is the Shanghai Dragon (facebook.com/Theshanghaidragon, Aráoz 1199, Palermo Viejo). This Chinese-inspired bar and restaurant is adorned with red carpet and dark-wood furnishings that lend it the warmth of a British pub. The beer is excellent, too. Enjoy a pint of IPA, golden ale or stout, and complement your selection with affordable plates of spring rolls, dumplings and rice and dim sum.
For a quieter venue and great beer in San Telmo, try Breoghan Brew Bar (Bolívar 860, San Telmo). The beers, ranging from lagers to ales to stouts, are top quality and brewed onsite. The bar also has around 50 national and imported beers by the bottle. Soak up the beer with a homemade burger, a plate of papas bravas or fish and chips. Best of all, the bar rarely gets overcrowded. Few people make it to Boedo but if you do, check out Cossab (pubcossab.com.ar, Carlos Calvo 4199, Boedo). Dim lighting, wooden furniture, exposed-brick walls and a sit-down bar make it a welcome addition to B.A.’s watering holes. Sip pints of stout, scotch, honey beer and IPA. Soak up the beer with hearty sandwiches, beer-marinated pork chops, picadas and other pub grub.
Still thirsty? There are a couple of other options. A few blocks from Plaza Serrano is Bodega Cervecera (bodegacervecera.com.ar, Thames 1759, Palermo Soho), a bar-cum-bottle-shop that has a huge selection of uncommon national and imported beers. It’s a good place to try Patagonian beers, such as Beagle and Berliner. Finally, amid the sleepy streets of Colegiales is the Buena Birra Social Club (buenabirrasocialclub.com, Zapiola 1353, Colegiales). Once a closed-door restaurant, this converted house now functions as a bar and serves six varieties of artisanal beer.