Born in the dockyards of Buenos Aires over a century ago, Argentine tango has become inextricably tied to the city’s cultural identity. The sensual partner dance evolved from a roguish competition of fancy footwork between men and was only truly embraced by many porteños (the inhabitants of Buenos Aires) after it found fame in Europe. Now, the Argentinian capital celebrates the art form with an annual international tango festival, but there are plenty of places to see the sultry dance year-round. From watching dance shows set on sublime stages to viewing social dance gatherings in clubs during milongas — here are nine spots that we recommend travelers check out to watch tango in Buenos Aires.
1. Faena Hotel
The Rojo Tango Show at the Faena Hotel features a cast of athletic dancers who perform contemporary Argentine tango choreography alongside live musicians and singers. While some tango espectáculo shows seat hundreds of guests, the Rojo Tango Show takes place in an intimate venue. This exclusive atmosphere adds to the performance’s price tag, but you can save money by only purchasing show admission — rather than the dinner and show combination ticket. The dinner and show experience begins at 8:30 PM and will set you back $260 USD, while the 90-minute show alone starts at 10:00 PM and shaves the price to $220 USD.
Where: Martha Salotti 445, C1107 CMB, Buenos Aires, Argentina
2. La Ventana: Barrio de Tango
For a more traditional Argentine tango show, head to La Ventana in the neighborhood of San Telmo. You will see couples dancing in synchrony during the Traditional Tango and Folklore Show, following the music of either a quintet or a larger orchestra. La Ventana also offers a ticket that includes dance lessons, for those who would like to try tango before sitting back and admiring the pros. Daily tango lessons cost $90 USD. The 90-minute show begins at 10:00 PM with ticket prices starting at $70 USD.
Where: Balcarce 431, C1064AAI CABA, Argentina
3. Argentine Tango Museum
Café Tortoni is famous for its selection of delectable treats and its beautiful decor, but it is also well-known for its Argentine tango performances. The cafe houses a small stage for Argentine tango shows in the 55-seat Alfonsina Storni Room, where a few different performances take place throughout the week. Tango Sensations, which runs daily from Monday to Friday, is a good bet — and you’ve got two chances to see the show each evening. The first seating is at 8:00 PM, followed by the next at 10:00 PM; admission for either showing only costs about $13 USD. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Argentine tango, you can easily visit the Argentine Tango Museum located above the cafe.
Where: Av. de Mayo 825, C1084 CABA, Argentina
4. Salón Canning
When you check out the Argentine tango scene at milongas rather than at tango espectáculo shows, you’ll often find more locals than tourists and admission rarely exceeds $10 USD. Although many dancers fill the club, you can pull up a seat to watch the dancers during the milonga with no need to participate. Just be sure to show up after the dance lessons or you may be encouraged to join. One such milonga is Milonga Parakultural at Salón Canning. Arrive early to snag a table near the band, and watch the couples swirl around the wooden dance floor. Classes run at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM before milongas begin at 11:00 PM on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. If you have the energy, stay until the venue closes at 4:00 AM.
Where: Raúl Scalabrini Ortíz 1331, C1414DOA CABA, Argentina
5. La Catedral Club
The high ceilings of La Catedral Club are humbled by mismatched furniture strewn around the space. The dancehall remains open from 11:00 AM to 4:00 AM each day of the week, attracting a loyal young crowd of 20 to 30-somethings. La Catedral Club has a relaxed atmosphere, and visitors can enjoy food from the on-site bar and kitchen. The club is welcoming, low-key, and particularly inviting to beginning dancers — you will see dancers of all levels here. You can get into La Catedral for as little as $2 USD.
Where: Sarmiento 4006, C1197 AAH, Buenos Aires, Argentina
6. El Beso: The House of Tango
El Beso, or “The Kiss,” is all tango, all the time. Different members of the dance community organize milongas and classes throughout the week. Each milonga will attract a unique dance crowd, but the most popular is Las Morochas, which caters to more experienced dancers. Traditionally, milongas don’t start until at least 10:00 PM and even then, the dance floor doesn’t get busy until after midnight. While it’s prudent to arrive fashionably late to these social dance gatherings, you don’t have to be a night owl to enjoy milongas at El Beso. This dance hall frequently hosts milongas that begin in the late afternoon, finishing in the early evening around 7:30 PM. But if you’re happily buzzing on tango, stay. El Beso also runs milongas that last until 4:00 AM.
Where: Riobamba 416, C1025 CABA, Argentina
7. La Boca
Unlike what many outsiders believe, there aren’t tango dancers on every street corner in Buenos Aires. But if you’re lucky, you’ll spy couples dancing during the day in a few specific areas, especially in the neighborhood of La Boca. Caminito, a well-known, colorful street museum, often host street performers, who will occasionally invite spectators to dance with them (and often request payment for photos that are taken of them.) Although this turns away some potential visitors, strolling La Boca is a unique Argentina experience.
Where: Caminito, Buenos Aires, Argentina