When you think of Paris, images that come to mind may include streets dotted with charming sidewalk bistros, fashionably suited pedestrians, centuries-old architecture, window fronts stacked with baguettes or shell-shaped madeleines, and an unspoken but ubiquitous joie de vivre that brings 83 million tourists to the European city each year.
Some 7,000 miles away, Paris’ South American contender is just as impressive — and proud. Whether you have a few jaunts to Paris under your belt or are looking for alternatives to traditional favorites, consider Buenos Aires.
It’s a distinguished city without pretension, shaped by an immigrant legacy that defines everything from its stunning architecture to its diverse cuisine. As the eighth most populous location in South America, Buenos Aires fuses the best of old world charm with the vibrancy of a cosmopolitan city.
Here are just a few reasons why it’s often called “The Paris of the South America.”
Like the city of lights, Buenos Aires boasts of a number of architectural wonders steeped in history. For an introduction to its European influenced design, start at what is regarded as one of the best opera houses in the world: .
The historic Teatro Colon opera house, which opened in 1908 in Buenos Aires, is ranked the third best Opera house in the world by National Geographic, and is acoustically considered to be amongst the five best concert venues in the world.
The building’s main room is designed in the shape of a horseshoe, with stunning gilded spaces that rival the famous Paris Opera House.
Just a 15-minute walk from Colón sits a grand landmark office building, . Its ornate design is a mash-up of neo-Gothic and French art nouveau. It also has some of the best, unobstructed views of the city at the top.
Palacio Barolo is a landmark building inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy, including 22 floors to mirror the 22 stanzas of the Italian epic poem.
While whimsical Montmartre seduces with its cobblestone streets and hillside views, Buenos Aires’ Recoleta barrio is an equally dazzling alternative to Paris’ arrondissements. Stroll by French style townhouses and rest under the intricate tree formations in Plaza Francia park.
Buenos Aires has more bookstores per person than any city in the world, and its crown gem is — a golden theater turned bookstore that is undoubtedly one of the most literary havens in the world.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid is a former theater turned bookstore first opened in 1919 and designed by architects Peró and Torres Armengol.
Don’t leave Recoleta without visiting its famed cemetery, where Eva Peron and other notables are buried. The elaborate details of the tombs are astounding, and can easily be explored for hours.
Buenos Aires’ art scene is an incredible example of the city’s creative energy and passion for design. Explore celebrated street art and underground galleries, or the more traditional museums, which could easily compete with their international peers. Like Paris’ famed Centre Pompidou museum, has one of the best collections of modern Latin American art in the world.
Also notable, the new LEED-certified Buenos Aires Expo and Convention Center, helmed by architect Edgardo Minond, houses more than 48,400 square feet of exhibition space.
In September, the city will kick off Art Basel Cities as part of an international, multiyear initiative. For eight days, participants will enjoy workshops, music programs and performances in Buenos Aires’ dynamic art hubs.
The Palacio Duhau is a neoclassical palace designed by French architect Léon Dourge.
For accommodations with Parisian charm, check into . This Recoleta hotel offers plenty of history, including the restored artwork of the French immigrants who founded it in 1866. In the lobby bar, mahogany walls are lined with oil paintings that point to a noble yesteryear. Some of its 28 guest rooms mirror neoclassical mansions, with French tapestry chairs and decorative drapery.
Another Recoleta gem worthy of an overnight stay is the , located in a Louis XVI style palace built by French architect Léon Dourge. Dramatic chandeliers towering above marble floors, perfectly coiffed gardens, and a 28-seat bar with a terrace are just a few of its perks.
The croissant is to Paris what the empanada is to Buenos Aires: everywhere and constantly compared. This pastry turnover was historically a favorite for the working class due to its affordability, and is now synonymous with Argentinian cuisine.
The empanada is a quintessential Argentinian street food. Its flaky pastry can be stuffed with anything from ground beef to crab.
Where to find the best empanada in Buenos Aires is debatable, but start at Ña Serapia in the very walkable and scenic Palermo barrio. Grab one of its dozen seats and order one (or two) of the empanadas salteñas, masa dough filled with tender sirloin beef, spiced with ground pepper and cumin. It provides the perfect bite of chewy happiness, just like a croissant.
Just as cheese is often served as dessert in Paris, Argentinians also love a good dairy fix. Enter the beloved provoleta: a provolone cheese that is topped with oregano and chili flakes, then grilled. The result is a grilled cheese like concoction without the bread, slightly caramelized and otherworldly.
Melted provolone cheese (also known as provoleta) is a traditional argentine starter.
Another local favorite and ultimate street food is choripán: crusty bread filled with butterflied chorizo, chimichurri, and a variety of other condiments. The sandwich is best represented at Chori, where chorizo hangs from the window and a casual sidewalk bar draws in some of the city’s hippest clientele.
Concept store and restaurant Casa Cavia uses the city's fresh produce to create inventive dishes inspired by literature.
Outdoor eating options abound in Buenos Aires, but one of the most memorable al fresco experiences can be enjoyed at . Located in an airy 1920s mansion, the concept store and restaurant has a flower shop, dining room, and bookstore, all inspired by French Belle Époque architecture. Chef Julieta Caruso uses locally sourced produce to create inventive dishes inspired by famous literature.
Not far, also offers outdoor dining with a South Beach vibe. The varieties of fresh ceviche here is unforgettable, and best coupled with a perfectly balanced pisco sour cocktail.
Hues of blue and black accents contribute to the oceanic vibes at at Lar Mar, one of Buenos Aires' most anticipated seafood restaurants.
Just as their French counterparts refer to themselves as Parisian, natives of Buenos Aires are proud Porteños, or people of the port. European immigrants made their way to the city in the late 19th and early 20th century and settled in places like La Boca — a colorful barrio that is home to many of the city’s tango clubs.
Painted houses of La Boca in Buenos Aires.
This “forbidden” form of dance was first performed in Buenos Aires’ brothels amongst the working class. The music in tango, inspired by African candombe dance, Cuban habanera and Spanish guitars, later evolved to include violins, the accordion, piano, bass, and flute.
Once shunned by the upper class for its sensual movements, tango is now one of Argentina’s most well-known art forms. One of the best and most chic places to experience the dance is at the intimate show, located in the palatial Faena Hotel.
A taste of the city's timeless dance and splashes of red at the Rojo Tango show in Faena Hotel.
The intimacy displayed in tango dance is a defining characteristic of Argentinian culture. Daily expressions of affection are abundant, from family asados (outdoor bbq’s) to sidewalk greetings. Indeed, if Paris is the city of love, then Buenos Aires is the city of many passions.