The design lover’s guide to Buenos Aires

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Buenos Aires’ eclectic mix of Argentinian art and culture, charming European-style cafes, and grand neoclassical architecture have earned the glamorous capital the nickname “Paris of South America.” Here are the museums, shops, markets and other destinations that every design lover should explore during their stay in this dynamic city with international influences.

National Museum of Fine Arts

From Goya to El Greco, Monet to Manet, and Rodin to Rembrandt, you’ll find more than 12,000 works of art in this impressive museum, which has the largest public collection in all of Latin America. While you can see an array of impressive contemporary international works, the 19th century Argentinian and European collections are the most notable.

San Telmo Market

This must-visit market is a treasure trove of antiques, clothing, crafts, produce, cooked food, and just about anything you can think of since it opened in 1897.

Now classified as a national historical monument, the covered market is open every day. On Sundays, there’s also a separate weekend flea market in the quaint square outside, which is lined with lively bars, restaurants, street musicians and tango dancers.

Way

Leave room in your suitcase: this chic shop in Chacarita is full of eclectic and unique pieces from all over Argentina. The collection is curated by owner Martín Bustamante, who travels to even the most remote parts of the country to find and present unique works from a wide range of independent artists, artisans and industrial designers.

You will find both traditional and contemporary styles of handmade textiles, leather goods, rugs, ceramics, hand-carved cutlery and figurines, clothing, hats and crafts, as well only original artwork and photographs.

Recoleta Cemetery

Don’t leave Buenos Aires without walking around this strangely beautiful urban cemetery in the form of a maze. Built on what was once the orchard of the nearby Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, it has been the final resting place of the city’s best-known families since its founding in 1822.

More than 90 of its Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque and Neo-Gothic tombs and mausoleums are listed as National Historic Monuments. But the most visited of all is undoubtedly the grave of the cemetery’s most famous inhabitant, the beloved Eva “Evita” Perón.

Modern Art Museum

Housed in a former tobacco factory in the San Telmo district, the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (MAMBA) is an experimental modern art museum that showcases Argentine artists from the 1940s to the present day. The walls are also adorned with works by world greats such as Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso.

Casa Cavia

This super-chic hybrid concept-shop set in a 1920s mansion isn’t just an upscale boutique and restaurant…it’s also a bar, perfumery, florist, and where Ampersand Publishing creates and sells its books.

Go browse the shops, but stay for fine dining by Argentinian chef Julieta Caruso, gorgeous creative cocktails, or to attend a book reading, class, or other events in the mansion’s beautiful library.

Museum of Modern Art

Located next to MAMBA in San Telmo, MACBA opened in 2012 based on financier Aldo Rubino’s art collection, which primarily focuses on geometric abstraction.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

This gilded 1919 theater in Recoleta has a rich history: Buenos Aires’ greatest tango legends performed on stage before it became the city’s first theater to show “talking” movies with sound.

Now one of the finest bookstores in the world, it houses 120,000 books under its original domed roof hand-painted with frescoes. Watch it while sipping coffee and peruse the hardcovers of the café, which was once the theater’s main stage.

Patio del Liceo Gallery

Dozens of independent clothing and jewelry boutiques, design studios, art galleries and cafes make up this multi-level, bohemian cooperative creative space nestled in a quiet, leafy courtyard just off the bustling Avenue Santa Fe.

Colon Theater

Travel back in time to a more glamorous era via the Teatro Colón. One of the greatest opera houses in the world, it has seen several iterations over its 165-year history: the original opera house was built in 1857, but closed in 1888. Then, after twenty years of reconstruction , it reopened in 1908, hosting famous composers from Igor Stravinsky to Leonard Bernstein, dancers from Anna Pavlova to Mikhail Baryshnikov, in the century that followed.

Take a tour of the majestic architecture, which includes the horseshoe-shaped hall with ornately carved wood, Italian marble staircases, French stained glass windows, Venetian mosaics and stunning chandeliers. You can even visit the catacombs below. Or experience the hall’s world-class acoustics for yourself with tickets to a ballet, opera, or performance by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra.


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Rozella J. Cook