Buenos Aires: Microcentro
The business and banking center of the city, with a bustling downtown atmosphere. Because it's also the national nexus for demonstrators from around the country, protests are common.
Centro Cultural Borges
Calle Viamonte and Calle San Martin, 011-54-11/5555-5359, ccborges.org.ar
Art exhibitions, independent films, and musical shows featuring everything from rock to flamenco fill the calendar at this eight-year-old center. It's located in the same 1896 building as the Galerías Pacífico, an upscale mall. (See listing below.) Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun. 12 p.m.-9 p.m. Entrance to exhibits $1.
Manzana de las Luces (Block of Enlightenment)
Calle Perú 272, 011-54-11/4342-6973, manzanadelasluces.gov.ar
A block of buildings that form what was historically the intellectual center of Buenos Aires. A network of tunnels connects different sites, including the Jesuit Iglesia de San Ignacio (built in 1675), an elite high school, and a reconstruction of the original Sala de Representantes, Argentina's first legislature.
Avenida de Mayo 829, 011-54-11/4342-4328, cafetortoni.com.ar
A porteño institution. If you can ignore the outlandish prices and throngs of tourists, you can almost imagine yourself sipping coffee with literati at the dawn of the 1900s. Founded in 1858, it's Parisian to the core with marble tabletops, wood paneling, pillars, and brusque male waiters. A visit is well worth the price of a café con leche, $1.50.
Calle San Martin 705, 011-54-11/4312-0235, santacatalina.org.ar/Restaurant.htm
The menu features enormous, ridiculously cheap portions of basic porteño fare such as grilled meat and chicken. Ask for the traditional chimichurri sauce-made from olive oil, garlic, basil, thyme, oregano, and chili-to accompany your meats. The real draw here is the outdoor seating, on the patio of the Santa Catalina Convent (built in 1745), with its white colonial arches and lush palm trees. Service can be slow. Open for lunch only.
Calle 25 de Mayo 756, 011-54-11/4313-6587
Excellent well-priced porteño food in an upscale B.A. dining hall with austere dark wood-paneled walls and white tablecloths. Its specialty is the tender cabrito al horno (roast baby goat). It's popular with the business crowd, so make a reservavation. Closed Sat. and Sun.
Calle Moreno 1370, 011-54-11/4381-5415
Seafood specialties have been flying out of the kitchen at this classic salon-style restaurant tucked into the Basque French Center for 110 years. Try the arroz negro Vasco Frances-black rice (tinted with squid ink), lobster, and mussels. A full meal runs $15.
Calle 25 de Mayo 722, 011-54-11/4312-8275
A French-owned favorite with B.A.'s young after-work crowd. The très dark bar features DJs and/or live music on weeknights. Tuesdays are dedicated to French-accented house and dance tunes. Ask about the daily drink specials. No cover.
There's a Hong Kong-meets-Lima feeling on this chaotic pedestrian shopping street/outdoor mall, where the main focus is footwear (all styles). Clothing, book, and music stores are interspersed among the plentiful shoe shops. Warning: Don't get lured by the aggressive people selling leather jackets; save your pennies for cheaper "leather alley," as Calle Murillo is known.
La Librería de Avila
Calle Adolfo Alsina 500, 011-54-11/4331-8989, libreriadeavila.servisur.com
B.A.'s oldest bookstore, dating from 1785. A vast collection of new and used titles, in Spanish and other languages, specializes in Argentinean history. Its jumbled, dusty veneer gives it character, and its many chairs invite lingering.
Avenida Corrientes 302, 011-54-11/4394-2200, winery.com.ar
A high-end chain of wine stores. The knowledgeable staff will even pack your bottles for travel. The best part: You don't have to spend more than 30 pesos ($10) for a fine Argentinean wine-try a malbec or a torrontes.
Calle Florida at Avenida Córdoba, 011-54-11/5555-5110, galeriaspacifico.com.ar
The Sistine Chapel of shopping malls. Murals by artists such as Antonio Berni adorn the cupola of this majestic 1896 building. You'll find brand names such from Levi Strauss & Co. to Yves Saint Laurent, but it's more interesting to see which local brands catch your eye. Check out Akiabara for sophisticated, hip women's wear, or Portsaid for an ultra-feminine look.
Cinemas on Calle Lavalle
Step into the past at one of these cinemas, just west of Calle Florida. Modern movie complexes are now a dime a dozen in B.A., but the older cinemas have quaint fold-down seats and concession vendors who hawk popcorn and chocolate from trays slung around their necks. You'll also see high, rounded ceilings and grand balconies from the bygone days. Hollywood movies have Spanish subtitles. $2.40.