Culture and coffee are two parallel universes connected by many touchpoints. Both culture-consumers and artists usually find special moments around coffee, being the coffee-houses cult places where writers and readers find inspiration and free-way to the imagination. Buenos Aires is probably the most Europe-like city in South America and as such, with a special bohemian atmosphere and culture as an epicenter. It is a city whose habitants love to meet in coffee shops to debate about a vast range of topics like politics, football, philosophy, or history, among many others. The "Cafes de Buenos Aires" (Coffee-shops in Buenos Aires) have witnessed many historical events and were the natural habitat of many writers and musicians along the times. Well-known Argentine artists such as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar, or Carlos Gardel have mentioned sometimes their fascination with these mystic places.
The coffee scene in Buenos Aires is quite heterogeneous. Travelers will find the old traditional Cafes de Buenos Aires, declared heritage of the city within a program called "Cafes notables" ( something like iconic coffee-houses), and new hip coffee roasters where to find specialty coffee in a cool and trendy atmosphere. The main difference is the coffee that both kinds of places serve. While modern coffee shops offer premium craft-roasted coffee, the old Cafes de Buenos Aires serve the classical coffee as it once was, an old-fashion roasting method which includes some sugar in the process. This method is called "Torrado" or "Torrefacto" and its flavor is a bit stronger with a little burned-like flavor. Do not worry, it tastes much better than it sounds.
Since a brief visit to the trendy and hipster-ish neighborhood of Palermo is enough to discover a bunch of crafted and specialty coffee stores, I will focus this story on the vintage and historic Cafes de Buenos Aires, which will let you discover the history of Buenos Aires through your senses. My personal advice: order a typical Coffee with milk and "Medialunas," a crescent-shaped Argentine-style croissant whose name means actually crescent.
Cafe Tortoni is probably the most emblematic coffee shop in Buenos Aires, established in 1858 by a French immigrant. It has a unique bohemian soul that will take travelers back in time, making them feel and experience the golden age of Buenos Aires culture. Its antique furniture, the particular coffee smell, and the tango ambiance create a singular vibe that matches perfectly with its location: the classical Avenida de Mayo, the avenue that connects the pink house (our executive mansion) and the parliament. Cafe Tortoni was chosen by Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Gardel, and Benito Quinquela Martin, among many other well-known public figures of the past century. Here a must-taste is Chocolate con Churros (hot chocolate served with fried-dough pastries).
Cafe-bar Los 36 Billares (The 36 billiards) was established in 1894, and as its name claims, the bar has a billiards room in the basement with 36 tables! Here visitors will have the chance to not only grab a typical porteño coffee but also taste some appetizers with a beer in a crowded and noisy environment while watching some old people playing traditional domino-games or chess.
Another must-visit Cafe is El Gato Negro (The black cat), which opened in 1927 as a spice-shop and later became a coffee-shop. It is really cozy and captivating due to its original furniture, including oak shelves and glass jars containing spices that are actually for sale! It is located in Corrientes avenue, surrounded by the famous second-hand bookstores.
For those who are into vintage places and have some time to keep exploring, I recommend also visiting the following places: Café El Federal, Café de Los Angelitos, Café las Violetas, and La Biela.
The aforementioned are just the most emblematic and iconic places picked from the long list (ninety-two coffee houses) of 'Cafes Notables de Buenos Aires'. They will indeed take you to a pleasant and relaxed sense-journey back in time to the origins of Buenos Aires.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.