Leila Cobo
May 2020

There is no street in Buenos Aires that doesn’t have a café and bar that serves coffee beginning in the early mornings, with some staying open as bars late into the night. So entrenched is the café-bar culture here that the local government created a list of more than 90 bares notables that are protected because they’re deemed part of the cultural fabric of the city. Stop by these 8 notable establishments on your next visit.

Café Tortoni

We admit it’s touristy—but how can you not visit perhaps the most beautiful café in BA? The 1858 building boasts stained-glass windows, marble columns and a table where mannequins of former regulars Jorge Luis Borges and poet Alfonsina Storni are seated in “deep discussion” with Carlos Gardel.


London City

Speaking of literary favorites, London City was a haunt of Julio Cortázar’s. In fact, the first scene of his novel Los premios takes place here. The London dates to 1954 but recently underwent renovations, and its sidewalk tables on Avenida de May make for great people watching.


Las Violetas

Get carried away by Las Violetas’ gorgeous stained-glass décor, incredible array of sweets and pastries, and its famous “porteño tea,” served promptly at 5 p.m. every day for 133 years.


Bar El Federal

Originally opened in 1864, El Federal has worn many hats on this San Telmo corner, among them restaurant, brothel and liquor store. Today, it serves as the neighborhood’s signature café bar, with its wooden bar and old cash register reminding customers of another era.


Los 36 Billares

Tables for pool, billiards and snooker fill this 1894 institution, which also runs and an academy to teach all comers how to play. It was remodeled in 2013, but retains its charm, and the kitchen still churns out a great café con leche and 40 kinds of empanada.


La Flor de Barracas

This neighborhood bar in the humble southern neighborhood of Barracas has remained untouched by time—its bar and floors intact, its local appeal undeniable. Plus, it has a library! That’s Buenos Aires for you.


La Biela

A stone’s throw from the Cementerio de la Recoleta, La Biela claims to be the oldest café in the city. It began going by its current name, which is Spanish for connecting rod, after it became a hangout for local racing drivers and aficionados, and the interior is decorated with automotive memorabilia and photos of famous patrons such as Jackie Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi.


La Puerto Rico

Originally built as a bakery in 1887, this iconic café switched to its current location a block south of the Plaza de Mayo in 1925. It still serves delicious pastries as well as coffee, roasted on-site, that draws a line before the doors open at 7 a.m. Pope Francis used to come here every morning for a café con leche and a medialuna when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.


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