“What a literate place, one thinks; what wealth, what good looks.”
These words uttered by the great American travel writer, Paul Theroux, nicely explicate the unique café culture that can be found and feverishly enjoyed in Buenos Aires. Argentina’s capital is famously handsome and littered with countless cool cafes to curl up with a book, break your fast, and be glad you’re here.
Read on for 13 quaint cafes in Buenos Aires where you’ll want to linger a little longer.
French architecture, Recoleta Cultural Centre, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, leafy parks, and tons of well-heeled porteños is what you’ll find in Buenos Aires’ Recoleta neighborhood. You’ll also find Ateneo Grand Splendid, which National Geographic called “the most beautiful bookshop in the world” with very good reason. This stunning bookstore is housed in a former theatre and a café now occupies the main stage. After your refreshments, head to the top balcony to admire the theater in all its glory.
Buenos Aires literally means “good airs” in Spanish. Enjoy that fresh breeze while sitting and sipping alfresco at Padre Coffee Roasters and Beer where your cafécito is beautifully multi-colored. A refreshing and glorious feat, actual Nutella jars and Häagen-Dazs pots stand in for cups for certain beverages so don’t forget your camera. The desserts are divine, too.
Museum visits can be thirsty work. Good thing there’s a Ninina branch at the MALBA museum and others in Palermo, Recoleta, and Villa Urquiza. They select, roast, and prepare high-end coffees, sell coconut-drizzled alfajores, and serve mouth-watering cakes. Come here for breakfast, brunch, or merienda, a snack time occurring roughly between 4PM and 7PM. Maté and facturas (pastries) like medialunas (petite croissant-like pastries) are classic merienda fare, as well as cafe con leche (coffee with milk). Porteños, as Buenos Aires residents are called, have a penchant for late dinners. Enjoy a merienda at Ninina to stave off hunger until your nocturnal meal.
Not many bakeries are Insta-famous, but this one sure is. Salvaje’s goal is to make bread sexy again (you’ll find them with the hashtag #ourcoffeeishotterthanyours). There isn’t a door at this garage-turned-hotspot on the border of Palermo and Colegiales. There is, however, an artfully designed menu of masterpieces that you’ll want to see (and taste) yourself.
If you can’t quite pick between grabbing coffee or wine, why not do both? Serendipity Coffee and Wine Bar in Palermo Hollywood is a hybrid match made in heaven. There are also adorable sharing plates making this ideal for a date night (or day). Order the temptation salad or a scrumptious cinnamon roll, grab one of the few outdoor tables, and slow down the tempo. Whether breakfast, brunch, sunrise, or sunset, lounging on a leafy cobbled Palermo street will always hit the spot.
Pink is the name of the game at La Panera Rosa (The Pink Bread Basket), where everything is pink beside the food. This café restaurant chain brings “Pink Panther” to mind as the proprietor was inspired by the flavors of childhood and the sumptuous snacks his mother and grandmother lovingly gave him while he watched cartoons. All day long, La Panera Rosa serves up sweet and savory options, gourmet sandwiches, and fun fodder for your Instagram feed. Buy a pink gourd to sip maté from or devour a dulce de leche drizzled dessert, off a pink plate of course. You’ll find these pink palaces dotted all around Buenos Aires including cafes in Recoleta, Caballito, Palermo, and Puerto Madero.
Havanna is an old Buenos Aires favorite with infinite branches around the city. The most iconic outpost is at kaleidoscopic and quirky El Caminito, which acts as the backdrop for many a tangoing couple. Havanna is also practically synonymous with alfajores, crumbly shortbread-type biscuits with a heavenly central layer of dulce de leche. These sweet cookies are a breakfast (lunch, dessert, or dinner) staple in Buenos Aires and popular throughout Latin America. Similar to caramel, dulce de leche is a delectable confection made by heating sweetened milk. It can be slathered onto bread, baked with, and endlessly adored.
Palermo is Buenos Aires’ most New York neighborhood; there’s even a region called Palermo Soho. This sprawling and trendy barrio is partitioned into Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Soho, and Las Cañitas. In Palermo Hollywood, serious coffee lovers should head to LAB Tostadores, a sleek laboratory that roasts and produces its own coffee. Many flock to this hipster-filled hangout for the brews, but stay for the good vibes and great plates.
Be prepared to wait in line for your chance to drink or dine at the oldest established café in Buenos—even Albert Einstein came here. Stepping into Café Tortoni is like being in the 1920s; there’s an air of timelessness and a lot of respect is paid to the architecture of yesteryear. Some even call it a museum. The décor and hanging photos of legendary visitors evoke a classic tango-esque feeling of faded opulence, like much of this fair city.
Café Tortoni is in Microcentro, where most first-time visitors to the city will commence their adventures. A stone’s throw away is Casa Rosada (Pink House), the presidential palace in Plaza de Mayo. You might just recognize the building (and its famous balcony) from the movie ‘Evita.’
If you find yourself in San Telmo with time to while away in a splendid, Buenos Aires icon, make your way to Café Rivas. Purchase a book in English from the opposite bookshop and park yourself here. San Telmo is arguably the city’s most charming area and it’s teeming with cobbled streets and colonial houses whose glory days are well behind them. It’s the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires and it plays host to the weekly Fería de San Telmo (San Telmo Antiques Fair) each Sunday. Visit then to enjoy live tango shows, shops, alfresco dining, and live performances galore.
Brothel turned iconic hangout, Bar Federal offers unique beers, Argentine staples, and a distinctly charming atmosphere. It’s on the corner of Carlos Calvo and Perú, and is thus a prime spot for people watching in San Telmo. Nabbing one of the few outdoor seats here is like winning the lottery.
Bar Federal is one of Los Notables, a group of historic bars and cafes that merge art, culture, literature, and food. These include Celta Bar, Bar Dorrego, La Poesía, Bar de Cao, and Café Mangot, which all opened their doors between 1864 and 1982. Don’t forget to look up at its external signage that is drawn in fileteado, a decorative style of flowery writing that’s unique to Buenos Aires and its tango culture.
Buenos Aires is often called the “Paris of the South.” Partake in Parisian café culture right here in the city at Lo del Francés, a café bistro in San Telmo. It’s set over two floors with obligatory outside seating for the warmer months and an upstairs area for added privacy. This place has a certain je ne sais quoi and a distinctly French accent. The staff are French speaking and there are hearty, decorative meals from various regions in France. Presentation certainly isn’t an afterthought either. When you’ve had your fill of the city’s steakhouses, come here for something overflowing with (French) cheese.
Argentina is a famously literary country. With more than 700 librerías, Buenos Aires has more bookstores per person than any other city in the world. One utterly inviting one is Eterna Cadencia. If you didn’t peer further back into this Palermo book shop, you wouldn’t know that it has a bright inner courtyard restaurant and cozy “living room” with reading chairs, cushions, and funky wall art. There are even purchasable English books within the shop to keep you company in the secluded hideaway.