Born in the immigrant working class neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires in the late-nineteenth century, and responsible for much of the 'lunfardo' (slang) spoken by today’s porteños, the sensual tango is as much a way of life as it is a music and dance. Unsurprisingly then, BA is awash with tango shows, 'milongas' (events for social dancing), tango schools, tango-themed cafes and hotels, tango tours and even dial-a-tango-partner agencies.
Buenos Aires offers plenty of opportunities to see tango shows performed by professional dancers.
The International Tango Festival and World Cup is held every August at a range of venues in the city. As well as the hotly-contested international competition, the event offers free shows, classes and milongas to everyone from beginners to experienced dancers.
The City Tango Championship is held in May, with heats taking place at milongas (social dance events) across the city. The winners of the championship go on to represent the city in August's Tango World Cup.
Tanguerías (venues hosting choreographed tango shows) often offer a luxury dinner and show combination, with live orchestras and professional dancers performing choreographed shows. Click here for a list of tanguerías. TripAdvisor also has info and user-generated reviews on tango shows, many of which include dinner. Or if you prefer a more informal viewing experience, head to one of BA’s traditional tango cafés, like Café Tortoni, El Querandí or El Faro.
Visit a milonga: visiting a milonga is the best way to see non-professional social tango dancing - a tradition that began in Buenos Aires in the early 20th century and continues strong today. Tour companies such as Tango Trips offer tours of the city's milongas - you’ll find recommendations on TripAdvisor.
While tango began in bars and dancehalls as a music to accompany social dancing, in the 1960s it began to move into concert halls, with more orchestration and more dramatic arrangements. Groundbreaking composers like Astor Piazzolla made tango world famous and established it as a form of music to be listened to as well as danced to. The Usina de Arte in La Boca often has free concerts, and the Torquato Tasso cultural centre in San Telmo showcases contemporary musicians. Many milongas also have music from live orchestras, often at around 11pm. Maldita Milonga in San Telmo, and Café Vinilo in Villa Crespo are known for their in-house orchestras, while La Viruta in Palermo often has performances from some of the most well-known tango artists, including electronic tango acts.
And if you want to listen from the comfort of your hotel room, tune in to City Radio 2x4 (FM 92.7), a local station devoted to the city's most emblematic music and dance.
Well-known venues offering tango classes for all levels can be found in the Tango Schools section. Many milonga venues also offer classes before the actual milonga begins. The Hoy Milonga website and app is also a good resource for updated listings on milongas every day of the week. Milongas vary greatly in style. Traditional milongas tend to attract an older crowd and it is normal to dress smart and to respect traditional milonga etiquette, but there are also more bohemian milongas that attract a younger crowd and where the dress code is informal. At most formal milongas, it is possible to reserve a table by telephone or by sending a text message to the organiser beforehand. Some organisers use the term "práctica" to denote a less formal event, where it is acceptable to practise rather than dance one's best, and where people tend to go purely to dance rather than to socialise, but in reality the line between "prácticas" and "milongas" is somewhat blurred.
Some of the most popular milongas and prácticas are:
Downtown: Obelisco Tango, El Beso,
San Telmo: Maldita/Bendita Milonga, Milonga de la Plaza Dorrego (open-air milonga on Sunday evenings)
Villa Crespo/Palermo/Almagro: Salon Canning, La Viruta, Villa Malcolm, Dni Tango School,
Villa Urquiza: Club Sunderland, Sin Rumbo