Stefan Arestis | Aug 29, 2017 | 4
Gay Buenos Aires: our gay travel guide to La Reina del Plata
Fresh off the plane, our Porteño friends Pablo and Gustavo welcomed us, and took us straight to the Pepo Pepona gay restaurant in Palermo so we could have our first taster of the famous Argentinian steak.
Just as we were tucking into our bife de chorizo, the restaurant’s entertainment started: a handsome (extremely well endowed!) Argentinian lad came gyrating from table to table, quickly losing all his clothes.
At that moment we knew we were going to enjoy this city a lot!
Table of Contents
WHY IS BUENOS AIRES SO GAY FRIENDLY?
Argentina is extremely progressive with LGBT rights. It was the first country in Latin America to legalise gay marriage in July 2010, which included full adoption rights. The right to change legal gender has been in place since 2012 and anti discrimination laws are in full force in Rosario and Buenos Aires. Even the more conservative city of Córdoba has an active gay scene.
We initially came to the city as part of its BADiversa week in early August 2016 – a government initiative to promote awareness to its LGBT community and a nod to its status as one of the world’s most gay friendly destinations. This included the excellent Gnetwork360 gay travel conference, where we spoke about collaborating with gay travel bloggers.
Suffice to say, Buenos Aires is very gay and offers plenty to keep every type of LGBT traveller happy.
BUENOS AIRES GAY MAP
The gay scene of Buenos Aires is quite spread out, but the focal point is predominantly in the large residential Palermo neighbourhood with a few places in super cool San Telmo and in well-to-do Recoleta.
Here’s our own gay map we created of the places we visited during our 2 months stay in the city:
BEST GAY BARS AND CLUBS OF BUENOS AIRES
There’s a handful of gay bars, clubs and discos spread across Buenos Aires, the majority in Palermo. What constitutes a bar, disco or club is quite blurred, so we’ve put them all here under one heading.
Also take note that Argentinians start the night very late, so most places don’t get busy until well after midnight. For this reason we advise you factor in a disco nap.
Our favourite gay hangouts included:
- Pride Café in San Telmo: the only popular gay hangout we found which doesn’t involve you having eye bags the next morning: it’s open daily until 8pm, so no disco nap required! This is the place to come during the day for coffee, brownies, cocktails and/or for cruising on your Grindr/Hornet/Scruff. The dulce de leche brownie is DIVINE! Best time to come is on a Sunday after visiting the nearby famous San Telmo market.
- Glam in Recoleta: definitely the best gay night out in the city in our humble opinion. It has the perfect mix of a cool sexy crowd, electronic/latin pop music, spread over 2 rooms and just a super fun gay atmosphere. Glam is open every Thursday and Saturday evening.
- Sitges in Palermo: one of the oldest gay bars in the city, open every Wednesday to Sunday from 11pm. Watching a drag show here is definitely the best way to polish up some of your Porteño Spanish slang. We went when the hilarious drag duo Gonzalo Costa and Diego Moyano were performing. Their most popular place-to-be-seen evening is their Julepe party on Saturdays.
- Contramano Bear club in Recoleta: the best bear night in the city, Friday to Sunday, attracting an older crowd compared to Glam. The atmosphere is extremely friendly and they play the best pop/Latino classic hits. Entry includes a free drink: the popular one all the cool kids have is Speed (Argentinian red bull) with vodka.
Other popular gay hangouts in Buenos Aires:
- KM Zero in Palermo: basement bar open daily from 11:30pm with some quirky acts, including strippers dressed as aliens.
- Flux in Retiro: small basement bar with a famous Pop Hereje night on Thursdays and unique menus in the shape of old vinyl records.
- Amerika in Palermo: one of the largest gay friendly clubs in Latin America with a capacity of just under 2,000. The Saturday evening party attracts a mixed crowd, mainly young, just like this pretty boy Stefan insisted on being photographed with!
- Club 69 in Palermo: has a gay friendly, “alternative” night on Thursdays, featuring electronic music, strippers, breakdancers and drag queens.
- PUERCA and PLOP! these are 2 parties which alternate every month, attracting a very young crowd. Find out about the date and venue for the next party on the Ticket Tek website.
- Peuteo in Palermo: small expensive “hetero-friendly” bar. The best time to visit is on weekends. The name is a play on the naughty slang word for puto.
GAY FRIENDLY HOTELS TO STAY IN BUENOS AIRES
There’s a large selection of excellent gay friendly hotels in Buenos Aires, particularly in Palermo, San Telmo and Recoleta. These are places we tried, loved and welcomed us as a gay couple:
Patios de San Telmo is a stylish and chic boutique hotel, which was originally used as a family home in the 1860s, but subsequently abandoned due to the Yellow Fever epidemic. It has since been restored to its former glory and converted into a hotel with the original features still in place. We love the high doors and ceilings as well as the really quirky art exhibitions on display.
It is located right in the heart of San Telmo, close to the vibrant Sunday market and gay gems like Pride Cafe and Tuesday queer tango classes of Maldita Milonga.
Rooms at Patios De San Telmo start from $100 a night. Read what other like minded travellers thought about it on Tripadvisor.
Mio Hotel is one hell of a sexy hotel. You will swoon from the moment you enter – it just oozes class from every crevice. Even the cute hotel staff will charm the pants of you.
The rooms are elegantly designed to offer intimacy and luxury. The carved wooden bath tub is the crowning glory centre piece where Sebastien spent many hours deliberating over life’s most existential issues.
Mio is located in well-to-do Recoleta, close to the famous Evita cemetery and the large metallic Floralis flower. There are many excellent restaurants nearby such as the highly rated Fervor, the more local Rodi Bar and the very plush Italian La Pecora Nera.
Rooms at Mio start from $240 a night. Read what other like minded travellers thought about it on Tripadvisor.
Solar Soler is a cosy and affordable boutique hotel in Palermo, close to the gay bars.
The communal area has a really homely feel, with a fireplace for cold nights and outdoor patio to enjoy the sunny days. The staff are very gay friendly: we were particularly touched by their blasé response when initially making our reservation when we asked if they’re ok hosting a gay couple.
Rooms at Solar Soler start from $50. Read what other like minded travellers thought about it on Tripadvisor.
We love having our own little love nest when travelling and renting an apartment gives us more freedom and flexibility than a hotel.
There are plenty of apartments to rent in Palermo so you can be very close to the gay scene. This often works out much cheaper than a hotel, especially if you’re going to stay for more than a few days.
Having a temporary home base also allows us to cook and practise some of the recipes we picked up during our travels, such as our Argentinian steak with chimi churri sauce.
If you sign up here, you can claim £25/$20 off your next booking.
ACTIVITIES TO DO IN BUENOS AIRES
What’s the first thing you think about when you come to Buenos Aires other than Madonna’s Evita? Tango! There is of course plenty to do in the city, but for us, our favourite activity was learning tango in San Telmo.
#1 Learning queer tango
At its inception in the 1880s, tango was originally danced between 2 men in the back alleys of Buenos Aires. This is because there was a shortage of women at the time amongst the immigrant population, so the only way for men to get with a woman was either via prostitution or to impress her with some sultry dance moves. Therefore, the men practised with each other.
Sadly, since the late 1800s, same sex tango dancing got lost in Buenos Aires… until 2002, when queer tango schools set up, offering classes at milongas for the LGBT community.
The 2 most popular are:
- La Marshall: has a class every Friday evening at 10:30pm with dancing from 11:30pm late into the night. The milonga is at Riobamba 416 in San Telmo.
- Tango Queer: has classes every Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 8:30pm followed by an evening of dancing into the night. The evening on Tuesdays is at the Maldita Milonga in San Telmo and the one on Thursday is at the Escuela Argentina del Tango in the Centro Cultural Borges in Recoleta.
#2 Feria de San Telmo (Sunday market)
San Telmo is our favourite neighbourhood. It’s bursting with character, full of history, street art and has an awesome Sunday market.
The cobblestone streets of the neighbourhood are lined with antique and souvenir sellers. Buskers and tango dancers perform on almost every other street corner, adding to the intensely colourful atmosphere.
This is a definite must see in the city. We completely fell in love with it and are certain you will too.
#3 Do a Parilla tour
The best way to enjoy a steak in Buenos Aires is at a parilla (pronounced parisha with the local accent). These are the city’s famous steakhouses. The parilla itself is the name of the large iron grill in which the meat is barbecued.
For first timers, a parilla tour offers a good introduction to the famous steak and other culinary gems like choripáns (Argentinian hot dogs) and empanadas. We had an amazing experience with Parilla Tour Buenos Aires who took us around the best parillas in Palermo and taught us a great deal about Argentinian culture.
#4 Watch a tango show
A candlelit dinner while watching a tango show is one of the best memories we have of Buenos Aires.
There are many places tango shows with dinner but our favourite is Madero Tango. The food is a delicious mix of Argentinian classics and the show is based on a story of the evolution of tango with some of the sexiest and impressive dancers you’ve ever seen. The location is at the bottom end of the Puerto Madero neighbourhood, so you get some pretty stunning night views across the river when it’s all lit up.
Also at the end of the show, the performers offer a dance class as part of the experience so you can learn the basic moves to show off back home.
The Premium tickets are the most exclusive, costing $200/£164 per person, which are for the best, front row seats in the theatre, private dining and a more involved, intimate experience. Alternative ticket prices are offered depending on where you want to sit in the theatre. If you’re trying to impress a special someone, this is where you need to bring them!
#5 Learn to cook Argentinan food
The Argentine experience is the ultimate cooking class in the city! We came here with a group of friends and had an amazing evening.
We had an empanada contest (sadly we didn’t win) and learnt how to prepare the perfect mate (popular bitter tea drunk everywhere in Argentina).
But the highlight for the greedy Frenchman was when the ubiquitous dulce de leche (caramelised condensed milk) made its appearance and he learnt to put together alfajor de maicena cookies:
#6 Spend an afternoon relaxing at Markus Day Spa
Markus is a men only spa offering massages and a very cool Jacuzzi to relax in. It’s not a sex sauna – simply a spa for men, both gay and straight.
It does of course help that the masseurs are incredibly attractive young men who are ever so talented with their hands. Definitely worth checking out when trying to tackle the jet lag.
#7 Learn to play Polo at a traditional estancia
We had a fun day out in the countryside town of Capilla del Señor as part of the Argentina Polo Day. The experience is set in a traditional estancia (cattle ranch) where we got a flavour of the gaucho culture, enjoyed a Sunday asado and of course, played lots of polo.
Polo is like hockey, except on a horse and quite difficult because you have to really reach down from your horse with your stick to hit the ball.
After winning the polo match, we shared a bountiful asado (Argentinian barbecue party) with the players, washed down with Malbec and lots of polo banter.
For more inspiration, check out our article about 5 romantic things to do in Buenos Aires.
SIGHTSEEING HIGHLIGHTS OF BUENOS AIRES
Here’s a list of the main sightseeing highlights any traveller to the city will not want to miss:
- Casa Rosada: the pink parliament where
EvitaMadonna famously sang THAT famous anthem!
- Recoleta Cemetery: where Evita’s grave can be found along with many other incredibly dramatic and extravagant ones.
- Floralis Génerica: the iconic metallic flower of the city located in the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas in Recoleta. It is designed to open its petals in the morning and close up in the evening.
- Boca neighbourhood: check out the cute colourful streets of Caminito as well as Bonbonera stadium. If you’re a football fan you’ll want to attend a Boca Juniors v River Plate match for the electric atmosphere!
- Puerto Madero: the old port of Buenos Aires recently revamped into a very cool neighbourhood with lots of bars and restaurants. An evening walk here when it’s lit up is quite simply, magical, especially the view of the iconic Puente de la Mujeres bridge.
There’s so much more to do in the city of course. We’ve focused on what we tried and loved but please feel free to put your own experiences in the comments below: anything you think we missed out?
For more inspiration:
- read about our romantic road trip through Corrientes and Misiones
- see what it’s like to grow up as gay in Argentina with our interview with Juan from Buenos Aires
- learn more about our favourite Argentinian foods including our recipe for Argentinian steak
- laugh along with our 10 interesting facts about Argentina