This passionate, captivating dance was declared part of the world’s ‘intangible cultural heritage’ by UNESCO in 2009 – and once the accordion strikes up and the dancers legs start flying in a traditional milonga (dance hall), you’ll understand why. Originating in the lower-class districts of Buenos Aires, it went on to take the world by storm in the early 20th century, then faded away, but has (thankfully) enjoyed a recent revival. Quintessential Buenos Aires and a signature experience. You can watch, dance, and even learn the music.
For the most authentic tango experience, head to a //milonga//, the small social clubs where locals go to practice, and tourists go to watch or join in (for free). There are also plenty of (expensive) shows to choose from: see our recommendations below. Buenos Aires Local Tours can provide guides to accompany you. Many of the //milongas/ offer cheap lessons too. La Cathedral caters to a younger crowd in a hip, warehouse-style environment. More ‘mature’ dancers could try the historic Confitería La Ideal. A number of local operators (see ‘go with’ recommendations) can arrange one-hour tango lessons, and even tango music classes with professional Argentine tango guitarists.
Shows operate daily, all year round, usually beginning around 10pm (with dinner around 9pm). Pickup (if included) is around 8pm-8.30pm for dinner, or 9pm-9.30pm without dinner.
The bigger organised shows (see recommendations) will accommodate guests in wheelchairs – let them know in advance.
El Viejo Almacen show
One of the city’s first tango venues, it has an intimate feel and over 200 years of history. The food is mediocre, so go for the ‘show only’ option. The VIP option gets the best tables at the front. 9 Balcarce 799, San Telmo. Price from USD90. www.viejo-almacen.com.ar.
Rojo Tango show at the Faena Hotel
The glamorous and elegant version, with great service, the Rojo Tango show at the high-end Faena Hotel mixes red velvet drapes and sexy showgirl dancers for a distinctive Moulin Rouge feel. Price from USD210. www.rojotango.com.
Esquina Carlos Gardel show
Quality production, named after Argentina’s most famous tango composer and singer Carlos Gardel, in a classic 1920s-style Buenos Aires setting. The 90-minute show features professional dancers and singers and a live band, and the food is good. Price from USD95. www.esquinacarlosgardel.com.ar.
Sometimes there is last-minute availability on the doors at milongas, but for the best ones you should book ahead.
Most dinners at shows tend to be overpriced and mediocre. Better to take a ‘show only’ option and eat in one of the nearby restaurants instead, unless you know the food is good.
Why not learn to tango?
It may be intimidating, but beginners’ classes attract mainly first-timers and no dancing experience is necessary. First lessons involve learning to walk and holding yourself correctly, with some basic steps.
Best tango teacher in town?
Professional dancer Alejandro Puerta offers entertaining one-hour single, couple and group lessons from his own private apartment/studio in San Telmo. By appointment, Monday-Sunday. From USD35. He’s also available to escort you dancing at local milongas.
- Type Activity
- Place Buenos Aires
- Notoriety Somewhat known
- Price guide $$$$$
- Adults price from free
- Recommended duration 3 hours
- Available Jan-Dec
- Best time Jan-Dec
- Booking requirement Booking recommended
- Wheelchair friendly Yes
- Physical difficulty
- Fear factor
- Authentic & unspoilt
- Cultural insight
- Address Buenos Aires, Argentina