Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, pays an annual tribute to the amazing and very sensual dance when it holds the Tango BA Festival and World Championship. For two weeks the sultry tango music can be heard all over the La Boca district throughout the day and well into the night.
What is Tango BA Festival all about?
You don’t need to be a professional tango dancer to either enjoy or participate in the Tango Festival Buenos Aires. What you do need is a love of dance and of course, the tango. The festival itself is divided into two distinct parts.
The first few days are for everyone to join in and are dedicated to tango dancing en masse, classes and workshops. The second part of the event brings together professional tango dancers from all over the world who take to the stage for the Tango World Championship.
Tango Festival Buenos Aires – Part 1:
One essential part of any dance festival is the accompanying music. The tango demands its own special style of music and the Tango Buenos Aires Festival doesn’t stint on it in either quality or quantity. Be prepared to feel your spirit stirred when the festival opens with a concert of tango classics performed by the best tango orchestras and vocalist there are.
It doesn’t end when the last notes fades either. During the days of the festival there are over a hundred more concerts from top performers all over the city. The best thing? They’re all free to attend.
Think you’ve got two left feet or just not sure how to tango? Don’t despair.
Free Tango Dance Classes
From day one of the Tango Festival Buenos Aires there are dance classes which are completely free to participate in. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner who has never set foot on a dance floor or someone who knows the basic steps, but would like to learn more.
There are classes for all levels. Even if you’re a master strutter of your stuff, you’ll find there’s lots of tips and tango tricks you can pick up as the classes are taught by the best tango teachers in Buenos Aires.
The classes are held in the afternoons in the grand salon of the Usina del Arte auditorium and community centre in the La Boca district. To join in with a class, all you need to do is turn up and sign the inscription form half an hour before the class is due to begin.
Make sure you’re attending a class of the right level. If your Spanish isn’t up to much and you’re not sure which is which, here’s a brief translation:
Milongas can take place anywhere add invariably do. From small social clubs to bars and even out on the open streets. When you hear the haunting notes of the bandoneon it really is the moment to get out there on the dance floor and give it your all.
Don’t forget to go round in the same direction as everyone else and don’t go across the middle of the dance floor – that’s really bad tango etiquette.
Once you’ve done several circuits of the dance floor and become a fully fledged milonguero, or tango dancer, it’ll be time to sit back and watch how the experts do it.
Tango Festival Buenos Aires – Part 2:
Tango World Championships
Believe it or not, the couples who participate in the World Tango Championship don’t arrive there by chance. They’re dedicated to dance and have had to tango their way through several preliminary rounds in their own countries before getting to Buenos Aires.
Split into two distinct dance categories, Salon Tango and Stage Tango, the dancers really do know their moves. Is that enough? No. There’s a whole host of elimination rounds they need to compete through before someone gains the coveted world title.
The Tango World Championship grand final isn’t just a stage event, it’s a stadium-sized event held in the Luna Park Stadium which has a seating capacity of over nine thousand. That’s how seriously Argentina takes its tango.
Want to go to the Tango World Championship? Check out the tips section to find out how to get your free ticket.
So Why Tango BA Festival?
Whether you’re watching or participating, being in Buenos Aires during the Tango Festival BA and World Championship is guaranteed to ignite your sensual side. It would be impossible not to succumb to the romanticism of the music or the passion of the tango movements. Even if you’re not as nimble on your feet as Richard Gere, the question is, shall we dance?
If you’d like to participate in the free tango dance classes, don’t leave it to the last minute to make your inscription. Places are limited.
2# Pack your dancing shoes
If you’re going to the Buenos Aires Festival of Tango, whatever you do, don’t forget to pack your dancing shoes.
3# Warm Clothes
August is winter in Buenos Aires and it can get chilly so don’t go without some warm clothes.
There is no admission fee for any of the Tango World Championship preliminaries or the final.
For the preliminary rounds tickets are issued on a first come first served basis with a restriction of one ticket per person. Tickets for the final are issued at the Usina del Arte several days before the event.
Tickets are limited to two per person until all the seats are full. Get there early to make sure you get yours.
What to Do?
Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, is a vibrant and contrasting blend of antiquity and modernity.
Founded by the Spanish in the late sixteenth century, Buenos Aires is now Argentina’s most populated city. Renowned for its cultural diversity, it attracts tourists from all over the world and is only second to Mexico on Latin America’s list of most visited cities.
Even if you’ve never watched the 1996 film Evita starring Madonna, it would be impossible to visit Argentina and not find out just a little more about Eva Peron.
Argentina’s most popular first lady rose from poverty to a promising film career to political prominence. She became an icon for women and for the poor before her untimely death at the age of thirty three.
In the Evita Museum there are exhibitions of historical importance, photographs and displays of her personal items. Her mausoleum can be visited at the La Recoleta Cemetery.
Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve
If you feel the need to stretch your legs and get a breath of fresh air after all the tango dancing, then the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve is the perfect place to go.
The three hundred and fifty hectares of parklands and lagoons are right on the edge of the city. Walk around or hire a bicycle to view the amazing flora and fauna that reside there.
If it’s a full moon while you’re there and you can leave the dance floor for long enough, take a four hour guided tour of the reserve by moonlight. Magic.
Leave the buzz of the city behind and head out to the Pampa region for a day long taste of what the real Argentina is all about.
Held at the Estancia Santa Susana, a hacienda-style farm, the Fiesta Gaucha is a celebration of the Argentine rural way of life. Take a horse or carriage ride around the ranch, then enjoy a massive barbecue while watching the Gauchos put their steeds through their paces.
Don’t want to miss out on any tango? Don’t worry, you won’t as there’s also a tango and a folk dance exhibition during the day.
Bomba de Tiempo
If you’re all tangoed out and need a change of pace, check out the Bomba de Tiempo or Time Bomb show at the Knex Cultural Centre.
It’s all about rhythm. An orchestra of percussionists follow the hand signals of their director to create a uniquely improvised show every time they perform. It’s wild and very loud.
More Samba-ish and African tribal than Argentine, it has absolutely nothing in common with the sedate tango and will put you in a real carnival mood. Time to really let your hair down and get pogoing to the beat. There’s definitely no rigid dance rules here.
Where to Stay?
There really is a huge diversity of accommodation in Buenos Aries and with plenty of choice to suit all budgets.
If you want to get in as much tango as you can then check-in to somewhere close to the Usina de Arte or to the Luna Park. Whatever you do, book early. The Tango BA Festival attracts well over a half a million visitors to the city.
Puerto Limon Hostel
If you are on a seriously short budget, the Puerto Limon Hostel is ideal. This super chic, retro style hostel, in the historic San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, is great if you’re travelling with friends or in a small group with not a lot of funds.
Yes, it is half an hour to the tango festival main venues by public transport, but the super economy price of just thirteen dollars a night for a bed in a room for four or eleven dollars in a dormitory of eight means your budget is going to stretch a long, long way.
Claridge Hotel, Buenos Aires
The Claridge Hotel is just over a five minute walk to Luna Park. While you may think the name spells expense, it doesn’t.
The mid-range prices at the Claridge are very affordable. Choose from a double room, triple if you’re travelling with young ones or if you want space enough to practice your tango in private, go for a suite.
Hotel NH Collection Buenos Aires Jousten
You can’t get much closer to the action at Luna Park than by staying at the Hotel NH Collection Buenos Aires Jousten.
It’s so close, you could probably hear the music while laying in bed. This contemporary hotel has all the modern conveniences including an in-house gym and is perfect for couples who want something a little bit special without splashing out too much cash.
Where to Eat?
Dancing the tango, although it appears to be restrained, takes quite a bit of stamina. Make sure you build yours by dining on some of the local dishes.
Try a bowl of Locro at the 1810 Cocina Regional restaurant. It’s a hearty rustic stew made of beans, beef, potatoes, corn and few chorizos to spice it up. The slow release carbs will give you energy enough for hours of tangoing.
When in a country famous for its beef and barbecuing, you just have to indulge in an asado meat feast. Restaurant Parrilla Pena is all about grilled meat.
Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the names of the various cuts in Spanish, you can just point to the piece you want grilling over the flames. If you’re still unsure, then go for the house mixed grill plate and have a bit of everything. You won’t regret it.
If you prefer smaller plates which deliver a massive taste explosion then check out the restaurant Roux. Their Patagonian trout with cauliflower puree and baby squid is divine as is their yellowfin tuna sourced from Ecuador and served with green quinoa.
While Buenos Aires may be a meat eaters paradise, there are also some very good vegetarian restaurants too. For a superb choice of dishes made from organic ingredients check out the Buenos Aires Verde Restaurant.
Their vegan sushi is a definite must try as is their homemade guacamole with raw vegetable nachos. At the Naturaleza Sabia go for the lentil burger or the char-grilled tofu with a vegetable julienne. They’re a real treat.
How to Get There?
Buenos Aires is served by two different airports:
If you’re travelling from inside Argentina itself, you’ll arrive at the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery which receives regional and domestic flights.
If you’re arriving on an international flight, you’ll arrive at Ezeiza Airport which is also known as the Ministro Pistarini International Airport.
From Ezeiza Airport to BA centre
There are several options to get to the centre of Buenos Aires from Ezeiza Airport. A taxi ride takes around an hour and costs in the region of $40.
There are shuttle services available, but when using these it’s best to be aware they don’t drop you at your chosen hotel. Each shuttle company has their own depot and this is the drop off point.
From the company depot you’ll need to either take a short cab ride or use the local bus service to arrive at your destination.
Shuttle from the airport
As the price of the shuttle service can be in the region of $10 to $15, it’s worth checking if just grabbing a taxi is the better option.
A regular bus service, line 8, runs from the airport to the central Plaza Mayo. A single journey costs around $10. It’s just over a ten minute walk from the Plaza de Mayo to Luna Park.
From Aeroparque Jorge Newbery
To get to the centre from the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery is a fifteen minute taxi ride with an average price of $12 which makes it very economical if you’re travelling with friends.
There is also a frequent bus service from this airport to the city. Depending on where you’re staying, you can catch either lines 33, 37, 45 or 160 to reach your destination.
If you’re arriving to Buenos Aires by train, you’ll disembark at the main rail terminal which is Estacion Retiro.
From there you’ll be able to take a connecting inner-city service, 20A, directly to the Usina de Arte which takes around half an hour or the 20B to Luna park which takes fifteen minutes.
The Underground option in BA
There is also the option of using the Buenos Aires Underground or Subte which can also be caught from the Retiro Station Complex. Line B will take you to Luna Park.
The closest station is Leandro. N. Alem. Use Line C and disembark at the Constitucion station to get to the Usina de Arte which takes about half an hour. Fares are less than $1 and even cheaper if you pre-purchase and charge a Sube card. Sube cards can be purchased at kiosks and participating businesses throughout the city.
Note: A Sube card is valid on all transport systems running in Buenos Aires. The more you use it within a two hour time frame, the cheaper it gets. After two hours the fare goes back to the basic price and the discounts reinitiate.
Buses in BA
Buenos Aires has a complex inner-city bus service. To find out which service runs from where you’re staying to the main venues of the Tango BA Festival, you’ll need to either consult the bus guide which has maps of each distinct line or ask your friendly receptionist.
It’s not really the done thing to pay in cash, so get a Sube card before you board, it’ll make travelling around the city a lot easier. When you board the bus, you just tell the conductor where you’re going and he will charge you the adequate fare.
Parking in BA
If you’re driving into Buenos Aires to the Tango Festival, be aware that because of the massive influx of visitors parking can be almost impossible to find.
Some areas are ticketed other streets are free to park on. While the fee may be just a few pesos, you’ll need to check the duration limit of your stay as it’s not good form to interrupt a tango to run off and feed a parking meter.
If you are brave enough to drive in from an outer-lying area such as Lujan expect a one and a half hour journey which doesn’t include negotiating the inner-city traffic and search for a parking space.
From Zarate expect to be on the road for around one hour and twenty minutes. If you’re coming in from as far afield as Rosario or Cordoba, then expect a three and a half hour and seven hour journey respectively.
If you’re arriving from somewhere like Montevideo in Uruguay, give yourself plenty of time, it’s a six and a half drive before you start searching for that all elusive parking space. Best advice – leave the car at home and use public transport. It’s simpler and more stress free.
Tango was born in the Buenos Aires district of La Boca where much of the Tango Festival takes place. The dance is an integral part of the Argentine culture and has been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
The Tango Festival, now in its eighteenth consecutive year, was created by the Argentine government as a celebration of the importance of tango to the country’s heritage.
The festival merged with the World Tango Championship in its inaugural year in 2003 and has become the biggest celebration of tango anywhere in the world.