Café Tortoni

Soak up the elegance of Buenos Aires’ oldest café: a meeting place of literati, a treasure-trove of art and the host of live tango shows.

A visit to Café Tortoni often features high on a Buenos Aires itinerary. Come to this coffeehouse to sip a hot drink, admire elegant furnishings and artwork or watch a tango. Established by a French immigrant in 1858, it is the oldest and most famous café in Buenos Aires.

As soon as the doorman opens the grand brass-handled doors you’ll begin to appreciate the café’s 19th-century charm. Wood-paneled walls, marble tables, chandeliers and a stained-glass ceiling present a sophisticated and bohemian ambiance. Sit at a table and imagine the time when Argentine literati would convene over a cortado (espresso with warm milk). Among many famous former visitors are legendary tango singer Carlos Gardel and Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. 

Browse the artwork scattered around the main room, including a painting by local artist Augusto Marteau and a life-size bust of Borges. Check out the Sala Eladia Blázquez, a billiards and game room named after a tango singer who dedicated a song to the café. 

Try the traditional Argentine café food, such as croissants, toasted sandwiches and cheese selections. You must taste the simple, but special churros con chocolate; dip the fried pastry into the rich, not-too-sweet hot chocolate for a memorable treat. You may find prices here slightly higher than at other restaurants, but you are paying for a bit of history with your food. 

Walk down the narrow staircase to La Bodega, an intimate theater where from Monday to Friday you can watch twice-daily tango shows. On weekends, shows take place in the Sala Alfonsina Storni. Adorning its walls is a series of paintings that make up the Homenaje al Tango (Tribute to Tango). A complete schedule of events is available on the café’s official website.

Café Tortoni sits on Avenida de Mayo, one of Buenos Aires’ most recognizable streets, and is just a few blocks from Plaza de Mayo. The café is easily accessible via public buses and the metro. A hop-on hop-off tourist bus also stops nearby. The café is open daily. Visit in the morning or late in the evening to avoid lines and tour groups. 

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