Buenos Aires is often described a very European city. Although the label ‘Paris of the South’ is a bit wide of the mark (the buildings of Recoleta provide the only passable likeness of its Northern Hemisphere twin) Buenos Aires does have its own sense of style that leaves a very positive impression with most visitors to this vibrant city.

Buenos Aires – City of Dance 

One of the most memorable symbols of Buenos Aires is undoubtedly found in the tango. Walk along the bustling Calle Florida or around colourful La Boca and you’ll see dancers performing in the street, with a portable music player providing the rhythm and a large crowd providing an appreciative audience. But what is the story of the tango and how has it become such a strong symbol of Argentina?

The story of Tango

The tango has its roots in African and European culture, with the many immigrants of 19th century bringing and blending their traditional music and dances into something new. Milonga, considered a predecessor to the tango, originated in the rough working class neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires as a parody of some of the dances performed in the African clubs in the city. With strong, jerky, exaggerated movements, the dances were considered vulgar by the more well-to-do parts of Argentine society and were concentrated in the seedy parts of town, in the brothels and the unsavoury bars of the port districts.

The music and the dance gained in popularity however and eventually travelled back to Europe in the early 20th century as tango musicians and dancers entertained the music halls of Paris, Madrid and even London.

Enjoying a Tango Show in Buenos Aires

Although you’re likely to find tango dancers performing their art almost anywhere in Buenos Aires, perhaps the best place to appreciate this sensual dance is in the milongas of the city. These dance halls (there are over a dozen in Buenos Aires) provide a stage for the finest dancers and are frequented by locals and tourists alike.

As a visitor you can enjoy a meal and then watch the tango dancers on stage from the comfort of your seat. While many places do encourage (or drag) audience members onto the stage to join in the performance, if this isn’t your idea of fun and you’d rather just watch the best quality dancers perform without distraction there are plenty of shows that offer this option. It is wise to check the type of milonga you are visiting when you make your reservation.

Check out our special page and download our online brochure for ideas on holidays in Argentina.

by Andy Jarosz