Argentina's Cafe Culture
When staying in Buenos Aires, you may catch yourself thinking you’re in European city. Labeled the “Paris of South America”, Buenos Aires and Argentinean culture in general resemble Europe closer than other Latin American countries while remaining one of the best travel bargains around. Its architecture, music, art, and even cuisine, are all heavily influenced by Argentineans’ Spanish and Italian decent. It is no surprise then, that cafes are a way of life for locals. From family gatherings to business meetings, just about everything is discussed over a cup of coffee. Locals will spend hours engaged in conversation, reading, or just relaxing in one of its many local cafés.
In fact, the strong coffee-house culture has kept even Starbucks out of Argentina until the first store opened in Buenos Aires in May 2008. As an effort to win over the locals, Starbucks has tailored its menu to include traditional drinks, such as a Dulce de Leche Latte and mates. Still, the local cafes aren’t worried about business dwindling as Starbucks will primarily attract American tourists and professionals.
The slow-paced coffee culture may pose a problem to American tourists looking for a quick “pick me up” in the morning. Grabbing that coffee “to go” may be a way of life for Americans, but Argentineans view drinking coffee on the run as an undignified practice, so you won’t see many people drinking from disposable cups. Instead of whipping in and out of Starbucks, set aside time during your morning to soak in the Argentinean culture at a local cafe. Relax and immerse yourself in the cafe ambiance. Enjoy a nice chat with family, friends, or even locals. Order a mate, a traditional tea of Argentina, for an even deeper cultural experience. Popular coffee drinks include the cortado, café con leche, and café chico.
Along with your coffee, try tasting the local cuisine also heavily influenced by Argentina’s European roots during your visit. Empanadas, a stuffed pastry with many flavors and fillings, make a perfect afternoon snack. Beef empanadas are the most typical, although many vegetarian options are also available. For dessert, order an alfajor, a traditional Argentinean cookie every visitor must try. This local sweet consists of two delicious soft cookies filled with a layer of dulce de leche and covered with dark, milk, or white chocolate. Coffee house chain Havanna is acclaimed to make the best alfajores around town.
Opting for a vacation rental instead of a hotel is another great (and low budget) way to sink into the Argentinean culture. When you lodge in a Bariloche vacation rental, you live like a local, and not a tourist. Renting by owner allows you a more personal experience of the country, since many owners will inform you of local hot spots unknown to most tourists. There are several Buenos Aires apartments available for rent all over the city. Vacation rentals provide more privacy, better locations, and additional amenities than hotels offer… at half the price!