Café Tortoni

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Cafe Tortoni in Buenos Aires, see the old world charm.The Café Tortoni is the classis example of Buenos Aires’ old world charm. It is sophisticated, elegant, and currently a major tourist attraction with prices to match. That said it is still worth a visit. Stand outside under the antique sign on Avenida de Mayo and you are in the heart of Buenos Aires, with the Plaza de Congresso to the West and the Casa Rosada and plaza de Mayo to the East. The Café Tortoni is the one of the cities relics and when you step inside you’ll find that not much has changed from the day it was built.

In 1858 a Frenchman named Touan decided to construct a café that would match the panache of Parisian establishments. The Café Tortoni, named after one such local in Paris, was just that. Marble tables, embroidered chairs, and stain glass ceilings, the Café was refinement embodied. In 1880 it moved to its current location at 825 Av. De Mayo and the rest is history. Virtually every Argentine of note has passed through its doors, politicians, artists, writers, and today visiting dignitaries from around the world make sure to stop by.

The walls are adorned with paintings and pictures, mostly dedicated to the café itself, and the expansive collection on display reflects a who’s-who of Argentine arts and culture greats. Both Borges and Gardel used to frequent the café, and while the place is now flooded with international visitors, you can still find typical Porteños sitting an enjoying their café. I even saw a classic old Argentine gentleman scrawling what I like to assume was poetry on the extra napkins the waiter had brought him. So while it may be affected by the swells of tourism, it has not been ruined.

Inside the Cafe Tortoni in Buenos AiresThe menu boasts traditional dishes and coffees, but for a real decadent afternoon treat try one of the house sundaes. Overflowing with chocolate syrup or dulce de leche and drowned in whip cream they are a perfect dish to satisfy your sweet craving and ample enough to split between two. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week or you can pop in at anytime to enjoy a cold beer or ice coffee and a quick break from the hustle and bustle outside.

The café is also a historical tango spot and every evening they present a different tango show to those with reservations. For thirty pesos plus the cost of a drink you can sit in their historical basement saloon and enjoy live tango music and dancing, check their site for an updated schedule of performances. If you can’t make the dinner show, then stroll around the corner to the Historical Tango Museum located at the Café’s old entrance on Rivadavia and open from 2 to 6 Monday through Friday. This is a good spot to learn about the evolution of the Argentina dance and it’s impact on the overall culture.

Gran Cafe Tortoni sign outside the door

The mirrored walls, chandeliers and waiters in black coats put the café Tortoni on a par with its classy Parisian brethren. But while the surroundings are elegant, the service is brisk and the prices inflated. A coffee or lunch at the Tortoni is not a daily expedition, but it deserves a place on your Buenos Aires itinerary.

Gran Café Tortoni
Avenida de Mayo 825
Tel. 54-11- 4342-4328


[…] And then the tour continues to cover other major attractions such as Avenida de Mayo, Line A of the subway (the oldest subway line in the southern hemisphere), Cafe Tortoni, the Palacio Barolo, and Congress. […]

[…] This tour started out in a great café in the city. Then we walked through the old tango district and I finally learned about what I had been looking at the whole time. I learned who the man in the picture was, Carlos Gardel, and I discovered the history of the dance. Men created it and danced with each other in the beginning. They set the roles of women in a submissive stance thus making tango a manly dance. I could appreciate that. […]

[…] tango is stage tango – what you see in all the “cena (dinner) tango shows” around town. Professional dancers perform choreography usually to live music that […]

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