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By: Michael Martin
Tourism has flourished in Argentina's capital with a bevy of new boutique hotels along the vibrant Puerto Madero waterfront and new developments by star architects such as Normal Foster and Philippe Starck.
|Chef Diego Felix serves fine fare to vegetarian foodies at Casa Felix.
Where to stay: Buenos Aires's affordability attracts expatriates and bohemian artists who can find rentals for $500 a month or properties for less than $100,000. For those looking to stay long term, companies such as Buenos Aires Habitat specialize in upscale apartments and lofts throughout the city. Those unfamiliar with the grit of urban living should stick to established neighborhoods like Recoleta, the Beverly Hills of Buenos Aires, instead of edgier areas such as San Telmo or Palermo Hollywood.
Those going the hotel route will find exquisite accommodations, such as the Park Hyatt Duhau Palace and Alvear Palace Hotel, and new boutique options in the Palermo and San Telmo neighborhoods. Hotel Home, owned by a British record producer and his wife, is one of the city's best-known boutique hotels. The five-year old Palermo Viejo property offers quirky rooms situated around a tranquil garden, with a bistro bar and a small swimming pool that's more Austin Powers than Eva Peron.
For a more authentic Argentine experience, check in to the Legado Mitico in trendier Palermo Soho. As you enter its handsome lobby, you'll find walnut bookcases, leather sofas and a reception area manned by a buttoned-up staff. Legato Mitico's rooms are designed after famous Argentines like stage star Tita Merello, writer Jorge Luis Borges and Che Guevara with antique furnishings and concrete fireplaces adorned with original artwork.
Where to shop: Astute shoppers look for clothing and furniture in Buenos Aires. Skip the malls and department stores, and look for unusual boutiques in Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho. Men should hit Felix for Bueno Aires's version of Marc Jacobs. Woman should visit Lupe a few streets over, by the same owners.
For decadent housewares, hit Paul in Palermo Soho, where you'll find high-end kitchen ceramics and silver furnishings. For something older, don't miss the San Telmo Flea Market on Sundays at Feria de San Pedro Telmo. Also check out antique stores, which offer Victorian relics at decent prices.
Where to eat: Tranquil cafes line the streets of Buenos Aires. Mott is a sexy eatery in Palermo Soho that attracts local fashionistas and Hollywood expatriates with its sidewalk terrace and front lounge. For something edgier, hit Oui Oui a few blocks away in Palermo Hollywood, a bakery popular with 30-something skateboarders and graffiti artists.
For dinner, make a 10 p.m. reservation at a new hot spot like To Sushi, which offers rotating sushi bar and a fusion menu that combines French and Japanese cuisine.
For more of a Madonna vibe, hit Tegui, which has replaced Casa Cruz as Buenos Aires's top restaurant. Chef German Martitegui dazzles with a mix of adventurous Argentine cuisine that marries homemade terrines, wild meats and exotic seafood in a glittery dining room hidden behind a crusty urban facade.
Those looking to dine under a little less white light will find culinary paradise at Casa Felix. The private home of chef Diego Felix offers a five-course vegetarian and seafood menu Thursday through Saturday in the evening. You'll fine homemade empanadas stuff with ingredients from an on-site organic garden and grilled fish presented in a checkered-floor dining room that seats no more than 13 guests and often fills up weeks in advance.
Where to go out: By night, meaning 2 a.m., the city comes alive at a host of hot supper and dance clubs from Wednesday through Saturday. The Congo Room in Palermo Viejo is one of the area's hottest bars, with an amber-lit interior and a soundtrack of sultry dance anthems and '80s pop tunes. For more star wattage, try Isabel, a tango-free hip-hop enclave in Palermo Soho that offers a dance scene that lasts till 5 a.m. For more dancing, try Kika, which is known for playing electro, hip-hop and drum bass till morning.
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