It is well known that Buenos Aires is a nightlife jewel. Portenos and foreigners alike pack up the city’s bars and clubs, pretty much any day, any time. Although I enjoyed spending my first few months discovering fancy bars of Palermo, Recoleta and San Telmo, when a friend of mine dragged me along to a “secret bar” my perception of Buenos Aires nightlife was about to change.
And I am not talking about bars such as 878 or la Puerta Roja, which are very cool but not that secret anymore. I am talking about living rooms transformed in bars, about conceptual bars, about New York style speakeasy bars –you know those underground bars during prohibition in the United States- I am talking about very cools bars that are unique to this very cool city.
Here is my top 5 selection.
1. La Ferona Social Club
On a corner of Juan B Justo, separating Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho, there’s a big white colonial-style house. You’ve probably walked pass by without even noticing it. But when night falls, an underground party takes place in this very house. Ring the bell and wait for the owner to open. Two friends who decided to make a bar in their living room. And that’s exactly what it is. Go up the narrow stairs where you will get to a first room, a dark lit living room with a piano where usually the owners and their friends hang out. Continue you way up and you will get in the main room. Suddenly feel like you are in east London again. Funky chairs, tables and an old carpet decorate the room. Pictures of the rolling stones, of Jimmy Hendrix and the two owners are hung-up. Some people are sitting down having a home-made meal; two well-dressed girls are dancing to the music, usually jazz music with a twist of salsa, funk and some rock thrown in there. Most of the people are outside, on the roof terrace, lit with multicoloured lights, warm even on a winter day. A bit further, in the room behind, is the bar, with cheap drinks and good cocktails. Here is the place where people mingle and you’ll probably bump into up-and-coming musicians and artists. Go to La Ferona on a Thursday or on a week-end and make sure to come quite early as the doors remain closed when it gets packed-usually after 2am.
In Palermo. For more information, click here.
Everyone who rings this doorbell will instantly feel at home. DUDUi’s amiable Dutch proprietors (Coen and Jurriaan Meischke) believe that “the customers are the soul of a bar.” There is a cool essence, a mix of exuberant and comfortable atmosphere when you first walk in. Dudui is located in a renovated house in the vibrant neighbourhood of Palermo Hollywood. The ambiance invites spontaneous, carefree conversation, as jazz or electronic plays in the background. The main attractions in here are the cocktails, simply delicious and sophisticated. Embark on a voyage of senses with the Hot Lolita (gin, chili syrup and grapefruit), the DuDui (vodka, Martini Bianco, Hesperidina, kiwi, lemongrass and lemon) or the unusual Trámites (gin, Cointreau, lime, grapefruit, passion fruit and cardamom). You can also enjoy your drink under the stars on the terrace. But it is also more than just a meeting point, with exciting activities such as art exhibitions, music shows, bartender course, tango classes, wine tasting and more. Activities begin at 7pm and are welcome to everyone.
In Palermo. For more information, click here.
3. Frank’s Bar
Walk down this quiet street of Palermo and stop at the number 1445. There should be a big black metal door, with no sign. Ring the bell and you’ll see two eyes appear through a bull’s eye “Do you have an invitation?” It’s ok if you don’t; they’ll let you in, at least in the first patio, a garage like brick room, with nothing but a phone booth. Yes you are in the right place. Make your way to phone and lift the handset up. Type in the secret code and the door will magically open. You are now entering Franks, a secret bar inspired by New York and Chicago speakeasy bars during Prohibition era. These were bars that sold alcohol, despite the ban, to their most loyal customers. The relationship struck up from the mutual trust and satisfaction of having a secret treasure. Reminiscent of thousands of movies in Chicago or New York, Franks is beautiful place to have a cocktail. The living room has magnificent chandeliers, a bar and a mezzanine above. The wood, concrete and brick give an elegant but warm feeling. The quality of the drinks is another distinctive aspect of the bar. They argue that all cocktails are based on the golden age of cocktails, using only seasonal fruit and do not use artificial flavours. You will find the best Manhattan (whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters) in Buenos Aires. Another plus is the sex shop on the right when you come in, with toys, lingerie, accessories, masks and edible oils. Supposedly the best sex shop accessories in Buenos Aires.
In Palermo. For more information click here.
4. Squat House
More than a club then a bar, Squat House is the younger-trendier-dancier of this list. Set in an absolutely beautiful house in Palermo Soho, Squat house is being used sporadically by promoters and clandestine event organisers. The house was abandoned a few years ago, and although it has been refurbished to host these beautiful parties, the feeling of an empty crumbling and run-down place that is a squat remains. On the right of the garden patio you will find the “dance-floor” of the house where the young and the trendy dance away to electronic music until dawn. If it’s too early for that, head to the beautiful bar for a beer or cocktail. Outside there’s a barbecue-sometimes- and a swimming pool-with no water. Upstairs there are some rooms, a lot of empty rooms with neon lights where people sit down to have a cigarette before they head back down to the bar. Make you way to the end of the corridor and you’ll find a terrace, where you can look down on the beautiful garden and the shinning lights of Palermo Soho. Go early on weekends as it can be difficult to get in.
In Palermo. Open from 11.30pm to 6.30am. Free for girls, $30 for guys. For more information, click here.
5. Puerta Uno
Knock a few times on the discreet black door off a busy street of Barrio Chino and you might think you’ve ended up in the wrong place. But the ‘hidden door’ concept relying on word-of-mouth recommendations that is becoming more and more popular in this city has been able to keep a low-key profile here. Once you are in, the street noise disappears. The dimmed lighting and open-air patios make this secret nightspot a buzzing venue for an evening out on the town. The outside patio under candlelight with its comfy chairs and sofas is very enjoyable even on a winter evening. A standard drink menu with a few originals such as the apple-basil daiquiri and the pear martini make for some imaginative drink options. Dinner choices include a selection ranging from pizzas and quesadillas to chicken focaccia sandwiches. Better to make a reservation before-hand.
In Belgrano. Open 8pm-3am Mon-Thur; 9pm-4.30am Fri-Sat. For more information, click here.