Buenos Aires’ best cafes

The Argentine capital is a city of coffee connoisseurs. Our man in BA, Kaye Holland, has the low-down on the can’t miss cafes



Buenos Aires is arguably best known its superlative steak, sultry tango (“How do you fill your time if you don’t tango?”, is a question I have been asked on more than one occasion by a perplexed Porteño, since arriving in town) and futbol (soccer).

But Buenos Aires has another great and enduring obsession: coffee. Caffeine runs in the blood of Portenos bringing them out of their homes and onto the streets, in search of a coffee house. Life happens here in these historic cafes (which, with their unique, elegant stained glass windows, are a million miles from the identikit Costa coffee shops that plague the high street at home) so expect to see Portenos eating, drinking, posing, people watching, fighting, kissing and laughing until late into the night.

Which cafe serves the best Argentine Cortado (essentially a shot of espresso, with an equal amount of steamed milk)? Ask five different Portenos and chances are you’ll get six answers but, below, you’ll find a few of my own personal favourites…

Regardless of which cafe you frequent, you can look forward to quite a show. Cortados, Cafe con leche (coffee with milk), Cafe chico (espresso) and Lagrima (milk with a couple of drops of coffee) come accompanied by a glass of sparkling water and some small, moist biscuits– all included in the price.

Lastly, be prepared to linger: Portenos will easily spend the best part of a morning nursing a single cafe cortado and, as the old adage goes, when in Rome…

La Biela

Buenos Aires answer to New York’s Upper East Side is Recoleta – an upmarket neighbourhood that’s home to the landmark La Biela. This historic cafe house has been serving Buenos Aires’ elite for over 70 years. On a sunny afternoon, the best tables to bag are those on the al fresco front terrace, but be warned: you will pay 20 per cent more for the privilege. However if you’re looking for a picturesque place to restore energy before checking out Recoleta’s biggest draw – the cemetery of same name where Evita was buried, along with generations of Argentina’s elite – La Biela can’t be beaten.

Los 36 Billares

Established in 1894, Los 36 Billards is perhaps the most traditional bar in Buenos Aires. Located on the lower half of Avenue de Mayo (aka the heart and soul of BA), Los 36 Billares – as its name suggests – boasts 11 billiard tables in addition to six pool table and a snooker table that has,hosted world snooker champions.
Want to join them? Los 36 Billares operates a billiard and pool school for those who want to learn how to play. Billiards aside, follow in the footsteps of famous past guests like Michaelangelo Bavio Esquii, Abelardo Arias and the beloved Frederico Garcia Lorca and order a alfajore – a melt in the mouth cookie guaranteed to make you close your eyes with happiness.

Cafe Tortoni


Ah Cafe Tortoni…. The classic Cafe Tortoni is arguably the Rolls Royce of cafes and only a stone’s throw from Plaza de Mayo, the site of La Casa Rosada where Argentina’s famous footballing son, Diego Maradona, greeted crowds from the balcony after he helped his country lift the 1986 World Cup. La Casa Rosada is also where that other Argentine icon Evita addressed her legion of fans. But I digress…
No trip to BA is complete without stopping off at Baires’ oldest and most famous cafe for a couple of churros (fried pastry dough) washed down with a hot chocolate. Yes it’s overpriced and invariably packed with gringas (foreigners) but the high ceilings, wooden walls and crystal chandeliers combine to ensure that coffee here remains an endlessly elegant affair.

Bar Plaza Dorrego

Stepping into this traditional San Telmo jaunt is akin to stepping back in time. Unless you like a queue, avoid Sundays (when San Telmo’s iconic market takes place) and visit during the week. Grab a seat by a picturesque window and watch the professional tango dancers strut their stuff in the adjacent Plaza Dorrego, while surly (that’s half their charm) suited waiters serve small plates of biscuits and steaming cortados against a backdrop of graffitied walls, antique bottles and authentic tango music. Disfrutar! (Enjoy!)
Bar Plaza Dorrego, Defensa 1098 y Humberto Primo

London City

Want to sip your java at the spot where Julio Cortazar wrote his first novel, Los Premios (The Prizes)? Look to London City – another classy Avenue de Mayo joint. But the real reason I love London City, with its attractive dark green awning, is for its ability to serve fab, fresh coffee. It’s the perfect place to read the papers and welcome the day. Weather permitting, grab a table on the street and watch the stylish (only professional athletes and tourists ever wear shorts in BA, even in the height of summer) Portenos slink by on their way to work.
London City, Avenue de Mayo 599

La Poesia

The ramshackle barrio of San Telmo – long a favourite with Buenos Aires’ artists owing to its (historically) low rents – is popular with Portenos and tourists alike. Why? Step forward the legendary Sunday market on Calle Defensa – and La Poseia. Coffee lovers can indulge their cravings at this San Telmo spot, whose old world atmosphere only adds to the appeal. Come for the coffee – stay for the chat. It’s the kind of place you pop in for a quick pick me up and three hours later, you’re still there – as I kind testify.

Las Violetas
Last, but by no means least, there’s Las Violetas, a French style 1884 pâtisserie and café that’s located over in Buenos Aires’ Almagro neighborhood. Picking my favourite BA coffee house is like asking a Mother to choose a favourite child. Since you ask however, Las Violetas – declared a Buenos Aires’ Heritage Site back in 1998 – gets my vote. Here, thecortado is served on silver platters by waiters in white jackets, in stunning surroundings (think black-and-white tiled floors, stained glass windows and marble columns). This special spot offers more than merely a cup of Joe: it guarantees a slick slice of middle-class Porteño life.
Las Violetas, Av. Rivadavia 3899

Words and pictures: Kaye Holland

Colourful Colombia

Kaye Holland finds heaven in Colombia - a country that is finally getting the attention it deserves

It’s been nearly 22 years since Colombian drugs baron Pablo Escobar was shot dead in December 1993. However judging by the concerned reactions I received upon announcing my intention to ‘check out’ Colombia - “Must you go on your own?” implored my Mum, while colleagues cried “Be careful!” - it seems that this colourful country, situated at the tip of South America, still suffers from a shady reputation.

But just because it was, doesn’t mean it is. Colombia may have once been associated with cocaine and kidnapping but fast forward to 2015 and it’s as safe as any South American destination, accessible - in only two weeks you can revel in an overload of experiences - utterly invigorating and full of friendly locals who will bend over backwards to help you. Better still, your budget will go a long way here - even in Bogota, Colombia’s capital city.

Chances are that Bogota will be first your introduction toColombia and as greetings go, it’s a memorable one. Often called the Athens of South America, Bogota will take your breath away - literally. The mega metropolis is situated at some 2,600m meaning altitude sickness is a reality for rolos (as residents are known) and gringos (foreigners) alike.

The tourist must-see is The Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) - home to the largest collection of pre-Colombian gold artefacts in the world. English and Spanish language descriptions tell the story of these objects through the eyes of those who created them, with additional information available on English audio guides.


After you’ve finished gawping at the gold, pop across to Plaza de Bolívar – the literal and metaphorical heart and soul of Colombia – to see the statue of famous South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar, who helped Colombia achieveindependence from the Spanish Empire. The pretty Plaza is also the gateway to the bohemian neighbourhood of La Candelaria – a wonderful example of colonial architecture in Latin America. Expect to see charming cobblestoned streets lined with neoclassical churches (the Catedral Primada de Colombia gets my vote) and convents, quaint cafes, tea houses and theatres straight from the pages of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez (aka Colombia’s most famous son) novel.

Tempting though it is to stay within the labyrinth like La Candelaria, it’s worth escaping to Cerro de Monserrate which, at 3,200m, dominates Bogota’s skyline. You can reach the summit via funicular railway, cable car or – energy permitting – via a trail that starts alongside the base station. But be warned: it’s a steep hike to the top because the basilica – step forward the Santuario de Monserrate – has been a site of pilgrimage since the mid 1600s. To enjoy unrivalled views of the city with the rolos - for whom the mountain is a symbol of pride – climb Cerro de Monserrate at weekends. And allow plenty of time: it’s easy to while away an afternoon here browsing the shops and stalls for souvenirs, and sampling Colombian cuisine at one of the many mountain-side restaurants. One caveat: it gets chilly at the top of the mountain – even in summer – so pack a jumper. And a brolly – rain is frequent in Bogota.

Approximately 50km (roughly an hour’s drive) north of Bogota, the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral – one of the wonders of South America - also rewards a visit. Opened in 1995 to much fanfare, the famous cathedral compromises an immaculately preserved collection of tunnels, chambers, stalactites and cascadas - all carved out of salt. Even if you’re aren’t religious, it's a wonderful example of what can happen when engineering power and unbridled imagination collide.

Back in Bogota, head out for a gourmet dinner (modern day Bogota is a world class restaurant capital too) at a legendary restaurant like Andres Carne de Res, a 2.76 miles square steakhouse. Accommodating up to 2,000 people, the 19 page menu is popular with Bogota’s bright young things.

But every rolo loves to salsa and you can join them - it’s what Shakira would want - on the dance floor in the one of the many salsa clubs that line La Zona Rosa (which literally translates as pink zone). If, being a stiff upper lip Brit, you’re dreading the dancing bit, steady the nerves with a few slugs of aguardiente – a local alcohol spirit flavoured with anise. Trust JAT: after a couple of shots, you’ll soon find yourself shimmying and shaking with the best of them.


When the hustle and bustle of Bogota gets too much (as it will) board a bus to Salento – aka the heart of Colombia’s Coffee Zone. For while Colombia continues to be associated with cocaine, the country is actually the world’s third biggest exporter of coffee.

As a self confessed caffeine addict I was, ahem, full of beans about the prospect of visiting central Colombia’s coffee plantations – and even opted to stay on one. Take a bow Plantation House – the tiny town’s first and most reputable hostel where you can get the wow without the ow. Plantation House was set up by Tim - an amiable Englishman who swapped his Motherland for Salento, some 11 years ago.


Tim met and married a Colombian lady called Chris but, amor aside, I can see why he’d want to stay. Standing at 1895m tall with a population of 5,000, Salento is fast becoming a popular backpacker hangout – everywhere that isn’t a home, is a hostel, a hippie cafe or craft shop – yet simultaneously manages to serve as a perfectly preserved example of Colombian country life. Pastel painted houses are packed around cobbled squares, which still work as public spaces and draw the locals in every evening to play billiards, sip aguardiente and refuel on rice pudding.

Tim and Christina can arrange guided tours of local coffee farms including their own -  Finca Don Eduardo. English tours take place with Tim every morning at 9am and allow an insight into the various stages of the coffee production process, as well as providing an opportunity to taste no fewer than four varietals of coffee: Caturra, Variety Colombia, Arabico Tipica and Bourbon.


Part two to follow tomorrow!

The best of Brazil

Unless you have been living on another planet, you’ll know that the FIFA World Cup has kicked off in Brazil. But there’s more - much more -  to the fifth biggest country in the world that’s also the fifth most populous  than the ‘beautiful game’. Here Just About Travel reveals what we love most about Brazil


The beaches
Regardless of whether you to choose to stretch out your beach towel along the world famous Copacabana or its more sibling Ipanema, expect to see Brazilians from all walks of life – families, favela kids, football players, pensioners, hawkers peddling sarongs and socialites in huge sunglasses – coming together to get their groove on.


The humble rubber sandals are Brazil’s biggest export – two billion plus pairs have been sold since the company’s inception in 1862 – and come in every colour of the rainbow. In homage to the homeland, Havaianasoften sport a small Brazilian flag logo on the straps of their flip flops.

The South American country produces 285 billion cups of coffee a year - that’s more than 40 per cent of the world’s coffee. Or as Frank Sinatra once sang: “Way down among Brazilians, Coffee beans grow by the billions, So they've got to find those extra cups to fill, They've got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil.” Brazilian coffee tends to be much sweeter than elsewhere in the world owing to the copious amounts of sugar that is added.


The Copacabana Palace
The neoclassical Copacabana Palace recently underwent a £20million refurb ahead of the FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics - and the results are incredible. An exercise in measured elegance, it’s almost impossible to exaggerate the glories of this property with its dazzling white facade that has hosted everyone who is anyone.


Bossa Nova
While in Rio, take a trip to Toca do Vinicius in the Ipanema district. This small music emporium – named after lyricist-poet, Vinicius de Moraes, credited with creating the distinctive Bossa nova style of music – is the place to purchase your Bossa Nova CD. Don’t forget to factor in a visit to the tiny yet intriguing upstairs museum, dedicated to the life and works of the Brazilian music legend.


The national cocktail made from cachaca (cane liquor), lime and two teaspoons of brown sugar is the tipple of choice in Brazil but be warned: they’re seriously strong (nothing like the weak, watered down imitations served in Blighty). They’re also highly addictive, given the purse pleasing prices: a caipirinha in a streetside bar will set you back around £2.35 (R$9).


The parties
Make no mistake: Brazilians know how to party – and not just when Carnaval rolls round. Yet despite staying out dancing until dawn (this is how Brazil rolls) we guarantee you’ll return home energised and happy - and convinced that there is no more enticing place on the planet than the South American giant.


Iguacu Falls
The crashing cascades occupying an area more than 80m high and 3km wide have the wow factor and no other water falls in the world can compete. Little wonder then that Eleanor Roosevelt gasped “Poor little Niagara” when she came up close at Iguacu. The 275 falls (shared between Brazil and Argentina) are so bedazzling that it comes as no surprise to learn that Hollywood covets them for one blockbuster after another– scenes from Miami Vice, Mr Magoo, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and The River were all shot here.

 Brazil’s national dish is the feijoada - a hearty black bean and meat stew that’s served with rice, typically on a Saturday. If you try just one local dish when in Brazil, make it feijoada but be warned: feijoada is very filling - you won’t want to eat again that day.

And finally...


Brazilians are futebol mad and, even if you’re not crazy about the beautiful game, it’s worth watching a match for the atmosphere alone: passionate singing, samba drums and smoke bombs are all part of the colourful experience. Furthermore, unlike Premiership games back home, match tickets don’t have a perturbing price tag. Result!

Words and pics: Kaye Holland

What's hot: summer 2014

What to wear, where to go... and who to play on your iPod. KH reveals everything you'll need to make your summer sizzle!

All Wight
Didn’t manage to get tickets to Glastonbury? No matter: Newport on the Isle of Wight is where it’s at this summer. See the likes of the Kings of Leon, Katy B and Calvin Harris from 12-15 June.

Full of Glee
Lea Michele – aka Glee’s Rachel Berry – has released her debut album LOUDER and, as you would expect from the former Broadway star, it’s seriously good. Standouts include title track, Louder, and Burn With You.

Style counsel
Want to look more stylish this summer? Pick up The Pursuit of Style (£12.99). With a foreword from fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg, this book is full of professional style tips to ensure you look on trend.

Light up
Help exam stress fade away with this gorgeous candle from natural skincare brand, Jeunvie. Available in two sizes (10-£20) from,

The Don
Jude Law is on his best form in the compelling Don Hemingway (15). Law (known for his golden boy roles) piled on 20 pounds to play the protagonist - a hot-headed crook released from prison after a 12-year stint for not ratting on his crime boss.

It’s in the bag
Fancy doing some travel this summer? Of course you do! You’ll need a decent day bag though and Eastpack’s provider is a great way to get your stuff around. From £49,

Holiday hair
You’ve got the outfit in place. Now all you need is a hot hairstyle to set off your look. Enter Nanokeratin system’s new leave in conditioner  – perfect for anyone who wants A list locks but doesn’t have the dosh to spend hours in the hairdressers. £25.55,

About time
The coolest wrists in the country are wearing this awesome Atlanta watch by Police. Retailing at £149, it’s not cheap but your wrist deserves it, right?

The eyes have it
ICE-WATCH EYEWEAR’s new unisex shades instantly add the cool factor to any outfit – they’re great for lounging by a pool or dancing in the festival sun. Choose from 10 different colours.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
All eyes might be on Glasgow owing to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but don’t overlook Edinburgh. The Scottish capital hosts the Edinburgh Festival – aka the world’s largest arts festival – from 1-25 August.

Wonder wall
Want to create a wall of memories for all your summer photos? These range of strips and hooks from the Command Brand are perfect for delightful decorating without the damage – you AND your landlord will love them! £2.39,

Charge it
One of the worst things that could happen on a night out is that you run out of battery on your phone. Panic not: by carrying this portable pocket sized USB charger from Nokia, you need never worry again. What’s more, it’s a bargain at £20!

Sweet spot
Planning a big night in with your mates? Make sure you have Chewits’ Chewmix by your side. The new mix bag is packed with all your favourite flavours from Fruit Salad to Strawberry and Blackurrant - because sometimes one flavour just isn’t enough. £1.39,

Bag it
Choosing our favourite piece of arm candy from the new Nica - the brainchild of London College of Fashion graduate, Nica Kim - collection isn’t easy, but we have a soft spot for the mink Judy shoulder bag. £55,

100 reasons to love Ryan Gosling
Why does everybody love Ryan? This book gives 100 good answers! Packed with gorgeous pictorial evidence of his multiple perfections, it’s the perfect gift for Ryan fans - or maybe just for you. £12.99,

Summer soundtrack
Get your summer started with Now That’s What I Call Music 87. The latest Now compilation features all the biggest and best pop hits from the last couple of months including Pharrell’s Happy.

Wake up and smell the coffee
From a quick pick me up in the morning to several strong cups in the middle of the night when trying to stay awake to meet deadlines, most of us are coffee dependent. Caffeine fiends will love the new Aeropress coffee maker – a compact device that makes delicious coffee in 30 seconds! £24.99,

World Cup watching
Football. You won’t be able to escape it when the World Cup gets underway in Brazil on 12 June. Will Roy’s boys be doing the samba? Here at Student365 we like to look on the bright side…

London's top five coffee spots


Forget the fact that London is traditionally renowned for tea drinkers. In 2014 it’s the friendly bubble of coffee perking that can now be heard all across the capital. From a quick pick me up in the morning to several strong black cups to beat the 4pm slump to a leisurely cup after dinner, most Londoners now drink coffee every day.

But where to head for your caffeine fix? Haute Living has done the hard work for you. Allow us to let you in on London’s best coffee shops…


Bar Italia Coffee bars come and coffee bars go, but this little gem opposite Ronnie Scott’s is a Soho institution that has witnessed many fascinating glimpses of passing theatrical life. Bar Italia is as loved for the stories it could tell, as it is for its authentic Italian coffee. The cakes are also heavenly, so ditch the planned post Easter diet and give into temptation... Life's too short to exist solely on salads.

The Espresso Room Ben Townsend’s temple to java won Time Out’s coveted ‘Best new cup of coffee' award when it opened back in 2011 – and rightly so. The Espresso Room’s team of trained baristas rarely get things wrong. Whether you’re in the mood for a milky coffee, a macchiato, a strong espresso or something sweeter – perhaps a toffee-like 'Costa Rican brown sugar' – you can satisfy your caffeine craving at one of the two L shaped benches at this tiny, yet charming Great Ormond Street coffee bar.

Kaffeine Flocks of fans regularly return to Kaffeine and it’s not hard to see why. The shiny Synesso espresso machine – aka the Rolls Royce of espresso machines – serves up a superior range of rich espressos. That said the baristas also know how to make a fabulous flat white or full-fat latte. Kaffeine's food is fabulous too: feast on innovative salads and decadent brownies.

Patisserie Valerie Feted for its top notch coffee and delicious but naughty cakes, Patisserie Valerie also offers a tempting range of soups, salads, sandwiches and savouries. Service can be slow but it’s never hostile. This is a great place to visit for a cup of Joe and a chat with friends, before hitting Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

Workshop Coffee Co Situated at the corner of Clerkenwell Road and St John Street in Farringdon, Workshop Coffee Co is the kind of café you wished you lived around the corner from. It’s got style (expect plenty of exposed brickwork) and substance. All the usual coffee suspects feature but, while coffee is undoubtedly king, there’s also a decent wine list worth exploring in the evening. On the food front, tuck into French toast with poached rhubarb, orange mascarpone and hazelnuts for breakfast or Roasted ocean trout – a generous plate of fish on a bed of miso, ginger, lime and chilli, barley, cucumber, broad bean and fennel salad for a not so light lunch.