Winter Holiday Inspiration: Buenos Aires

Si, claro, mañana! A few weeks in Buenos Aires and you'll be as chilled as the Argentinians. Everything runs late, everything comes in pastry and everyone is beautiful. The party capital of South America attracts a lot of students and young people who touch down for a summer exchange programme and basically never leave. That's because life in Buenos Aires is really, really fun and a fraction of the cost of other major cities. Nicknamed 'the Paris of South America', the city has a more European feel than the rest of the continent due to its pretty streets and sprawling eating, drinking and going out culture. From leisurely mornings in Palermo Soho sipping mate (highly caffeinated herbal tea that absolutely everyone carries around in a flask) to out-of-this-world, slap-up steak lunches for less than £4, to the playground bars and glistening super-clubs that pulse with world-class DJs until 8am, it's a hedonist's dream.

Once you've got your head around the slang and you're over your fernet hangover (order fernet con coca at the bar), you can settle into the culture. Argentina has a complex social and political history and workers take to the streets seemingly every week to protest against government cuts with flags, banners and chants – just head to the Plaza de Mayo and you'll see. Every person in Argentina (both natives and expats) has an opinion about the government, from eight-year-old private school kids to homeless families living in passageways on the Subte (the underground.) The economy is pretty devastated, which causes all sorts of social problems among the population and poverty is rife, so the exchange rate from pounds to pesos can seem ridiculous (in the pound's favour.) Many older residents still talk about Eva Perón – the subject of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Evita, starring Madonna, which caused quite a stir among loyal Peronists who claim she's painted in a terrible light.

Though not the most picturesque city, Buenos Aires has charm in bucketloads and its friendly, fiery atmosphere will make your head spin. If you have a week (or more) to spare, then lucky you, here's our run down of the best things to do, eat, drink and think about in the city.

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