Patio del Tango: Medellin’s Legendary Tango Bar

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Patio del Tango
Patio del Tango
Outside Patio del Tango
Outside Patio del Tango

Medellin is tango’s second city, as it was here that Carlos Gardel, the famous tango singer/composer, died in a plane crash.

Every June, the paisas throw a tango festival, which offered me my first exposure to the music and dance.

For those who want to enjoy tango any week of the year, you need only go to Patio del Tango on a Friday or Saturday night.

One of Medellin’s best-known tango bars, I made it a point to visit this past Saturday night after seeing Patio del Tango featured in La Virgen de los Sicarios (Our Lady of the Assassins).

The venue is located in Barrio Antioquia, on the western side of the river, between the Santa Fe zoo and domestic airport.

Inside Patio del Tango
Inside Patio del Tango

The first thing you notice about the venue is that it truly has a patio feel to it. A metal fence separates the interior from the sidewalk, and it’s slightly lower than street level.

From the images in La Virgen de los Sicarios, which was shot in 1999/2000, it’s easy to see they’ve spruced up the interior decor. One thing that remains the same over the last 13 years is the painting which forms the backdrop of the stage.

It depicts several male tango dancers on the street in Buenos Aires, with a pretty woman in a racy red dress leaning against a lamp-post.

Chicken dishes with fries and side salads
Chicken dishes with fries and side salads

I’d tried to make a reservation online earlier that day, but called to confirm a few hours later, which was a good idea since the person who answered hadn’t received my information.

I confirmed a table for two at 8 PM. When we arrived, we were seated directly in front of the stage. I couldn’t have asked for a better view of the night’s performances.

The dinner menu features typical fare, including steaks and chicken for about 26,000 pesos per plate ($14), as well as a dessert selection which includes ice cream, flan, and a few others made on the premise, as well as tiramisu and a few options that come pre-packaged.

Dinner for two, including a beer, two rum ‘n Cokes, and tip ran me 102,000 pesos ($56).

If you’re not interested in food, there’s a 30,000 ($16) minimum for drinks. These costs cover the entertainment, as there’s no cover charge.

Tango singer
Tango singer

A little after 9 PM, the first singer (seen above at the keyboards) came out and sang a few songs solo, including Gardel’s most famous tune, Por Una Cabeza.

He was then joined by another singer/guitarist who belted out a few more tango songs.

Luis Montoya
Luis Montoya is a Colombian tango singer who formerly sang opera in the USA

Next up was an all-female quartet, La Bailonga Tango, who played several instrumentals, and would also play the music for the tango dancers who performed periodically throughout the night.

The headlining singer this past weekend was Luis Montoya, a Colombian who lived in the USA for 16 years singing opera.

He’s since returned to Medellin where he makes his living singing tango, though he told me he misses opera and his friends back in the States.

He has a wonderful voice, and an engaging stage presence. He sang several songs I enjoyed.

Tango dancers
Tango dancers

But it was the dancing that really drew me to Patio del Tango, and I wasn’t disappointed. I didn’t get their names, but these dancers were absolutely amazing.

I took just enough tango lessons in Buenos Aires to recognize how difficult a dance it is to learn, let alone master.

I was especially impressed by the guy’s ability to lead the woman in complicated moves, given the small performance space. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve danced at Patio del Tango many times before.

We left around 10:30 PM, after having seen them do three dances, and having heard quite a bit of music by that point.

The crowd at Patio del Tango is noticeably older. You’re more likely to see middle-aged couples and grandparents here, versus the teens and 20-something’s who prefer the discotecas.

Still, as Fernando says in the movie, you might not realize old spots like this still exist in Medellin.

Do you have a favorite tango bar in Medellin?

Share your recommendations below and I’ll make it a point to visit them too.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. David

    There’s also a fine tango bar on top of a mountain just outside Pereira (or was it Manizales?) I put it in the guidebook. Really spectacular views. Think it was Pereira. Really amazing, worth a look…

    J.M. Porup

    • Thanks for the tip, I’ll keep it in mind if I ever make my way back to that region. I skipped Pereira as it didn’t seem like there was much to do, though I’ve heard nice things about it.

    • I believe it’d be possible at Patio del Tango certain nights but am not 100% sure. The milongas and places with tango music I’ve seen in Medellin and Envigado are more about the music, I haven’t seen dancing as you would in Buenos Aires. I did visit a tango school in Robledo once, which was more spacious and better set up for social dancing, but I was never there during a night of dancing.

      Find info about that tango school in this post – http://www.medellinliving.com/carlos-gardel-tour-history-tango/