Tattoos are often a rite of passage for travelers. They’re a mark on your body that prompts a response: “Wow, so tell me about this,” which can lead to a 45-minute self-absorbed rant about that one time you went to Peru to find yourself (Incan cross on your ankle, anyone?). Traveling tattoos automatically jump in the “deeper” side of getting ink, regardless of whether you choose a watermelon with “Rio, 2018” or a snapshot of a Chilean sunset in the Atacama desert the second you realized that there was more to life than just money.
Buenos Aires is a real melting pot of different artists who gather in this chaotic city to ink up bedraggled travelers and porteños alike. Their skills do not stop with the gap yah stamps: incredible artists congregate to create some of the best, most intricate artwork in the world. We have curated a list of the studios and artists to look out for, the prices you should expect, and any faux pas you should avoid. Get that Sol de Mayo tat template ready: your uncreative idea may be realized imminently.
Swim Low are great as they specialize as “blackwork” connoisseurs. As you can see in the picture above, they are complete masters with everything high pigmented, dark-colored artwork so that you can get that extra-rich detail. This hyper-dark blend is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, as trends are throwing it back to that monochrome tattoos of the ’70s and ’80s. Swim Low‘s studio is also a stylish place to hang; young professionals and hipster types flock here more than to an avocado toast deal at Ninina.
The studio boasts a number of great artists; they have quite a few masters of dotwork which is especially impressive as this delicate work cannot be done by just any guy with an ink gun in his hand. Check out John Lionel Saitta, one of the resident artists, whose tribal masterpieces are unbelievably intricate. Federico Di Gregorio equally creates some pretty sensational pieces, and even dabbles in a little bit of color (although I doubt you would make it on to the Swim Low Insta if you opt for a color tat through fear of mucking up the aesthetically-pleasing monochrome look).
Swim Low Studio | Nicaragua 4557 | Palermo Soho | Tuesday-Sunday 1 – 8 PM | Specialization: Dotwork and Blackwork
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This Belgrano-based nu-school studio produces some of my favorite artworks available in BA. They have eleven artists who regularly ink up porteños, from Betti’s minimalist single-line work, where she regularly draws people and abstract drawings, to Alfio’s delicate geometric colored tattoos. However, my favorite artist is fine-line illustrative tattooist Johan, who creates some honestly insane pieces; the designs are so intricate and the drawing looks like it belongs perfectly on the skin. Check out their Instagram to look through all of the artists’ extensive repertoire, and get inspired for your own.
The joint is run by Mariano Antonio, who is a lover of the Rock & Roll and glam culture; he’s decorated hundreds of people’s bodies over the last twenty years and now has over 15 artists on staff. You can thus tell that this place is kind of the “big boy” of the BA tattoo scene; it pretty much takes over the entire Bond Street Gallery Mall in Recoleta, with its two stories and never-ending rooms cropping up left-right-and-center.
They mostly do traditional tattoos, so for any non-tattoo buffs, that incorporates the bold lines, bright colors, and iconic traditional designs like anchors, snakes, and roses. This style is probably one of the most well-known and is ageless. You can’t really compare this style to the more abstract pieces that nu-school artists create, as the traditional tats are so timeless and will be popular when the next tattoo fad comes. This is probably why the staff at American Tattoo mostly use this old-school technique.
I have been to this studio myself, and so I have a couple of pieces of advice. First, drop-ins are available on Saturday, so if you fancy that spontaneous ink-up sesh, then fear not. Second, if you are looking for something a little more abstract, and new school, then I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this place. However, because it’s such a classic and so well-known and popular, you know you can’t go wrong there.
Well Done Tattoo
Continuing the hunt for the best tattoo shops in Buenos Aires, you should pop into the ultimate bad boy hangout Well Done Tattoo. Similarly to American Tattoo, they deal with all things traditional, and much of their clientele are the ultimate motorbike rockers. The studio was founded by NY-famed artist Mariano Castiglioni, and this central tat spot is as well manicured as a New York uptown tattoo parlor. They do both cover-ups and walk-ins for the easiest experience possible. If you scroll through their Instagram, you will see very bright, bold prints with dragons, snakes, and roses.
Well Done Tattoo Studio | Gorriti 4421 | Monday – Saturday 12 – 8 PM | Facebook | Specialization: Traditional
For our last stop, we go to my personal favorite spot to get inked up. Remove the image of a dark, dingy tattoo parlor that vibrates with drilling sound of a tattoo gun perforating skin, as Iris Tattoo is the exact opposite. Unlike American Tattoo Studio, which is the essential traditional biker-chick vibes, Iris Tattoo a light, modern, bright studio where you can sip a macchiato while your creation is en route. This is a local favorite that specializes in delicate watercolor-style tattoos; however, their repertoire is not restricted to that alone; they have over eight different artists who all practice diverse styles. My favorites are either Facu, who draws delicate flowers and plants with light colors, or Sku who does watercolor tattoos on top of pen-like sketches.
The studio is extremely responsive via email, so pop to either their website or Instagram to slide into their DM’s or get their email address. They also have a location in Miami, so make sure when perusing their selection of best tattoos that you weave through the right ones. I am currently in the process of getting my next tattoo here, so you may find me getting a real piece of the action!
Iris Tattoo | Palermo | Tuesday – Saturday 2-7PM | Facebook | Specialization: watercolor and fine-line
So here you have five of my favorite places to get tattoos in Buenos Aires. The general rule is that you should email or DM (the parlor usually says on their Instagram if they do not want to receive inquiries that way) a good while beforehand, with pictures and description of what you want. For non-Spanish speakers, most of these are English speakers, so you can write in a broken Spanglish if you wish. Tattoo prices are not as high as in the States and the UK, but are not necessarily cheap either, so do not expect the same price ratio as AR $12 empanadas to a cheap lunch abroad.