San Telmo was at one time the neighborhood of the wealthy. Wandering among these narrow cobbled streets, one can just about imagine the former grandeur and pride of this earlier town. Now, all is slightly faded, but in the shadow of its former self dwells an intoxicating culture in its place, replete with bars, dance halls, cafes and restaurants.
A tour in Buenos Aires’ barrio of San Telmo will almost certainly involve a visit to the famous antique market on Defensa street. Taking place Sundays, the Feria de Antiguidades is much more than a chance to buy some dusty collectables however. It is a buzzing fair, including music, street food (try the choripan for sure), and lots of decently priced local articles at bargain prices. If one cannot be here on a Sunday, venture to the area anyway—there are many shops and a covered market building near the Plaza that contain many of the same type of wares and charm.
If when one thinks of Buenos Aires one sees colourful calligraphic signs, old wooden walled cafes, and a general sense of gritty aliveness, then one is certainly thinking of San Telmo. An early neighborhood for laborers and even slaves, San Telmo was discovered by the wealthy after Argentina’s independence. This flirtation with grandeur ended when a series of cholera and yellow fever epidemics caused the wealthy to move out to the safer Recoleta and Barrio Norte. The space was filled by wave after wave of European immigrants, from the many Italians, Germans, Russians and even many British soldiers in the wake of the First World War. The result is that San Telmo is a multicultural hotspot. Many institutions still retain their cultural roots–like the Bar Britanico on Defensa and Brasil for the English, or El Federal on Carlos Calvo for the Italians. Seeing the way these cultures have mixed and been recreated is one of the more interesting aspects of a tour in Buenos Aires, and every corner of San Telmo serves as a healthy example.
Out of this productive and often steamy mix are some things which are quintessentially ‘Buenos Aires’—most famously the tango. One of the places where the tango was born, San Telmo is today the epicenter of its rebirth as a movement among the young and alternative. Come here to find classes, milongas, shows, and even street dancing!
Besides the Tango, San Telmo is also becoming more and more renowned as an art scene. Many worthwhile artists of local and international repute fill the galleries, and even sell during the Sunday market. In contrast to the somewhat uptown atmosphere of Palermo, expect a more bohemian and edgy vibe here. This combines with the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art to make San Telmo a worthy start in an art tour in Buenos Aires.
For a night out, San Telmo is a great location—its many colourful bars and nightclubs draw a real crowd. Among the recommended places to check out in this vain think of the English pub ‘Gibraltar’, Doppelgänger Martini bar, GueBara.
It is almost assured that no matter how much time spent there, San Telmo’s atmosphere will draw one back for more.
For further information about tours in Buenos Aires, Argentina vacations or tours in Patagonia, contact Argentina travel experts, Say Hueque Argentina Journeys.