Although the Mercado is the main focus of the neighbourhood (see previous post), San Telmo has many other places to visit, as you might expect from the oldest barrio in Buenos Aires. You’ll find everywhere mentioned on my map.
The best day to come is on a Sunday when the antique fair, El Feria de Antigüedades, is held in the central square, Plaza Dorrego, between 10am and 4pm. You’ll find over 250 stalls selling all kinds of bricabrac, admitedly at inflated tourist prices, but just walking round the market is a very atmospheric and enjoyable experience in itself.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I love old glass and have picked up a few lovely pieces here over the years.
On Sunday you’ll find a lot of street performers, of course professional Tango display dancers, but also human statues and comedy acts. My favourite is ‘Wind Man’.
On another occasion I stumbled across a group of Candombe drummers warming up their drum skins with fires on the street. Candombe is a style of music and dance that was brought to South America by Africans slaves.
On Sunday evenings, after the market has finished, there’s a free outdoor Milonga in Plaza Dorrego. The word Milonga can mean a type of Tango music and a style of dance that is performed to that music, but in this case it means an organised Tango event that anyone can join. It’s a good idea to have some lessons first though as Tango is very technical!
There are also other things to see and do in the week if you can’t make it on a Sunday. There are a few places of historical interest like the Manzana de las Luces, the ‘illuminated block’, at 272 Peru (technically in Barrio Montserat) which contains a group of old cultural buildings manzanadelasluces.gov.ar. Historians believe this was the area that was first settled in 1536 which makes this block the oldest in the city.
Five blocks away, at 755 Defensa, is El Zanjon, a beautifully restored nineteenth century house. They do guided tours but I have never had time to go.
On nearby Calle San Lorenzo you’ll find the smallest house in the city, the eight foot wide Casa Minima, which has an interesting if debatable history.
If you’re a fan of Mafalda (a cartoon about a little girl who makes highly observant comments about Argentine society, politics and life in general) you’ll find Almacen Don Manolo at 774 Balcarce, which is the neighbourhood store that appears in the cartoons.
Factoid: street corners in San Telmo were rounded to lessen the chance of bumping into someone with Yellow Fever, a disease which killed a lot of Porteños in several epidemics in the nineteenth century.
There’s lots of beautiful and quite unusual architecture too, like the Russian Orthodox church, Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa de la Santísima Trinidad, at 315 Avenida Brasil.
Please see my Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires post for more local architecture.
And of course there’s the street art.
In 2014 I stayed for a week at Tango Hogar (Elementary A), 772 Estados Unidos, a guest house with four rooms in a large rambling family house. It’s very cheap and friendly and a good place to meet other international travellers but sadly I think it’s now closed (Google the address to see) but there are no doubt other places to stay nearby.
Steaks in San Telmo next!