Buenos Aires – San Telmo – old bars and cafes

The Government of the City of Buenos Aires, has classified more than ninety old bars, billiard rooms and tearooms as ‘cafes y bares notables’ (notable bars and cafes) due to their age, tradition, architectural and/or cultural value. Many of them can be found in the old neighbourhood of San Telmo. You’ll find a full list here, and a map with many of them on here.

The oldest bar in the barrio is Bar Federal (599 Carlos Calvo), built in 1864. It’s a nice peaceful place for a Medialuna (local crosissant) and a Cortado (small coffee with milk). The coffee is pretty good (B).


Also Bar Plaza Dorrego at 1098 Defensa is a good vantage point for watching the goings on in the square of the same name. Plaza Dorrego hosts the famous antiques fair every Sunday and also live tango dancing displays and dances at other times. The graffiti covered furniture makes the bar feel quite seedy but it’s worth a visit.

Just up the road, another favourite bar is El Hipopotamo at 401 Brasil, which was built in 1904.

I enjoyed (B) a Submarino (a chocolate bar melting in hot milk) and a slice of Tarta Manzana (apple tart) here.

Also woody and atmospheric and a bit run down is Gibraltar Bar at 895 Peru. Although it’s not on the notable bars list, I came here in 2014 with my friend Anthea who lives nearby. Like many of the old bars, it’s modelled on, and has the feel of, a traditional British pub. They reckon they serve the best Thai green curry in town but don’t believe them (C). A local place for local people.


Many of the old bars have windows decorated with Filetes, which are painted in a typical Argentine decorative painting style known as Fileteado. I plan to make them a photo project on my next visit.


And that’s it for San Telmo, for now. No doubt I’ll be adding more to this post next time. Into town next…

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