San Telmo is my favourite barrio in Buenos Aires. Palermo has the glitz and the glamour but as the oldest neighbourhood, San Telmo has more atmosphere and culture in my opinion.
Perhaps the most famous building is the beautiful indoor Mercado de San Telmo which takes up a whole block in the heart of the barrio. It was built in 1897 by the Italian Argentine architect Juan Antonio Buschiazzo who also designed Recoleta Cemetery. Much of it has been given over to antiques now but there are still some fruit and veg stalls and a butchers.
For many tourists San Telmo is the place to be on a Sunday when you can go to the antiques market, El Feria de Antigüedades, in Placa Dorrego.
When perusing the 270 stands I like to indulge my penchant for heavy glass ashtrays and usually manage to bag a couple of beauts. There’s lots of other affordable, collectable stuff too. It runs every Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
As you’d expect there are heaps of human statues and other street performers here on a Sunday. I don’t usually stop to watch but I was blown away by Wind Man!
San Telmo, along with La Boca, is ground zero for tango. You can see live Tango on Calle Defensa on Sundays and on some evenings, after the antique stalls have closed and moved, there are free dances in Placa Dorrego.
The best thing is to just walk around and take in the sights. You’re constantly bumping into things you wouldn’t expect to see.
Like a troupe of Candombe drummers warming up their drum skins.
There’s lots of beautiful and unusual architecture too.
Like the Russian Orthodox church, Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa de la Santísima Trinidad, at 315 Avenida Brasil.
I love the bizarre statues on this building (on Avenida Independencia I think). You can click on them to get a better view.
You’ll find the smallest house in the city, the eight foot wide Casa Minima, on Calle San Lorenzo. It’s steeped in history as you can see in this article.
Nearby, at the end of Calle San Lorenzo at Defensa, is El Zanjon, a beautifully restored nineteenth century house. They do guided tours but I didn’t get time to go.
Five blocks away at 272 Peru (technically in Barrio Montserat) you’ll find Manzana de las Luces (the ‘illuminated block’) which is a group of old cultural buildings. Historians believe this was the area that was first settled in 1536. manzanadelasluces.gov.ar
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.
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 the neighbourhood store, Almacen Don Manolo, that appears in the cartoons at 774 Balcarce.
So as you can see, there’s lots to see and do. Enjoy!