What to Do, See, and Eat in San Telmo
San Telmo is the kind of a place with such a unique energy that it is hard to put your finger on what exactly makes it such a wonderful neighborhood. This relatively small barrio just south of the city center is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, and is a melting pot of traditional and modern Argentine culture. Although San Telmo is often unfairly referred to as “the place with the street fair on Sundays”, it has so much to offer its visitors and residents: cultural diversity, history, art, and a fantastic culinary scene.
Historically, San Telmo has always been an important hub of activity beginning all the way back in the 17th century, when immigrants, slaves, industrial workers, and Jesuits settled into its waterfront borders. At the turn of the 20th century, the neighborhood began to modernize and develop, capitalizing on its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, unique properties like its Greek-Orthodox Church. Present day San Telmo embraces the influences of its vibrant history, and today is a bohemian haven. Take a stroll down those famous cobblestone roads and you’ll probably see tango dancers casually performing in the street, graffitied walls painted on centuries’ old buildings by talented young artists, high-end restaurants in restored conventillo houses, and contemporary art galleries and antique shops resting side by side.
Here’s are a few of our favorite things to do in San Telmo to add to the to-do list on your next visit:
San Telmo has some of the best artistic and historic sights in the city. In order to understand the neighborhoods fascinating history and its continuous transformation, we recommend the San Telmo Art and History Walk. This is a comprehensive and engaging 3 hour tour that covers the culture, history, and politics of the neighborhood through its famous murals, architecture and contemporary art scene. Not only will you explore lesser-known sights, but you will also learn about the significant movements that happened in San Telmo including its Spanish colonial origins, the Dirty War of the 1970’s and its evolution into the neighborhood we see today.
photos from the San Telmo Art and History Walk
Art lovers should also visit some of the neighborhood’s renowned art museums. The MAMBA (Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art), and the MACBA (Buenos Aires Museum of Contemporary Art), are both world class museums that display permanent and temporary collections, as well as host event nights, film showings, and concerts.
photo provided by MACBA
Some of the best sightseeing in San Telmo is enjoyed by simply walking. Take a large loop starting on Calle Defensa, cross the central Plaza Dorrego, stop into the impressive San Pedro San Telmo Church around the corner for a look at classic church architecture, meander around Parque Lezama, and explore underground tunnels and waterways at the El Zanjón de Granados urban architectural site.
Malbec isn’t the only things Argentines are drinking these days. The international craft beer boom has arrived to Buenos Aires, and San Telmo is home to many of the city’s microbreweries. The San Telmo Beer Tour takes you on a hoppy jaunt to the best bars and breweries in the barrio. We loved being able to explore the up and coming brewing scene, local beer styles and a slew of different pubs while also getting to know a cool group of fellow beer lovers. The highlight was trying a quinoa beer that uses an Incan recipe at Pulperia Quilopan, a charming almacen and restaurant that serves gourmet Argentine appetizers in a beautiful traditional space.
If you are more of a cocktail person, Doppelganger Bar is THE cocktail bar in San Telmo. Each drink is artfully crafted with fresh and surprising ingredients. Most popular (and some of our favorites) are the vodka or gin cocktails.
photo courtesy of Doppleganger Facebook
San Telmo has mastered the integration of the old and the new, and its culinary scene is no exception. Traditional bars like El Federal Bar and Bar Plaza Dorrego reminisce on the olden days with trinket-lined walls and classic Argentine menus of appetizer picadas and steaks. Restaurant newcomers like Mercadito Latino serve up Latin American dishes with flavors from Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Peru. Another favorite is Chochán where every variation of pork product is cooked to perfection, and often paired with hard to come by ingredients like kimchi or homemade barbecue sauce. Almagro-born La Cresta recently opened a new location in San Telmo, bringing with them their burgers, roasted chicken, wraps, and salads. Don’t miss the chili chutney burger – to die for. For those looking for a temporary break from all that asado, visit vegetarian closed door restaurant Jueves a la mesa to load up on some greens and meet locals and travelers over a shared meal. And if you’ve fallen for the local taste for fernet or mate, try them in ice cream form at Nonna Bianca.
San Telmo is home to seemingly hundreds of vintage and antique stores. Our favorite second hand spot is Cualquier Verdura, which sells funky collectibles, furniture and household goods. This beautiful converted house turned kitschy store will make you want to move right in. High fashion has found its home at Jessica Kessel Shoes in San Telmo. Crisp and clean shoe designs are nestled in between fresh flowers in this charming shop.
Photos Courtesy of Cualquier Verdura, and Jessica Kessel Facebook
The weekly Sunday San Telmo Market is San Telmo’s pride and joy, bringing tourists, expats, and locals to San Telmo each weekend. This street fair might be what San Telmo is most famous for, especially for visitors looking to bring home some authentic souvenirs from Argentina. More than 15 blocks of artisans, musicians, and food stalls fill Defensa Street. Look out for bargain handmade leather goods and the tango dancers performing in Plaza Dorrego. On your way towards Plaza Dorrego, check out Quorom, an art store that sells work by emerging young artists.
If you are visiting Buenos Aires and want to experience the charm of olden San Telmo, there are quite a few boutique hotels that capture the spirit of the area. For the more economic-minded traveller, Art Factory is a one of a kind artistic hostel with dormitories and an art gallery on premise. Meet other artistic-minded travellers and partake in the Art Factory’s weekly activities. Anselmo Hotel is more on the luxurious side, with unique furniture pieces in each room for a one of a kind hotel experience.
Photo courtesy of Anselmo Facebook
Want more San Telmo. Explore the neighborhood on the San Telmo Art & History Walk, or discover the growing microbrew scene on the San Telmo Craft Beer Tour.