Neighborhoods of Buenos Aires: San Telmo

By Charlie Higgins


For both short term visitors and students planning their cultural immersion in Buenos Aires, San Telmo is a quintessential neighborhood that offers recommended Buenos Aires nightlife and attractions. No Buenos Aires travel experience is complete without a visit to this classic barrio.

With its charming cobblestone alleys, dusty antiques shops and crumbling Colonial townhouses, San Telmo is a must-see for any visitor in Buenos Aires. The neighborhood is most famous for its Sunday outdoor antiques market, where venders have congregated to sell everything from household knick knacks to vintage Tango shoes for decades, but there’s plenty to see and do any day of the week.Check out these Buenos Aires tips for travelers and check out this most historic of neighborhoods in Buenos Aires.

As the city’s oldest neighborhood, San Telmo is a living museum in its own right and offers some of the best opportunities to learn about the unique history of Buenos Aires.The neighborhood reached its peak in the second half of the 19th century but quickly fell into decline after a yellow fever epidemic in 1871. During the 1940s San Telmo attracted many local artists, musicians and tango dancers, setting a Bohemian tone that still resonates today.

Like the many famous European wards it resembles, the best way to take in San Telmo is to simply walk around. Start at Plaza Dorrego, a central square where you can catch a traditional outdoor milonga (a Tango dancing hoedown) in the evenings. Take a leisurely stroll down Calle Defensa, which is lined with antiques stores and well-preserved architecture.

San Telmo is also your best bet for experiencing Tango culture, both its past and present.It’s hard to walk more than a few blocks without seeing ads offering tango lessons, which are generally offered in English. For a true, albeit touristy, classic tango show dip into Bar Sur, a space so intimate you actually run the risk of getting clocked in the head by a tango dancer’s shoe. For outstanding live tango music in a romantic setting, check out Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso which hosts top emerging talents and legends of the genre.

Dining options in San Telmo abound, whether you’re in the mood for a hearty steak or some lighter fare. Meat lovers can get their kicks at classic parrilla El Desnivel, a perennial favorite among locals and foreigners. For something slightly more upscale with a price to match, head over to La Brigada, famous for its exceptional beef and mollejas de chivito (goat sweetbreads). For a good lunch spot, Bar El Federal is recommendable for its Bible-length menu of Argentine specialties and sandwiches. If you’ve already made the rounds at the typical eateries and are longing for the tastes of home, Gibraltar serves up delicious curries, baked potatoes and other classics in a traditional English pub atmosphere.For solid French bistro cuisine in a relaxed, romantic setting, Brasserie Petanque is a good choice.Also famous for its brunch, a rarity in Buenos Aires.

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