San Telmo Guide: A Walk Through the Old Buenos AiresBy Patricia Rey Mallen
San Telmo is the home of tango, and the heart of Buenos Aires. With its cobblestone streets and faded elegance, this central neighborhood is a favorite for locals and tourists alike, and for good reason: as one of the first neighborhoods in the city, walking through San Telmo is like walking through the streets of old Buenos Aires.
The tango is everywhere, and the neighborhood’s spontaneous milongas and sepia-toned atmosphere will make you feel like you’ve stepped right back in time.
San Telmo is definitely worth a day of your Buenos Aires itinerary, and with so much to see, you might just find yourself coming back for more.
Getting Your Bearings in San Telmo
Lezama Park is located in the heart of San Telmo, and is one of the most popular meeting points in the neighborhood. This green space runs alongside the Paseo Colón, and offers welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, with meandering paths, trees, statues, and plenty of picnicking families.
Lezama is also a good starting point for a tour of the neighborhood, as there are several important attractions nearby, including the National Historical Museum, which tells the story of the Lezama family, and the beautiful Russian Orthodox Church, with its famous blue domes.
A few blocks north of the park is the Plaza Dorrego. With its hodgepodge of constant activity, this square is the hub of neighborhood life, and plays host to the famous San Telmo market every Sunday.
Don’t miss a visit to the nearby Casa de los Ezeiza. This Italian-style mansion was a luxurious family home until the yellow fever epidemic in the 19th century. Years later it became a conventillo, a type of shared urban housing that’s typical of the neighborhood, accommodating more than 30 families. Today the structure remains intact, and houses an antique gallery.
Tour the Home of Tango
The tango punctuates the rhythm of daily life in San Telmo, literally, as well as figuratively. Once relegated to the city’s back streets and brothels, the tango is now proudly performed for everyone to see, luckily for the tourists!
It’s not unusual to see some dancing while strolling through San Telmo, and spontaneous milongas (tango dance sessions) are a common pastime among neighbors.
But if you don’t manage to see any on the street or want to see an actual performance, head on over to Bar Sur for a performance in surroundings steeped in old-timey charm.
Get Lost Among the Markets and Antiques
Besides the tango, San Telmo has another passion: antiques. The Sunday market is a weekly event that you cannot miss.
Every Sunday, countless stalls flood the Plaza Dorrego, spilling out onto the adjacent streets, displaying enough antiques, art, and curiosities to keep you busy for hours, with a background of tango music and the smoky smell of mate swirling around the stalls.
Don’t worry if you end up visiting the neighborhood on a week day, however, because the streets of San Telmo are full of stores and antique galleries that rival the stalls at the market.
Gabriel del Campo’s store is a stone’s throw from the Plaza Dorrego and one of the best. Looking for a Louis Vuitton trunk, Persian carpet, or vintage chandelier? This is the place for you.
Where to Eat in San Telmo
If you’re feeling hungry, San Telmo is the place to be. Sharing a space with Gabriel del Campo’s antique shop is Nápoles, one of San Telmo’s best restaurants. With a vintage vibe that only a room full of genuine antiques can create, Nápoles serves up authentic southern Italian dishes and Mediterranean-inspired cocktails.
If you’re looking for a typical Argentine-style barbecue, look no further: the grill at La Brigada is all you need. Start with the empanadas, then order the famous short rib and thank us later.