An Insider's Guide to San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Bohemian charm in San Telmo
Bohemian charm in San Telmo | © Chimpanz APe/Flickr
Sorcha O'Higgins

For many visitors landing in Buenos Aires, it’s often a toss-up between Palermo and San Telmo in terms of where to stay. To help you decide, we’ve put together an insider’s guide to the southern neighborhood of San Telmo.

History

The old colonial architecture of San Telmo

San Telmo is famous for being the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires, attracting hordes of visitors each year with its bygone-era charm. Its cobbled streets and colonial buildings used to be the quarters of dockland workers and it was one of the city’s first industrial areas. A period of prosperity in the mid-1800s saw mansions being constructed for the wealthy, until they fled the area after the yellow fever outbreak of 1871. This abandoned part of the city was ripe for the taking by the European immigrants who arrived into the nearby port of La Boca in the 1880s, establishing San Telmo as a melting pot of cultures. Now it’s one of the most vibrant areas of the city, renowned for its bohemian quality and arts scene, which includes tango, art and theatre.

Do

Bargain hunting in San Telmo market

This outdoor market is held every Sunday and attracts over 20,000 visitors each year, making it one of the most visited markets in South America. Vendors sell their artisanal wares among the smoky parillas serving up choripan and burgers, and tourists can pick up souvenirs and old artifacts as keepsakes. The feria runs along the length of Defensa from Plaza de Mayo to Plaza Dorrego.

Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 3181-5188

Antiques

San Telmo’s covered market is a playground for antique collectors. Also a haven for vintage clothes and accessories, bargain hunters can lose themselves for hours among the stalls and stands. Be sure to sample some of the coffee and pastries on offer under the market’s roof.

Carlos Calvo 495, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 3181-5188

Costanera

While not exactly in San Telmo, the eco reserve on the Costanera Sur is a must-visit for anyone spending a few days in San Telmo. This former pleasure coast was once used as a dumping ground for construction waste, until nature took over and reclaimed the large swathe of land next to the river. Rent bikes and cycle around its many paths, and get a lomito sandwich at one of the food trucks nearby.

Eat

Banco Rojo

It’s impossible to turn down a fried empanada from Banco Rojo

Banco Rojo is the king of the fried empanada. It is also the king of delicious pittas, tacos, burgers and beers. With new extended premises, it’s one of the most hopping haunts in San Telmo, full of locals and drop-ins and an awesome mural on the back wall of the outdoor patio.

Bolívar 866, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4362-3177

Chin Chin

Rivalling Banco Rojo for San Telmo’s cool crown is Chin Chin, a corner joint that has an eclectic menu, with everything from curry to barbeque ribs and coleslaw. It’s super popular and can be hard to get a table, but order a beer and soak up the neighborhood atmosphere as you wait on the corner and watch San Telmo go by.

Estados Unidos 490, Buenos Aires, Argentina

El Refuerzo

A firm favourite with those who value ambience, full-flavored food and reasonable prices, the tiny nook of El Refuerzo is a French-Argentine fusion restaurant that ranks on many locals’ top ten lists in the city. Portions are generous and rich, and the small menu varies daily. Go early as there are a limited number of tables. Great date spot.

Chacabuco 872, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4361-3013

Saigon

Bringing the taste of Vietnam to San Telmo, this casual restaurant is perfect for a quick bite with friends or as a place to while the night away with a feast of pho or Vietnamese sandwiches – all washed down with crisp craft beer from the taps. Friendly staff and a quirky interior make this Oriental restaurant a popular spot for locals, expats and tourists alike.

Bolívar 970, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4555-6523

Drink

La Puerta Roja

Get the beers in in La Puerta Roja

The sister bar to the Banco Rojo restaurant, La Puerta Roja has been a staple of the San Telmo scene for many years. With its rowdy yet friendly atmosphere, drinks specials and pool table, La Puerta Roja is the go-to spot for anyone looking to get a real taste of San Telmo nightlife.

Chacabuco 733, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4362-5649

Doppelganger

This legit cocktail bar is the only place you should be heading to for your potent potions on a night out in San Telmo. With its dimly-lit interior that recalls an old-time speakeasy, the classy decor complements the wicked drinks on offer. Although there are a number of other bars serving cocktails in the neighborhood, Doppleganger is one of the only ones that is exclusively cocktail-oriented.

Av. Juan de Garay 500, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4300-0201

Bierlife

A firm favourite of beer lovers, Bierlife ticks many boxes, no matter what kind of drinker you are. Looking for somewhere low-key but fun for a date? Bierlife has got you covered. Want to sneak in a cheeky after-work drink? Bierlife has a happy hour just for you. Looking to get the party started somewhere cool and fun? Bierlife is on hand to whip up those previa vibes.

Humberto 1º 670, Buenos Aires, Argentina +54 11 4307-6315

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