San Telmo is the most historic neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Originally an immigrant and working class stronghold, the area is now popular with tourists and trendy bohemian artists. San Telmo is thought by many to be the birthplace of tango, and so is full of bars and elegant milongas in keeping with the tango theme. Check out our list of the best places to drink in the area.
Doppelganger serves a fantastic range of cocktails – over 100 in total – with Martinis as its specialty. The interior boasts a lovely 1930s style, with a shiny dark wood bar and sultry dimmed lighting ideal for a classy night out with friends or a romantic evening for two. The atmosphere is laid-back, so ideal for those hoping to avoid the loud and hectic clubs. All the classic cocktails are available and made with the favorite recognizable liqueur and spirit brands, as well as some more exclusive unfamiliar options. The drinks are full of flavor, with some really inventive mixes to try.
El Viejo Almacén is one of San Telmo’s most famous tango clubs. While not a bar as such, visitors pay for an entry ticket which includes a meal, drinks and a tango performance on a central stage. Both the food and wine are of excellent quality, but the real stand-out feature of this club is of course the tango performances. The atmosphere is authentic, with the club set inside an historic 1800s building, and with only a small stage for intimate performances, just as tango performances originally were. For a real taste of the classic tango scene of Buenos Aires, El Viejo Almacén is an excellent place to visit.
The Gibraltar is a surprisingly atmospheric and popular English-style pub. The decor is loyal to the classic set-up of an old-fashioned pub, with a typical bar area and small tables and stools instead of chairs. The bar offers numerous beers on draft for a real authentic pub flavor, including stouts, IPAs and pale ales. The food is pretty good too, again loyal to classic English pub menus – think fish and chips, curry, or beef and ale pie.
On picturesque Parque Lezama is El Hipopótamo, an atmospheric old-style Argentinian bar. Open throughout the day for either a casual coffee or a late-evening drink, this bar is a quiet refuge away from the center of San Telmo on Calle Defensa, and is very popular with the locals. The decor is traditional, with antique pictures and posters on the walls, and a classic black and white tiled floor. The beer is the most popular choice here, with a great range of artisan options as well as Argentinian favorites (mainly Quilmes). The huge front windows make El Hipopótamo a great spot for people-watching.
Another of San Telmo’s most famous tango clubs, Bar Sur is one of the most exclusive and intimate venues. Bar Sur has more of a traditional bar setting rather than a layout specifically designed for tango dancers and spectators; about a dozen tables sit around the edge of the room with the dancers at the center, performing not on a stage but on the classic black and white tiled floor. There is an entrance fee and food and drink are not included, so it is a slightly different set-up to the all-inclusive shows specifically designed for tourists. For a more authentic vibe, Bar Sur is a great option.
Beer drinkers must visit Breoghan Brew Pub. They offer an enticing selection of craft beer that has been brewed on site, as well as a good number of other artisan, non-commercial options including IPAs and stouts. The decor features a classic pub style, with cozy sofas and atmospheric dimmed lighting. The vibe is relaxed and laid-back, with a pool table to indulge in some friendly competition. The clientèle is also a good mix of locals and tourists.
A mysterious and unassuming red door (hence the name ‘Puerta Roja’) is the entrance to this hidden bar. To enter, visitors must knock on the door of La Puerta Roja in order to be whisked upstairs into a small, cozy and atmospheric bar area offering a range of beers, wines, shots, and spirits. Without knowing about this venue beforehand, it is unlikely that casual passers-by would notice this bar, which adds an enjoyable element of exclusivity to the establishment. There is also a tasty range of bar food, making La Puerta Roja a good place to spend a few hours.
El Federal is one of the best places in the city for a traditional bar experience. The tradition begins with the exterior, with floor-to-ceiling windows and dark green awning, and then inside are old rustic wooden tables and a bar behind which the wall is covered with wine bottles. It is thought by many to actually be the oldest bar in the city, and even if that’s not the case, the atmosphere of late 19th century Argentina can still be felt. Despite its age, the bar is still clean and well-kept, while managing to retain its old-school charm. An excellent spot for a daytime coffee or evening beer.
The main attraction of El Balcón is its location on the first floor of a historic mansion overlooking Plaza Dorrego. The best tables are, unsurprisingly, on the balcony that overlooks the square below – during the day or early evening Plaza Dorrego is the bustling center of San Telmo so is always full of life. The interior boasts a stage which hosts live acts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A delightful spot to absorb the atmosphere of picturesque Plaza Dorrego.
647 Dinner Club has an alternative vibe to the traditional Buenos Aires bars – catering towards a sophisticated or business clientèle, the bar mainly offers cocktails in an elegant ambiance ideal for a classy or romantic evening. While there are tables for meals, the center of the establishment is an open area perfect for mingling or even dancing. The cocktail menu is quite experimental, with ingredients such as lychee purée or a ginger margarita. To experience a different side to historic San Telmo, take a trip to 647.