The Top Things to See and Do in San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Photo of Kylie Madry
12 July 2021

San Telmo is the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Discover antique bargains at the Plaza Dorrego market, savor a La Brigada steak and watch a tango show at El Viejo Almacén, while visiting this bohemian corner of Argentina’s capital city.

Open-air art galleries and street vendors fill the cobblestone streets of San Telmo, giving the oldest barrio in Buenos Aires a modern, lively feel. The tree-lined streets, colonial architecture and busy plazas make this neighborhood the perfect place to spend an afternoon, whether you’re digging for treasures in an antique shop or watching pros dance the tango. Here are Culture Trip’s top picks of things to do while in San Telmo.

Visit the Sunday Feria

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Sunday flea market.San Telmo.Buenos Aires.Argentina
© Pep Roig / Alamy Stock Photo
Hundreds of stalls set up shop every Sunday along Calle Defensa and Plaza Dorrego. An estimated 10,000 people pour through the streets, looking for bargains on costume jewelry, handmade lace or copper pots. The stands spill out onto neighboring streets, so don’t rush, and keep an eye out for a souvenir or two to take home. Once you’ve had your fill of antigüedades, hit up Bar Plaza Dorrego (see below) for lunch.

Stop by Bar Plaza Dorrego Feria de San Telmo

Bar, Cafe, Market, Argentina, $$$
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Interior of a traditional old cafe bar on Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
The black-and-white tile floors and rustic wooden tables give Bar Plaza Dorrego a distinctly European feel. Grab a seat by the window and people-watch across the plaza. If you arrive in the morning, order a café con leche with a medialuna (Argentinian sweet croissant). Alternatively, beer on tap flows all afternoon. Every order comes with the bar’s signature peanuts, but we also recommend the hearty prosciutto, cheese and tomato sandwich.

Go antique shopping at Gil Antigüedades

Store, Shop
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Antique dealer shop in San Telmo neighborhood. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
© Ricardo Ribas / Alamy Stock Photo
If you miss the Sunday market, you can still nab some old-fashioned finds during the week at San Telmo’s free-standing antique shops. You might find a better deal at the market, but if you’re looking for something specific, these shops are a must. Our favorite? Gil Antigüedades, which has been selling finds like hand-woven fabrics, vintage fascinators and old-school toys in front of Plaza Dorrego since 1973.

Stroll through Parque Lezama

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Bueno Aires, Argentina-Dec 25, 2018: Monument at Lezama Park in  Bueno Aires. Argentia. America
© master2 / Alamy Stock Photo

San Telmo’s largest park is Parque Lezama, named after a wealthy family who landscaped the gardens. It became a public park in 1894. Today, its leafy walkways and tranquil ponds make it a lovely spot for a stroll or picnic lunch. You’ll spot old men enjoying a game of chess, and groups of all ages sharing a mate (a traditional South American drink). The Museo Histórico Nacional is nearby as well as a stunning Russian Orthodox church; you can’t miss its striking blue roof, made with materials shipped over from Saint Petersburg.

Learn about Argentina’s past at Museo Histórico Nacional

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National Historical Museum, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
© Bjanka Kadic / Alamy Stock Photo
Housed in a salmon-pink colonial mansion along the shady Parque Lezama, Argentina’s National History Museum is a comprehensive look through the country’s history. From pre-Hispanic Andean groups, to Spanish colonization and independence, and the series of 20th century military dictatorships, you’ll gain a deeper insight into Buenos Aires’ backstory. Take a look inside a recreated version of José de San Martín’s bedroom, one of Argentina’s lauded liberators.

Catch a tango show at El Viejo Almacén

Bar, Nightclub, South American, Pub Grub, $$$
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Tango dance show at El Viejo Almacen restaurant and bar, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America
© Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Watch and learn: the shows at El Viejo Almacén are a masterclass in tango. The tanguería has been putting on nightly shows since 1969. Book dinner beforehand at the restaurant across the street, or just pop by for the show (tickets come with bottomless drinks). The venue is cozy, and you’ll feel part of the action as the live band kicks off and the dancers show off their moves, just feet in front of you.

Eat steak at La Brigada

Restaurant, Steakhouse, Argentina, South American, $$$
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Interior of La Brigada parrilla restaurant, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

This restaurant may be decked out in sports memorabilia, but don’t be mistaken: it’s a fine dining experience. La Brigada has made a name for itself in the neighborhood serving up the best parrillas in town – the word literally translates as “grill” in English, but refers to a classic Argentinian dish of grilled steak, sausages and other meats piled high. Plan ahead for dinner here, as reservations can fill up fast.

Explore the tunnels of El Zanjón de Granados

Building, Ruins
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Zanjon de Granados (The Rivulet of Granados) underground museum. Located where some historians place te first settlement of Buenos Aires in 1536, offe
© KIKE CALVO / Alamy Stock Photo
Years ago, construction crews were excavating under an 1830s mansion in the heart of San Telmo. They uncovered a zanjón, or ravine, running underground for blocks. It revealed an archaeological maze of centuries-old tunnels and ruins, dating back to Buenos Aires’ early foundations. Explore the subterranean waterways and learn about the immigrant families who lived in the house after the wealthy owners departed.

Peek inside Convento de Santo Domingo

Historical Landmark
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This 18th-century Dominican convent has been a central building in Buenos Aires’ history. It was under siege during the British invasions of the early 19th century and was used as a museum when the Dominican orders were expelled about 20 years later. It now houses the tomb of Manuel Belgrano, one of the country’s national heroes of independence. Due to the convent’s excellent location between Plaza Dorrego and Plaza de Mayo, it’s worth stopping by when walking down to San Telmo from the city center.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Bethany Currie.

These recommendations were updated on July 12, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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