Tango, arts and antiques have taken over San Telmo, the oldest barrio (neighborhood) in Buenos Aires. Cobblestone streets are lined with cafés, parillas, street performers and stunning colonial architecture. The Sunday Market (10 am – 4 pm) is a chance for tourists and locals to walk the streets and enjoy the artistic culture along with booths after booths of antiques and crafts.
San Telmo is bordered by Puerto Madero and La Boca, two other popular destinations if you are visiting Buenos Aires. The closest subte (subway) station to the market is Plaza de Mayo on the A line or Catedral on the D line.
Calle Defensa is the main street the market is located on and is filled with mate cups, clothes, jewelery, hats, paintings and antiques. The shop owners in San Telmo are equally as quirky as the barrio. You will instantly notice the laid back and genuinely friendly atmosphere that takes over the streets.
Antique Shopping in San Telmo
If are mainly interested in antiques, don’t waste your time walking through Calle Defensa, head straight to Plaza Dorrego. You can find authentic and truly unique antiques that are still in remarkable condition in the plaza. Plan to hunt through booths of old cookware, magazine ads, antique jewelery and clothing that only your (Argentine) grandma could have worn. Expect the prices to be higher than other antique markets, but the quality is also top-notch.
Food and Drink
If you are planning on seeing the entire market in one day, you will need a mid-afternoon break. I suggest stopping at one of the many cafe’s and restaurants in the barrio. We sat in a representative porteño bar from the 19th century, Plaza Dorrego Bar. You can sit outside and watch the tango on the corner and the bustling crowd pass by. Outside of the entertaining street vendors, the tourists and locals make for an eclectic bunch.
Must Try Foods at the San Telmo Market
Espresso with Alfajores – The espressos are strong and the alfajores are sweet dulce de leche goodness sandwiched between two buttery cookies.
Fresh Orange Juice – Watch the oranges being squeezed right in front of you. Taste the no sugar added, all natural juice for about ARS$8.
Empanadas – Sold on the market streets for only a few dollars, empanadas are available in queso (cheese), pollo (chicken) or carne (meat). They are a great snack to pick up on the go as you browse the market and are usually large enough to share.
Parillas – If you like steak, Argentina is the place you want to indulge. San Telmo offers white table cloth parillas as well as local dives that serve the best bife in town. We watched our waiter cut the steak with a spoon to prove how tender it was at La Brigada. The Porteños don’t mess around with their meat, the preparation and taste is truly an art that shouldn’t be missed.
Locals consider San Telmo’s market “tourist tango” as the street dancers spend the day putting on short shows as the crowds gather. You are welcome to request a photo with the tango dancers, but be prepared to tip them in return. The tango scene picks up on Sunday nights as the vendors go home and the streets open up. If you want a more authentic tango experience I suggest taking lessons yourself or seek out a local tango bar.
San Telmo is a bohemian mecca that is rough around the edges. It’s full of history, energy and delicious eats. It’s a nice place to stay, but if you can only go for one day, don’t miss the Sunday market.