Neighbourhood guides: Live like a local in San Telmo, Buenos Aires
27 Oct 2021
"Hard to believe Buenos Aires had any beginning. I feel it to be as eternal as air and water," observed Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, in his poem ‘The Mythical Founding of Buenos Aires’. And for a city that’s bursting with history and culture, it's easy to see why so many have similar sentiments — Madonna included. “Buenos Aires,” starts the pop-culture icon. “I'm new, I wanna say I'm just a little stuck on you. And if ever I go too far, it's because of the things you are. Beautiful town, I love you."
San Telmo is the oldest barrio - neighbourhood - in the city. Pop-up art galleries, late-night bars and street murals lend an old-school bohemian vibe, one that is often accompanied by dancing into the early hours. The area vies with nearby La Boca for the title of ‘the barrio that birthed the tango’, however, in San Telmo, a focal point of the city’s tango and art scene, you’ll find same-sex couples performing in more inclusive performances, creating a vital LGBTQIA+ community. Argentina on the whole is one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of trans rights, and many of these organisations started fighting in this pocket of San Telmo.
So, when you fuse art, music and queer spaces with long-standing Latin traditions such as tango dancing, you get a neighbourhood that’s warm and welcoming. Here’s why we love it…
Trashumante is the low-key, local outpost of El Baqueano - the culinary company that focuses on working with small producers, collectors and fishermen from the 18 eco-regions of Argentina where fair trade and sustainability prevail. Here, you can enjoy their flavours for take-away, or sitting along the emblematic sidewalk of the San Telmo neighborhood.
For a country well-known for its meat/steak, Buenos Aires has a thriving vegan scene – and San Telmo is at the forefront of it. JAAM is the plant-based go-to in the city. However, this neighbourhood hotspot is also loved by meat-eaters, as the innovative vegan and vegetarian dishes are loved by all.
Casa Minima + El Zanjón Museum
Cultivating the artistic spirit of the neighbourhood is the El Zanjón Museum. These restored labyrinths showcase urban archaeology on the site of the first Buenos Aires settlement in 1536. And in close proximity, you’ll also find Casa Minima, the narrowest house in BA, which has retained its original materials from the early XIX century.
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Buenos Aires
For modern inspiration, look to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Buenos Aires, also in San Telmo. Here you’ll find more than 500 artists, such as Raúl Lozza, Julio Le Parc, Victor Vasarely, Enio Iommi and Gyula Kosice. The museum’s cafe is also on our must-visit list.
For specialty coffee lovers, your first stop in San Telmo should be Hábito Café. You’ll notice ‘toma bien café’ printed on their take-away coffee cups, which translates to, ‘drink coffee well’, and drink good coffee you will. Along with the numerous delicate pastries and treats on offer too.
Argentina is known for its love of meat. And at Aldo’s Vintoteca, you’ll find the wine to go with it. Expect to find over 600 varieties of ‘vino’, making this spot perfect for oenophiles, as well as jazz aficionados — Aldo’s is connected by a staircase to the Bepob Jazz Club.
Feria de San Telmo
Perhaps San Telmo’s biggest tourist attraction is the open-air market that takes place every Sunday. Here on Plaza Dorrego you’ll discover the street closed to traffic, with stalls and carts selling everything from antiques to freshly squeezed orange juice. After sunset, this is where you can catch street performances by tango dancers and musicians. For those looking for Queer Tango, head here.
Located in the Mercado de San Telmo, you’ll find French bistro-influenced Merci. Here, they pride themselves on the quality of their breads, naturally, as well as their gourmet dishes. If looking for a magical brunch spot to dine with friends, this is it.
San Telmo’s food scene has always drawn visitors to this southern Buenos Aires neighborhood, and La Vermuteria is one of the latest to do so. This tapas spot has translated an old San Telmo property into something that could fool you into thinking you’re in Madrid. Located in the front section of Cafe San Juan, La Vermuteria is designed with tapas in mind. Just twelve seats are propped up at the bar for customers to enjoy their tapas and vermuts in typical Español fashion.