24 hours in San Telmo:
Buenos Aires’ most Bohemian Barrio

best guide to san telmo

San Telmo has it all: history, architecture, urban decay, street art, great people, good food, better dancing and enough antique shops to satisfy any hipster or trinket junkie. No visit to Buenos Aires is complete without at least one stroll though the city’s oldest and most romantic barrio. Its an eclectic web of narrow, cobbled streets lined with colonial houses, design-forward apartments and Spanish churches. 24 hours would never be enough to experience this quaint yet culturally rich little neighborhood, but if that’s all you’ve got, Oasis has composed some expert tips for the best guide to San Telmo that will help you make a truly charming day (and night) of your visit.

As the oldest barrio in the city, San Telmo reflects all the history of Buenos Aires while continuing to press forward into the future. Its part tourist trap, part Bohemian enclave, part rough-and-tumble city suburb and part tango dance capital all rolled into one, making the area a pretty fascinating place to visit. It’s not as polished as Palermo or as plush as Recoleta, but for many travelers, students and expats, it’s raw authenticity makes San Telmo the best barrio of all.  Take a minute to follow the best guide to San Telmo and prepare to have an Argentine experience unlike any other.

Morning: Wake Up and Smell the Cafecito

Best Guide to San Telmo

Step outside your chic San Telmo rental and start a marathon day with an alfresco caffeine jolt at El Federal, an authentic and emblematic Buenos Aires café that happens to be one of the oldest in the city. In fact, El Federal is so old it was declared a “Place of Cultural Interest,” as the building itself dates back to 1864. The vaulted ceilings, the fileteado artwork, waiters in bowties, the splendidly beat-up furniture and checkerboard floors all make for an ideal café environment. Order a single café con leche and watch as your table begins to overflow: the coffee, sugar cubes, linen napkins, a shot of sparkling mineral water and a little plate of alfajores to boot; now that’s what we call value. Plus, you can feel free to linger over that one cafecito as long as you want and no one will ever pester you to hurry it up.

Mid-day : Culture, Antiques & Tango Galore

Best Guide to San Telmo

In a city already dripping with culture, a stop by the newly renovated Museo de Arte Moderno (MAMBA) is definitely the icing on the cake. Housed in an old tobacco factory, the MAMBA retains the original exposed-brick facade and fabulous wooden doors with wrought-iron fixtures. The museum itself offers some 7000 contemporary artworks that span movements in Argentine art ranging from the 1920’s to today along with a rotating selection of paintings, sculptures, and new media by 20th and 21st century artists both local and international. Since reopening, temporary exhibitions have included works from modernist masters including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and engravings by local great Antonio Seguí.

Best Guide to San Telmo

In order to properly enjoy San Telmo, you really need to visit Calle Defensa on the weekend. This is when the huuuuge antique show/market/street party called Feria de San Pedro Telmo turns Calle Defensa into the most bustling place in town. This upscale craft market teems with artisans selling literally anything and everything from exquisite bronze jewelry, pots and pans, brightly colored sundresses, books, hand-woven purses and pretty much any other bric-a-brac you could imagine. Walk down Calle Defensa and you’ll also see a slew of street performers, mimes, tango dancers and artists while the streets are lined with even more antique stores, cafés and art galleries to satisfy the antique digger in all of us.

Best Guide to San Telmo

Of course, no list of the best guide to San Telmo would be complete without mentioning the Tango. During the middle of the 20th century, San Telmo began taking on a bohemian vibe and was established as a hotspot for the passionate ballroom dance. This Tango tradition has permeated through the ages and solidified San Telmo as the international capital of tango dance, so its not very surprising that the area is the heart of the “tourist tango” scene with a dozen different venues offering various dinner-and-show combos. Plaza Dorrego has professional tango dancers strutting their stuff most of the time (please tip them after show), and is a nice place to stop for a casual drink. If you want to see tango in San Telmo but would prefer to see a show, go to El Viejo Almacén on the corner of Calles Independencia and Balcarce, but check their website for times first

Chow Down: Its Chimichurri Time

Best Guide to San Telmo

There’s no doubt that San Telmo has plenty of great restaurants, but if an authentic Argentine snack is what your looking for while wandering the cobblestone streets, just grab yourself a choripán (mini-sausage in bread) and a beer at one of the many small choripán spots peppered throughout the area. You are also encouraged to slather on copious amounts of red and green chimichurri sauce (spicy, garlicky marinade) for the proper effect. Also, for a daytime beer swing by Bar Plaza Dorrego, which oozes with old-timey atmosphere, as much of the original décor has been well preserved.

For the Nighttime Revelers:

Best Guide to San Telmo

For such a quaint little neighborhood, San Telmo has its own relatively vibrant nightlife and our best guide to San Telmo wouldn’t be complete without a few choice late-night hangouts. The Gibraltar bar would be totally unremarkable in England, but in Buenos Aires a decent pub is just the thing you need for a break from the constant onslaught of steak and wine. Stop in for a pint (the Antares Scotch is excellent) after a long day of exploring the city and take time to sample the pub food, which includes one of the best green Thai curries you can find in Buenos Aires. The Doppelganger is a trendy upscale bar specializing in cocktails. They have an extensive menu of over a hundred cocktails made from top quality spirits and liqueurs with an emphasis on gins and vodkas. The care taken in crafting every detail of their drinks and the inviting dim lit atmosphere make this bar well worth the visit. Also, make a trip to La Puerta Roja, one of those bars with personality that keeps people coming back again and again. The name, which means “Red Door,” tells you where you have to knock if you want to get in. Once you do, the great atmosphere and lively environment will keep you entertained all night long.

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