San Telmo is the bohemian artistic neighbourhood of Buenos Aires between Microcentro, Puerto Madero and La Boca. It is the barrio of cobblestone streets, colonial architecture and tango.
It is also where the Sunday fair takes place. The whole year through between 10 am and 5 pm the street market is held along the Defensa street. From Plaza de Mayo in the north to La Plaza Dorrego in the south, you can stroll around whole 13 blocks and enjoy the atmosphere.
Visiting the Feria de San Telmo is probably the best way to spend a Sunday morning in Buenos Aires.
Start the day
Before the fair starts, treat yourself with an omelette jamón cocido con queso and coffee for breakfast. A great place is the La Puerto Rico Café at Adolfo Alsina 418. It is one of the few remaining classical cafes from the beginning of the 20th century where the head waiter wears a white shirt, black vest and a bow tie.
Then head to the market where locals and tourists look for antiques, paintings or just souvenirs. You can easily spend hours there. Booths sell crappy souvenirs just beside vendors of one of a kind antiques.
You can buy a unique leather handbag of astonishing quality for a very reasonable price as well as mate set with your name engraved at the market.
And then there are paintings. Countless local painters show and sell their work.
If you decide to buy something, there is no bargaining over the price.
Grab some empanadas
The market is a bustling place. If you get exhausted, just grab a freshly squeezed orange juice from one of the many vendors.
Or you can opt for a beer. Many bars and restaurants open a street-stall during the market. Besides draught Quilmes, get some fresh empanadas.
It’s not only about shopping
You’ll see many performing artists along the Defense street. Watch a puppetry or enjoy some chilling music – it’s up to your taste.
But don’t forget the tango. At the La Plaza Dorrego, the centre of San Telmo, tango dancers show off their art. Look for a small crowd cheering, join the circle of watchers and be amazed.
There even is a temporary dance floor laid on the street. The performances are astonishing. Old, young, beginners, semi-professionals and retired professionals gather to show their best Tango Argentino moves.
With all the action on the market, you’ll build up some appetite for sure. In San Telmo, you have plenty to choose from.
There are Italian trattorias, French brasseries, Indian restaurants and fancy modern places. But there also is one of the best parrillas in Buenos Aires. El Desnivel at Defensa 855 may look small from the outside.
Once you enter, you will be surprised how many tables fit in. The place is bustling with locals and tourist. And the steak is phenomenal. Be careful with your order. For two steak dishes, we recommend only one side dish to share. 😉
Is it safe?
Many say Buenos Aires isn’t safe. And they are right. But if you follow some basic safety rules for visiting a big city, you won’t have any troubles enjoying the bustling metropole.
San Telmo market is a crowded area. You should be aware of scams and pickpockets. Don’t wear expensive accessories or jewellery. Try to blend in. You shouldn’t carry a backpack or a large handbag. Cutting up the bottom of your bag is a common trick. If you have an expensive camera, make it low profile. Get rid of the shiny branded straps and wear a non-branded wrist strap. That way you’ll always be ready for a shot.
While in Buenos Aires, you will often see and hear guys calling “Cambio” which means exchange. Until 2016 there was a fixed Peso-USD exchange rate. A “grey” market with “Blue Dollars” flourished, as you would often get up to 40% better rate. In 2016 the restrictions were lifted. You can exchange USD at market value legally. Therefore, if a dubious character offers you a better rate, it is with high probability a scam.
Using common sense, you don’t have to worry. Get out there and enjoy the unique atmosphere of San Telmo, as we did.