What to see in Argentina
Tourist attractions San Telmo
If you want to understand the heritage of Buenos Aires, you have to visit San Telmo, the city’s oldest and most famous neighbourhood. The kind of place that instantly steals your heart, San Temlo is brimming with character, home to elaborate mansions harking back to Buenos Aires’ colonial beginnings and atmospheric cobblestone streets.
Of course, San Telmo is famed as the birthplace of Argentina’s most famous art form: Tango dancing, which grew out of the area during a period of European immigration between the 18th and 19th centuries.
San Telmo is roughly six blocks from the Plaza de Mayo and is bordered by La Boca and Microcentro. If you travel to San Telmo you’re sure to be enchanted by its bohemian vibe, artistic atmosphere and endless antique shops. In fact, many visit San Telmo simply to shop for second-hand goods!
The diversity of the neighbourhood is the result of a Yellow Fever epidemic in the 19th-century. Previously home to the wealthiest residents of Buenos Aires, the outbreak of this disease forced many of the inhabitants to flee to the north of the capital, leaving behind their elegant mansions. These were taken over by the large immigrant community, who transformed these palatial homes into tenement-style dwellings, known locally as ‘coventillos’. Thus, San Telmo became the most vibrant and diverse part of the city and its enduring charms means San Telmo is a highlight of any tour of Buenos Aires.
Things to see in San Telmo
The beating heart of San Telmo is Calle Defensa. To experience this neighbourhood in all its glory, head to this street on a Sunday morning for its world-famous antique market. More than just second-hand goods, on Sundays, Calle Defensa takes on a distinctly lively atmosphere, with street performers, live music and food and drinks stalls. Akin to a small scale street party, visiting the Sunday Market is one of the best things to do in San Telmo.
To continue the lively atmosphere into the evening, visit Plaza Dorrengo, the oldest square in the city where professional tango dancers and musicians hold nightly open-air performances. Surrounded by colonial-era buildings and authentic Argentine bars and cafes, grab a table on one of the terraces and while away the evening watching the entertainment. Just be sure to have some spare change handy for when the performers pass their hats around at the end of the evening!
If you travel to San Telmo and want to find out more about the city’s fascinating history, head to El Zanjon de Granados, a museum and art space housed within a 200-year-old mansion. Within this seemingly ordinary residence is a secret underground complex of tunnels. This subterranean world dates back to Buenos Aires’ earliest settlements and has been restored to hold a number of interesting exhibitions, including artefacts unearthed during the discovery of tunnels and artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries. The best place to visit in San Telmo for an eye-opening insight into the foundations of the Argentine capital.
Finally, the Museo Historico Nacional is another must-see if you visit San Telmo. Located in the beautiful Parque Lazama, this museum is dedicated to the history of Argentina, home to an array of fascinating objects from the Argentine War of Independence and the May Revolution. Furthermore, the Museo Historico Nacional is housed without a beautiful 19th-century mansion.