San Telmo is Buenos Aires’ bohemian district, as well as being it’s oldest neighbourhood, dating back to the 17th century. If you happen to be around BA on a Sunday, it is the ultimate tourist day out (yet somehow still manages to feel super authentic and unspoiled). We had heard talk about the San Telmo market which runs every Sunday, so couldn’t wait to check it out. As we got to the entrance of the indoor part of the market, we were literally jumping with excitement, it was incredible. So wildly different to the many markets we had previously visited on this trip throughout Peru and Bolivia, it instead was full of antique stalls offering anything from vintage silverware, fur coats, handmade leather goods to vintage themed food stalls, bustling with life and energy. We enjoyed sitting right in the centre of the indoor market at a stall called ‘Coffee Town’, watching the world whizz by around us.
Next we headed out to the street ‘Calle Defensa’ where the market continues for what seems like forever, ending up at the Plaza de Mayo. Before making our way up we decided to pop into the Museum of Modern Art, which sits just beside the market one street up. At 30 pesos entry fee, it really is a must see, even for those not particularly interested in art. It was small, but showcased the work of 4 different artists in separate rooms. Our favourite had to be the room by Tomás Saracen, an artist who likes to experiment with different social and ecological environments. In this particular installation, eighteen colonies of the spider ‘Parawixia bistriata’ spent their nights weaving the world’s largest indoor spider’s web, so as you walk around the outside of the room, the entire centre is filled with the most incredible spiders webs. Pretty weird, but also pretty amazing.
After getting our culture in for the day we headed outside back to Calle Defensa, and started walking through the market stalls all the way up to the Plaza de Mayo. It’s about a half an hour walk, but we didn’t even realise the time because there is just SO much to look at! With the sun streaming through the trees and casting shadows onto the street sellers on the cobbled pavements below, it really is something special. There is a true feel of quality despite the fact that it is a flea market, and even all the trendy boutiques that line the streets have such a distinctive arty atmosphere. We stopped at the famous ‘Desnivel’ for a cold cerveza on the way, and were amazed by the size of the parrilla cooking just inside (parrilla is an argentinian word essentially for a barbecue… however 10 times bigger and filled with argentine steak!).
The San Telmo barrio is also the home of the Argentine Tango. Plaza Dorrego (a square totally covered by market stalls on Sundays), is usually a square where various restaurants spill out onto the streets and have large terraces where you can sit and enjoy a cold beer or coffee in the late afternoon. The middle of the square almost every day hosts a variety of tango dancers, dressed in incredible traditional get up, dancing around the square in exchange for a small tip. Although this square may be one of Argentina’s worst kept secrets, again it feels so authentic and beautiful.
All in all, the faded grandeur of San Telmo has a charm that is difficult to put into words. It’s impossible to stop taking pictures in attempt to capture it, of the cobbled streets, ancient street art and faded pastel coloured Parisian style apartments. Our Sunday in San Telmo was so unplanned, but we both agreed that it ended up as one of our favourite days so far.