Delve beneath the surface of Argentina’s most fascinating city while seeing the major attractions, and getting a good idea as to where everything is in the city in a thorough tour with convenient pick-up and drop-off at your hotel/Airbnb/cruise port.
Are you planning a visit to Buenos Aires and want to make the most out of your time in San Telmo? This guide is the ultimate traveler’s handbook to exploring one of Buenos Aires’ most iconic districts (like a local!).
Visiting San Telmo is the closest you can get as if you were traveling into a time machine to colonial Buenos Aires. Bohemian and nostalgic alike, the oldest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires has plenty of options to keep you exploring day and night. Street art, colonial architecture, late-night bars, traditional tango venues and an indoor market offering everything from antiques to great coffee make San Telmo, Buenos Aires, one of the favourite areas for tourists.
Staying in San Telmo, Buenos Aires: pros and cons
San Telmo is the heart of Buenos Aires´ old district, so it is in a key location and most hotels will be within walking distance from the main attractions of the city, like Plaza de Mayo and Puerto Madero area. And also a few steps from any hotel in San Telmo you will find a traditional cafe, a cobbled street, an antique shop or a must-try restaurant, making this neighbourhood a great option to stay in.
That being said, each area of Buenos Aires —and in the world— has its downsides as well, and San Telmo is not the exception. You should be cautious after dark and not walk along lonely streets. It is advisable to take a taxi (the ones that are labeled under the “Radio Taxi” sign are the safest) to go back to your hotel after dinner.
Things to do in San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Go antique-hunting in San Telmo Market (and grab a coffee and a choripán, too)
Location: Bolivar 970, San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
There are places where you enter and time just stops, where you don’t know if you have spent minutes or hours, where you can get lost in its corridors that are like a teleportation to colonial Buenos Aires. San Telmo market is known by its antiques, that’s right, but while you look for a unique souvenir to take back home, treat yourself with Argentine street food like empanadas and choripán (our sausage sandwich), and then sit down and do some people-spotting as you sip one of the best coffees of your life.
Relax with a drink while you watch the street tango dancers at Dorrego Square
Location: Humberto 1º 400, San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
One of the main reasons for travelers to visit San Telmo in Buenos Aires is to experience the street tango atmosphere, and there is no better place for that than Plaza Dorrego. This is a must-go place in San Telmo and is surrounded by cafes, bars and pubs, making it crowded with the shops’ tables and chairs, with several antique shops nearby, and with street musicians and tango dancers everywhere.
Walk along Defensa Street and take great pictures
Location: Calle Defensa, from Plaza de Mayo to Av. San Juan, San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
Every Sunday, Defensa Street is home to the San Telmo Sunday Market, where you can find everything from souvenirs to antiques, being the traditional mate cups the perfect choice for travelers. But the market is not everything that Defensa Street has to offer: come any other day of the week and you will find an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the city. Cobbled streets, traditional cafes, exquisite architecture and picture-friendly corners. You will have some of the best photos of you trip to Buenos Aires.
Be delighted with traditional cuisine at Pulpería Quilapán
Location: Defensa 1344, San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
Even though there are plenty of must-go restaurantes in San Telmo —and we will recommend you some of them further down—, Pulpería Quilapán is under the “places to visit in San Telmo, Argentina” section because it goes beyond food: it is an overall experience in which eating is just one part of it. Imagine having lunch or dinner in a museum, countryside store, grandma’s house and local restaurante, altogether.
Go souvenir-shopping to Solar de French Gallery
Location: Defensa 1066, San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
The good news is that everything is nearby: Solar de French Gallery is just on Defensa Street, across Dorrego Square and a minute walk from San Telmo Market. Visit the shops on this historic yet hipster site originally owned by Argentine patriot Domingo French. Here you can find designer jewellery, clothes, shoes and antiques.
How to get to San Telmo in Buenos Aires (and how to move around)
You can easily get to San Telmo area by taxi (remember to take the ones that have the “Radio Taxi” sign), and if you want a point of reference you can tell the taxi driver to drop you off either at Plaza Dorrego or Mercado de San Telmo. Remember to have some pocket money with you and that taxis are metered: whatever it shows on the meter will be the total price to be paid in Argentine pesos.
As San Telmo is the smallest district in Buenos Aires, everything is located within walking distance.
The nearest subway station is Independencia, on the E and C lines, on the edge of San Telmo. Walk along Independencia Ave. towards the river for six blocks and then turn right at Defensa St. for another four blocks to get to Plaza Dorrego. You can also head to Plaza de Mayo, with access to the A and D metro lines. On Sundays, the street market goes along Defensa for almost 10 blocks all the way to Plaza de Mayo.
If you want to delve beneath the surface of Buenos Aires city while seeing San Telmo and other major attractions leaving the organization up to someone else check out our Small-Group Buenos Aires City Tour, a great tour to do if you want to get a good feeling of the city and discover places to keep exploring afterward.
Another possibility could be booking a private tour, which is more convenient if you want to have a fully customized experience based on your particular interests, have a closed tour exclusively for your travel group, and have all of the tour guide’s attention for yourself. If this is the case, we recommend you to take a look at both our Private Highlights of Buenos Aires Tour and our Private Customizable Walking Tour to see which option is best suited for your needs and budget.
Where to eat in San Telmo, Argentina (and what to try!)
After a few days in Buenos Aires, you may think that Argentinians are food-obsessed. Well, not literally, but it is true that we do enjoy having a good meal and a good conversation with friends.
Apart from having a coffee (or two or three), empanadas and choripán at San Telmo Market, and enjoying a a meal at Pulpería Quilapán, these are our recommendations of places to eat in San Telmo in Buenos Aires.
La Poesia Bar
Location: Chile 502, San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
This traditional café may become your breakfast spot. Simple yet delicious options with great local atmosphere. You can order a café con leche (latte) with an omelette with ham and cheese while you read the local newspaper as porteños do.
Location: Defensa 855, San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
This classic noisy and welcoming “bodegón”, or neighbourhood tavern, is the perfect choice if you want to try the local barbecue, asado. You’ll immediately notice the massive grill filled with mixed meats sizzling to perfection. You can try almost any cut of meat, from a classic steak cuts to sweetbreads, and they make great choripán, too.
El Federal Bar
Location: Carlos Calvo 599, San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
A former liquor store, this traditional café serves snacks, sandwiches and homemade pasta in a timeless period ambience complete with old publicity, bottles of aperitifs, soda syphons and images of tango musicians and singers. Don’t miss the chance to have a coffee at the bar.
Location: Estados Unidos 465, San Telmo, Buenos Aires.
Locals call this restaurante “the temple of beef”. It has a distinctly Argentine style, with attention to the details and a good wine list. Specialities to try longaniza sausage, asado and entraña.