San Telmo is Buenos Aires’s oldest neighbourhood. It was originally the domain of the wealthy but in 1871 a yellow fever epidemic caused them to flee to fresher, uncontaminated ground on the city’s outskirts. Their grand manors were quickly filled by large immigrant families and the area fell from favour.
Nowadays, San Telmo is one of the most charming and popular quarters of Buenos Aires. The lovely old houses are still standing, many of them impeccably restored, while others remain shabbily chic. Quaint cafes and restaurants line the narrow streets. Over the years many “Porteno” artists, musicians and performers have settled and spread their influence through San Telmo. They sketch paint and busk in the streets. There are numerous galleries and studios, as well as a recording company, four museums and a cinema university. Some of Buenos Aires best tango spots are also found here.
But San Telmo’s most interesting corners are to be found in its antique and second hand stores and in its colourful and crowded market – The market building itself is a beauty, with wrought-iron arches and high, vaulted wooden ceilings. It is crammed, literally, with trash and treasure. Everywhere there are glimpses of Buenos Aires’ grand, and not so grand, past lives. Jewellery, china, silverware, religious relics, furniture, toys and books jostle for space with family photographs, tablecloths, rosary beads, statues, holy pictures and suitcases plastered with labels from old Europe. They are all on sale for a song.
In the same building is a produce market as colourful, crowded and cheap as its neighbour.
On Sundays the whole of San Telmo becomes a giant market. The streets are closed to traffic and hundreds of vendors set up booths. Tourists and locals alike pour in from all parts of the city.
A short and fascinating walk from the centre of Buenos Aires , San Telmo is not to be missed.