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If when one thinks of Buenos Aires one sees colourful calligraphic signs, old wooden walled cafes, and a general sense of gritty aliveness, then one is certainly thinking of San Telmo. An early neighborhood for laborers and even slaves, San Telmo was discovered by the wealthy after Argentina ’s independence. This flirtation with grandeur ended when a series of cholera and yellow fever epidemics caused the wealthy to move out to the safer Recoleta and Barrio Norte neighborhoods. The space was filled by wave after wave of European immigrants, from the many Italians, Germans, Russians and even many British soldiers in the wake of the First World War. The result is that San Telmo is a multicultural hotspot. Many institutions still retain their cultural roots--like the Bar Britanico on Defensa and Brasil for the English, or El Federal on Carlos Calvo for the Italians.
Seeing the way these cultures have mixed and been recreated is one of the more interesting aspects of a tour in Buenos Aires, and every corner of San Telmo serves as a healthy example.
Out of this productive and often steamy mix are some things which are quintessentially ‘ Buenos Aires ’—most famously the tango. One of the places where the tango was born, San Telmo is today the epicenter of its rebirth as a movement among the young and alternative. Come here to find classes, milongas, shows, and even street dancing.
A tour in Buenos Aires ’ barrio of San Telmo will almost certainly involve a visit to the famous antique market on Defensa street . Taking place Sundays, the Feria de Antigüedades is much more than a chance to buy some dusty collectables however. It is a buzzing fair, including music, street food (try the choripan for sure), and lots of local articles at bargain prices. Calle Defensa is closed to traffic and peddlers stands stretch from Humberto Primo to Avenida Belgrano. The Feria closes at dusk.
If one cannot be here on a Sunday, venture to the area anyway—there are many shops and a covered market building near the Plaza. Check out this indoor San Telmo market (which sits inside the entire block between four streets - Bolivar, Carlos Calvo, Defensa and Estados Unidos) mid-week for quite a glance at real life around here. The entrance to the market is located on the corner of Calvo and Bolivar. Second entrance is on Defensa and third on Estados Unidos.
Buenos Aires has tons of really different neighborhoods, but none of them embodies the traditional culture like the bohemian San Telmo. This barrio is now home to BA artists which is reflected in barrio's numerous art galeries stretching from Avenida Belgrano to Avenida Caseros (a very elegant spot full of nice buildings (Museo Histórico Nacional and Casa de los Ingleses) and good restaurants such as "Caseros", "Hierbabuena", "La Popular" and "Club Social"). This combines with the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art to make San Telmo a worthy start in an art tour in Buenos Aires .
Tourists are attracted to San Telmo by its colonial architecture, art galleries, antique shops, restaurants and pubs. Check out Desnivel on Defensa Street for the best steaks and grill. Be prepared for grease and delicious food. After a meal in El Desnivel walk to Krakow Cafe Bar on Venezuela and check out the local taps in relaxing atmosphere. Gambrinus and Antares Pale Ales are amazing. Other recommended places to check out in this vain include the English pub ‘ Gibraltar ’, Doppelgänger Martini bar, and GueBara.
There are a lot of lodging options in San Telmo, from boutique hotels to economical hostels and everything in between. Choose a spot either in Avenida Caseros between Defensa and Bolivar or close to Carlos Calvo and Defensa for a safe location. If you pick a spot North of Independencia, you will be close to subway and within the walking distance to Casa Rosada, Avenida De Mayo, Calle Florida , The Obelisk (Obelisco) and Puerto Madero. Finally there are some nice designer stores in Telmo for the fashionistas visiting Buenos Aires .