San Telmo is the oldest barrio (neighbourhood) of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is a well-preserved area of the Argentine metropolis and is characterized by its colonial buildings. Cafes, tango parlours and antique shops line the cobblestone streets, which are often filled with artists and dancers.
This post contains some of the places worth visiting in the area, including restaurants, tea/coffee shops, bars and restaurants.
Bar El Federal
Bar El Federal is the oldest and one of the most iconic bars/restaurants in Buenos Aires.
Inaugurated in 1864 as a warehouse, it was later installed in the current two-storey building in the Italian style, built at the end of the 19th century. The interiors remain original from the beginning of the 20th century, and the cafe is chosen both by locals and by a large number of tourists who visit the historic centre of Buenos Aires.
It was declared a “Site of Cultural Interest” “for being a witness of an era and of the San Telmo neighbourhood” on November 25, 2004. It is also part of “Los notables“, a group of authentic and old pubs/restaurants that are considered an institution in Buenos Aires.
It is open all day long, offering traditional Argentine breakfast and food. Some of their signature dishes are Tortilla Española, pavita en escabeche, milanesas and picadas. Portions are generous and prices are lower than most restaurants in trendy areas such as Palermo/Recoleta.
Minutes away from the heart of trendy San Telmo, Napoles is a combination of a clothing store, an antique store, a bar and a restaurant. There is a lot to see inside, from jeans to old cars, so be ready to spend some time looking around and taking pictures. Great vibes at night, and a calm atmosphere after work.
They offer international cuisine, with a good variety of options. Pasta and pizza seem to be their speciality. I would suggest trying the provoleta cheese, sorrentino di Capri, Terza salad. For dessert, I suggest almendrado, which is an almond ice-cream covered with chopped/crushed almonds (they have one of the best brands, El Fundador).
Mercado de San Telmo
This large indoor market has stalls offering everything from antiques to fresh fruit and spices. With a typical Italian facade and large interior spaces, the Mercado de San Telmo opened in 1897 to cater to the needs of the new wave of immigrants arriving from Europe.
The stalls have since been updated but the market conserves its original structure of metal columns and beams, so a visit is still like stepping back in time. There are stalls selling food, antiques, crafts, records, and toys, making for an eclectic mix, while the coffee stall is said to have some of the best coffee in town. [buenosaires.gob.ar]
Some of the shops I can recommend are El Hornero Empanadas, De Lucia Tapas and Hierro Parrilla. And there are also some shops worth visiting on the outside, such as Saigon Noodle Bar, La Fabrica del Taco and Shabu Shabu. For coffee/bakery, you can find Merci, and for healthier options Casa Telma.
Feria de San Telmo
It is an antique fair that was created in 1970 by architect José María Peña.
The fair is composed of 270 stands. It is located in Plaza Dorrego and runs every Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. It is visited by 10,000 people every Sunday; the majority are tourists from all over the world.
On the streets, you can see Tango Shows and Orchestra Playing for all visitors, also you can buy typical food from restaurants or informal sellers. However, the main attraction in this Feria is the antiques and cultural items offered.
Atis Bar has the most beautiful garden of all pubs in San Telmo, as you can see in the picture above. It was originally a Jesuit convent that was then taken by immigrants and is currently one of the most popular places in the area.
Besides the garden area, the most acclaimed by the public, there are seats at the front and also an extra saloon at the back. The whole building shows class and it is well decorated, including many saints/virgin statues and imagery due to its past as a convent.
The food speciality seems to be grilled cuts, and the offering is not huge but modest. Cocktails and coffee are also available.
Café La Poesía
Café La Poesía is also part of “Los notables“, a group of authentic and old pubs/restaurants that are considered an institution in Buenos Aires.
It was originally created to be a meeting space for artists and intellectuals and maintains its tradition as an inspiring street corner. It was declared Notable by the Ministry of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires and Site of Cultural Interest by the Legislature of Buenos Aires.
It was founded by the poet, writer and journalist Rubén Derlis, an intellectual of the Generation of 60′ who narrates the ups and downs of the local adventures in Esquina de Encuentro. One of its legendary patrons was the poet and tango lyricist Horacio Ferrer, who met the plastic artist Lucía Michelli there. Stronghold of notable writers, musicians and artists, he was sponsored by the singer Marikena Monti.
Among the relics of the Café is the mural by Juan Manuel Sánchez, the gallery with 120 portraits of masters of Argentine letters, the piano from the beginning of the 20th century, the bronze “chopera” (draft), the plates with reminders on the tables, the counter of wood and antique collections, cans, bottles and siphons.
The menu is currently the same as Bar El Federal, as it is something that should get an update. You will find the all-time Argentine classics such as pasta, salads, a large selection of sandwiches, hamburgers, omelettes and picadas.
Cafe San Juan
Cafe San Juan is another classic in San Telmo. But this is a modern restaurant with strong Italian influences, which still offers a genuinely authentic Argentinian experience.
Their menu is available on its Facebook page. Some of the highlights are the lasagna, merluzon and milanesa de bife de chorizo. And the food can be accompanied by vermouth, good malbecs, beer or cocktails.
There are not many seats, but enough to have 3 different areas.The best seats are probably the ones insideoverlooking the open kitchen. However; in summer the terrace is the most popular. Additionally, the bar also offers some extra space to enjoy the food.
Santo Remedio was one of the greatest discoveries in the area. It’s a little beer pub with an outstanding selection of Argentine microbrewery beers, at a moderate price, along with a variety of hot dogs, empanadas and nachos.
The service is without a doubt its strongest point. They really know about beer and are willing to explain every single one of them, and they would also let you try as many as you want. And extra points for closing at 3 am during the week and at 6 am on Fri/Sat!
Some of the best beers we’ve tried in Buenos Aires were from the following breweries:
- El fruto
- Perro Negro
- Juguetes Perdidos
Alice’s tea house
Alice’s tea house is the most popular tea house in the area. It is an interesting place with a very personal touch, keeping the traditional architecture of the neighbourhood, with high doors and a central patio.
They offer a great variety of teas (including their exclusive Alice blend), coffee, pastries, cupcakes, bagels, cakes, pies, breakfast and brunch.
Its minimalist atmosphere transmitstranquillity and peace, unlike some other shops in the area that are more vibrant. There is plenty of space with tables of different sizes and shapes to accommodate groups or couples or people alone.
Their menu is available online here. You can also visit their website if the link above does not work.
Other places for wine, beer and cocktails
For wine I strongly recommend visiting the following:
- Vina San Telmo: great wine bar with tasty food in Avenida Caseros, in front of Napoles restaurant and very close to other very nice places, including El Fundador ice cream.
- Nilson: very small wine bar on the side of the main market, on Carlos Calvo Street. They offer 7-10 wines by the glass and a few tapas and sandwiches. Very knowledgeable staff. Try their brie brûlée!
And for beer/cocktails the following:
- La Puerta Roja: a sort of sports bar offering burgers, nachos, cocktails and craft beers in a laid-back atmosphere. They also close late (3 am during the week and 4 am on weekends)
- Bar Chin Chin: located in another emblematic corner of San Telmo (EEUU y Bolivar), they offer good cocktails and a few craft beers. It is normally busy.
- Bierlife: not my favourite beer but the place is huge and the garden it’s great for spring/summer.
- Untertürkheim: If you are looking for international beers this is the place for you. They have an outstanding variety of beer for countries such as Germany and Belgium, together with traditional snacks and picadas.
- The Gibraltar: I don’t think there is a more British pub in Argentina. It is worth visiting, they even have fish and chips in the menu.
Berlina Bunker [closed]
Berlina Bunker has probably the best beer garden and taproom in the area.
It was built where an old recycled printing press was in the historic centre of San Telmo. The beer culture coexists with skateboarding and urban art. They offer 22 beers on tap, which are crafted with the purest water in Patagonia, where the brand is from. They also offer the largest covered skate ramp in the country. Moreover, an art gallery with references to national street art contributes to its decoration. And also some arcade games and foosball!
DJ shows, street food, vinyl and vintage clothing fairs, events and everything good that can happen in the Republic of San Telmo.