It’s no surprise I like bohemian neighborhoods. I must have been some kind of artist or hippie in the previous life as that’s where I feel the best. Wherever I go I try to find this kind of areas. Sometimes I end up in them unconsciously, like something is pushing me there. That was the story with Buenos Aires. Before arriving to Argentina I knew next to nothing about the city and I randomly picked a place where I stayed. As it turned out I booked myself the accommodation in the most perfect place! For few days I could be a part of San Telmo – the bohemian heart of Buenos Aires!
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San Telmo – the oldest part of Buenos Aires
Out of 49 barrios in Buenos Aires San Telmo is the oldest one. It was the first industrial area in the city, the one that was growing and flourishing. Already in 1850s the neighborhood had well needed facilities such as lighting, cobbled streets, the first city’s market or running water. San Telmo was a desired place to live in and it quickly become home to upper and middle class that built beautiful and elegant houses. Unfortunately, the year 1871 brought a tragic epidemic of yellow fever that took away lives of some 10.000 people… Those who survived left San Telmo.
Multicultural San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Shortly after a big wave of European immigrants came to Argentina and abandoned San Telmo became the home to numerous people from Italy, Great Britain or Russia. The beautiful houses lost their spark and were turned into the tenement buildings. Eventually the immigrants moved to other parts of the city and country yet the multicultural vibe stayed in San Telmo. It attracted various artists who made San Telmo their favourite spot to create and organize numerous cultural activities. As a result the neighbourhood got its distinctive bohemian atmosphere that attracts so many people and makes San Telmo the highlight of Buenos Aires.
Love at first sight
I arrived to the capital of Argentina on Monday morning and after quick checking in I was ready to discover San Telmo. I had a feeling I’m going to like it but I didn’t expect to fall in love with it right from the beginning! It was my kind of place so very much! Cobbled streets, crumbling houses with beautifully detailed facades, street art on every corner, charming cafes… Since the timing was pretty unfortunate the place was fairly empty and that freaked me out a little bit (these were my first moments in Buenos Aires, the city with kind of a doubtful safety reputation, and I didn’t know what to expect) but as it turned out even if there were hardly any people on the streets I had nothing to worry about.
With each step I was falling in love more and more with San Telmo. I put the map in my backpack and set off to discover the area randomly, without any route. This turned out to be the best idea as I let the place enchant me. I stopped next to every second building, admiring its beauty hidden behind the dust – it wasn’t hard to imagine how incredible the neighborhood must have been in its golden times. I stumbled across the old market hall and even if it was quiet at this time of the day I was impressed.
Piazza Dorrego – heart of San Telmo
Suddenly I ended up at Piazza Dorrego – the main square and a heart of the district. Over the weekends it serves as probably the best flea market in Buenos Aires. I really regret I couldn’t be there at that time and browse all the quirky things that are offered at the spot. But Piazza Dorrego was pretty amazing even without that event. The square is fairly small and lined up with trees, the majority of buildings around are occupied by antique stores or cozy cafes. When the weather is nice – and fortunately it was during my visit – the place is filled with tables so people can enjoy their coffee and meal outside. It would be perfect if not the Starbucks in one of the corner buildings that just doesn’t fit there!
San Telmo – home of tango in Buenos Aires
Since San Telmo is home of the tango culture in Buenos Aires, Piazza Dorrego serves as the main scene for random tango shows. I was lucky to witness one too and it was a pure beauty! All the moves, the gestures, the touches were simply thrilling, even if it probably was just the way to entertain customers from cafes. What looked like a tourist trap in La Boca here felt much more real and authentic.
Bohemian San Telmo
The further exploration of the district led me to some even more amazing places. The area is full of old colonial residences that were turned into art galleries or theaters. San Telmo was recognizes by numerous well known magazines, such as Rolling Stone or New York Times, as the hub of contemporary art. Wherever I moved I could spot at least one antique shop / tango bar / gallery in each street. Altogether with the cafes and cobbled streets they created an unique place that makes such a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of downtown Buenos Aires.
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At the end I returned to Piazza Dorrego and sat down in Cafe Dorrego, probably the most typical and characteristic of all the cafes in San Telmo. The middle aged waiter in the snow-white shirt brought my tea and as I was sipping it and staring through the window I could easily picture myself spending more time in the area and just enjoy the vibe… I would really love to return to Buenos Aires at some point and San Telmo is my main reason for that!
Do you like bohemian neighborhoods too? Which one is your favourite? Would you like to visit Buenos Aires?
If you think of visiting Argentina or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- La Boca – the biggest disappointment of Buenos Aires
- Buenos Aires street art
- Pictures of Argentina
- and more!
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