Argentina Tours & Travel | The Neighborhoods of Buenos Aires: San Telmo
Located south of downtown within walking distance of the Plaza de Mayo, historic San Telmo was once home to the city's elite until a yellow-fever broke out among its residents in the 1870s, sending the wealthy to safer quarters on higher ground. Elegant residences became tenements to the poor arriving from Europe, and the arty bohemian crowd moved in. The area has retained much of its colonial charm and is centered on the cobblestoned Plaza Dorrego. Besides its many recycled mansions and several museums, San Telmo is the place to come on Argentina tours if you want to lug home antiques in your suitcase.
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The neighborhood's Parque Lezama holds an important place in Buenos Aires history. It is believed the Spanish first founded the city here, a subject you may learn more about if you visit the park's National History Museum on your travel to Argentina. Through artifacts and paintings of historical subjects, the museum depicts mostly the colonial history of Argentina and the country's fight for independence from Spain. Nearby on the Plazoleta Olazabal stands the massive brass masterpiece, "Canto al Trabajo," by the late Argentine sculptor Rogelio Yrurtia. His homage to work is symbolized by several human forms pulling a large stone. Across from Parque Lezama is a Russian Orthodox Church built of materials shipped here from St. Petersburg, a unique sight on Argentina tours.
Much of the neighborhood's art is contemporary. In Buenos Aires, there is modern art and really modern art. When you travel to Argentina, don't confuse San Telmo's Bs As Modern Art Museum with The Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA), located in the Palermo neighborhood which also houses modern art. The edgiest of Buenos Aires' art scene may be viewed in Bs As Modern Art Museum, a converted tobacco warehouse between Plaza Dorrego and Parque Lezama. Visitors on Argentina tours who wish to see still more modern art while touring the neighborhood will find the Contemporary Art Museum on Defensa Street.
Sunday is a great day to visit San Telmo on your travel to Argentina. A huge antiques street market fills Plaza Dorrego on Sundays and sometimes Saturday too. Bus or subway will get you to within walking distance of the plaza, where you leave the fast lane, round a corner, and step back in history. You'll have plenty of choices in finding just the right souvenir of your Argentina tours in San Telmo. Mate cups (and bombillas, the metal straws used to sip the tea) come in inexpensive versions for under $10 to ornate antique varieties for upwards of $200. They're all here. You'll be able to hunt through seltzer bottles, antique jewelry and watches, collectibles, gaucho paraphernalia, sterling silver tea sets and art. Perhaps you'll find a set of baby pink china or a sexy vintage tango dress, unique mementos of your Argentina tours. At the nearby indoor Mercado San Telmo, you'll discover more of the same along with fruits and vegetables. Surrounding the square and on adjacent streets are cafes interspersed with a multitude of antique shops. All the while you'll be entertained by street performers and tango dancers. A few blocks away you’ll find a smaller Sunday crafts market in Parque Lezama.
If you'd like to visit this neighborhood on your travel to Argentina, you have options, as four of Southern Explorations' Buenos Aires day-tour extensions visit San Telmo. The historical Four Balconies Tour Extension comes to the neighborhood. The three-hour Fine Arts Tour visits the internationally famous Palarols silver workshop and school operated by seventh generation silversmith, Juan Carlos Palarols. The Tango Show Extension and The Real World of Tango Tour Extension take place in San Telmo's intimate Bar Sur, one of the city’s oldest most intimate tango salons.