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San Telmo’s Market Hall

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Occupying a good chunk of the block sketched out by Estados Unidos, Defensa, Carlos Calvo and Bolivar, the Mercado de San Telmo is a place which locals and tourists visit in almost equal numbers. The latter to buy antiques and souvenirs, the former for their day-to-day groceries.

Telmo Dome

Since we precariously straddle the line between tourist and local, we use the mercado for both purposes. A number of veggie and meat stands compete for business in the center of the market, surrounded by antique shops that extend down long hallways. Prices for cool souvenirs, second-hand clothing and random trinkets are noticeably cheaper than at the Sunday antiques market. I picked up an old Carlos Gardel album for twelve pesos, and on that very day, saw the same album being sold for 60 outside.

The souvenir shops are a somewhat newer addition, capitalizing on San Telmo’s reputation as the best antiques hunting ground in the city, but the market has a history stretching back to 1897. It was inaugurated a couple decades after the Yellow Fever epidemic which devastated San Telmo, and the new center of commerce was greeted enthusiastically by residents. Ever since, the mercado has been an integral part of the neighborhood. In 2001, it was even declared a national historic monument.

When you go, take your wallet and take your time. It’s almost inconceivable that you’ll walk out without buying something. If you’re in the mood for meat, check out our favorite stand: Puesto 54. With incredible prices and friendly cleaver-wielding butchers always willing to explain the various cuts, it quickly became our go-to place for beef.

Mercado de San Telmo
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April 25, 2011 at 10:33 pm Comments (4)

San Telmo’s Sunday Antiques Market

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How to Buy and Sell Antiques

On any day of the week, San Telmo is the best spot in Buenos Aires to go antiques-hunting. Dealers hawk everything from chandeliers to ancient books in shops which blanket the neighborhood. But the Sunday antiques market in Plaza Dorrego has become a phenomenon; all San Telmo comes out to party along with thousands of visitors in a celebration of curbside capitalism.

San Telmo Market Fair

Walking around the antique vendors’ stalls in Plaza Dorrego is a treat, even if you’re not planning on purchasing anything. Old soda bottles, copper cookware, matecitos, vintage telephones and collector matchboxes are just some of the treasures on offer. The prices are fairly high, but the quality is top-notch. Because there are more antique dealers in San Telmo than stalls at the market, a weekly lottery determines who gets the right to set up shop. Organizers are strict about their rules, which dictate that all actually be antiques, and that the owners be physically present at the stands.

The antique dealers are confined to the plaza, but shopping continues for at least six blocks down Calle Defensa, where artisans and craft-workers hock on the curb to sell their wares. We’ve found a number of great gifts here, including a hand-crafted teddy bear for a niece and individually designed t-shirts. And the prices are so good, you’d feel guilty about haggling. Tango bands play on the corners, and everyone’s hanging out and talking, drinking mate and bumping into friends.

Proceedings become more festive as the sun goes down and a group of bongo-drummers begins to parade up and down Defensa, encouraging onlookers to join in. I must not have any Brazilian blood in me, because I’ll never understand the whole bongo thing. Anyone can play bongo drums, and sound somewhat competent. You don’t actually need dreadlocks. But it doesn’t matter that bongos are relatively ridiculous, because man do the girls love them! Once those rhythms start, control goes out the window. So, guys, if you really want to impress the ladies, forget nice clothes and expensive cologne. Just grab a bongo drum, skip the shower, and throw on a ratty Bob Marley t-shirt.

Meters from the makeshift parade, a popular milonga gets underway around 9pm in the plaza. With great music and an ample floor filled with dancers of all skill levels, it’s the perfect place to show off your tango moves.

Plaza Dorrego on our Buenos Aires Map
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Soda Bottles
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Angel San Telmo
Antique Market
Hang Girl
Argentina Pharmacy
Argentinian Bull
Bombillas
Boxing Gloves
COCK Fight
Foxes
Match Boxes
Pillow Angel
Pots and Pans
Sugar Spoon
Watches
Wooden Shoe
Tango San Telmo
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March 17, 2011 at 1:20 pm Comments (6)
San Telmo's Market Hall
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