San Telmo is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. This entire vicinity is considered as a National Historic Monument. Although it is “rough around the edges,” it is generally a well-preserved area of the city and is characterized by its colonial buildings, churches, cafes, tango parlors and antique shops line the cobblestone streets, which are often filled with artists and dancers. The neighborhood’s attractions include a popular semi-permanent antique fair (Feria de Antigüedades) in the main public square and meeting place, Plaza Dorrego. We stopped in at the Dorrego Cafe across the street for coffee and some sweet rolls and enjoyed the active street-scene.
Known as San Pedro Heights during the 17th century, the area was mostly home to the city’s growing contingent of dockworkers and brick makers. It was actually Buenos Aires’ first “industrial” area, and home to its first windmill and most of the early city’s brick kilns and warehouses. Over time, hundreds of properties became vacant. Most large homes became tenement housing during the wave of immigration into Argentina from Europe between 1875 and 1930. San Telmo became the most multicultural neighborhood in Buenos Aires, home to large communities of British, Galician, Italian and Russian-Argentines. The large numbers of Russians in San Telmo and elsewhere in Buenos Aires led to the consecration of Argentina’s first Russian Orthodox Church in 1901.
Today, this popular neighborhood is still home to a diverse mix of residents that now nclude professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, antique dealers and collectors, and other creative types seeking a unique “sense of place” that its history, architecture, cobblestone streets, public spaces, and close-in location provide.