There is the smell of fresh pastries swirled with the smoke wafting up from cigarette-touting gentlemen drinking coffee or sipping wine. Young designers, dancers and artists sit on a doorstep chugging beer, laughing and discussing their latest inspirations and aspirations. Sidewalk cafes, cobblestone streets, old mansions, gypsy bands, tango dancers, live violinists, and streetside flower venders. An inexplicable sense of sensuality, color and passion. Alone, San Telmo square with its Plaza Dorrego is enough to be the Paris of South America. It is vintage Parisian romance mixed with that dash of relaxed, bohemian flair; itâ€™s a seductive vortex that could sweep you away.
San Telmo is rich in history. Once home to Buenos Airesâ€™ aristocrats, a yellow fever epidemic in 1871 propelled the elitists to flee this southern quarter and relocate to the north-central neighborhood of Recoleta. This move left San Telmo with empty mansions and a lost innocence. But to the fresh immigrants just off the boats from Italy and Spain, the architecturally astute facades were more than appealing.
The old homes were renovated into â€śconventillo,â€ť hosting hundreds of newcomers, transforming this once-affluent-only district into a dazzling mosaic of diversity and culture. Nowadays, the neighborhood has been beautifully restored, fusing the old with the new, making it a microcosm of true porteĂ±o culture.
Sundays are perhaps the most exciting time to experience this unique and alluring ambiance. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. people of all nationalities flock to Plaza Dorrego for the weekly antique fair, Feria de San Pedro Telmos. Defensa Street between Avenida San Juan and Avenida Independencia is blocked off to motorists, while travelers and locals alike stroll through the marketplace, discovering the assortment of available antiques: dinnerware, old cowboy get-up, colored soda siphons, and costume jewelery.
And if you get tired of strolling, tuck yourself into a chair at one of the many outdoor cafĂ©s where you can sip an espresso, nibble on a fresh pastry and people watch. Like the locals, you might just find yourself contemplating the crazy world and wondering why not everywhere can be this carefree and pleasant.
Other neighborhoods in Buenos Aires: Caballito, Almagro, Near Buenos Aires, Recoleta, Northern Suburbs: Vincente Lopez, Olivos, San Isidro, Barracas, Centro, Recoleta/Barrio Norte, Puerto Madero and Once.