The rough around the edges San Telmo is not synonymous with chic couture. Some high-end boutiques have appeared recently, however the offbeat borough is far from designer chic. Neighbors have resisted the arrival of corporations and as a result independent and family businesses are still in the majority. However, San Telmo’s array of quirky shops have plenty of unique treasures if you are willing to hunt for them. Whether you are looking for souvenirs, handicrafts, antiques, art or that certain je ne sais quoi, in San Telmo you will either find it or you won’t, but at least it will be interesting.
On and around Defensa street is where you will find most of the action. Aside from the San Telmo street fair and the various souvenir shops, Defensa is filled with the most reputable antique dealers. Understandably you might not be in the market for ostentatious crystalware or the awkward-to-pack antique gramophones, but window shopping opportunities are plentiful, and the many antique shops merit a look inside to admire the outrageous caches of collectibles.
Mercado de San Telmo
Built in 1897, for years the Mercado de San Telmo has been home to antique vendors, but much like the rest of the area, is now changing. The transition began with new culinary proposals moving into the market: first gourmet coffee roasters, then a French bakery, later a Vietnamese restaurant. Change is inevitable, and today the market has morphed into an interesting area of cohabitation, as markets always were intended to be. Even the longtime owners of the numerous antique shops are starting to realize that the modern businesses are drawing more people and it is working out for the better for everyone.
Antique shops line the lateral breezeways near the exits, there is seemingly no boundary to the oddities that can be found in these collector’s booths. Restaurants and cafés are located along Bolivar and Carlos Calvo streets. If you are looking for groceries, the fruit vendors and butcher shops are in the center, and you can also find an excellent cheese and cured meat shop.
Main entrance on corner of Bolivar and Carlos Calvo. Everyday 8am - 9pm. Website.
Pasaje de la Defensa
Set inside the one time single family home of an Aristocratic family, turned cramped immigrant housing, today the offbeat structure is home to a gallery of shops featuring everything from homeware, to antiques, to design boutiques.
On the ground level check out the Midecentury‘s retro furniture display composed in a very photogenic fashion. Upstairs and around back you can find the modern standouts including: the workshop of French artist, Adélaïde Aronio, who sells original works, prints, notepads, coin purses, and other unique designs; and Dita, a hipster approved clothing shop featuring eccentric, pop-culture inspired prints and fabrics.
Defensa 1179. Tue - Sun 11am - 7:30pm. CLOSED MONDAYS.
Solar de French
This colonial estate was the birthplace of Argentine independence hero Domingo French, today it has been recycled into a commercial gallery with plenty of opportunities for window browsing. The airy walkways are lined by art galleries, antique vendors, and boutique shops. At the back of the courtyard is the showroom of Candido Silva, a distinguished vendor of silver and religious art from the Spanish colonial era.
Defensa 1066. 10am - 7pm everyday.
Gabriel De Campo
Of all of the anticuarios in San Telmo, Gabriel de Campo is regarded as the high-end antiques dealer. The shop, just off Plaza Dorrego, is guarded by two midget size nutcrackers that flank the entrance, within it is more show room than shop. Antique Louis Vuitton trunks, Triumph motorcycles, Persian rugs, vintage clothing and old family heirlooms of BA’s well to do are abound. Works of art by famed pop-artist Marta Minujín can be found on display as well. Even if you’re not in the market for antiques, the store is worth entering just to appreciate the collection. The staff is fine with people perusing the showroom and taking photos.
Pasaje Bethlehem 417. 10am - 7pm everyday. Website.
Known as “the”contemporary Argentine silversmith, Toledo received lots of recognition when he created the silver jewelry used in the Broadway musical Evita. Later his reputation helped him earn the contract to forge a custom sterling silver whip handle made for Madonna (oh you bad girl!) Today his storefront is part shop and part gallery, featuring 100% original, sterling silver mates, jewelry, cutlery, barbecue sets and more. It is worth wandering through the shop to take in the many pieces of contemporary silver art. If Marcelo is available, he is quite friendly and always willing to show off his creations, the rest of the staff are equally accommodating.
Humberto Primo 462. Sunday - Thursday 10:30am - 5:30pm. CLOSED SATURDAYS. Website.
This is a space created by visual artists to bring affordable forms of art to the masses. All sorts of mediums from silkscreen, photography, illustrations, graphic design, animation, sculpture, and ceramics, by both up-and-coming and established artists are available and at reasonable prices. Occasionally the shop hosts screen printing workshops, neighborhood mixers, and other events.
Defensa 894. Tue - Sun 11:30am - 8pm. CLOSED MONDAYS. Website.
A divine little wine shop owned and operated by a friendly and knowledgable family. The owners speak English and several other foreign languages, but they mince no words about wine, a passion that has been in their blood for generations. Carrying several varietals from Mendoza, Salta, and Patagonia, the wines are reasonably priced and there is something for everyone from the affordable to the high-end and hard-to-find. In addition to wines they also sell artisanal olive oils, chocolates and wine related accessories.
Estados Unidos 488. 11am - 9pm everyday. Phone: (54) 11 4361 1101. Website.
This quaint shop is home to one of the best selections of English books in Argentina. The books are mostly used, but in good condition and they have an especially notable selection of Argentine writers, the likes of Borges, Cortázar, and Sabato translated to English.
Estados Unidos 617. Tue - Sun 12pm - 8pm. CLOSED MONDAYS. Phone:(54) 11 4300-7135. Website.
In a country where music stores and video clubs still persist, it should be no surprise that a record store can prosper as well. Whether you are a budding DJ or you just prefer the sound of vinyl, Eureka has tons of latin funk, rock, tango, folklore, and international records. The staff are very knowledgeable and really helpful.
Defensa 1281. Tue - Sun 11:30am - 6:30pm. CLOSED MONDAYS.
Whether you are a tango virtuoso or just have a shoe fetish, shopping for high quality tango shoes is a unique Buenos Aires experience. Libertango is both the manufacturer and vendor of extremely high-quality, handmade shoes. Daniel, the owner, has been producing artisanal tango shoes since 1997 and has gained a reputation for quality products and personalized service from the local tango scenesters and international tourists alike. From the traditional to the contemporary, each pair has elegance stitched into every seem. If you can’t find exactly what you are looking for, Libertango can tailor 100% customized shoes to order.
Bolivar 1111 12pm - 7:30pm everyday. Phone: (54) 11 4361 3176. Website.
San Telmo Verde
Twice weekly San Telmo Verde opens its doors to feature one of the best organic markets in the city. Here you can find plenty of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free options, as well as high quality, artisanal made food products and organic vegetables. Many bakeries create vegan pastries, whole grain breads, and gluten-free cookies. Other vendors sell organic honey, artisanal chocolate, and fresh goats milk cheeses. One booth that stands out is Awichas, who sell a variety of gluten-free and vegan regional foods, organic tea blends, and even organic tobacco grown in the Misiones province.
Perú 677. Tuesday & Friday only. 10am - 8pm. Website.