The cobbled streets of San Telmo, the Argentine capital’s old city, are a delight to wander at any time. Renowned for its shady sidewalk cafes, sultry milongas (tango clubs), and antique stores, it is an appealing destination throughout the week.
The ornate old mansions that surround Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires’ second-oldest park, were once the playground of the city’s upper crust. In the 1870s, however, wealthy portenos began migrating to the suburbs, abandoning their once opulent properties to the peeling paint and charming decay that now defines this artsy neighborhood. When the bulldozers of progress threatened to replace them during the modern architecture craze of the 1970s, locals stood up and had their architectural gems preserved and protected, making this one of the most atmospheric destinations in the city.
Sunday is San Telmo’s day to shine. The famous Feria San Telmo runs from 10am to 5pm, a raucous collection of some 270 stands that set up in the streets surrounding picturesque Plaza Dorrego. The flea market is a tourist attraction, but locals also come to peruse the stalls, filled with knick-knacks, junque, and quality souvenirs and leatherwork (and of course inexpensive Chinese knockoffs).
Portenos also come out for the scene—buskers, mimes, living statues, all sorts of performers, including some of Argentina’s finest free tango on Plaza Dorrego. It’s a festive way to spend the day, so grab a glass of malbec and stay a while. You’re almost sure to find a truly unique souvenir somewhere in the sprawl, and enjoy yourself while doing it. Much nicer art and antiques can be found in the fascinating shops that surround the temporary stands.
Please note that pickpockets do work the crowd, so keep an eye (or better, hand) on your valuables at all times.