A Sunday in San Telmo Market, Buenos Aires

San Telmo is to Buenos Aires what Covent Garden is to London. Certainly, the similarities are less than subtle – the gilded live entertainers, the tapering, cobbled streets and the abundance of handicrafts, jewellery stalls and bric-a-brac (or clutter as Pumpkin refers to it). And yet, the San Telmo flea market, which many boast to be the only place to be in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, has a vibrancy and pulse very much unparalleled to most markets I had encountered before.

There is an interesting bit of history behind the cobblestone floors that my flip flops were struggling with. Many years ago, when ships were importing produce into Buenos Aires, stones were added to the cargo to weigh it down further but upon arrival, these same stones were dumped in San Telmo and were to form the foundations of the charming narrow streets still seen in this area.

To begin your market marathon, make your way to Plaza del Mayo. Once there, you could have an inbuilt GPS as hopeless as mine and you would still need no navigation, as the enthused crowds lead you down Defensa and into Plaza Dorrego along narrow pedestrianised streets, packed to the brim with traders and colourful stalls.souvenirs San Telmo Buenos AiresA  huge array of items are available for sale, from the more mundane clothes and shoes to the more unique items, such as jewellery made entirely from leather, flattened glass bottles that have been turned into wall ornaments and clocks and an entire stall of handmade kaleidoscopes. I was able to walk past the arts and crafts with nought but a glimpse, I was even able to walk away from the 1kg jar of fresh Dulce de Leche sauce (perhaps only because I had just eaten a crepe stuffed with it) but I really could not be dragged away from the kaleidoscopes.

I have always been known to be the last one on the ladder when it comes to technology. For years, I resisted a mobile phone, then a digital camera, then the MP3 player. It’s not a dislike for technology per se but rather a contentedness for simple things. This is one of the reasons why I always loved kaleidoscopes, both as a child and now as an adult. Spirals of shape, shades and mirrors seep together into an explosive chiasm, evolving and emerging with each rotation like a chameleon on a ferris wheel. And so, after some persuading Pumpkin that these are not in fact just for children, we overlooked its above average price tag to buy my one and only souvenir from the trip (Dulce de Leche excluded).San Telmo Sunday market stalls

We had read numerous reviews about this market being a goldmine for pickpockets and were apprehensive about whether to carry cameras and cash. But with a little bit of common sense and a lot of vigilance, we were okay and managed to take all the pictures we wanted. There are lots of tourists interspersed between locals and aside from the obvious tips of not keeping wallets in back pockets and keeping your handbag strapped across you at all times, we spotted many men carrying rucksacks on their front.

We spent about 3 hours at this market, which was about as valiant an effort as we could manage having stepped off the plane just a few hours earlier but didn’t leave without indulging in some local street foods and my first dose of Dulce de Leche to set me up for the rest of the trip!DSC_0017


29 thoughts on “A Sunday in San Telmo Market, Buenos Aires

  1. sometimes getting lost is half the fun! Great post!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 20, 2014 — 3:11 pm

      Thank you so much 🙂 And yes, a few bloggers have said the same thing about getting lost – I’m starting to agree though I’m not sure my husband would see it that way when he is left picking up the pieces and navigating!

  2. What a great market for a stroll and to just get lost in. I love all the knick knacks and unique items here.You’ve got some great self control to only manage to buy one souvenir. My husband calls things I buy clutter too 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 23, 2014 — 5:54 pm

      Haha 🙂 I’m so glad I’m not the only one! Yes it was so lovely to stroll around in – I could have spent hours just taking in the atmosphere! Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. I loved the San Telmo Market. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was in BA at the end of my journey I would have probably bought souvenirs as well. I really enjoyed all the street performers and Tango dancers in the evening. That really seemed magical.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 23, 2014 — 5:55 pm

      You know, we actually didn’t stay much into the evening, because we were so tired after the flight from London but in hindsight, I wish I’d just stuck around for a bit longer as everyone says it takes on a whole new life in the evenings! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. This would be a really fun market to explore! It is always good to remain diligent in an unfamiliar place with your wallet / valuables – doesn’t matter where you are! Very cool looking market, very vibrant!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 25, 2014 — 9:40 am

      It was so vibrant and I loved that there were so many locals there and it wasn’t just a huge tourist trap! I got pickpocketed in Barcelona once and have been really careful about trying to be more careful ever since!

  5. The San Telmo market really is something, huh?! I’ve never seen such a huge market like that.. it just went on and on! I loved the really creative crafts like purses made out of old records. Sadly, I didn’t get to buy any souvenirs because the boyfriend thinks those kind of stuff are “clutter” too.

  6. Looks like a great, vibrant place to visit. I can’t wait to visit Buenos Aires on my trip, I’ve always fancied the idea of living there for a spell. Will have to check this place out!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 27, 2014 — 9:26 pm

      Definitely worth a visit when you’re in Buenos Aires – it’s funny you say that because while I was there, I also had that distinct feeling that this is somewhere I could see myself living (if I was MUCH better at Spanish that is!) Really delicious food too! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  7. We too try to seek out weekend markets on our travels, especially flea markets that are mostly frequented by locals and can easily spend hours perusing through all the truly vintage knic knacs, taking photos and chatting to the stall owners where possible. My favourite so far, was a flea market we found on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg, filled to the brim with soviet era treasure.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 28, 2014 — 6:45 pm

      Wow that sounds amazing and so unique! I’ve never been to Russia but it’s a place I’m so intrigued about and would love to head towards St Petersburg one day! I’ve never heard about markets in Russia so it’s really interesting to hear your experience of it – thanks so much for commenting 🙂

  8. This market was one the highlights of my time in Buenos Aires – glad to see it is still a fun Sunday there. I could deal with a kilo or two of dulce de leche right now…

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 31, 2014 — 8:55 am

      Haha, I know what you mean! I don’t want to think about how many pounds I gained in weight having dulce de leche on a daily basis out there 😀 It’s so hard not to though! Glad to hear that you enjoyed the market when you were there too 🙂

  9. Nice pics! I love visiting cool markets like this 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 31, 2014 — 8:53 am

      I’m the same – I love exploring markets – there’s just something so feel-good about the atmosphere and vibe! Thanks for reading and commenting Kariss 🙂

  10. You captured the market so well with your words and pictures. I love the San Telmo market precisely for its amazing atmosphere – enough to make me put up with the crowds!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 5, 2014 — 1:36 pm

      Thank you for reading and for such a kind comment – I’m so glad my post did it justice! I agree about how great the atmosphere was – it was just a lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday and it was a great first day for us in Argentina 🙂

  11. Great to read this, I love to visit markets like this! Safe travels!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 21, 2014 — 11:29 pm

      Thanks so much Charlotte! I’m a big fan of local markets, whether they are for food, crafts, antiques etc so this was great as it combined all of those and more!

  12. Very complete and interesting post. “carrying rucksacks on their front” is the most common way argentines use backpack, specially in public transport and peatonal streets like Florida or Defensa during market time.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 24, 2015 — 8:19 pm

      Oh I never knew that! That explains why we saw so many people using their backpacks like that! Thank you for sharing this tip ☺

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