October 24, 2015
WHAT: Explore South American history in San Telmo and Monserrat, two of Buenos Aires’ oldest neighborhoods.
WHERE: Start your walk in Plaza de Mayo, the heart of the Monserrat neighborhood.
WHY: The San Telmo and Monserrat neighborhoods showcase Argentina’s history. Within Monserrat, tourists will find some of the city’s historic churches and buildings. Leading into San Telmo, visitors are welcomed to a market from 1897, an artisanal fair, regional food stands, grills and antiques markets. While the sidewalks fill with artisans, musicians and food, a bird’s-eye view provides striking visuals of the neighborhood’s domes and colonial buildings.
The city’s oldest church, St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, stands two blocks southwest of Plaza de Mayo in Monserrat. The church was built between 1686 and 1722 and founded by the Jesuits, a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church.
The city’s oldest bookstore, known as Librería de Ávila, is just accoss the street from the church. A store selling numerous items, including books, opened at the site in 1785.
From there, visitors can walk one block east along Adolfo Alsina toward Defensa, where parts of the street are reserved for pedestrian traffic from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays for various fairs. The area boasts the Museum of the City, which now includes exhibits on home technologies from 1900 to 1930, and on the life of Carlos Gardel, a Buenos Aires singer and prominent figure in the history of tango music.
Beyond a door within the museum is the Asociación de Fileteadores, a group of painters of a traditional, decorative art form that incorporates the drawing and painting of flowers and curvy lines, typography and contrasting colors. The art form is often used for signs and to decorate buildings. There is a café, and artwork on display.
Two blocks south of the museum is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, which has replicas of cannonballs embedded in one of its towers. They serve as a reminder of a battle during a British invasion in the early 1800s when the area was the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish colony that included the area that is now Argentina.
South of the basilica is the San Telmo Market, where people buy lunch, antiques and other goods.
The San Telmo neighbohrood is known for its many food carts and restaurants, some of which serve dulce de leche, a creamy and thick caramel sauce made with milk. There are also empanadas, which are pastry turnovers filled with meat, cheese and vegetables, and carne asada, thinly sliced marinated beef.
DETAILS: The best day to visit Defensa to see the market is Sunday, when the street is open only to pedestrians and is full of stalls. Tickets to the city museum are 5 pesos (53 cents), but admission is free on Mondays and Wednesdays. The churches and the San Telmo Market can be visited free of charge.