Anyone who follows us knows that we have a fondness for markets. Fondness? Maybe obsession is a better word! So please indulge us once again while we show you around Buenos Aires' Mercado de San Telmo.
First a little context: San Telmo is one of the oldest and most famous of the city's barrios. It's had its ups and downs over the years, from humble port-related industrial roots to almost becoming an upper middle class neighbourhood, to suffering a Yellow Fever epidemic that drove away its nascent bourgeoisie. The area has had a romantic "faded glory" quality for a few decades. It is fitting, then, that it became home to the retail side of the city's many antiquarians. It's principal street, Calle Defensa, is lined with antique shops filled with the trappings of yesteryear, ranging from what can be charitably termed "junque" to the most superb of artifacts.
Rather well hidden behind the streetfront commerce of flea marketing is the old San Telmo market. Unless you approach from one of the streets beside or behind it you may well miss it. From Calle Defensa it is entered via a passage lined with a few tattered stalls hawking cheap jewellery and old posters, and home to a rather unpromising looking little café. We watched many a tourist give a quick peer in and keep on walking. At the back of the passage, though, one suddenly notices some steps and an impending sense of spaciousness. You gaze into this mysterious place and take in a jumble of fretted ironwork and a hazy atmosphere before succumbing to its allure.
Down the stairs you go and you are instantly standing in another era. This, in reality, is what gives the market its present day appeal- a sense of the past. Truthfully, it's not much of a place to shop for food these days. We did see a few vendors who had beautiful fresh produce, and with more variety than found in the big supermarkets, but they seemed pretty lonely. There are also a few places to eat or have a coffee, but much of the market is now occupied by the same variety of second hand stores that pepper the neighbourhood.
This is probably just as we'll because if the wares being sold were of more interest you'd probably forget to look up at the remarkable structure and try to imagine how wonderful it must once have been to come here to do your daily marketing. It's a magical atmosphere!
OK, since you asked, we did do just a little browsing in the vintage shops. Fortunately for us the men's fashion trend so popular up north of carrying a bag with handles has not yet manifested itself in Buenos Aires, or else this classic find would not have awaited Jay's eagle eyes.
El Mecado de San Telmo
enter from Calle Defensa
between Estados Unidos and Carlos Calvo