There is always a lot to see and do in ‘The Republic of San Telmo,’ but the colorful Sunday street fair is the bohemian neighborhood’s biggest attraction.
The Feria de San Telmo began as a 270-stall antiques market in 1970, and has grown into a huge come-as-you-are street bazaar that draws over 12,000 people every week.
What to buy at the ‘Feria of San Telmo’
The heart of the antique wares are congregated around Plaza Dorrego but the entire outdoor market stretches down 13 blocks of the cobblestone Defensa Street and off onto a few side lanes.
From 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Defensa Street is completely pedestrian and packed with entertainers jockeying for attention and an international array of street vendors who display their goods on the pavement. The offerings include antiquities from Argentina’s glory days, original art, funky clothing, homemade snacks, and pretty much whatever else someone can think to slap with a price tag. This is one of the best places in Buenos Aires to buy a beautiful yerba mate kit and other Argentine specialties.
Scanning the antiques in Plaza Dorrego can give you a glimpse into Argentina’s heady past, although long gone are the days where one can find bargained-priced historic treasures.
Better deals can be found among the ‘unofficial’ street fair vendors, who today make up the bulk of the market. A battle has been going on for over a decade between local shopkeepers and residents who have pushed for the street side hawkers to be removed, claiming that their presence obstructs the sidewalks.
As usual in Argentina, the conflict has culminated in protests on a number of occasion.
Finally city officials reaffirmed that those who sell homemade ‘artisan items’ are entitled to stay, as are the musicians and other entertainers.
Black market mass-produced goods aren’t permitted, but they still make it into the fringes of the market. The San Telmo Fair continues as always and is larger than ever and drawing more enterprising free spirits and tourists every week.
Among the buskers and street merchants along Defensa Street you’ll meet some whimsical characters and can find some unique handmade gifts, often at exceptional prices.
For non-shoppers the street fair offers plenty of free entertainment and some of Buenos Aires’ most interesting people watching.
‘Greatest Hits’ of the San Telmo Street Fair:
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