Bars of San Telmo

Argentina, Buenos Aires Guide (A): Bars of San Telmo

With its cobbled streets, colonial era buildings and vibrant music and art scene, San Telmo is a great place to soak up the eclectic nature of Buenos Aires’ nightlife. The area boasts dozens of bars and cafes, with some of the city’s oldest lying next to the more modern. Indeed, San Telmo contains many of Buenos Aires 'Bar Notables', a title given by the city government to cafes and bars of historic significance.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Bars of San Telmo
Guide Location: Argentina » Buenos Aires
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: La Poesia   La Puerta Roja   Gibraltar   El Federal   Bar Plaza Dorrego   Bar Britanico  
Author: Paul Costello
Author Bio: My name is Paul Costello, I am 33 years old and I have lived in the city of Buenos Aires for almost a year. I moved here from the north of England after falling in love with the city’s architecture, vibrant nightlife and passionate people. I am a journalist by trade and have worked for the BBC as well as newspapers in the UK.
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La Poesia

1) La Poesia

La Poesia was originally opened in 1982 and served as a meeting place for the city’s writers, artists and musicians until its closure six years later. It was then reopened in its present form, as a literary themed café-bar, in 2008. Situated within a beautiful building dating from the 1800s, the bar boasts a traditional tiled floor with a wooden bar and its tables have brass plaques honouring the names of the literary figures who gathered there in the 1980s. The atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant and a mixture of locals and tourists now gather there to chat while sipping from its selection of wine, beers and coffee. La Poesia, which has bar notable status from the city government, is open from 8am to 2am Sunday to Thursday and 8am to 4am Friday to Saturday.
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La Puerta Roja

2) La Puerta Roja

Entrance to this bar is not advertised in any traditional form but as its name suggests its location is signalled by its large red door. Indeed, to gain access one must press the door’s buzzer to notify staff who will then grant entry via a flight of stairs. La Puerta Roja is not only a popular spot for backpackers, who flock there from San Telmo’s many hostels, but it is also popular with local twenty-somethings who come to relax after work on weekdays. The bar has a modern, youthful vibe and offers a wide variety of spirits, beers and even real ale. Regular pool competitions are hosted there and North American sports channels are shown on its TV. The bar, which is open from 6pm until 5am daily, offers a reasonably priced menu featuring among other things burgers, curries and pizzas.
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Gibraltar

3) Gibraltar

Gibraltar offers a corner of England amongst the hustle and bustle of San Telmo’s narrow streets. The pub is decked out in dark wood and brass furnishings, the beer is served in pint glasses and the walls are adorned with old maps and paintings. It is packed out by both travellers and locals, especially at the weekend, and many come to take advantage of the generous beer prices during the daily happy hour from 6pm to 10pm. The pub has a pool room at the back, which is extremely popular with local players, and also an outside patio area. Its menu offers food ranging from Thai curries to burgers and for those who prefer something a little stronger to beer there is also a wide selection of whiskeys on offer. The bar opens from 6pm until 4am daily.
4
El Federal

4) El Federal

As one of the city’s oldest bars El Federal offers visitors the chance to wallow in the nostalgic feel of a time gone by. It began life as a grocery store in 1864 before becoming a convenience store with a bar attached. At the beginning of the 20th Century it was transformed into a brothel but was then converted back into a grocery store selling alcohol in the 1930s. It remained this way until the 1970s when the bar took over as the main attraction. Its original wooden tables and chairs remain to this day and it is decorated with old bottles and other antiques. It has been declared both a bar notable and special site of cultural interest by the city government. Its distinctive and historic vibe has meant it has also served as the background for various films, television programmes and commercials. Opening times are 7.30am to 1.30am Sunday to Thursday and until to 3am on Friday and Saturdays.
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Bar Plaza Dorrego

5) Bar Plaza Dorrego

Located next to the picturesque square which gives the bar its name, Bar Plaza Dorrego is another of the city’s historic drinking venues. Tango is played in the background as traditionally dressed waiters serve across a black and white checkerboard stone floor. There is an ‘L’ shaped wooden bar decorated by an antique cash register. Drinks are served with baskets of monkey nuts, which can be cracked open while reading the numerous names and messages which have been carved into the bar’s wooden tables and wall panels by previous visitors. Outside seating is provided and the plaza itself is normally packed with tourists socialising at the many bars which surround it. Various celebrities, including Robert De Niro, Eric Clapton and Robert Duval, are said to have drank at the bar since its opening in 1968. However, for locals the most famous former patrons are Argentine literary giants Luis Borges and Ernesto Sabato, who met there for coffee in the 1970s. Bar Plaza Dorrego is a bar notable and is open between 8am and 3am daily.
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Bar Britanico

6) Bar Britanico

More than 20,000 people signed a petition to save this bedrock of San Telmo culture from closure in 2006 after the three Spanish men who had rented the bar for almost 50 years had their tenancy ended following a legal battle. The protests failed and the bar, which had served customers amidst its traditional furnishings and old world charm since opening in 1929, was shut. Thankfully for residents, who described the closure as like having the heart ripped out of the neighbourhood, the bar was reopened under the same name but different ownership after eight months of being vacant. The new owners have attempted to keep a similar ambiance while modernising basic facilities. Bar Britanico, which has bar notable status and is located next to Parque Lezama, is normally open 24 hours a day.

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