The capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, is the second-largest metropolitan area in South America (after Sao Paulo, Brazil) and the best spot in the country to pick up items you might have forgotten before your trip or to find souvenirs to take home. With dozens of markets, malls, shops and department stores, the possibilities are practically endless.
1) Where to Shop
No matter what you’re looking for—leather goods, bootleg CDs, a pocketknife to replace the one confiscated from your carry-on luggage—Calle Florida is a great place to start. The city center’s landmark shopping street is always crowded, with excellent people-watching, a great selection of things to buy and plenty of people ready to pickpocket unwary travelers.
Avenida Santa Fe is another top shopping spot, featuring one of the world’s best bookstores, beautiful El Ateneo (a good place to pick up English-language books, including travel guides), while Calle Murillo features rows of shops selling leather bags, boots and jackets for significantly less than you’ll find elsewhere. San Telmo, with its cobbled streets and gorgeous architecture, is best known for the popular Sunday flea market, but offers excellent antique shopping all week long. The city’s upper crust shops are at glamorous Avenida Alvear, Buenos Aires’ answer to Rodeo Drive.
There are also several malls, with food courts, cinemas, and much more, some of them fabulous enough to be attractions in and of themselves. Gorgeous Abastos Mall was built in 1890 as a popular market, and renovated into a modern mall in 1999. Unicentro Mall is the biggest in Argentina, while Patio Bullrich and Galerias Pacifica are both much more upscale; be sure to check out the amazing ceiling murals in the latter.
2) What to Buy
Keep in mind that many items manufactured elsewhere—from camping gear to tennis shoes—will probably cost more here than in the United States or Europe, despite the good exchange rates. That said, whatever you need, you can find it in Argentina.
The most popular souvenir is leather. From handbags, to jackets, to incredible boots, you’ll find high quality, inexpensive leather goods all over town. While bargaining is not generally acceptable in Argentina, if you’re buying multiple items, feel free to ask for a deal.
Fine wines, particularly Argentina’s signature Malbec, are the gift your friends and family are hoping for. While it’s cheaper to purchase wines direct from the vineyard on a Mendoza wine tour, it’s often more convenient to buy from any of the excellent wine stores in Buenos Aires. Check your home country’s customs regulations to avoid paying steep fees.
Other popular souvenirs include mate sets for drinking the popular, caffeinated beverage you’ve likely become addicted to during your stay. Traditionally made with a carved gourd topped in silver, and a silver bombilla, or straw, these range widely in price and quality. Other traditional items that make great gifts include alpaca-wool ponchos, gaucho hats and boleadoras, a traditional Argentine throwing weapon made with tough cord, tipped in weighted balls and used to hunt from horseback.
This is an artsy city as well, and as you explore the Buenos Aires streets, you’re sure to come across people selling everything from fine paintings, to hipster handicrafts and everything in between. Indulge, because it’s a memory you’ll enjoy forever.