Buenos Aires is laced with shopping streets lined with clothing and shoe stores, leather shops and nearly everything else you can think of. Large shopping malls are modern and family-friendly, offering designer goods, food courts and even children's play areas. But perhaps the city's best shopping is in Palermo Viejo, where you'll find upscale boutiques. San Telmo is where antiques aficionados flock.
A couple of antique markets might be worth your time. Try Mercado de las Pulgas or Mercado de San Telmo. Don't expect dirt-cheap bargains, though you might find a cool glass soda bottle or vintage lamp. The Feria de San Telmo is a fun place to look for old coins and jewelry, though there's a lot of kitsch as well. The San Telmo neighborhood has some pricey antique stores too.
Many of the bigger shopping malls in BA are slick and modern; some cater to families with children by offering special play areas and video arcades. Alcorta Shopping has an especially large kids’ playground on the 3rd floor, while Mercado de Abasto sports an excellent children’s museum and small amusement park complete with rides. Almost all of these malls also have multiplex cinemas and large food courts complete with fast-food outlets and ice-cream parlors. Expect all the popular chain stores; some even offer health clubs, beauty shops and internet cafes.
Wandering through a weekend feria is a quintessential BA experience. Artisans display their wares while buskers, mimes and tango dancers entertain. Often there are nearby restaurants with sidewalk tables for people-watching. At some of the more touristed markets, especially Feria de San Telmo, watch for pickpockets.
Interested in clothing design? Then make a beeline for Palermo Soho, where the boutiques of avant-garde fashion designers grace the pretty tree-shaded streets. After the 2001 economic crash, dozens of young designers emerged from the woodwork to set up shop in this then-affordable neighborhood (rents have gone way up since then, driving some out). Some made it big, maturing into fully fledged designers with luxury sportswear lines and outposts in the US, Europe and Asia. Names you may come across include Maria Cher (known for deconstructed garments with an urban twist), Jazmín Chebar (with playful, feminine designs) and Martín Churba (known for recycling fabrics). Cora Groppo and Jessica Trosman are other big names with chain stores in Buenos Aires malls and elsewhere.
If you're looking for leather bargains, avoid Calle Florida and head to the shops on Calle Murillo's 600 block, in the neighborhood of Villa Crespo. This is the best place in town to snag a relatively cheap but high-quality leather jacket and accessories.
For outlet shopping there's the 800 block of Calle Aguirre, with deals on shoes and clothes. Ladies, check out the Prüne outlet for stylish leather bags. There are also lots of other outlets on nearby Av Córdoba.
The largest concentration of jewelry shops is on Libertad south of Av Corrientes.
BA's Emerging Designers
One of the most notable transitions in Buenos Aires fashion in the last few years is the growing prominence of emerging designers. Based mostly out of private homes and apartments, known locally as 'showrooms,' a young community of recent fashion-school grads and 20-somethings with an entrepreneurial spirit are taking over BA’s inventive design world. Initiatives by the Buenos Aires City government, such as competitions including IncuBA and La Ciudad de Moda (which allowed several of the most promising emerging designers to stage runway shows at Buenos Aires Fashion Week), have given the industry the boost it desperately needs to make BA one of the most intriguing fashion hot spots in Latin America. Whether you’re on the hunt for casual street wear, luxurious leather or innovative jewelry design, BA’s best emerging designers take pride in their originality and skilled craftsmanship.
When it comes to clothing design, names like Belén Amigo (www.underboutique.com) and Bianca Siconolfi of Blackmamba are capturing stylish locals with their alternative, street-chic designs that range from Siconolfi's exquisite leather pieces to Amigo’s tailored pants and drapey silk organza tops. For more comfy casual wear, stop in at Deleon’s (www.deleonba.com) Palermo Hollywood showroom, a destination for young fashionable locals looking to expand their collection of urban cool garments that scream sophistication.
Yet another exciting fresh face in BA’s emerging fashion scene is Julia Schang-Viton (www.schangviton.com), a young design prodigy whose structured, architectural cuts and neutral color palette draw upon her Asian heritage.
In the world of jewelry, Inés Bonadeo (www.inesbonadeo.com.ar), a metal-working craftswoman who has shown her work in New York at the international design fair NY Now, can’t be missed.
While popular among locals, shopping in showrooms can prove intimidating for visitors. To gain access to these hidden treasures, it takes some local knowledge and the right connections. Thankfully, a few ambitious expats are giving tourists the chance to discover the exciting world of BA's emerging design through personalized shopping tours that will take you to some of the most notable showrooms in town, as well as the hippest open-door boutiques. Sophie Lloyd at ShopHopBA (www.shop-buenosaires.com) is the perfect option for those looking to get inside the city’s exclusive showrooms. Warm, welcoming and knowledgeable, Sophie's tours include champagne toasts and privately catered lunches, and she also offers personal color consultations to those in need of a wardrobe makeover. Vanessa Bell at Creme de la Creme (www.cremedelacreme.com.ar) is known for her extensive contacts and excellent taste.
Natalie Schreyer is a fashion writer and resident of Buenos Aires. She is the creator of www.bashopgirl.com, a fashion blog covering BA’s best emerging designers. In addition to her blog, she has written for LandingPadBA.com.
Specialties & Souvenirs
Wine is one of the more obvious gifts, though it's hard to carry. Some stores will ship outside Argentina; expect to pay a premium for this service. Food items that make nice gifts are dulce de leche (a delicious milk caramel that Argentines have perfected) and alfajores, cookie sandwiches usually bathed in chocolate (Havanna is a popular brand and available at Ezeiza Airport). Mate gourds are also good, and they're small and light.
Argentina is known for its leather goods. There are leather stores all over the city, but for the best prices head to Calle Murillo. Silverwork is also high quality, and many items are gaucho-inspired. Looking for a gift for that aristocratic friend? There are a few polo stores with items that might fit the bill – whether or not he or she plays polo.
Ferias (street markets) are full of craftspeople selling their homemade wares. These markets happen every weekend all over the city. Finally, soccer memorabilia always make popular souvenirs – especially from Boca, the most well-known team.
Store hours generally run from 9am or 10am to 8pm or 9pm weekdays, with many open for a few hours on Saturday. Most stores close on Sunday.