Just about every major city in the world is renowned for being a shopping mecca although some, like Buenos Aires, take the concept to a whole new level. Renowned for offering impeccably high-quality gear at immensely cheaper prices (compared to Europe and the US), Buenos Aires has been the retail-therapy destination of choice for shopaholics for well over a decade. Ever since the country plunged into a drastic economic depression in 2002, the city has become a haven for bargain-hunting tourists from every corner of the globe.
Finding a good deal in Buenos Aires is really not at all difficult, yet it’s worthwhile to know where the very best deals are to be found.
Follow our ultimate Buenos Aires Shopping Guide and find out what to buy where and what special souvenirs should definitely find a way into your suitcases.
What special souvenirs to consider:
Leather-made goods are undoubtedly top-notch in Argentina, as is the workmanship of the city’s innumerable leather masters. Whether it’s a tailor-made jacket you’d like to have made, or want to go home with a pair of unique and totally stunning hand-made boots (our personal fave), bags, purses or gloves; following the lead of most discerning tourists who spend most of their souvenir-cash on leather products is definitely a recommendable choice. If you are keen to have something made make sure you source out a reputable tailor and leather provider before you even arrive so you can visit on your first day in Buenos Aires. Even masters need not be rushed!
If you want to buy something made of leather, but don’t fancy wearing it, you may be happy to know that the porteños don’t merely stop at making clothing and accessories out of cow-hide. Leather-covered lamps, stuffed animals, cushion covers and just about anything else you can think of can be found in the myriad of shops in and around the tourist areas.
Don’t be afraid to be picky on the products; good-quality leather products should be lined, double-stitched and in impeccable form. Considering competition is fierce everywhere in the city, try to bargain hard for your wares and do shop around as much as you can before committing.
Buenos Aires is also renowned for its incredibly colourful collection of belts, made with a mix of leather and wool. Although they may not be the trendiest thing on the planet, the do scream South America so for that reason alone they deserve a plug!
In just about every shop, stand and stall you’ll also find a wide selection of mate cups, one of the most recognisable icons of South America and, in particular, Argentina. You’ll find them made of leather, wood or straw with all sorts of different types of bombillas to match. Make sure you’re aware of your country’s import regulations so you don’t risk having raw products confiscated.
Buenos Aires is also a great place to buy merino wool products, with scarves and sweaters being particularly popular with tourists. Rodocrosita is a pink coloured semi-precious stone which is rather abundant in Buenos Aires; so much so that it’s often considered the ‘local’ stone and yet another emblem of the country. Often found set in silver in rings, earrings and pendants, the inexpensive stone makes for a gorgeous souvenir if you’re looking for a little less bulky purchase (you know, to leave more space for the boots!) Silver jewellery is also extremely popular due to the uniqueness of the designs and the incredibly affordable price.
If you’ve succumbed to the Argentinian obsession with dulce de leche (see our Eating Out Guide for more) then you’d be well advised to bring a few jars home with you. After all, you can’t rave about the spread to your friends without letting them have a taste!
For the ultimate in fleeting yet indispensable souvenirs you just can’t go past a few bottles of Argentinian wine. The country is one of the largest wine-growers on the planet and, it should be said, one of the best. In a country where even a $3 cask of supermarket table-wine is likely to knock your socks off, savouring delectable drops is both easy and affordable here. Funnily enough, although the world has been waxing lyrical about Argy wines for decades, export is still a relatively new concept. Up until two decades ago, 90% of the country’s wines were consumed in-house, with only a small portion set aside for export. In times of drastic economic strife, the Argentinian government sought to capitalize on its impeccable reputation and finally converted what soon became one of the most profitable industries in the whole continent. Of all the souvenirs you could possibly bring back for family and friends, we have a sneaking suspicion this may be the most appreciated.
Lovers of all things ethnic and chic will delight in the amount of handicrafts the city’s markets are stocked with. Here you’ll find alpaca wool & silver picture frames, jewellery boxes and all sorts of divine trinkets and dust collectors.
Where to go shopping nuts:
Although you can barely walk a block in Buenos Aires without crossing one superb shop of some kind, the city is also home to a few pretty fine shopping malls. Popular with affluent locals, places like Galerias Pacifico and Patio Bullrich are actually so stylish and striking that they’re considered bona-fide architectural attractions in the city. Even if you can’t afford to splurge on the designer gear under these crystal-chandelier-decorated roofs you should definitely splurge on a coffee and come admire the décor and the shoppers.
For more upmarket retail-drooling head to Recoleta, the swankiest barrio of Buenos Aires. Along tree-lined elegant avenues you’ll find the most incredible one-off boutiques selling truly spectacular jewels, clothing and souvenirs. Expect to pay top-dollar here.
Calle Florida is the city’s most popular shopping-strip and it is here where you’ll find designer factory outlets of every distinction. This is by far the most inexpensive shopping corner of Buenos Aires, although to be honest there is nothing excessively unique about the wares here. You should also note that this is pick-pocket central so do keep your wits about you.
Palermo, and Palermo Soho in particular, is considered the trendiest nook of Buenos Aires and as such is home to some of the most hip-and-in stores as well. Not nearly as expensive as Recoleta, but definitely more distinctive than Microcentro, the shopping in Palermo would satisfy the desires of most who travel to Buenos Aires with a little extra mula to burn. If you’re short on time and only have one day to shop (horror!) then we suggest you skip start and go straight to Soho.
If you’ve read our Buenos Aires Overview Guide you’d know that San Telmo is our favourite barrio in Buenos Aires. It just so happens, believe it or not, that the shopping in San Telmo is also our favourite in the whole city. Yes, this could explain a lot.
Splendidly bohemian, avant-garde and utterly surprising, the clothing, jewels, souvenirs and accessories found among the hood’s glorious alleyways is among the most unique you’ll find in the whole country. Renowned primarily as a mecca for antique-lovers, san Telmo is a delightful treasure trove of all things old, loved and treasured.
Calle Florida, Kay Adams via Flickr
Leather goods, Beatrice Murch via Flickr
Argentinean Leather belts by DP Polo Edition Online
Rodocrosita stone via Wiki
Mendoza Wines, Justin De La Ornellas via Flickr
Palermo Soho shoe store, Dan DeLuca via Flickr
Galleria Pacifico, Victor Casale via Flickr
San Telmo market, Jacqueline Kothbauer via Flickr