Buenos Aires is a thoroughly commercial city, but with a style quite unlike what you’d find in the U.S. or Europe. Sure, it’s home to some U.S.-style malls, but the city’s shopping scene is much more interesting for the things that make it unique: bustling, often charming neighborhood shopping zones and great weekend street fairs.
While pedestrian Calle Florida in the Centro bursts with tourists visiting overflows with CD stores, souvenir kiosks, clothing and leather-goods shops, the much more interesting neighborhood shopping zones of Buenos Aires are where locals go street shopping. Major shopping zones include Avenida Alvear (BA’s version of Fifth Avenue) in Recoleta; the trendy boutiques and design shops on streets around Plaza Palermo Viejo and Plazza Serrano in Palermo SoHo; the outlet stores along Cordoba and Aguirre and the leather stores on Murillo in Villa Crespo; and the commercial chaos of Rivadavia and Pueyrredon in Once, where sardine-packed vendors sell slightly dubious versions of anything you could ever want amid a sea of shoppers.
Buenos Aires’ fairs are some of its principal weekend attractions. The San Telmo Antiques Fair, held every Sunday morning and afternoon and centered on Plaza Dorrego, has a wide selection of antiques and tchotchkes of all sorts, plus clothing, books, street food, and live tango performances. Alongside the cemetery in Recoleta, a crafts fair is held every day (it’s especially large on weekends); it’s a great place to pick up argentine souvenirs like mates and leather goods. For much better prices and an authentic taste of provincial culture, head to the Mataderos Fair, on the edge of the city. There, crafts vendors share the spotlight with folk music performers and equestrian events.
Hardly BA’s most unique offering, the city’s malls (or “shoppings”) will still be of great interest to travelers looking to find lots of mid- to high-end fashion in one place. Two of them are architectural destinations in their own right. One, the Abasto shopping center, is located in a gigantic, stunningly restored late-19th century wholesale market. It’s in the neighborhood of the same name, at Carlos Gardel on Subte (subway) line B. The other, Galerías Pacífico, at Córdoba and Florida in the Centro, is BA’s take on a Parisian-style shopping arcade, replete with gorgeous murals on the ceiling and a full-blown cultural center on the upper floors. More typical malls include Alto Palermo (at Bulnes on Subte line D) and Patio Bullrich (at Posadas and Libertad in Recoleta).