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The array of open-air ferias (markets) in Buenos Aires testifies to the fact that locals enjoy stall-trawling as much as visitors do. Argentina holds its craftspeople, both traditional and contemporary, in high esteem. The selections include not only crafts but also art, antiques, curios, clothing, jewelry, and housewares, and stalls are often attended by the artists themselves. Bargaining isn't the norm, although you may get a small discount for buying lots of items.
The Feria de San Pedro Telmo packs a small San Telmo square every Sunday. Elbow your way through the crowds to pick through antiques and curios of varying vintages as well as tango memorabilia, or watch dolled-up professional tango dancers perform on the surrounding cobbled streets. The unofficial "stalls" (often just a cloth on the ground) of young craftspeople stretch several blocks up Defensa, away from the market proper. As it gets dark, the square turns into a milonga, where quick-stepping locals show you how it's done. Plaza Dorrego, Humberto I, and Defensa, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1065AAT. www.feriadesantelmo.com. Sun. 10–dusk. E to Independencia, then walk 9 blocks east along Independencia to Defensa. Alternatively, A to Plaza de Mayo, D to Catedral, or E to Bolívar, then walk 8 blocks south on Bolívar.
In the heart of colorful La Boca, the Feria de Artesanías de la Plaza Vuelta de Rocha (Caminito) showcases local artists all week long. You can find attractive port scenes in watercolors as well as stylish photographs of the neighborhood's old houses, though don't expect any budding Picassos. The market expands on weekends with stalls selling handicrafts and tacky souvenirs. As shoppers here are almost exclusively tourists, prices tend to be overambitious—sometimes irritatingly so. Av. Pedro de Mendoza and Caminito, La Boca, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1169AAC. Art market daily 10–dusk; craft market weekends 10–dusk.
The sprawling Feria Artesanal de la Recoleta —known universally as Feria Plaza Francia—winds through several linked squares outside the Recoleta Cemetery. Artisans sell handmade clothes, jewelry, and housewares as well as traditional crafts. Avs. Libertador and Pueyrredón, La Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1113AAX. www.feriaplazafrancia.com. Weekends 11–dusk.
The business conducted in hip Palermo Viejo's Feria de Plaza Cortázar (also known as Plaza Serrano) rivals that done in the neighborhood's trendy boutiques. In a small square—which is actually round—artisans sell wooden toys, ceramics, and funky jewelry made of stained glass or vintage buttons. This is also a great place to buy art: the railings around a playground here act as an open-air gallery for Palermo artists, and organizers control the quality of art on display. The feria continues on the sidewalks of Honduras and Serrano, which intersect at the square, and inside the bars on the square itself, which push their tables and chairs aside to make room for clothing and accessory designers: expect to find anything from cute cotton underwear and one-off T-shirts to clubbing dresses. Quality is often low, but so are prices. Plazoleta Cortázar (Plaza Serrano) at, Honduras and Serrano, Palermo Viejo, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1414DFF. Weekends 11–dusk.
On the edge of Palermo Hollywood lies the large warehouse sheltering the Mercado de las Pulgas, packed with furniture on its second (or third or fourth) time around. You won't come across any Louis XV, but original pieces from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s may turn out to be (relative) bargain investments. Lighting up your life is a cinch: choose from the many Venetian-glass chandeliers, or go for a chrome-and-acrylic mushroom lamp. If your taste is more rustic, there's also a sizable selection of hefty farmhouse-style tables and cabinets in oak and pine. Don't be deceived by the stalls' simple-looking set-up: vendors are used to dealing with big-name local customers, and can often arrange overseas shipping. Alvarez Thomas between Dorrego and Concepción Arenales, Palermo Hollywood, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1427CCA. Daily 10–dusk.
On weekends upscale craftspeople transform a posh Belgrano square into the Feria de Artesanías de Belgrano. Nickel silver (a silver-colored alloy of copper and nickel) is a popular material here, for both jewelry and adornment on items like boxes for storing tea bags. You'll also find leather sandals and clogs, knitted ponchos, and wooden toys. Around Christmas this is a great place to buy nativity scenes and tree ornaments. Av. Juramento at Cuba, Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1428ADF. Weekends midday–dusk.
One of the last surviving European-style indoor food markets in town, the Feria Modelo de Belgrano is a gourmet's dream. The building has stood more or less unchanged since 1891, and its 30 stalls are the ideal place to ogle top national produce like Patagonian trout and lamb, porcini mushrooms, and stuffed meats. The cheese stalls sell creamy ricotta by the kilo and chunky wheels of queso Mar del Plata, an eminently snackable Gouda-style cheese. Juramento 2527, at Ciudad de la Paz, Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires. Mon.–Sat. 8–1 and 5–8:30, Sun. 8–1.
The best handicrafts in town and a vaguely authentic gaucho atmosphere make the trek west to the traditional Feria de Mataderos well worth the effort. Stalls sell great-value mates, asado knives, boleadoras (gaucho lassos), and leather goods, and there are usually traditional dance performances. Look out for real-life gauchos wearing woolen berets, scarves, and baggy pants wandering around with a horse or two in tow. Part of the experience is chomping through a vaciopán (dripping steak sandwich) from the immense barbecue; wash it down with a plastic beaker of vino patero (semi-sweet red wine). The subte (subway) doesn't go to Mataderos; take Bus 126 from outside Retiro train station, or take a taxi (about 35 pesos from downtown). Lisandro de la Torre at Av. de los Corrales, Mataderos, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1440BBN. www.feriademataderos.com.ar. Sun. 10–dusk.
In the Market for Some Culture
Jewelry and matés aren't the only things porteños stalk markets for: books and music, prohibitively expensive in Argentina, are also top finds. Kiosklike stalls on the traffic island of Avenida Santa Fe west of Plaza Italia (D to Plaza Italia) do a brisk trade in used and cut-price new books (in Spanish). You occasionally find gems amid the piles of scratched LPs on sale at Parque Rivadavia (A to Acoyte), but what locals really come for are the pirate CDs and DVDs for 10 pesos. (They browse innocent-looking folders, tell vendors the codes of what they want, and 10 minutes later are paying for an unassuming plastic bag of goodies.)
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