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Life Before Malls

No shopping trip is complete without browsing one of the city's many galerías. These quirky shopping arcades are the precursors of malls and were mostly built in the 1960s and '70s. Their boxy architecture often includes gloriously kitsch touches, and the unpredictable retail offerings of their small stores could include designer gear, no-name brands, used books, sex toys, cigars and pipes, tattoos, imported vinyl records, and other wonders. Though many galerías have closed down, they're still thick on the ground along Avenida Santa Fe (800 to 1500) and Avenida Cabildo (1500 to 2200).

Galería Bond Street. This is a preferred address for skaters, clubbers, and alternative-minded teens. The stores downstairs sell club wear, punky T-shirts, and band pins, while those on the top floor have slightly classier offerings from local designers who aren't big enough to set up in Palermo. If you're in the mood for a tattoo, you can take your pick from a large selection of ground-floor studios. Av. Santa Fe 1607, Barrio Norte, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1060ABC. 11/4812–8744. galeriabondstreet.com. D to Callao (4 blocks away).

Galería Quinta Avenida. Vintage vultures should swing by Galería Quinta Avenida, which has a host of dusty boutiques ideal for a few hours of rack-roaming. There's a particularly good selection of leather jackets, as well as accessories like specs from the 1950s and '60s. Keep an eye out for irregular ferias americanas, impromptu flea market sales. Av. Santa Fe 1270, Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1059ABT. 11/4816-0451. D to Tribunales.

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