Whether you're looking for a unique handicraft, the latest boutique-vineyard malbec, a one-off pair of rhodochrosite earrings, or jeans no one's got back home, you're bound to leave Buenos Aires with your suitcases full. Argentina’s designers inject their wares with creativity, and innovative items can be found everywhere from elite boutiques to neighborhood street fairs.
If you love the hustle and bustle, elbow your way through the city's outdoor ferias. The array of open-air markets testifies to the fact that locals enjoy stall-trawling as much as visitors do. Crafts—whether traditional or contemporary—often take center stage, with artisans proudly selling their own creations; however, the selection can also include art, antiques, curios, clothing, jewelry, and assorted household goods.
At the other end of the spectrum, this city certainly isn’t lacking in high-end couture. During Fashion Weeks (www.bafweek.com.ar) in February and August, Buenos Aires turns the spotlight on both its world-class designers and its talented up-and-comers. But at any time of year you can swank it up at Patio Bullrich or at posh Recoleta boutiques where the security is as tight as an airport.
Clothing bargains are harder to find than they once were, but that doesn’t mean visitors should pay through the nose. Although haggling isn’t commonplace, do ask for a discount if paying in cash, especially if you decide to snap up leather wrist cuffs for all your cousins at a sidewalk stall. Also look out for the tax refund sticker in many shop windows.
Argentina is cow central, and leather goods—from boots to jackets to polo saddles—are an excellent value. Buenos Aires' well-established antiques trade is also thriving, but modern houseware shops are putting up some fierce competition. On the wine front, many local vintages still aren't exported, so this may be your only chance to try wines from regions other than Mendoza.
It’s not just about retail therapy, either. Part of the Buenos Aires experience can be wandering around and stepping, unexpectedly, into a restored mansion selling silk frocks and vertigo-inducing heels, then taking a break at a bistro or juice bar. People-watching is the name of the game. Known for their good looks, Argentineans like to watch and be watched from the café sidelines.