Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina

What to Buy in Buenos Aires

June 11, 2011

We're off to Montevideo, Uruguay as a last-minute stop before our flight to NYC. That´s only if this looming cloud of volcanic ash courtesty of Chile dissipates anytime soon. Between saying goodbye to friends, shopping for *respectable* souvenirs for the family (not another mate gourd, I promise), and spending time actually being a tourist (hello La Boca!), I still haven't made it to the piles of packing waiting for me.

Despite my commitment to wrapping up those (ahem) priorities, I've managed to create a fairly healthy wishlist of Buenos Aires mementos. And once I started putting this together I fell in love with BA all over again!

So if you ever visit Buenos Aires (and I really hope you will), here's some of the very best goodies to shop for and sample. Bear in mind that most of these items are found at markets and boutiques in BA. Unfortunately, you'll have to do some digging to run across the real-deal online. I've tried to point you in the right direction with a few links, although you might have better luck shopping on your own.

  1. Sheepskin Throw. Am I the only one who doesn't have one yet? Love it or hate it: You'll find anything from a cow, sheep or goat in Argentina. Photo courtesy of Domino.
  2. Vintage Fiat. These little cars come in all shades of the rainbow and are everywhere in Argentina. Now I just need some extra pesos to ship a cherry red one to NYC.
  3. Alfajores. Argentines have an unbridled love affair with dulce de leche. This hyper-sweet love child of caramel and butterscotch was really off-putting in the beginning, to be quite honest. But the quintessential Argentine cookie-- loaded with the aforementioned sweet stuff-- has grown on me.
  4. Frazadas. Vintage handmade blankets, or frazadas, are found in Northern Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. These beauties will soon be sold at my etsy page. Stay tuned!
  5. Vintage Seltzer Bottles. Classic seltzer bottles are found all over the city. Why? Buenos Aires has long-standing tradition with seltzer! Mixed with wine, served alongside your cafe con leche or sipped alone, seltzer bottle companies are still making home deliveries of personal spritzers. Check out this article from a fellow expat for more info.
  1. Malbec. Wine is so reasonably priced in Argentina that you'll often find a cheap Malbec replacing Coca-Cola on the lunch menu. "Would you like Coke or wine with your sandwich?" Hmmm...obvious choice, no? Oh! And they serve it in tumblers here. Yep, giant tumblers.
  2. Criollos. Traditional gaucho criollo knives were originally used in duels-- short and light, these knives could maim your opponent rather than kill. Luckily, these beautiful criollos are now purely decorative.
  3. BandoneónSimilar to the accordion, the bandoneón lends that traditional deep, warm "tango sound" to most of Buenos Aire's legendary dance hall music. They're truely beautiful and someday I´ll learn how to play. Or, more likely, simply buy one for an amazing vignette in my entryway.
  4. Filete Porteño. If tango is the music of Buenos Aires, then filete is it's artwork. You'll find the fancy filigree painting on nearly every storefront in San Telmo, and plaques like this one for sale in most every tourist shop.
  5. Tango Shoes. No, I still haven't taken a tango class. But what girl doesn't need a pair of patent leather dance shoes? 
    1. Buenos Aires Subway Sign. The Buenos Aires Subte (short for subterráneo, or underground) is the oldest metro in South America and the preferred method to zip around the city. The oldest line, Linea A, still has cars with wooden interiors and doors you have to open and close yourself! This vintage reproduction subway sign was spied in the kitchen of blogger Visual Vamp and designed by Me encanta.
    2. Estancias Argentinas. I love this book by Maria Saenz Quesada loaded with beautiful photos of the gaucho life in all its sexiness. I think a trip to Argentina would be remiss without sampling at least a little bit of the estancia lifestyle. You can easily book estancia stays online or at most tour agencies in BA.
    3. Cowhide Rug. To match the sheepskin throw!
    4. Medialunas. Nope, not a croissant (although every foreigner has made that mistake!) Medialunas are my absolute favorite lunch in Argentina. It's simply a crescent roll with a sugary glaze on the top. But when dipped in your coffee, it's sublime.
    5. Custom Riding Boots. Even if you swore off horses after 8th-grade summer camp, you're still entitled to a nice pair of riding boots. And whats more indulgent than custom ones? Thanks to the prevalence of polo, tango and leather, there are cobblers all over BA. The best shops don't have websites, so be prepared to brush up on your Spanish while hunting around the city. 
    For more on BA shopping, check out my previous post on the amazing Mercado de Pulgas!  And let me know in comments if you think I've left out any essential Argentine goodies. (Aside from Che posters and mate gourds, of course.)

    Happy Shopping!

    P.S. Mom, please don't get your hopes up that I'm bringing home a vintage Fiat!


    1. Oh I am jealous! Those beautiful blankets! Enjoy the rest of your trip :)

    2. i love your shopping list! i'd love a sheepskin blanket & malbec.

      would LOVE to visit Buenos Aires some day! it seems like such an amazing place :)

      Safe travels back to NYC!

    3. I just found your blog! And I adore all the posts I have read!
      Have a great weekend!
      Jamie Herzlinger

    4. Buenas recomendaciones. Un saludo


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