The posh Recoleta neighborhood is filled with fashionable shops on Santa Fe Avenue and nearby streets. On Avenida Alvear is a small enclave of exclusive shops with designer names you'll recognize. If you're looking for the world's most comfortable shoes, for a price, some shops here will custom-make a pair in a few days. On weekends, adjacent to the Recoleta Cemetery, the biggest of the city's street fairs, the Feria Artesanal, takes place on the Plaza Intendente Alvear. It contains hundreds of booths selling clothes and everything else you'd expect to find at a crafts fair, all at affordable prices.
Avenida Santa Fe
Santa Fe Avenue stretches for miles through the city from the Retiro through the Recoleta and Palermo neighborhoods. Its many boutiques range from elegant to edgy, and you'll run out of money before you run out of shops. Upscale Alto Palermo, at Avenida Colonel Diaz, is one of the city's vertical malls where some of the shops will remind you of home. While there, don't miss Rapsodia, a popular Argentine designer boutique with a wider selection than at its location in Palermo Soho.
When Argentina experienced its economic crash in 2002 following the peso's drastic devaluation, financial need mixed with ingenuity to form a much expanded fashion industry. Those who knew how to use a sewing machine began designing clothes. Some took clothing apart and re-assembled it in novel ways. Nowhere can the success of this survival strategy be seen more creatively than in Palermo Soho.
Palermo is a sprawling area comprised of several sections. Palermo Soho, in the neighborhood's Viejo section, is a bohemian hub with similarities to the New York neighborhood of the same name. Women will find the area most interesting, though it has a few shops for men too.
Designer boutiques line both sides of Honduras street from Scalabrini Ortez to the Plaza Serrano as well the perpendicular streets in between, including Gurruchaga, Malabia and Armenia, a couple of blocks in either direction. You'll also find unique shops on El Salvador and Costa Rica, the nearby streets that parallel Honduras. Sprinkled among the apparel shops are hip stores selling housewares, stationery and assorted what-not.
On weekends, starting at noon, the Plaza Serrano street fair takes place, spilling onto Borges Street and nearby alleys. Offerings include clothing, art, crafts, purses, jewelry and other accessories. The neighborhood also has an eclectic mix of places to dine, from fancy meals to snacks. Note that depending on the age of your map, Plaza Serrano may be labeled Plazoleta Julio de Cortazar and Serrano Street by its new name, Jorge Luis Borges, changes made to honor the two Argentine writers.
As long as you're in the vicinity, there are two more places you could check out. At the south end of Palermo Viejo is the Paseo Alcorta, a fancy shopping mall on Jeronimo Salguero Street, with food and cineplex to boot. The Feria de Pulgas, a traditional flea market of mostly furniture is located at Niceto Vega and Avenida Dorrego in the Viejo section called Palermo Hollywood.
Pedestrian zones are always people-magnets, and Florida Street in the Microcentro neighborhood is no exception. Named after the scene of an 1814 Spanish defeat in Bolivia's Piray river valley, Florida was Buenos Aires' first paved street with electric lights. Today it is crowded with portenos, tourists, street musicians, tango dancers and innumerable boutiques and cafes. Nearby are some of the city’s five-star hotels.
On Florida, you'll find everything from the fanciest to the most attractively-priced merchandise. A few multi-layered vertical malls front along the main concourse, providing more goods to choose from. The largest is the upscale Gallerias Pacifico where you’ll run across familiar international brands you’d find at home plus cafes, large gallery spaces with interesting traveling exhibitions and the Borges cultural center. When you've exhausted Florida, there's nearby Lavalle, another pedestrian street packed with movie theaters and restaurants and more shops to explore.
While many flock to the San Telmo neighborhood's Plaza Dorrego for the Sunday antiques market, those interested in fashion will seek its fringes. There's plenty of vintage clothing in the indoor Mercado San Telmo, a cavernous building adjacent to the square that also sells fruits and vegetables. Nearby is a converted garage where a limited number of craftspeople sell handmade clothing and accessories for the hip set. Some of the designers are willing to whip up a variation of a garment you see or custom-make one from a photo. The streets surrounding the square are filled with antique shops.
The colorful wharf-side neighborhood of La Boca holds a popular weekend street fair on the north end of the colorful Caminito. From the crafts area, look for the adjacent building where a main floor and lower level are bursting with inexpensive and trendy garments.
If you have any money and time left over, go to Once, the working class neighborhood on the western edge of the city. You'll find bargains along Pueyrredon Avenue between Corrientes and Rivadavia. While there, don't miss the Mercado de Abasto, a posh shopping mall at Corrientes and Anchorena that housed the city's fruit and vegetable market for almost a hundred years. Also nearby is the museum dedicated to Argentina's most famous tango singer, Carlos Gardel in the house where he lived on Jean Jaures.