You’re in Ezeiza airport. Your plane boards in 10 minutes. You forgot to go gift shopping. You have exactly nada. You grab two boxes of Havanna alfajores, a bottle of Rutini Malbec, and a DVD of Diego Maradona’s greatest goals. You sprint to your gate. You feel like a jackass. Again.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Buenos Aires is a great place to buy souvenirs, if only because so many of the “obvious” purchases—mate gourds, cow hides, tango shoes, and even the aforementioned cookies stuffed with dulce de leche—are not so well known internationally to have become gift clichés. Your friends will love that polychromatic soda siphon you pick up for them at San Telmo’s Sunday market, and there’s really no need to tell them how many people you saw buying the exact same model. Those with a little more time and imagination can delve deep into the city’s design and antiques emporia. Check our Markets and Design Shops pages for more ideas.
This place is for people like me, who think rubber calculators, Lego USB sticks and toilet seat covers painted with sea scenes are quirky and cool. Look closely, however, and among the generic useless knick knacks you’ll find some Buenos Aires-specific useless knick knacks, such as reproductions of old Evita propaganda and fridge magnets shaped like mate gourds.
Mate gourds lined with alpaca, long gaucho knives with decorative handles, belts and wallets made from carpincho (capybara) leather, rugs, silverware, boots and boinas—there really is something for everyone at this popular store on pedestrianized Florida Street. Remember that the person you think has everything probably doesn’t have a cow horn bottle holder.
The smell of leather is intoxicating in this upmarket talabartería, which literally means saddlery. Release your inner gaucho (and max out your credit card) with not only a saddle but also a pair of boots, a beret, a whip, spurs, stirrups, and whatever else strikes your fancy. If you’re looking for a wedding present, a set of engraved steak knives from here could be just the thing.
Siblings—or hermanos—Martín, Sebastián, Eliana, and Milagros are third-generation artisanal soap makers, and their extraordinary line of handmade bars—not to mention petals, golf balls, and animal figures—is a bright shining star in BA’s design firmament. The temptation to take a bite out of the chocolate-scented soap has to be felt to be believed.
Comme Il Faut
Tucked away on a quiet and very Parisian Recoleta side street, this is the best place in the city to try and buy tango shoes. The fashion-meets-function designs of Alicia Muñiz, who began by making shoes first for herself and then for her tanguera girlfriends, reflect the thousands of hours she herself has put in on the dance floor.