In Buenos Aires, there are two “ferias” or outdoor artisanal markets that you should not miss if you are searching for an original yet affordable keepsake to commemorate your time in Argentina: the Feria de San Telmo and the Feria de Recoleta. Here are a couple of Buenos Aires shopping tips to find the perfect souvenir.
Feria de San Telmo
The San Telmo market is open ONLY on Sundays (11 am – 5 pm) and is one of the biggest outdoor ferias in Buenos Aires with hundreds of vendors selling an array of trinkets, jewelry, leather goods and souvenirs. The feria runs down Avenida Defensa in San Telmo and it is best to start at the Plaza Dorrega (on the corner of Defensa and Humberto Primero), walking up Defensa and ending in the Plaza de Mayo. The antique market is located in Plaza Dorrega where you will find the famous multi-colored glass seltzer bottles, antique photos, jewelry and vintage clothing. At the Plaza you can pick up a cup of coffee from Starbucks or a cup of fresh orange juice/empanadas from local vendors for around ARS$6 – ARS$12 before starting your shopping journey.
Below: What I picked up from the San Telmo market
Feria de Recoleta
The Recoleta market is open on Saturdays and Sundays (11am – 7 pm) and is a medium-sized feria located in Plaza Francia right beside the Recoleta cemetery (where Evita is buried!). The advantage of this feria is that it is much less “touristy” than San Telmo, so prices are a little lower and there is more room to negotiate, especially on jewelry made with Argentina’s national stone: rodocrosita. Similar to San Telmo, you can purchase an empanada and relax to the soothing music of a street vendor playing his guitar while browsing through the different locales.
Some of the great finds from a vendor in Feria de Recoleta
But before you head out to ANY feria in Buenos Aires, here are my top 5 tips in having fun and getting the best deal:
Tip 1: Do not believe the vendor. A lot of the vendors that sell earrings, bracelets and necklaces with the national stone also state that the chains, backing etc. are made of silver. I tend NOT to believe them because the last time I was in Buenos Aires, I fell for this same trick. My ears are allergic to metal so I bought “silver” earrings and necklace set. After one day of wearing them I noticed my ears had gotten irritated, which obviously meant that they were not in fact made of silver.
Tip 2: Bring small bills. I tend to try different tricks of the trade to get lower prices on items that I want to buy. Whenever I have smaller bills I find it is much easier to barter. For example if a pair of earrings are ARS$50, I would pull out ARS$40 and state that was all I had. Sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t. Smaller bills also allow you to keep track of your money as vendors can try to confuse you and handing you less (or they might not have change).
Tip 3: Don’t get fixated on one thing. That gorgeous “one of a kind” necklace is probably not one of a kind and can be bought elsewhere (maybe even at a lower cost). My first time in Buenos Aires I bought a beautiful necklace that the vendor swore it was one of a kind. I came back almost 9 months later and saw the same necklace. This rule does not apply to the vendors that are selling their own original designs as there are a couple of emerging jewelry designers that sell their products in both in San Telmo and Recoleta. These jewelry designers are often more professional in their set-up with business cards and packaging – their products are exquisitely done, original and often a little pricier.
Tip 4: Don’t try to barter too much. All day on Sunday Avenida Defensa is packed solid with people who are walking, looking and buying different items. The large hoard of people means that if you don’t want to buy something for a certain price, than someone else will. This type of mentality means that it is extremely hard to barter in the San Telmo market. The Recelota market is a little less touristy and therefore easier to negotiate
Tip 5: Take your time. If you are going to San Telmo do not try and accomplish anything else that day. San Telmo is HUGE and it is a complete waste if you try and speed walk through the whole experience. Whenever you are visiting San Telmo or Recoleta, take your time, relax and take it all in. Try and spend a soothing Saturday or Sunday afternoon snapping some photos, eating an empanada and browsing the large array of items up for sale, even if you don’t plan on buying anything.