Argentina is a country known for its majestic sights, amazing natural features, and some of the most amicable, engaging people in the world. The country’s southern half is a land rich in natural drama and mystery that could only be found at the end of the world. In the north of the country, you will find a culture fixed in tradition with high incaica descendants, mountainous landscapes, and peculiar combinations of deserts and forests. Its vast array of culture, food, people and scenery is breathtaking and invites your imagination to be inspired and your senses heightened. One of Argentina’s most vibrant cities is Buenos Aires, the largest city in Argentina and the third largest city in Latin America, with 11 million inhabitants and an undoubtedly Paris-like atmosphere!
Whatever time you embark on the streets of Buenos Aires, you’ll find Porteños (natives) in a variety of dress depending on the barrio (neighborhood). Many are chatting in animated conversation over an espresso in one of the city’s omnipresent confiterias and cafés. Discovered by a Spaniard, the country’s population and culture were heavily influenced by settlers from throughout Europe. This is reflected in the fact that typical dress for Argentina is similar to that of Europe. In some regions of the country, natives dress in gauchos, and older women are never seen in pants. Overall, it’s best to dress like the natives.
Remember that Argentina is in the southern hemisphere, so the seasons are opposite to ours in the States. Pay particular attention to the season changes. If you visit Argentina during the summer months (December through February), you should dress in light layers. During the winter months (June through August), particularly in the southern part of the country, you should dress warmly since the temperatures can drop very quickly. Argentina is known for its rain forests making rain gear essential when traveling through the country. Just as Southern California experiences June showers in the summer, Buenos Aires has the occasional quick downpour with a sure follow-up of beautiful blue skies and sunshine.
You’ll do a lot of walking while you’re sightseeing, so it’s essential to wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Go with athletic shoes and sweat-wicking cotton socks; keep an extra pair in your duffle. While you’re sightseeing is not the time to show off those new stiletto heels you’ve been dying to wear, no matter how stylish they are.
Now that you have the gist of what to wear in general, we want to switch your attention to the exciting, sexy, and vibrant city of Buenos Aires. Indeed, Buenos Aires is a city known for its cultural diversity including football, Evita, and the sensual dance of Tango. The city is comprised of various barrios which makes the division between central, north, and south clearly seen on the streets of this city. How do we travelers fit right in so as to be confused with the Porteños of Buenos Aires? Let’s take a closer look at Buenos Aires’s main barrios to help you do just that!
The city is triangular in shape and its boundaries are marked by Avenida Rivadario -- an immensely large street. The first thing that travelers to Buenos Aires should know is that the city is a shopper’s paradise. The dollar-to-peso exchange rate is low, and the city is packed with innovative design shops, so it is a great place to extend your wardrobe. In the clothing arena, Buenos Aires is known for three things including high quality leather goods, cashmere at a decent price, and inexpensive, one-of-a-kind items by designers you've never heard of -- in other words, a shopper's paradise.
Argentines appreciate foreigners who make an effort to speak their language, which is a dialect of Spanish with an Italian sound to it. While most Argentines will understand your Spanish, embrace the changes and learn to speak Spanish, “Castellano” as they call it, the Argentine way. When in Argentina, do as the Porteños do with some of these basic variant pronunciations, forms, and conjugations.
The South - San Telmo, La Boca
This area is the oldest part of the city and its often-cobbled narrow streets are lined with some of the capital’s finest architecture. This is exemplified by dense nineteenth century town houses with elaborate Italianate facades, sturdy but elegant wooden doors, and fine wrought iron railings. Those that have an affinity for antique shopping and fashion should definitely head to this area. There's plenty of vintage clothing in the indoor Mercado San Telmo. Nearby is a converted garage where a restricted number of craftspeople sell handmade clothing and accessories for the hipster set. Some of the designers are willing to create a variation on a garment you see or custom-make one from a photo! The streets surrounding the square are filled with antique shops. From the crafts area, look for the adjacent building where a main floor and lower level are bursting with inexpensive and trendy garments.
In summer, it is recommended to wear comfortable and fresh clothes such as light colors, long to mid-knee skirts, dresses, and shorts, along with comfortable sandals, or slippers -- nothing terribly fancy. Don’t be shy- that gypsy bohemian look with bangles and all sorts of colors will fly in this area! In winter, boots are a must! The type of material the boot is made of isn’t necessarily important in this area; one could go from plastic to leather. One should definitely be conscious of layering and wear your jeans with either ankle- or knee-high boots. You can absolutely get away with vintage clothing in this town! Remember, though, to keep your purse safe and money tucked underneath your shirt in a money pouch.
The North – Palermo, Belgrano, Recoleta, and Retiro and East Puerto Madero
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.
Never overdress because most Porteños can spot a foreigner easily! This area of town is trendy and sophisticated and is absolutely where you want to show off your goods a bit. Wearing gold, diamonds, or precious jewelry when walking around this area during the day or at night is not recommended. Scarves and fashionable belts are a must, especially if you decide to visit the chic clubs and lounges at night. Be prepared to stay out all night long because the parties don’t get started before midnight! Night life allows for a mix of sophisticated sandals and definitely with some heels in the summer. Try for genuine, stylish branded boots in the winter if you want to be “in." During the winter months layering is key, but make it fashionable and be conscious that it should all come together like different instruments in a symphony. Chic and sophisticated defines this area.
In terms of shopping, this is the place to do it. If you want the international designers, such as Louis Vuitton, Escada, Hermes, Valentino and more, you can go to Recoleta, all along Alvear Avenue (from 1400 to 1800). There also are some exclusive Argentinian designers ("Jorge Ibañez" in Rodriguez Peña & Guido Street, "Gino Bogiani" in Rodriguez Peña 1042).
You can also go to some malls where you can find all the trendy shops (Unicenter Shopping Mall, Alto Palermo Shopping Mall, Galerias Pacifico, Paseo Alcorta Shopping Mall, Devoto Shopping, Patio Bullrich).
In Palermo Soho, a neighborhood located also in Capital Federal, you'll find shops of independent designers as well as the trendy shops. It's located in Serrano, Malabia and Armenia Street, between Avenida Cordoba and Nicaragua Street. This is where everyone goes when they want to find something different and trendy.
If you want to buy leather clothes, you can go to Murillo Street (from 600 to 700). If you want some artisanal clothes made with jean, tencel and more, you should visit Lucia Ricci ( www.luciaricci.com.ar). They have special sizes for all body types!
On weekends, starting at noon, the Plaza Serrano street fair takes place, spilling onto Borges Street and into 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. These changes were 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 a 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.
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, some shops here will custom-make a pair in a few days, but for a price. 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.
On a leisurely walk in the fashionable Recoleta, you will meet both elderly, rich ladies and young fashion-conscious ones. This area is indeed the place for the old bourgeois and the young, the rich, and the beautiful.
Avenida Santa Fe
Santa Fe Avenue extends for miles through the city from the Retiro through the Recoleta and Palermo neighborhoods. Its many boutiques range from elegant to edgy, and one is certain to run out of cash before you run out of shops! Chic Alto Palermo, at Avenida Colonel Diaz, is one of the city's vertical malls where some of the shops will be reminiscent of home. While there, don't miss Rapsodia, a popular Argentine designer boutique with a much more vast selection than at its location in Palermo Soho.
One final word about fashion and taste: they simply must go hand and hand. If you have room left in your belly, try some of Argentina’s authentic dining. Don’t skip town without delving into the real Dulce de leche ice crème, and try to get yourself invited to an Asado (it’s a special way Porteños prepare meats)! You won’t ever think about flavor in the same way afterwards -- guaranteed…
Even after visiting a total of 47 countries, one place in the world I would always want to return to is Buenos Aires!