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Buenos Aires, unbeknownst to many of its visitors, is a haven for antiques and whether you’re in the market for a 19th-century lamp or a mid-century sideboard, the Argentine capital has got you covered. Here is our guide to antique shopping in Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires benefits from a particular Argentine trait: people there never throw anything out. Argentinians, though not exactly hoarders, are dangerously close to it. In a city where the rule is to repair things rather than toss them, the idea of obsolescence isn’t really something that exists. This is good news for anyone looking for some great antiques from a range of different eras. Owing to Argentina’s opulent past as one of the world’s ten richest nations back in the early 1900s, there is a wealth of furniture and homewares from this era that can be found across Buenos Aires, mainly in the southern neighbourhood of San Telmo, which is famous for its antiques shops.
All along San Telmo’s main thoroughfare, Defensa, you can find numerous antiques shops selling all kinds of trinkets. Head further into the heart of the neighbourhood to the covered San Telmo Market to find a huge range of tiny shops selling everything from old lamps, doorknobs, chandeliers and rugs to tables, chairs, ornaments and vintage license plates.
On Sundays in San Telmo you can find the famous Feria de San Telmo, which makes for a great day out if you’re only spending a few days in Buenos Aires. Lining the entire length of Defensa, it can take literally hours to navigate the densely packed market, and the feria is home to inumerable treasures that are easy to find if you have the time to look: old coins, stamps, vintage toys, cutlery, photographs, magazines and everything in between. Haggling isn’t really a thing in Argentina, but if you buy a couple of things, the vendor will usually give you a good price.
If you’re more in the market for mid-century and retro furniture, fixtures and fittings, head to the border of Palermo Hollywood and Colegiales where you will find the well known Mercado de las Pulgas, a flea market. You’ll find original antiques and hoards of restored cabinets, dressers and sideboards. There are also several shops making shabby-chic reproductions of old-style furnishings and plenty of hole-in-the-wall stores that sell old posters, telephones, lamps and soda siphons, a typical Argentine antique and souvenir.
If you’re actually living in Buenos Aires and want to decorate your house with some affordable antiques, head over to Nueva Pompeya and go to the Salvation Army’s giant warehouse (El Ejército de Salvación) on Avenida Sáenz, where you can pick up some of the best bargains in the city. Be sure to dedicate an entire morning or afternoon to this, as it’s a bit of a trek to get there and you will need to sift through numerous pieces of discarded office furniture to find the gems. The best day to go is on a Thursday, which is when new stock is dropped off. On Saturdays, the warehouse is only open in the morning, so be sure to plan your journey accordingly. There are removal vans, or fletes, that wait outside the warehouse to transport your newly purchased furniture safely back to your apartment.