1. El Rincon de los Duendes, San TelmoAlready got your novelty mate gourd, melted Quilmes bottle, Evita figurine and still looking for a unique memento of your time in Buenos Aires? Look no further than the wizard’s chess set.
The Dwarves’ Corner invites “all those who dare to dream” to step off the sunlit cobblestones of Defensa and into the mythical world of goblins, witches and fairies.
Looking more like a portal to medieval Germany than Latin America, the doorway is guarded by a waist-high wooden gnome and the windows are framed with wooden carvings and crowded with otherworldly merchandise.
The shelves are packed with hand-made figurines of elves, fairies, ents, goblins and every other member of the magical community.
For real enthusiasts, the shop offers workshops on requests and works with a wide range of local artisans who share their crafts and skills for affordable prices.
Open Monday-Friday, 10am-7pm. Weekends 10am-8pm. Defensa 1363, San Telmo. For more information about merchandise and arranging workshops, contact [email protected] or visit www.elrincondeduendes.com.ar2. Buttman, Once
Having a quiet Tuesday morning? Why not check out Buttman – tucked demurely between a bridal shop and a record store, this is Argentina’s biggest sex shop.
Not vastly different to any other sex shop, perhaps it distinguishes itself with the quantity and breadth of available merchandise.
Buttman, elegantly decorated in red and black offers a wide range of DVDs, starting at $20 and going up to $60 – with bulk purchase offers available on request.
In the spacious section at the back, the walls are lined with sleek glass cabinets displaying dolls, dildos and every other delicacy that tickles your fancy.
Over 18s only. Open 10am-8pm Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday. Corrientes 2021.
3. El Rufián Melancólico, San Telmo
Named after a character in Los Siete Locos, this bookshop come cultural pawn shop has carved out its own nook in a city cluttered with second-hand librerias.
Suspended over tottering piles of well-thumbed editions and dusty shelves are a troupe of otherworldly papier-mache models and life-like figures made by a friend of the shop. Pirouetting slowly in the breeze, they watch customers come and go throughout the day and keep a painted eye on business.
El Rufián buys and sells anything from old postcards, photos, posters to magazines, encyclopedias and comics. There is a good selection of French and German texts as well as English and books about anything from existentialism to 1940s cooking.
The shop buys books from cartoneros, who earn more selling to the shop than to recycling companies.
Jorge, a shoe-maker from Chile who works at the shop explains that it performs a social role in the community, while giving directions to a young girl learning how to hem fabric on his old Remington sewing machine.
This is the kind of shop you might wander into accidentally and emerge from an hour later after getting into a conversation about South American history, with a book of Peruvian poetry slotted under your arm.
Open 10am-8pm Tuesday to Sunday and 1pm-8pm on Mondays. Bolívar 857.
4. The Barbie Shop, PalermoIf a building were made of candy floss, it might look a little like this. More than a shop, this is the miniature Barbie world of Buenos Aires and it may prove to be a shopping experience bizarrer than gnomes, sorcery and life-size papier macher puppets.
The first of its kind in South America, nothing is done by halves – with pink and white decor, matching chandeliers and long filigree metal preening mirrors, it’s nothing so much as a pre-school boudoir in Battenburg colours.
Long rails of colour-coordinated outfits, seasonal costumes and accessories line the walls, with changing rooms for young shoppers, plush benches for weary parents and an elegant range of Barbie luggage if things really get out of hand.
Found your gladrags but curls out of place? Look no further then Barbie’s Beauty Centre – where personal stylists are on standby with an arsenal of tongs, blow-driers and hairspray. Afterwards enjoy a refreshing lemonade (or double espresso) and a sugary treat from a counter of pink heart-shaped biscuits, jam tarts and iced cakes.
For collectors, there are display cases of Barbie through the ages: from beehive to bob – the original 1959 Teenage Fashion model to the present day, miniature sentinels of styling fashions over the past six decades.
Open 12.30-8pm daily. Av. Scalabrini Ortiz 3174.
5. Trapalanda, CentroRunning low on smelling salts and tarot cards? Snapped your exorcism wand? Luckily this magical little shop is in the business of granting wishes.
Named after a network of underground salt caves rumoured to be in the northern part of the country, this is something of a mixture between a spiritual health shop and a stockpile of sorcerer’s tricks.
The shop specialises in salt lights and glittering crystals – offering consultations and advice on physical and mental ailments.
Open 11am-7pm Monday to Saturday. Tacuarí 7.