Field Notes: Antiquing in Mercado de San Telmo

13/12/2011 § 5 Comments

Weekly on Sundays, the street Defensa in the neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires becomes a bustling marketplace where one can purchase almost anything.  Automobiles are prohibited, vendors set their stalls in the streets and enterprising young people rove the crowds carrying boxes of homemade empanadas for sale.  However, the most impressive attractions of the San Telmo market are the amazing antique shops and there are two in particular I wanted to share with you.

Gabriel del Campo (Defensa 1131 in San Telmo)

Gabriel del Campo was a rather surreal experience.  There were so many interesting and immaculate items — from dolls to furniture to fur rugs to an extensive collection of luggage and trunks — and they were staged so beautifully, it felt almost like a museum.  Albeit the kind of museum I wanted to live in.  And while the exchange rate is currently quite favorable, the shop is well aware of the high quality and value of their items.

For example, a diminutive woman with an accent that sounded like she was from Hong Kong was noisily admiring a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk that was almost as tall as she was.  When she asked the price, “18,000” was the answer.  “Pesos?” she asked, which would have been a little over $4,000.  “No, no.  American dollars.”

For those of us who are not on Ralph Lauren’s scouting team and find ourselves without their unlimited funds, rest assured that Gabriel del Campo is an inherently satisfying exercise in antique inspiration and it is definitely worth a look around.  Who knows, you might get lucky...

Antigüo Balcón (Defensa 961, Location 90, in Antiguo Mercado de San Telmo)

On the other hand, the tiny and adorable shop Antigüo Balcón, was a completely different — but much more lovely — experience.  Run by owner Abel Neira for over 20 years, the shop is a dizzying jumble of all sorts of odds and ends and hidden treasures.  Mr. Neira seems to somewhat specialize in a few types of items — namely cameras, musical instruments, fans and telephones — but truly, there is a little bit of everything crammed into this tiny space.

Mr. Neira was a delight to speak with.  As he pointed out small treasures my untrained eye might have missed, we chatted about my trip and the best places to go in the city — quite like visiting an old friend with an amazing collection.  At Antigüo Balcón, unlike at Gabriel del Campo, you can find amazing things that won’t require a second mortgage — or a first one for that matter — and you will consider your time with Mr. Neira as an added bonus.

Abel Neira, owner of Antigüo Balcón.

Related: Field Notes: Buenos Aires, Argentina

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