What to bring home: Argentina's best one-of-a-kind souvenirs
20 May 2016 by Rachel Mostyn
In the history of travel, it’s always been a struggle to decide what to bring back for friends, family and yourself. While the explorers of Britain’s past might have thought nothing of pinching a sphinx, and the pioneers of its neo-colonial present barely bat an eyelid at indelibly memorialising their trip with a backstreet tattoo, it seems to be increasingly hard to find truly authentic mementos.
We’ve put together this guide to help you pick out Argentina’s food, souvenirs and luxury goods to bring home after your holiday.
It’s long been the case that the Sport of Kings has best been best played in the Land of Silver. Matches attract crowds of up to 30,000 spectators and, at the time of writing, seven of the ten highest-ranking players in the world are Argentinian.
And, as a country whose vast pampas and gaucho history is inextricably tied with equine sport, it’s no surprise that Argentina has dominated world polo ever since British immigrants introduced it in the late 19th century. To grab a slice of history, head to a La Martina outlet in Buenos Aires. While the renowned polo outfitter enjoys a Jermyn Street and Harrods address back in London, in the Argentine capital you’ll be able to pick up a sought-after club shirt along with a full range of lifestyle clothing from its flagship store.
You can't not be inspired to pick up an authentic polo shirt after watching a local game
As the country’s national drink, mate – pronounced “mah-tey” – is quintessentially Argentinian. It’s a caffeine infused herbal tea that’s enjoyed everywhere from cute back alley coffee houses to leafy plazas. Even the act has taken on a certain ritual. First a roughly spherical gourd is packed with leaves before near-boiling water is poured in.
The resultant brew is sipped through a silver straw or bombilla. It’s considered rude to stir and even say thank you as the first insults the brew and second the brewer’s generosity. For the best mate, head to one of the many artisan markets across the country and be sure to pick up a traditional wooden gourd set complete with carved bamboo, silver or metal bombilla.
Mate is traditionally served in a calabesh gourd
Dulce de leche
Dulce de leche or, literally, ‘sweet milk’, is Argentinian caramel used to prepare everything from cakes and cookies to ice creams and pancakes. However, its most famous form is the alfajor, a traditional confection that consists of creamy dulce de leche sandwiched between two shortbread biscuits. Entire stores are dedicated to the stuff. Over the course of your stay it won’t be long till you’re popping in to boutique bakeries to get your afternoon fix or spreading it on your morning toast.
While you’ll be able to find it in any self-respecting supermarket, many Argentines swear by Havanna for its thick, rich blend. You can also buy it by the jar – ideal for flights.
Alfajor is a rich, caramel-based speciality of Argentina – stop by a few bakeries to see if you can pick a favourite!
The same pampas grasslands that today host polo games have long been the site of vast cattle ranches; in the eighteenth century millions of tanned hides were sent to Europe each year. Although it might prove tricky to transport a juicy Argentine steak back, a leather bag is much more manageable. Indeed, the country has become famous the world over for its leatherwork with boutiques, entire markets and studio shops springing up around the country. Our recommendation is Murillo 666 for its fashion forward jackets. What’s more, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, Murillo Street is packed full of shops dedicated to the industry.
Gaucho leather belts look great with denim, and add panache to the chino-wearer