Once and Balvanera: Bargain city in Buenos Aires

By Tracey Chandler

If you want to find something at rock bottom prices, you should probably head to Once, because if you can’t find it at a cheap price in Once, you won’t find it at a cheap price anywhere (in Capital Federal, at least).

The other word that best describes the Once / Balvanera neighborhood of Argentina’s capital is “crowded” or perhaps even “madness” is the exact word we are looking for.

If you want to go for a nice stroll around the city, avoid the corner of Avenida Rivadavia and Pueyrredon like the plague. The stretch along Pueyrredon, in between Avenida Corrientes and Avenida Rivadavia, is a constant hub of traffic caught at a stand-still, traders selling whatever takes their fancy from open rucksacks on the sly, hoards of tired commuters frantically trying to make their way to the train station to head back out to the southern suburbs and bags upon bags of overflowing rubbish.

Appealing to you? Or more your idea of a nightmare in hell? Whether or not Once is a place to become fond of has a lot to do with personal taste. (As an insight, I love the madness that it inspires, but there are many people who live in Buenos Aires who try to never enter the mayhem of this particular area).

Nevertheless, putting personal taste aside, Once / Balvanera is an important part of the city for a number of reasons and if you are in Buenos Aires to visit, why not head into the lion’s ridiculously busy den? Even if it does turn into to the most fleeting visit in history!

Bargains Galore:

In Once, there is always a sale on something! If you wanted to buy someone’s eyeball, they would probably give you some kind of discount on it or even throw in the other one for free!

Some of the best bargains can be had on clothing and shoes (this includes sneakers too). However, the fact of the matter is that nearly everything can be bought in Once:

Kitchen Utensils:

Standard Argentine Gifts (including mates and ornaments of the Obelisk, etc.)
Clothing and Shoes
Lingerie
Street-side Snacks
Useful stuff (batteries, camera memory cards, torches, etc.)
Books
Make-up
Jewelry
Perfume and Creams

The World of Fabrics:

Lots of locals travel to Once because it is the neighborhood of the fabric. If you happen to be a dab-hand with the sewing machine and you want to whip up a new dress to dine in during your evenings in Buenos Aires, Once is the place to go.

You can buy lengths of whatever kind of fabric you might be looking for at the most economical price in the city. You can stock up on thread, buttons and wool (should you be a knitter at heart).

The only thing to bear in mind is that none of the fabric shops open on Sundays and as most of the community have Jewish backgrounds, very few shops are open on Saturdays. Some do open, but only for a few hours in the morning. Everything is normally closed by midday at the very, very latest.

Visiting the South:

If you’re feeling adventurous and you want to visit a little of what Buenos Aires has to offer outside of Capital Federal, the south (known as Zona Sur) is a very good choice. Some parts of the south, such as Monte Grande, are very green and full of family fun.

It is easy to arrive when you travel by train on the Sarmiento Line (which leaves from the train station in Once, the corner of Avenida Rivadavia and Avenida Pueyrredon) and a really nice way to spend one of your days on the weekend.

Be sure not to travel too late night for your own safety. The trains at night can sometimes be deserted and therefore it is recommended that you return to Capital before that sun goes down.

Ciudad Cultural Konex:

One of the most hip and happening cultural centers in Buenos Aires is the Ciudad Cultural Konex, found at 3131 Sarmiento (only three blocks away from the madness of the Pueyrredon stretch in Once.

Mondays from 7pm is the famous music program, La Bomba de Tiempo, and many people visit the Konex just to experience the excellence of this particular group of musicians. However, the Konex has much more to offer every single night of the week for those of you who love to get immersed in the cultural scene whilst travelling.

Check out the Ciudad Cultural Konex website and the program on offer. You will not be disappointed.

Final Thought:

Once / Balvanera might seem to be about selling fast and shouting loudly at first, but the spirit and true sense of “working city life” in this particular area of this capital is nothing short of urban beauty for those whose hearts are used to everything that is rough and ready.

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