Tijuana's number-one attraction is shopping, with reasonable to rock-bottom prices on all kinds of merchandise: terra-cotta and colorfully glazed pottery, woven blankets and serapes, embroidered dresses and sequined sombreros, onyx chess sets, Viagra, beaded necklaces and bracelets, silver jewelry, leather bags and huarache sandals, hammered-tin picture frames, thick drinking glasses, novelty swizzle sticks, Cuban cigars, and Mexican liquors such as Kahlúa and tequila. You're permitted to bring $800 worth of purchases back across the U.S. border (sorry, no Cuban cigars allowed), including 1 liter of alcohol or three bottles of wine per person. At El Campanario, Av. Revolución 952 (no phone), and El Girasol, Av. Revolución 964 (tel. 664/685-8561), you'll find a broad selection of quality wares including talavera ceramics from Puebla, Oaxacan black-clay pottery, Huichol bead art, hand-blown glassware from Tonalá, Day of the Dead curios, alebrijes (fantasy animal figurines), and works of art made from milagros, small silver religious offerings.
Although many of the city's former tourist-oriented shops on Revolución are now closed, there are plenty of alternatives, starting with Sanborn's, a branch of the Mexico City department store long favored by American travelers. It sells an array of regional folk art and souvenirs, books about Mexico in both Spanish and English, and candies and fresh sweet treats from the bakery -- and you can have breakfast in the sunny cafe. It's open daily from 7:30am to 1am.
For a taste of everyday Mexico, visit Mercado Hidalgo, in the Zona Río 1 block west of Plaza del Zapato at avenidas Sánchez Taboada and Independencia, a busy indoor-outdoor marketplace where vendors display fresh flowers and produce, sacks of dried beans and chiles by the kilo, and a few souvenir crafts (including some excellent piñatas). Morning is the best time to visit the market, and you'll be more comfortable paying with pesos, since most sellers are accustomed to a local crowd.
Shopping malls are as common in Tijuana as in any big American city; you shouldn't expect to find typical souvenirs there, but shopping alongside residents and other intrepid visitors is often more fun than feeling like a sitting-duck tourist. One of the biggest, and most convenient, is Plaza Río Tijuana, Paseo de los Héroes 96 at Avenida Independencia, Zona Río (tel. 664/684-0402), an outdoor plaza anchored by several department stores and featuring dozens of specialty shops and casual restaurants. Plaza Agua Caliente, Bl. Agua Caliente 4558, Colonia Aviación (tel. 664/681-7777), is a more upscale shopping center, and in addition to fine shops and restaurants, it is known for its emphasis on health and beauty, with day spas, gyms, and doctors' offices in abundance here. Other shopping malls are listed on www.tijuanaonline.org.