La Boca is a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires that is very popular with visitors to Argentina. Tourists from all over the world flock to La Boca to visit La Bombonera, the home of the Boca Juniors, one of the most popular football teams in Argentina and to visit the colourful pedestrian street known as the Caminito where tango artists perform and artists showcase their work. We visited La Boca on a day tour organised by our Buenos Aires hostel, Milhouse and despite being horrendously hungover from trying to party with the Argentinians, had a fantastic day learning about this unique, colourful neighbourhood and the triumphs and struggles of the people who call it home!
Welcome to La Boca!
La Boca has a really interesting history and owes its name to its geographical position at the mouth of the Riachuelo River, with ‘La Boca’ translating to ‘the mouth’. Its proximity to the river is the very reason for La Boca’s very existence as the area was the port of call for thousands of immigrants from Italy, Spain and other European countries. The neighbourhood consisted solely of shipyards and houses for the workers and their houses were built with leftover building materials which consisted mainly of planks, sheet metal and corrugated iron. Our tour guide told us that the river is one of the most polluted in the world and if you drink directly from it you will die in a few minutes. I definitely can’t confirm the validity of that fact, however the river did look really dirty so I wouldn’t recommend drinking from it (if for some reason you were planning on it)…
Most people who come to La Boca will come to visit two attractions, the La Bombonera football stadium and the Caminito.
The Caminito is an iconic, colourful pedestrian street in La Boca. In 1960, a local artist Benito Quinquela Martin painted the walls of an abandoned street of houses in bright colours and erected a makeshift stage for performers. He encouraged artists and performers to showcase their work and it very quickly became a haven for artists, tango dancers and performers alike. Today the cobblestoned street is lined with vibrant, brightly coloured corrugated-iron houses and is filled with tango dancers performing and artists showcasing their work both on the street and in the studios.
La Bombonera Stadium and the Boca Juniors
The second main reason people visit La Boca is to see La Bombonera, the stadium of the Boca Juniors, one of the most popular football teams in Argentina and the club of famous Diego Maradona. Diego Maradona was known as one of the best football players of his time and famously led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup! The stadium is known as the “candy box” due to its bright yellow and blue colours and holds 49,000 people. I imagine watching a game there would be an unforgettable experience, apparently the whole stadium shakes like crazy because of the screaming fans!
We visited the stadium as part of our tour and had a guided tour through the stands, the stadium and hall of fame where there is a statue and many tributes paid to Maradona, Argentina’s favourite son. There are companies that do tours to games as well if you’re brave enough to join the diehard La Boca fans in the stands!
Whilst we felt completely safe on our tour, La Boca is an economically disadvantaged neighbourhood and we were warned that the area can be dangerous for visitors who stray off the tourist path, which includes Caminito and the few surrounding blocks. If you’re unsure then just take a tour like we did! Tours are great because you have safety in numbers, you know where to visit without getting lost and you can generally learn a lot more from your guide then you can a guidebook! We’d had a huge night the before at a tango class and show and so I can safely say, if we hadn’t pre-booked and paid for the tour, there was little chance we would have made ourselves. I always travel with medication for various illnesses that you can get whilst travelling (including hangovers)and usually ordered my medication through click pharmacy when living in the UK.
La Boca is a really unique neighbourhood and is an easy day trip on public transport from central Buenos Aires. We had a great day on our tour where we learnt a great deal about the interesting history of this colourful neighbourhood, about the struggles and successes of its people and about the main places of interest, Caminito and La Bombonera. La Boca is a bright, vibrant and colourful neighbourhood filled with beautiful street art, the proud blue and yellow of the Boca Juniors and the bright primary colours of Caminito. A visit to La Boca during your time in Argentina will give you a completely different insight and perspective into life for some in Buenos Aires.