The most famous and colorful (and touristy) area in Buenos Aires is the old working class area of La Boca. Settled by Italian immigrants, mostly from Genoa, this area retains an Italian feel to it. In fact, the official emblem of La Boca has the Genoese flag in it. La Boca was also instrumental in the rise of the tango. You’ll find many tango performers in the street.
I arrived at around 9am to an area devoid of the tourist rush that was to come. It was great to be there in peace and quiet to have the streets to myself. However, the afternoon sun makes for better photos. Once the clock struck 11, the streets were buzzing. Just about every table at every restaurant was full, and the street performers were on tourists like white on rice. Not exactly my scene, so I’m glad I went early.
If you arrive by taxi like I did, you’ll probably be dropped off at La Vuelta de Rocha, the corner of the Riachuelo River. This is where La Boca begins. There is no metro near La Boca, so our group decided a taxi would be easiest. To save some money, take the Subte to Constitución and get a taxi from there.
The iconic bridge in the background, Puente Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda, was built in 1914. It’s an important symbol of La Boca.
The most famous section of La Boca is El Caminito. This small street is an open-air museum of colorful homes brightly painted in random colors. Workers used to ask for extra paint from the ships docked in the shipyards and would use it to paint their homes. They would also use any leftover materials they could get their hands onto, such as corrugated sheets. Stones used to balance the weight of ships were broken down to make the cobblestone streets.
The streets immediately surrounding El Caminito are lined with restaurants, souvenir shops, and tango shows.
Famous Argentinians such as Eva Perón, Pope Francis, and Diego Maradona, are portrayed with cartoonish figures situated in just about every shop, window, and balcony. Several figures of prostitutes can also be found.
It’s also possible to find some interesting murals and graffiti art if you wander around a bit.
La Boca is safe where all the tourists are. Wandering outside the touristy area didn’t feel as safe, although there’s not much to see there, anyway. Just watch yourself outside the touristy area, especially at night.