Sprawled along the abandoned port of the Riachuelo River in the south of Buenos Aires, the neighborhood – or barrio – of La Boca is a pocket of old age charm, once the first stop-off for European settlers in Argentina and now a popular haunt of bohemian artists, tango dancers and the city’s youth.
While widely regarded as one of the city’s most dangerous districts, perhaps thanks to its largely poor population, a number of the most-visited streets are well policed and extremely popular with tourists looking for a taste of a lesser-seen Buenos Aires. Here, a street market, selling a number of souvenirs, leather pieces and local artworks, sprawls along the waterfront, where the rusted remnants of the old shipyard provide a hint to its former glory. There are a few local attractions worth noting – the Nuestra Señora de los Inmigrantes Church is dedicated to the area’s immigrant population; Teatro de la Ribera houses a museum of works by famed local painter Benito Quinquela Martín; the Caminito Street Museum and Wax Museum provide interesting snippets of the neighborhood’s history and the Museo de Bellas Artes offers an array of works by local artists, as well as some great views from its upper balcony.
The real allure, though, is the area itself – a labyrinth of cobblestone pathways and lopsided rooftops, with the houses along the renowned Caminito street painted in bright yellows, greens, reds, even fuchsia pink – paints left over from the shipyards. Cafés cluster along the main drag, where locals gather to sip yerba mate (a herbal Argentine tea) from bombillas (long metal straws) and eat facturas (delicious local pastries).
Be sure to check out the barrio’s famous football stadium too – the 49,000 capacity ‘La Bombonera’ (chocolate box) is home to the Boca Juniors, one of the country’s most popular teams. Games here are notoriously riotous events, with Argentine’s fervent passion for football on full display, but even if you don’t have tickets for a game, you can check out the Stadium Museum to see what all the fuss is about.