Everything You Need to Know About La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina
By: Lola Méndez
The brightly hued façades of the La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina draw tourists from around the globe. The area has an international reputation for being dangerous but with these tips, you can safely visit. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting La Boca.
History of the neighborhood
La Boca is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Argentina. The area’s name means ‘the mouth’ in Spanish and is a geographical reference to the proximity of the mouth of the Matanza-Riachuelo River. La Boca was an important shipyard and major port for Italian immigration which is still apparent today through the area’s architecture and cuisine. In the 1950s local artist Benito Quinquela Martín began to paint exterior walls in various bright shades. aimed to revive the practice of early Italian immigrants painting their homes with bright colors. The Museo Bellas Artes de La Boca Benito Quinquela Martín is a museum in Quinquela’s former home which features much of his artwork.
The touristic area of La Boca has become quite kitschy. There are life-sized figures of important Argentine historical characters such as Evita Peron greeting tourists from balconies, a gigantic mural that depicts the history of the area, and endless stalls of inexpensive souvenirs along the cobblestone street, El Caminito. The ‘little walkway’ has been an official open-air museum since 1959.
It’s still worth a visit to stroll the colorful streets and snap photos and enjoy a street performance. Be sure to check out Casa Amarilla which is a replica of the home of the founder of the Argentine Navy, Almirante Brown, who was Irish. To make sure you don’t miss any of the attractions, hire Liz, a local porteña and a certified tour guide.
There are almost always couples performing tango in the area. The powerful dance originated across the Rio de la Plata in Uruguay. Don’t forget to leave a tip! If you have time, browse the contemporary artwork at Fundación Proa.
The local soccer stadium, La Bombonera, is where the Boca Juniors team holds matches. This is the stadium where the Argentine soccer icon Diego Maradona played. You’ll see the team’s colors of blue and yellow all over the neighborhood.
La Boca is an economically disadvantaged neighborhood with a high level of crime. Only visit during daylight hours when tourist police patrol the area to protect tourists from petty theft and pickpockets. As always, be smart about your valuables. Only bring your phone or camera out to take a picture and keep your money somewhere secure like a money belt rather than a tote bag or in your back pocket. Never leave your possessions unattended. Most locals will advise you to take a taxi to and from the destination.
It’s not advisable to wander around outside of the touristic zone on your own. BA Cultural Concierge’s local tour guides Juan and Nestor can take you inside artists' homes, to hidden family-owned restaurants, help you spot street art, and share fascinating stories about unknown historical landmarks.
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