The La Boca neighborhood was so named for its position at “the mouth” of the Riachuelo, and its role as the port of call for thousands of immigrants from Italy, Spain, and other European countries. Those settlers struggled, starved, hoped, and celebrated in this rough-and-tumble barrio. Today, La Boca is the domain of the working class, bohemian artists, rabid soccer fans, and tango artists. (Tip: This tour is advised during daylight hours for safety.)
Start your tour at the (1) Casa Amarilla (the yellow house) (401 Almirante Brown and Avenida Martin Garcia), a replica of the home of Argentine war hero Admiral Guillermo Brown. Two blocks away is the (2) Nuestra Señora de los Inmigrantes Church (312 Necochea) dedicated to the immigrants of the city.
Wander down Avenida Almirante Brown to the (3) Tower of the Ghost at the corner of West Villafañe. Legend has it that a painter who killed himself still haunts the upper levels of the tower. For a quick snack, stop at (4) Banchero Pizzeria (www.bancheropizzerias.com.ar), which opened in 1932 and claims to be the creator of Buenos Aires style “fugazza” pizza, topped with cheese and onions. Walk straight to the end of Almirante Brown to the (5) Riachuelo, a brown, polluted river with a stench that has become as characteristic to this neighborhood as the Boca Juniors’ soccer jersey. There you’ll see the (6) Puente Transbordador (Old Ferry Bridge), an iron bridge that was built in 1914.
Head southwest along the water on Avenida Pedro de Mendoza, to the (7) Teatro de la Ribera at 1821. This city-run theater features murals by artist Benito Quinquela Martín. On the same block at 1835 Avenida Pedro de Mendoza, stop at the (8) Museo de Bellas Artes Benito Quinquela Martín. Open from Tuesdays through Sundays, the museum includes a school, displays of Argentine art, and an unrivaled view of La Boca neighborhood from its highest balcony.
Just beyond the steps of the museum, at (9) del Valle Iberlucea and Pedro de Mendoza (a plaza known as Vuelta de Rocha, which is shaped like a ship deck) begins the famous (10) Caminito, a heavily touristy stroll into this area’s past. You can see restored “conventillos,” shared homes made of wood and corrugated zinc and painted in bright primary colors. On any given day, there will be several tango singers and dancers performing in the cafés and artists hawking paintings and sketches. There, you also can visit the (11) Caminito street museum and a (12) wax museum (Del Valle Iberlucea 1261). (13) La Perla Café (Magallanes and Del Valle Iberlucea), once a brothel but now one of the city’s historic cafés, is worth a glimpse, though prices are pumped high for tourists.
Beyond Caminito, down Valle Iberlucea, you will come to the social centerpiece of the neighborhood, the (14) stadium of the Boca Juniors (805 Brandsen; www.bocajuniors.com.ar), the most popular soccer team in Argentina. Known as the “Bombonera” (the candy box) with a capacity of more than 49,000, a game here is an unforgettable experience. The stadium, when full of screaming, chanting, weeping, frenzied fans in blue and yellow, shakes as if an earthquake is erupting beneath your feet.
Shop National Geographic