A Traveler’s Guide to La Boca, Buenos Aires

If you’ve seen any guidebook or brochure about Argentina, you have seen La Boca.

The colorful streets of this historic Buenos Aires barrio grace the cover of nearly every single piece of literature about the city!

It’s also the only area of Buenos Aires that can feel like a tourist trap.

This recreated for tourists vibe can really turn a lot of visitors off, especially those looking for authenticity.

Tango performers hit up tourists to pose for cheesy photos, restaurants charge too high prices for too low quality food, and the shops are filled with magnets, trinkets and fake jerseys.

I can see why many travelers may recoil from it.

But I love La Boca. It’s gritty. Buenos Aires was born here and there is a lot of history here if you know where to look.

I recommend embracing the cheese (because if you pay attention, you’ll see a lot of great people watching throughout) and digging below the surface. Visit the museums, go on a guided tour with a local.

Because La Boca IS Buenos Aires.

By the end of this post you’ll know the history, know how to see all the sites right and I think – hope – you will always be a fan of La Boca.

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Is La Boca Safe?

First, let’s tackle the biggest concern about visiting La Boca in Buenos Aires.

Is it safe to go to La Boca?

General answer: YES.

But it is true that some of the southern neighborhoods are less safe than the rest of the city, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the city.

Having lived here for 14 years I feel safe and I walk all over the neighborhood, honestly. But I know the area well, I know what to watch out for and I speak fluent Spanish in a local accent.

For tourists, I recommend staying on the tourist paths. Visit during daylight hours and leave before sunset.

And don’t bring everything with you. Leave your passport, credit cards, and excess cash at your hotel.

Feel free to use your phone and camera but don’t be flashy about it.

Note that this is all good practice for the entire city and all of your travels, in general.

Read more: Is Buenos Aires safe for tourists?

The taxi line is right in front of the Caminito.

How to get to La Boca

Since La Boca is on the far southern end of the city, I recommend taking a taxi or Uber.

Another safe and easy option is the hop-on-hop-off bus. This is the easiest way to get to all the main highlights in Buenos Aires since you can hop on and off all over the city.

This is how I sent my parents to La Boca while I was busy at work and they loved it! It really takes away the stress of finding your way home at the end of the day.

I wouldn’t recommend taking public transportation unless you’re familiar with the city.

If you feel confident on the Buenos Aires bus system, take the 152. The final stop leaves you at right at the Caminito.

Read more: A Guide to Conquering Buenos Aires Public Transportation

The History of La Boca, Buenos Aires

To appreciate La Boca you must learn the history and I promise, it’s interesting!

La Boca is located on the south side of Buenos Aires, bordering San Telmo.

The name Boca literally means mouth, and being the city’s main port that is exactly what this neighborhood was.

Buenos Aires is a melting pot of immigrants. La Boca welcomed them.

The largest group to immigrate here came from Genoa in Italy, shortly followed by groups from all over Europe, with the largest wave of immigration occurring at the start of the 20th century.

Coming from a port city themselves, these Italians felt right at home in La Boca.

Tenement housing was built with pieces of scrap metal and painted with leftover paint from the shipyard.

This is the reason for the rainbow palate of colors we see today.

La Republica de la Boca

In the 1880’s, after a labor conflict that resulted in a lengthy strike, a group of Genovese immigrants decided enough was enough.

They signed a declaration to the King of Italy declaring the independent Republic of La Boca.

They seceded from Argentina and flew the Genovese flag.

While it was short-lived, it was deemed important enough for President Julio Argentino Roca to bring the army with him to personally remove the flag.

That was the end of the rebellion but the spirit of La Republica lived on.

The Yellow Fever, How it changed La Boca, & its Revival

The yellow fever outbreak during the 1870’s forever changed the landscape of Buenos Aires.

The affluent residents in southern neighborhoods like La Boca and San Telmo fled to the countryside (areas that are now Recoleta and Belgrano, for example).

Those left behind had no other choice but to remain.

This social divide between the north and the south is still evident today.

In the 1950’s there were multiple efforts to revive the neighborhood. Quinquela Martín, a famous Argentine artist famed for his paintings of the neighborhood, led the effort.

In 1959, the Caminito was officially given the title of an open-air museum after a tango song of the same name (written by Juan de Dios Filiberto, a friend of Quinquela Martín).

In recent years La Boca has been slowly cleaning up, with the appearance of cultural centers, art galleries, and cafes.

What will La Boca be like in 10 years’ time? I expect it to be an in demand area, but time will tell.

Things to do in La Boca

La Boca can admittedly feel like a tourist trap. And if you’re not careful, it can easily become one.

Avoid the tourist trappings of cheap souvenirs and overpriced (and not great) empanadas.

If you do it right, La Boca can also be the most authentic place in the city.

There are great local restaurants, art museums, and incredible street art.

Here is how to get the most out of your visit to La Boca.

The Best Tours of La Boca

I always go on guided tours whenever possible if I want to learn the history and find local hole in the wall restaurants to eat like a local.

La Boca is one of those places that is best seen with a local guide.

And that is even more important since it’s not recommended to go off the beaten path here as a tourist. With a guide you can venture further afield.


  • Group walking tour of La Boca | At only $10 and 2 hours, this tour is ideal, providing complete La Boca experience. At two hours it offers a comprehensive experience including tango, La Boca Juniors football stadium, and the colorful Caminito.
  • Private Walking Tour of La Boca | It’s pricier but you avoid the large crowd of the previous tour and can personalize the experience.
  • Authentic History Tour of La Boca | This is a tour that dives deep into the history of La Boca, if you want to really learn about this city and go off the beaten path, this is the tour for you.
  • La Boca Street Art Tour | This is a bike tour of La Boca and nearby barrios Barracas and San Telmo. A must for street art lovers.
  • La Boca Food Tour | The best way to discovery any place is via its food, DeTour BA has a great tour of the area mixing history and food. Use code SOLSALUTE to save 10%.

See the Caminito & The Conventillos

The Caminito and the blocks surrounding it are a colorful feast for the eyes.

Wander the streets and fill your Instagram with all it has to offer.

Enter the traditional Conventillo homes that have been turned into shops and restaurants.

Listen to the tango music and watch the dancers perform (and remember to tip).

Conventillos were originally single-family homes.

When the wealthy fled the neighborhood during the yellow fever outbreak these mansions were occupied by multiple families.

Entire families would share one room, and the central patios served as communal areas to cook and wash.

Today these conventillos are home to tourist shops, which may feel fake and cheesy at first glance but if you look closely, you can see the scars of the past.

Go to a Game/the Museum at La Bombonera

A block or two from the Caminito you’ll see the imposing blue and yellow stadium, home to the Boca Juniors football team.

Legend has it that they selected their colors from a Swedish flag that was flying off a cargo ship in the port.

This is one of the top two teams in the city or arguably, the country.

Going to a game is a once in a lifetime experience.

It’s not possible to purchase tickets unless you’re a member of the futbol club but there are agencies you can go with. I like Homefans, which allows locals to create their own experiences and host visitors at homegames.

I’ve been to a few games with them and always feel safe.

Read all about my Boca Juniors experience with Homefans, then click here to book your tickets. Use my code SOLSALUTE to save 10%.

If you can’t go to a game or would rather not, visit the museum in the stadium, click here for more information.

For a complete futbol experience, this guided tour includes a private visit to both La Bombonera and River Plate’s stadium in Belgrano.

Read More: All about Futbol in Buenos Aires: Games, Museums & Tours

Get Cultural at the Best Museums in La Boca

Here are three great museums to discover in La Boca:

  • Usina del Arte – Agustín R. Caffarena 1 – Usina del Arte is located in an area the city government is developing into the Arts District. Check the government website for current exhibits. The building itself is impressive in its own right. It’s conveniently located across the street from El Obrero, time your visit to have lunch before or after.
  • Fundación Proa – Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza 1929 – The Proa is located at the beginning of the Caminito, overlooking the water. The Proa is a contemporary art center with a cinema, auditorium, and modern art exhibits. The café on the terrace is worth a visit for the view alone.
  • El Museo Benito Quinquela Martín – Av. Pedro de Mendoza 1843/35- This museum, facing the water and a statue of its namesake, is home to a large collection of Quinquela’s art. Quinquela is famous for his colorful depictions of La Boca. More on this museum and his history below…
The Museo Benito Quinquela Martin in La Boca, Buenos Aires: His museum and donated properties (including public school & theater).

Go to El Museo Benito Quinquela Martín

Benito Quinquela Martín is one of the biggest names of La Boca. He was an orphan, adopted at the age of 7.

He was a self-taught painter without formal training who became one of the country’s most renowned artists.

Quinquela is known as the painter of the port, as his work largely depicts scenes of the port you see here in La Boca.

Using the profits made from selling his works he was able to purchase property right here on the water of his beloved La Boca.

He donated the majority of the land to be used as a school, a theater, and a museum, retaining the upper floor for his residence and workshop.

All of this remains here today. Attend the free museum, but pay the minimal suggested donation for an entrance fee. You’ll see school children running about and posters advertising shows at the theater.

This was all created as his thanks to a neighborhood that gave him so much.

The rainbow cobblestones lining the water in front of the museum were painted in his honor.

His living quarters is in tact, all painted in a rainbow of tones similar to what you see in the Caminito below.

Along with his art, I enjoyed seeing the large collection of figureheads from ships. It’s a really interesting museum, don’t skip it.

The Viejo Puente Transbordador

One of the most unique bridges of its kind, this old transporter bridge operated from 1914 until the 1960’s when the neighborhood fell into neglect.

It served as a connection to Isla Maciel (in Dock Sud) for years and even allowed the old tramway to cross the river in its hanging ferry.

Like other bridges of its kind, it was designed to be high enough to allow ships to pass under it when entering the port.

It is an iconic piece of the skyline in La Boca.

With cheesy statues like this, it’s easy to write off La Boca but give it a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Admire the Street Art in La Boca

The area surrounding Usina del Arte (above) is blanketed in stunning murals as well as the streets surrounding the Caminito.

With the city developing the area into the Arts District, they’ve promoted some of the best street art in Buenos Aires here on its streets.

Explore the surrounding blocks as well as the underpass of the highway, which has been blanketed in murals.

This bike tour is all about the street art here and in neighboring barrios.

Go Behind the Scenes with Teatro Colón Fábrica 

The Teatro Colon is one of the world’s few theaters that can create props and costume in its own workshop.

Teatro Colon’s workshop is here in La Boca and has opened for visits and guided tours on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

You’ll see costumes, props, special effects and more to see a side of the world famous theater you’d miss any other way. It’s a true look behind the scenes.

How to visit Teatro Colón Fábrica:

  • Located at Av. Pedro de Mendoza 2163 in La Boca
  • Open Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays (& Feriados) from 12 pm – 6 pm
  • Reserve in advance, click here to book a ticket alone or a guided visit.
Touristy restaurants are fun for the tango performers, but avoid the food. Enjoy the show with a coffee and move on.

Where to eat in La Boca

It can be tempting to eat at the many restaurants you see lining the Caminito, especially when the waiters hound you with lunch offers.

The food is generally bad and overpriced. If you want to rest your feet here and watch the tango performers, I’d stick to ordering a coffee, beer or soda and enjoying the show.

Have your meal elsewhere if you want a quality, memorable meal.

One option is to combine your visit to La Boca with nearby San Telmo and have lunch there. San Telmo has a lot of great places to eat. I list my favorite spots in my San Telmo guide here.

For dining in La Boca, here are a couple of my favorites:

  • El Obrero | Agustín R. Caffarena 64, Open for dinner only as of 2023 | The walls and ceilings of El Obrero are covered in futbol paraphernalia and it oozes La Boca pride. Call the number in their Instagram profile to reserve. This is one of my favorite restaurants in the whole city but being open only for dinner has made it hard to return in recent years. If you go, definitely take a taxi/uber there and back.
  • El Gran Paraiso | This parilla is located just off the Caminito. Eat in the central patio of a traditional Conventillo home, tucked away from the madness of the Caminito itself. It’s a peacful oasis, to use an accurate cliche. Like the rest of the area is it undeniably touristy, but it is very beautiful and the food is top quality. Sit down for the full menu or order a choripan sandwich from the window by the door and eat it on the porch with a view.
  • Banchero | For a historic pizzeria, Banchero can’t be beat. Keep in mind this is Argentine style pizza (thick crust, low on sauce, heavy on the cheese). Banchero invented the flavor Fugazzetta (cheese and onion) and this is the original location. Read all about the best pizza in Buenos Aires, go to this location if you feel safe walking a few blocks off the beaten path or better yet, visit their downtown location on Av. Corrientes.

Map of La Boca, Buenos Aires

I’ve highlighted the safest area in yellow.

You’ll notice a few pins lie outside of the “safe zone.” Use your best judgement if you choose to walk here.

If you’re at all nervous or feel like “I stick out here”, I recommend staying only on the Caminito.

Read More

Argentina Travel Resources

  • TRAVEL INSURANCE | It is always a good idea to travel insured. It protects you in so many cases, like lost luggage and trip cancellations, medical emergencies and evacuations. It’s very affordable with the potential to save you thousands in the case of an emergency. I recommend SafetyWing.
  • PHONE PLAN | These days, traveling with data is essential. Especially in Argentina where everything is managed on Instagram and WhatsApp. I recommend this E-SIM card. It’s hassle-free and affordable, for more read how to get an Argentina sim card.
  • ACCOMMODATION IN ARGENTINA booking.com is the most common hotel site used in Argentina and it’s where you’ll find the most options.
  • RENTAL CARS | I love to travel Argentina via road trip, I’ve always used rentalcars.com, now they are operating under the umbrella of Booking.com’s car rental system.
  • BUS TICKETS | Check Busbud for long distance bus routes and tickets.
  • VPN | If you’ll be using a public WiFi connection and want to secure your data, I highly recommend using a VPN, I personally use and have had a good experience with ExpressVPN. I also use it to access Hulu and American Netflix from Argentina.
  • FLIGHTS | Always check Google Flights and Skyscanner for flights to and within Argentina. Aerolineas Argentina is the local airline with the most routes. FlyBondi and Jetsmart are two budget airlines with dirt-cheap prices (but expect to pay for every add-on like luggage).
  • BOOK A CONSULTATION | I offer one-on-one travel consultations to help you plan your trip to Argentina. Pick my brain to get a local’s insight. Click here for more information.

6 thoughts on “A Traveler’s Guide to La Boca, Buenos Aires”

  1. Buenos Aires is a big beautiful city. Visit for the history and the flavor. I would suggest you start with the hop on hop off bus tour. Then select the places that you would like to explore. Tango everywhere. It is also a walking city, reminds me so much of NYC. Also enjoyed La Boca, we have souvenir picture dressed as Tango Dancers Lol, fun. Enjoyed the trip so much, forgot to schedule a trip to Montevideo.

  2. I agree on the hop on hop off bus tour, it’s an excellent introduction to the city and easy transport to La Boca!
    I also have a couple souvenir photos with tango dancers, they’re great memories!!

  3. Thank you. I love your posts. We’re heading to La Boca today, will try out your recommendations. We already happily followed then in Bariloche.

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