Exploring La Boca
Often having to remind myself that there is much more to Buenos Aires beyond the leafy cheap-pint-filled suburb of Palermo, I decided to explore a new barrio a little further out; La Boca. Fittingly known as The Art district, it spills with glorious contemporary galleries and contemporary buzz. This weekend was The BA Art Weekend, meaning the streets were filled with art lovers of all ages, displaying La Boca in its full glory – a colourful loveable chaos.
As the bus terminates behind El Caminito, considered to be La Boca’s landmark destination, you step out to La Boca river, dominated by a gritty, brutalist, and industrial aesthetic. Its name actually comes from the fact La Boca is the ‘mouth’ of the river, which runs along the capital’s southern border. At first sight, it certainly isn’t pretty, but it represents the mismatch aesthetic that La Boca’s all about. As a settling place for many immigrants from all over Europe, the cross-cultural element contributed to the birth of the tango and its name is almost synonymous with its football team, one of the two biggest in Argentina – La Boca Juniors.
Stroll down El Caminito
Declared by the government as an ‘open air museum’ in 1959, El Caminito is famous for inspiring the music for the famous tango “Caminito”, composed by Juan de Dios Filiberto. As a result, improvised tango floods its surroundings along with busy market-sellers selling tango-inspired goods. It’s first and foremost an alley, but it stands proud as the beating heart of La Boca.
Explore some of the many must-see galleries*
*And all with free entry! Result.
Del Valle Iberlucea 1140
Starting our art-crawl at Constitución, this gallery stroke home is wonderfully refreshing. With beautiful high ceilings and white-painted walls, you are instantly drawn to what is being exhibited. The owners and inhabitants confirm they want their gallery to be ‘a comfortable space which allows us to create another type of relationship with the artist’ and, with this in mind, I think they’ve been successful.
Gral. Gregorio Aráoz de Lamadrid 882
My love for P.O.P.A begins with my love for its owner, who upon meeting me and my friends insisted we MUST go and join the party at the back of the gallery. There gathered art-lovers of all ages, shapes and sizes, dancing and chatting and sharing stories. This instantly set the precedent for P.O.P.A’s buena onda, and the art wasn’t half bad too. In fact, much like the infamous owner, it was pretty damn funky.
Av. Don Pedro de Mendoza 1555
Munar is, more than anything, just a really amazing space. Described as a ‘meeting place to protest’, the contemporary sculptures and art evoke real cultural and political significance, and are just really cool to see. Usually open between Wednesday – Saturday 1-6pm, it’s a great place to think, observe and admire.
Feast at El Gran Paraiso
Gral. José Garibaldi 1428
Having been told by a friend this was ‘literally, the best steak place ever’ I couldn’t not give it a go. Situated in front of the almost-haunting abandoned train tracks, it is filled with argentine families indulging in the country’s tasty cuisine; mainly asado and quilmes. The colourful interior and funky outdoor space makes for a wonderful surrounding, made even better with the tasty (and not too pricey) food on offer. You could spend a whole afternoon here, and I’d completely recommend doing so.
Boca Juniors is one of the biggest football teams in Argentina – and this is their home. It’s impossible to walk through La Boca without seeing a good 70% of people sporting some type of La Boca merchandise, which gives you an idea of how important the football team is for this barrio.
It’s known as La Bombonera, meaning the chocolate box, for its unusual ‘D’ shape and steep sides, giving it amazing acoustics for its 47,000 supporters’ cheers.
Inside is the Museo de la Pasión Boquense, which is open daily from 10-6. Entry to the museum costs $100 for adults, or $130 with a tour of the stadium. Watching a game at this stadium is certainly on the bucket-list, but given its popularity and intensity you have to buy tickets sometimes months before the game.
And that’s that!
I did fall a bit in love with La Boca over the weekend, and I do wonder why it holds the reputation of being a bit seedy. Tourists are warned not to stray past el Caminito which is perhaps something to keep in mind, but overall I found the barrio a refreshing hub of everything arty, pulsating with life and energy. I’ll definitely be returning some day soon.