This is one of the classic places to go. The catch is the colorful houses which used to be ghettos in the past for the immigrants coming from Europe. Most of them Spanish, Italian and German.
Why are the houses painted like tha you may ask? Well, in the past the people who lived there didn't have enough money to paint their houses. So they used to go to the dock (a few meters away) and ask the people working with the ships to give them some of the paint they used for the ships. So they would get a bit of orange, a bit of blue, a bit of red, etc. That's why they had to paint their housed with different colours.
As you may imagine nowadays this houses are still painted like that because they have a sponsor: Alba, the most famous paint brand.
Walking around caminito and perhaps going into the shops and having a look at the market, will not take you more than 2 hours. After that you might want to visit the Boca Juniors football stadium, 8 blocks away. If this is the case try to get a taxi to go there, just in case. La Boca is a poor neighbourhood so you don't want to run any risks.
Also you may want to visit the Quinquela Martin museum, a few meters away from Caminito. This painter is one of our most important. He used to paint scenes from the dock.
Oh, for you to get into the mood beforehand: the oudor of the river (Riachuelo) there is unbearable sometimes! But you get used to it after the first 10 minutes! :)
I saw pictures of the colored houses in La Boca when I read the travel books, and so I took a taxi to that famed street of El Caminito.
The taxi driver was very kind, but he looked very concerned that I was walking alone. He warned me to just stay where people were since there have been reports of tourists being attacked in the area. I followed his instructions.
In the mid-19th century, La Boca was home to Spanish and Italian immigrants who worked in meat-packing plants and warehouses in the beef-shipping industry. They used leftover paint to color the corrugated metal they used for building their houses. El Caminito, whose name is derived from a Tango song, is the most famous street with these colourful houses. And as expected, you can see tango dancers here and even take a photo or dance with them for a small fee.
Someone then handed me a brochure about a boat ride, and I went to the stall and bought a ticket for the 1PM ride. "Diego" who handed me the brochure was the same person who drove the boat, and unfortunately for the company, I was the only passenger. So, it was like I rented the whole boat all for my own as it set off into the open river!
I made a video of my short trip to Buenos Aires on Youtube. Hope you like this:
JUMPING NORMAN IN BUENOS AIRES
La Boca means ‘the mouth’ and that refers to the mouth of the Riachuelo River. This was BsAs first natural port. The dock facilities of Darsena Sur lie nearby. In the latter part of the 19th century, immigrants settled the area, especially Italians, giving it a peculiar appearance and nature. The tourist heart is located next to the small plaza by the Vuelta de Roca – the site where Almirante Brown, whose bust sits in the plaza – established the Argentina navy’s fleet shipyards. From the plaza, the little Caminito alley takes off. Boat tours of the south harbor also start from here, as well. Next to the plaza on the east side is the Escuela Pedro de Mendoza in which you can wander and look over the paintings of Benito Quinquela Martin, capturing some of the earlier soul of both La Boca and its port.
This street extends a short distance off the Vuelta de Rocha. Originally it served as a rail detour line. The name was given in memory of Juan de Dios Filiberto and for his tango of the same name. Colorful houses clad in metal and painted in vivid colors line the street. The street, itself, is a gauntlet of art and crafts run by countless tourists each day.
Another look into the soul of La Boca is found a few short blocks north of the Vuelta de Rocha at the Boca Juniors Stadium. This is also known as La Bombonera – the Chocolate Box – because of its shape. An entrance mural painted by Quinquela Martin depicts the story of how Boca adopted its blue and yellow colors. Originally, the colors were red and white, but those were also the color of the River Plate team. Those colors were retained by River Plate when they beat Boca in a game to decide who would wear what. It was decided in La Boca afterwards, that they would adopt the colors of the first ship that entered the harbor and that was a Swedish ship. Boca Juniors have a long and storied history, though they might always be known as the team of Diego Maradona, the Argentine answer to Pele.
The original 1908 bridge is in a permanent ‘up’ position, sitting as a neighborhood symbol. Next to it, the 1939 bridge was build with a design harkening back to its predecessor. The bridges effectively separate the dock facilities of Darsena Sur from the neighborhood of La Boca. At the old bridge’s base is a small ferry service – the Riachuelo dinghies – providing pedestrians a means to cross the river by for 50 centavos, maybe more meaningful glimpse into the soul of La Boca than the garishness of the Caminito?
Hey dudes go and visit La Boca and take photos of the rainbow colour corrugated houses. This is where the artistic inhibitions flow, where the tango begun, where Maradona started his football career.
La Boca is a district of Buenos Aires. It is a working class area and the oldest neighbourhood. In the early days the European mostly the Italian migrants from Genoa settled here, built the area and gave it a unique flavour. It was a busy port and now is no longer use as a Port.
At Caminito Street is where you see colourful houses, souvenir shops, local artist selling their art work, the tango dancer perform their skills and where you’ll find tourist from other continent congregate. Nearby there are many restaurant, Italian Tavern and coffee bar. In some of the restaurant the Tango dancer will entertain while you are eating your lunch.
We bought a painting from the local artist for 70 pesos and it look superb in our lounge.
Not far is the Boca Soccer Jnr Stadium. It is the home of Boca Junior Soccer club. Diego Maradona did play with the club. When we were in Buenos Aires Boca Junior was on top of the ladder.
If you into art a couple blocks away from Caminito Street is the Fine Arts Museum of La Boca. It has the collection of famous Argentine artist.
We were glad we visited La Boca even though we read many negative views from other tourist. Just to show never believe what you read. Yeah ok it’s where the tourist hangs out but I am a tourist.
La Boca is a poor neighbourhood. A word of warning stay in the tourist area of La Boca, don’t run risks by venturing out from the safe zone and watch out for pickpockets.
The taxi from the National Historical Museum had us in the tourist area of La Boca in only a few minutes time with my pocket only A$5 (US$1.80) lighter. However, the rain was still pouring down, so we just stood waiting it out beneath a large awning partially over the sidewalk in front of a restaurant.
After about 10-15 minutes, the shower passed and people began to emerge onto the stone block streets of this famous neighbourhood. This was the site of the only port for Buenos Aires and it became the home of many poor Europeans during the influx of immigrants between 1860-1930. Many of these workers were Italians from Genoa, who re-established their own little community here in 'Little Italy'.
Because this was a hard-working area full of immigrant labourers, housing was whatever you could make. This led to many innovative designs using sheets of zinc metal, or whatever else was at hand. A few coats of bright leftover ship's paint and there you have it, a very distinctive neighbourhood!
The barrio of La Boca is colorful with its painted metal buildings and artwork lining the sidewalks. This area is known for the bright colors and lively themes of La Boca's artists.
The Riachuelo River runs through the barrio and although it has a reputation for being filthy, there have been efforts to clean up the waterfront. La Boca is prone to flooding so the sidewalks are very high off the streets in some areas.
The Boca Juniors soccer team calls La Boca home. The stadium is nicknamed Bombondera or "bon-bon". Stadium tours are given for a small fee and a great gift shop for sports enthusiasts is on site. There are numerous souvenir shops outside the stadium, also.
The day we visited a group of young boys paraded down the street, entertaining the visitors with accordion music. They received tokens of appreciation from the spectators.
Every once in a while I would pass by this mural by bus or taxi, either on the way to or from La Boca. And I never stopped and took an extended look, mostly because I just chalked up to touristy kitsch. But after taking a walk around the Parque Lezama area, I wandered on over and snapped a few photos. And once you get a little closer, you get an idea of what it really is: a collection of recycled debris and material taken from the renovation of a conventillo (immigrant houses) located at Moreno and Balcarce. The building had 94 rooms, was originally built in 1880 and was one of the first of its kind in the city. So, this mural does have some historical significance. The photo you see is just one part as it's very difficult to get the whole thing. I've included other photos in my City Art travelogue.
Of course, the main reason folks go to La Boca is to take a walk down Calle Caminito. And despite the usual hucksters and vendors, the street really is like an open-air museum. Evidently, the street used to be a detour of the General Roca rail system line going from the Yellow House (Casa Amarilla) to the port. The passenger train discontinued service in 1954 and the street started its transformation.
A group of residents, among them the painter Quinquela Martin, proposed the name Caminita in honor of Juan de Dios Filberto, author of the tango of the same name. Theatrical plays were presented using the facades of the brightly painted houses as their backdrops and stage sets.
Take a walk around and don't forget to walk down the Calle Garibaldi, where you'll find the 3 original buildings of the neighborhood. Also, near the corners of Garibaldi and Caminito there is a little square where you'll find vendors and if you're lucky enough the Parrilla Caminito will be open and you'll have a chance to taste a real Choripan, the way the locals do.
If you could only go to one place in Buenos Aires, it would be El Caminito. The "little street" is located in La Boca, a neighborhood synonymous with immigrants. This is where the metal siding of buildings was painted in red, blue and yellow designs.
Today, tourists come here to buy soveniers and to watch the tango while having lunch. On weekends, artists line up along a nearby street to sell their work. The restaurants and shops are only open during the day.
La Boca reminded me a lot of Olvera Street in Los Angeles, a place of some historical interest that has been "saved" by the almighty tourist dollar. La Boca was a shipyard, the city's original Little Italy and the tango originated here in the bordelos.
It would be easy to dismiss La Boca as a tourist trap, our guidebook was so uncomplimentary that we almost didn't go, but our Cicerone guide took us there on the public bus so we got to see it without the throng of tourists from one of the city tours.
Caminito is La Boca's most famous street, colorful houses line both sides of the street, the patchwork of colors comes from the days when the immigrants used the leftover paint from the shipping barges. Yes, there are bunches of little shops selling tacky tourist shlock, but mixed in is some pretty interesting art and a vivid history.
Most of the things I've read about La Boca caution you about straying too far from Caminito or visiting La Boca at night so take heed should you head to this area.
The hodge-podge of colours and disjointed buildings in La Boca made it a very interesting area to be in, especially since the sun decided to come out and throw some light on all those colours!
The residents of this neighbourhood seem to relish coming up with odd-ball things to display, and this caricature sticking out of a window above one of the streets was my favourite! This part of La Boca is a real 'tourist trap' area, and many of the stores and shops had gimmicks of various kinds set up, such as full-size Tango dancer mock-ups where you could stick your face in the empty hole and have your photo taken. Speaking of which, there was also a live couple doing Tango performances and also photo taking sessions with willing participants (see my Local Customs tips for more details). We did not have any problems in our short time in La Boca, but many of the tourist guides still advise to stick only to this small part of La Boca for your own safety, especially at night. Better to be in a tourist trap area than to be mugged!
Despite the rain, it was still quite humid and sticky and it was also close to 4 PM , so we decided to call it quits. Time for another taxi back to our hotel to pick up our luggage and then head for the International Airport.
Ciao Argentina, it was an absolutely fantastic two weeks!!
Caminito is a very short pedestrian street in the heart of the vibrant La Boca neighborhood.
Once a poor living area now it is a typical tourist spot. What makes the place notable are the colorful houses. The place is also something like open air market for sculptures, artwork and handicrafts.
There are also souvenir shops selling the usual tourist gear - T-shirts, cups, etc. plus tango tapes and CDs.
Walking around the place was nice but I can not say it was my biggest thrill in Buenos Aires. It took me not more than 20 minutes to see Caminito.
So basically, my advise is: If it is on your way, go and see it. Otherwise, in my opinion, there are more intersting things to do and to see in a great city like Buenos Aires.