Post updated: 17/11/2018 | November 2018

“I do not recommend you go there unless you are a priest or a doctor,'” warned Santiago, our guide for the morning, gesturing toward the adjacent block. In case there was any doubt, an effigy of Pope Francis also pointed away from the offending corner.

La Boca is a bit of a strange beast. For one or two blocks, it is super-touristy. The action is centred on El Caminito with its colourful houses, live tango and flashy art galleries. However, stray off the well-trodden tourist path, and you hit the start of the slums. As I found out on a walking tour of La Boca, there is more to this historic Buenos Aires barrio than Instagrammable streets.

The history of La Boca

The first part of La Boca walking tour focused on the barrio’s history. Immigration and isolation from the rest of the city have given La Boca’s its distinct identity. The Spanish rocked up at its shores around 1536 and housed African slaves in the area. Fast-forward to 1816 when the Spanish were booted out, Argentina gained its independence and the slaves were freed.

Fourteen years later, there was an influx of immigrants from Genoa, Italy. As Genoa was a port city, they felt at home at Buenos Aires’  waterfront. These new arrivals needed a roof over their heads but could only afford to build houses from metal sheets liberated from the docks. They painted their houses with whatever leftover paint they could lay their hands on but, as they did not have enough paint of the same colour to cover an entire house, a colourful patchwork evolved.

In the 1950s and artist and philanthropist, Quinquela Martínwas, painted the houses in the fashion of these poor immigrants in a bid to revive the area. The result is what we see today in all its multicolour glory.

El Caminito La Boca Buenos Aires



How to visit La Boca

  • Visiting there – As it is easy to veer off the tourist track I recommend exploring with a guided tour.  I used Free Walks Buenos Aires which was excellent. It costs 400 pesos (11 USD).
  • Getting there – There is not a Subte (subway) station close to La Boca. Therefore, if transport is not included as part of your city tour, you will need to catch a taxi or take a bus.
  • I caught the 152 bus from Palermo. It was very straightforward; the stop nearest La Caminito is where the bus terminates and it is a short, safe walk along the river from there. Be warned though … with traffic this journey took around 90 minutes!
  • Staying there – I stayed at the charming and exceptionally friendly Duque Boutique Hotel in trendy Palermo Soho. Highly recommended.
  • Getting around – click here for help in getting around in Buenos Aires. 
  • Other things to do – looking for other places to visit in Buenos Aires? If so, these posts will help you on your way:
  • Finding Eva Peron in Recoleta Cemetery
  • Top five things to do in Buenos Aires
  • El Zanjon, San Telmo



    • Bee Reply

      Hello! Thank you so much. I enjoyed taking them 🙂

      Have a good week and thanks for dropping by.

  1. I am really loving the theme/design of your site.
    Do you ever run into any browser compatibility problems?
    A few of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but
    looks great in Chrome. Do you have any solutions to help fix this issue?

    • Bee Reply

      Hello! Thank you so much. It runs OK on Safari, Chrome and Firefox. I plan to test on IE my work PC next week (I/m a Mac user at home). However, it’s an old version of IE and I have run into compatibility problems before because of this. Fingers crossed! I’ll let you know if I run into problems.
      Thanks for dropping by 🙂

  2. Loved this post! Such interesting history…beautiful pictures too!! Can’t wait to read more about your travels xx

    • Bee Reply

      Thanks you so much Maddie! I enjoyed writing it 🙂
      Bee x

Share your thoughts here!