From Plush Palermo to Colourful La Boca

Couch surfing is the best idea in the world for travellers whose primary occupation is first and foremost to find a bed for the night. It’s a website that lets travellers sign up and post a profile for free to either host travellers at their home or be hosted, or both. We were fortunate enough to find our first couch surfing experience with a laidback Argentinean named Emilio, in his apartment in Palermo.

Emilio made us feel at home right away and although he spoke perfect English, we had the opportunity to practice our Spanish when we had dinner with him and a friend of his one night.

Palermo is the rather European and upper class (some call it yuppy) side of the city. It’s the largest barrio in Buenos Aires and as such, is subdivided into several different districts – Palermo Soho, Palermo Chico, Barrio Parque and Las Cañitas.

The atmosphere and architecture is so European that walking around the streets here we had to remind ourselves that we weren’t actually in Paris.

It’s quite different from San Telmo, each with its own special characteristics and history. The rich people of Buenos Aires moved here from San Telmo during the yellow fever outbreak of the 1800’s and have stayed here ever since. The class status of this leafy suburb is evident with the amount of dog walkers you see roaming the streets.

For us, staying with a knowledgeable local was a welcome break from hostel-hopping. It was also handy for its proximity for our next destination to explore – La Boca.

A short bus ride away on the 152 was the infamous and colourful barrio of La Boca, which sits at the river mouth (la boca) of the Riachuelo.

La Boca is infamous among travellers for its crime rates. Many travellers have come here, intrigued and wanting to explore further into the poorer residential backstreets, only to be held at gunpoint and robbed of all their belongings. We were warned many times and so decided to come with only a bus fare and a hidden camera.

But today is Argentina’s Independence Day, or as Emilio informed us, it’s not really celebrated because real independence was gained earlier, when the government was instated. Today was just the official date it became a nation. Nonetheless the streets are packed full of locals (rare) and tourists alike, and police roaming everywhere!


La Caminito is a photographer’s dream. The area was settled by working class Italian immigrants who painted the buildings so brightly to add a bit of joy to their daily lives. The rainbow-coloured strip is now an icon of Buenos Aires tourism.


After wandering through La Caminito we found that curiosity took hold and we too wanted to explore further.

La Boca is also well known amongst football fanatics as being the home of La Boca Juniors football team. Just beyond the tourist path lies the bright yellow football stadium, la Bombonera, where famous football stars such as Diego Maradona, or more recently Juan Roman Riquelme, used to excite crowds and score goals.

The end of La Caminito is cordoned off like a crime scene as if to say “at your own risk”. We poked our heads just beyond the barrier to the street ahead and spot a few armed police officers and so we deemed it safe to continue until we reach the stadium. Inside is a museum dedicated to the team that is so greatly adored.

The neighbouring streets are a stark contrast to the joyful surroundings of La Caminito. Stray dogs are lurking in search of food and every 20 metres is a bunch of locals gathering around cooking an asado (traditional barbeque grill of meats, chicken, sausages and anything you could desire) over burnt out barrels.

As the afternoon sun fades we start to head back to the bus stop, to make sure we get back before night falls. Back along the riverfront we bought some sugarcoated peanuts (Garrapiñadas) from a tin cart typical of those found everywhere in Rio de la Plata.

On the opposite corner there was a policeman in his car, by a burnt out building, and as the old-school buses turned the corner and passed him, it could have just as well been a movie from the ‘70’s set in the Bronx.

I later found out that there are tour operators that offer ‘responsible travel’ tours around La Boca, taking travellers to meet and hang out with locals and discover the ‘real’ La Boca, where they live, work and play. Something to keep in mind for next time. For now though, our week in Buenos Aires is coming to an end.

Hasta Luego Bs As!

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  1. […] From Plush Palermo to Colourful La Boca ( Share the Good JuJu:EmailFacebookTwitterStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Argentina, South America, Travel and tagged Argentina, Buenos Aires, international travel, Palermo Buenos Aires, South America, travel, Travel Advice by ThePassportReport. Bookmark the permalink. […]

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