Cobblestones, tango dancers, and haphazardly constructed, colorful conventillos have made Calle Museo Caminito the darling of Buenos Aires' postcard manufacturers since this pedestrian street was created in 1959. Artists fill the block-long street with works depicting port life and the tango, which is said to have been born in La Boca. These days it's painfully commercial, and seems more a parody of porteño culture than anything else, but if you're willing to embrace the out-and-out tackiness it can make a fun outing.
Conventillos. Many of La Boca's tenements are now souvenir stores. The plastic Che Guevaras and dancing couples make the shops in the Centro Cultural de los Artistas (Magallanes 861 Mon.–Sat. 10:30–6) as forgettable as all the others on the street, but the uneven stairs and wrought-iron balcony hint at what a conventillo interior was like. You get a clearer vision at the turquoise-and-tomato-red Museo Conventillo de Marjan Grum
(Garibaldi 1429 30 pesos 11/4302–2472 daily 10:30–5:30), which the eponymous sculptor-owner has converted into an art gallery.
Local Art. Painters, photographers, and sculptors peddle their creations from stalls along Caminito. Quality varies considerably; if nothing tempts you, focus on the small mosaics set into the walls, such as Luis Perlotti's Santos Vega. Another local art form, the brightly colored scrollwork known as fileteado, adorns many shop and restaurant fronts near Caminito.
Tangueros. Competition is fierce between the pairs of sultry dancers dressed to the nines in split skirts and fishnets. True, they spend more time trying to entice you into photo ops than actually dancing, but linger long enough (and throw a big enough contribution in the fedora) and you'll see some fancy footwork.
Tips and Trivia
"Caminito" comes from a 1926 tango by Juan de Dios Filiberto, who is said to have composed it while thinking of a girl leaning from the balcony of a ramshackle house like those here. It was chosen by local artist Benito Quinquela Martín, who helped establish the street as an open-air museum.
Expect to be canvassed aggressively by rival restaurant owners touting overpriced, touristy menus near the start of Caminito and along every other side street. Each restaurant has its own outdoor stage—competing troupes of stamping gauchos make meals a noisy affair. The best tactic to get by them is to accept their leaflets with a serene smile and "gracias."
The Caminito concept spills over into nearby streets Garibaldi and Magallanes, which form a triangle with it. The strange, foot-high sidewalks along streets like Magallanes, designed to prevent flooding, show how the river's proximity has shaped the barrio.