The true heart of Boca is Boca Juniors’ stadium, La Bombonera, at Brandsen 805. Built in 1940, it was remodelled in the 1990s and the name – literally “the chocolate box” – refers to its compact structure; although Boca has more fans than any other Argentine team, the stadium’s capacity is less than several of its rivals. This is the place where many of the country’s best young players cut their teeth before heading to Europe on lucrative deals – the Bombonera’s most famous veteran is Diego Maradona, who retains a VIP seat at the stadium. Seeing a game here is an incredible experience, even for non-soccer fans, and it’s worth arranging your itinerary around one.
If you don’t get the opportunity to watch a match, at least head for the Museo de la Pasión Boquense and its stadium tour. The museum is a modern audiovisual experience, with a 360-degree film that puts you in the boots of a Boca player, and a charming model of how the barrio would have looked and sounded in the 1930s. The tour not only includes the stands, pitch and press conference room, but even the players’ jacuzzi and dressing room, complete with statues of the Virgin Mary. Just inside the stadium entrance, there’s a large painting by famous local artist Benito Quinquela Martín entitled Orígen de la bandera de Boca (“the origin of Boca’s flag”), which illustrates one of the club’s most famous anecdotes. Though the exact date and circumstances of the event are disputed, all agree that Boca chose the colours of its strip from the flag of the next ship to pass through its then busy port. The boat was Swedish, and thus the distinctive blue and yellow strip was born.
Around the stadium, a huddle of stalls and shops sell Boca souvenirs while, on the pavement outside the stadium, stars with the names of Boca players past and present, some featuring their footprints, were laid as part of the club’s centenary celebrations in 2005. Some of the neighbouring houses have taken up the blue and yellow theme, too, with facades painted like giant football shirts. From the stadium it’s a short walk southwards to La Boca’s other nerve centre: Caminito.