La Paz is a city in the South American country of Bolivia, located at an altitude of more than 12,000 feet. It is a picturesque place, with its buildings clinging to the side of a canyon and the snow-capped Mt Illimani looming over the city. La Paz may be the governmental center of the country, but it is also home of numerous fun places to visit.
La Paz was founded in 1548 by the Spanish during the civil war with Peru. It is also home to numerous old buildings to visit and explore. Some of the oldest surviving buildings in the city are churches. The main cathedral, built in 1835, is near the Presidential Palace. It is a large building with thick, stone walls with lots of showy stained glass inside. You can also visit La Casa de Pedro Domingo Murillo, a martyr for independence who was hanged in 1810. The home is filled with clothes, furniture and art from Bolivia's colonial period.
One of La Paz's key attractions is the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo. Although the collection has some interesting pieces of Bolivian and international art, the building itself is a bigger draw. Once a 19th-century mansion, its roof and stained glass panels were designed by Gustave Eiffel. Another museum worth visiting is the Coca Museum, which chronicles the plant's use in pharmaceuticals and soft drinks. It also deals with its illegal use as cocaine. The museum houses numerous interpretative and educational displays.
According to Lonely Plant, Mercado de Hechiceria is the most interesting market in La Paz. Translated as the Witches' Market, the vendors are not selling magic spells and broomsticks. Instead, they offer herbs and folk remedies. Many of the indigenous people around La Paz, known as Aymara, worships spirits and visit the market. If you are interested in local food, visit the Mercado Lanza. This is one of the city's major food markets and vendors sell fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and dairy products. You can also pick up a hot lunch or empanada at one of stalls in the market.
While in La Paz, take the opportunity to see a Pena performance, a form of music and dance that hails from Bolivia. The most popular venue is the Pena Huari, making it a big draw for tourists. You can eat a llama steak while enjoying the music. For something less expensive, try Pena Marka Tambo where the food is not as high quality, but the music is more authentic. For more folk music or folklore shows, see what is playing at the Teatro Municipal Alberto Saavedra Perez.
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