Crowded, noisy, and decidedly rough around the edges, on the surface La Paz doesn’t conjure up images of a hip bohemian paradise. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find a city undergoing rapid change. A string of hipster cafes, chic boutiques, fine dining restaurants and a burgeoning art scene have established a presence in recent years, steadily transforming La Paz into the continent’s coolest urban center.
Paving the way for this cultural revolution is the city’s booming upmarket culinary scene. Trend setting foodies first started eyeing the city in 2013 upon the arrival of Claus Meyer’s Gustu. Meaning ‘flavor’ in Quechua, this fine dining establishment offers exactly that, serving up a creative menu of locally sourced ingredients which has earned international praise and a spot on South America’s Best Restaurants list. Then there is Ali Pacha, a newcomer to the scene whose carefully curated vegan degustation menu is becoming one of the most respected on the continent.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Gustu, Ave Costanera 10, La Paz, Bolivia +591 2 2117491
Ali Pacha, La Paz, Bolivia +591 2 2202366
Although café culture is still in its infancy in Bolivia, a number of hip local venues have found success in recent years. Catering to a sophisticated and mature audience is the widely acclaimed Writer’s Coffee, a reflective and refined café adorned with antique typewriters and staffed by classy fedora-wearing baristas. For a more youthful vibe, the millennial friendly MagicK brings in the punters for its colorfully creative decor and delectable vegetarian menu. More than just a coffee shop, MagicK puts on regular music and performance arts events which are a hit with the city’s bohemian youth.
Looking for a cool place to stay? A decade ago, wealthy visitors were restricted to generic international chains. Nowadays, a number of awesome new boutiques have opened their doors to the fashion conscious traveler. The talk of the town at the moment is Atix in Zona Sur, a luxury hotel with an eccentric architectural design. Marketing itself as the new face of Bolivian hospitality, each room features exquisite local artworks, while their restaurant and bar are run by renowned hospitality superstars. On the other end of town, Stannum Boutique is loved for its distinct avant garde style, bringing a little New York chic to the streets of La Paz.
Even shopping aficionados now have a reason to visit the mountain city. These days La Paz boasts a number of trendy boutiques that are a delight to peruse. Most trade in upmarket international designer goods, although local newcomers Mistura and Walisuma are a welcome addition to the scene. Situated in the center and south respectively, they both offer a creative range of fashion, home wares and handicrafts from a select group of talented local designers.
Throughout La Paz and its neighbor El Alto, a new style of architecture has sprung forth. Spearheaded by local legend Freddy Mamani, Nuevo Andino (New Andean) reinvents traditional indigenous design by adding curious elements of color and form. The bold and controversial style has been a hit with the newly wealthy Aymara elite who see the works as a symbol of indigenous pride.
Then there is the art. Visitors have long been drawn to the colorful geometric patterns of Bolivia’s indigenous weavers. Nowadays, painter Roberto Mamani Mamani is turning heads with some creative surrealist interpretations of his ancestral Aymara traditions. Meanwhile, longstanding legend Gastón Ugalde continues to inspire with his visual arts masterpieces that are heavy on political themes. Aside from the greats, a number of fresh up-and-coming artists and photographers fill exhibition halls throughout the city’s trendier neighborhoods.
La Paz’ cultural revolution has undoubtedly transformed the face of the city. But as the scene continues to build momentum, it is interesting to note that it preserves a sense of cultural identity. Despite modernizing at an incredible pace, the newer, trendier La Paz manages to retain a distinctly Bolivian flair.
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