The de facto capital of Bolivia, La Paz stuns visitors with its staggering topography, dizzying altitude, and vibrant cultural activity. The expansive cityscape stretches across the mountainsides and valleys below, against a stunning backdrop of snow-capped peaks. A hot spot for tourists and backpackers, the city has a thriving nightlife. Here we review 10 of the best bars in Bolivia’s unforgettable political and commercial centre.
A Peña is a traditional meeting place for musicians and artists, and La Paz’s premier example is arguably the Marka Tambo on Calle Jaen. Singers and guitarists regularly perform Bolivian folk music to enthusiastic crowds of locals and tourists, and go on well into the night. Dine on the traditional Bolivian food, stay for the exceptional music, charismatic performers, and energetic atmosphere.
With its industrial furnishings, central fireplace, and generally quirky atmosphere, Diesel Nacional is easily one of La Paz’s coolest bars. The sections of railway track along the floor, hanging girders, and wall-mounted engines all make for a memorable, steampunk aesthetic, to be enjoyed with a good selection of beers, cocktails, and food. A little pricier than most venues, Diesel Nacional is nevertheless one of La Paz’s must-see bars.
Immensely popular with the twenty-something demographic, Mongo’s is one of La Paz’s prime haunts in which to drink and dance the night away. Open seven days a week until the early hours, Mongo’s promises an education in the Latin American school of partying down, with an eclectic mix of music from DJs and live acts. It offers a solid mix of food as well; look out for the deal of the day and the Mongo punch.
La Costilla de Adan is an outstandingly original bar which doubles up as a museum of Bolivian pop and material culture. Adorned with interesting trinkets, lamps, clocks, and posters, the bar has a relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. A great spot to chill out with a beer, meet local Bolivians, and no doubt learn a thing or two about the country’s history, La Costilla enjoys a much-deserved glowing reputation. The goat’s cheese empanadas come particularly recommended.
This subterranean candlelit bar is a favourite of Bolivian artsy folk, with artists, musicians, and poets often found amongst its clientele. Featuring live music, usually of the folk variety, the Bocaisapo has an authenticity lacking in many of La Paz’s other drinking establishment. Popular with locals, this hidden gem is a great place to meet Bolivians from all walks of life and talk culture.
Transport yourself to Bavaria by visiting this German-themed beer house, which boasts a fine selection of important German ales. A venue that will please any beer enthusiast, the homely décor of Reineke Fuchs makes for a pleasant environment in which to drink, eat, and converse about all things Deutsche. They cook an excellent sausage, too.
Catch a glimpse of South America’s irrepressible love affair with rock and roll at this live music bar. Situated in the San Miguel neighbourhood, Alive is the spiritual home of the electric guitar in La Paz, regularly featuring live rock music from local and international bands. Crowded, poorly lit, and deafeningly loud, this place has a lot in common with rock venues the world over.
Located just off the Avenida 16 de Julio, one finds Ttkos, an underground, cavernous bar, famed citywide for its live music and easy-going vibe. Themed nights ensure most musical tastes are well catered for: visitors can enjoy classic rock, alternative Latin, and most popular of all reggae. The bar also offers an exciting range of cocktails, including its renowned house special, The Tutuma, a potent yet fruity blend of papaya and singani.
This well-run establishment, spread over three floors, has a lot to offer its customers. On top of a good range of cocktails and wines, it boasts some locally brewed beer (as well as top-notch import), a pool table, free Wi-Fi, and live music several nights every week. There’s also a book exchange and sofas to relax on, if it’s not too busy. Keep your eye out for the occasional salsa night too.
The music does the talking in the unpretentious Thelonious Jazz Bar. Loved by local jazz enthusiasts, the bar is home to live music most evenings. An intimate venue, Thelonious draws jazz and blues performers from all over the world, and its walls are adorned with portraits of jazz world heroes. The September Jazz Festival held here is particularly popular.