The Best Museums and Galleries in La Paz, Bolivia

The Ethnography and Folklore Museum in La Paz is well worth a visit
The Ethnography and Folklore Museum in La Paz is well worth a visit | © John Elk / Getty Images
Daisy Dobson

Culture vultures rejoice! La Paz has enough galleries, museums and cultural spaces to keep the sophisticated traveler amused for days on end. Best of all, they only cost a few dollars each. Here are the most worthwhile options to visit according to our local insiders.

1. Galería Mamani Mamani


Bolivia museum gallery la paz
© Courtesy of Ivan Orellana Flores
The showroom of Bolivia’s most renowned artist, this small gallery on colonial Calle Jaen exhibits the colorful creations that brought Roberto Mamani Mamani to superstardom. Drawing on the skills of his Tiwanaku ancestors, his art incorporates vibrant colors and psychedelic forms to convey a unique interpretation of the coveted Andean cosmovision. After browsing the collection, consider picking up a print or perhaps even an original, for the ultimate Bolivian souvenir.

2. Museo San Francisco


Built between the 16th and 18th centuries, and the first catholic cathedral of La Paz, this is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It’s conveniently located on Sagárnaga Street, close to a host of tourist hotspots, so you have no excuse. Take a guided tour of the museum or explore the religious artefacts and spooky catacombs on your own. A climb up to the bell tower rewards you with views of the city center. Recommended by local insider Andrea Puente Mancilla

3. Museo Nacional de Arte (National Museum of Art)


Travel through Bolivian history in this colonial-style former Palacio de Los Condes de Arana is a work of art with original architecture remaining intact. The exterior of pink Viacha granite was recently restored and is a stunning work of Baroque style. Permanent collections of Bolivian colonial artwork are complemented by rotating exhibitions of modern art. Explore the Museo Nacional de Arte’s many nooks and crannies, you never know what you will find. Recommended by local insider Andrea Puente Mancilla

5. Casa Museo Solón


Walter Solón was a famous artist in Bolivia, renowned for his works, The Portrait of a People, featuring more than 400 characters from the country’s history. This house, his workshop, was donated to the neighborhood of Sopocachi in 1994 and features 2,000 of his works. Paintings, murals, drawings, altarpieces, engravings and textiles from his catalog are on display. Definitely one for the art-lovers. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino

6. Museo Costumbrista Juan de Vargas


It’s hard to imagine one building housing almost a complete collection of examples of Bolivian art, but the Museo Costumbrista Juan de Vargas does just that. Photos, art and costumes are displayed to demonstrate the different cultural aspects of life in ancient La Paz. Miniature replicas of La Paz in a bygone era are a highlight. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino

7. Altamira Galería

Art Gallery

Small yet perfectly formed, the Altamira Galería displays paintings and sculptures from contemporary Bolivian artists. A welcoming atmosphere and interesting displays mean this gallery is a great place to soak up modern La Paz culture and immerse yourself in art. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino

8. Mario Sarabia Art Gallery

Art Gallery

A world-renowned ceramicist, Mario Sarabia gets his inspiration from Andean culture and the local way of life in Bolivia to create magnificent works. At his art gallery, you can browse a catalog of his best pieces and learn the process behind the projects. Smaller pieces are available to purchase, so you can treasure Bolivian art at home. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino

9. Museo Instrumentos Musicales de Bolivia


Museums and galleries La Paz
© PanchoFuentesA/Wikimedia

Among the magnificent buildings of the Calle Jaen is this extensive collection of unique indigenous instruments. If you want to know your charango from your ronroco, and your pinquillo from your pututu, you’ll find out here. With 15 rooms packed with different musical instruments and a touch of humor from the curators, it’s an entertaining visit. Find armadillo guitars, volcanic rock flutes in the shape of erotic figures and ingenious instruments made of goat heels and mules’ teeth. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino

10. Museo del Litoral Boliviano


Museums and galleries La Paz, Bolivia
© MiltonCapuma/Wikimedia

Bolivia still mourns losing a coast, the result of an ill-thought-out conflict with Chile that occurred in 1879. This small nationalistic museum proudly displays artefacts from the War of the Pacific, such as maps, cannons, uniforms and photographs. To this day, efforts continue to return the ocean to sovereign control. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino

11. Museo de la Coca


Coca ritual to Pachamama at Ausangate, Peru | © IntoTheWorld/Shutterstock
© IntoTheWorld / Shutterstock
The coca plant has huge importance in the region, and this informative museum attempts to reduce the stigma attached to the plant most famous as the basis for illegal cocaine. Focusing on the leaf’s role in Andean religious ceremonies and its healing properties, you’ll also learn about its use in soft drinks and pharmaceuticals. A highlight is an interactive display teaching you how to correctly chew the leaf; have a go and feel the stimulating effects yourself. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino

12. Museo de Metales Preciosos


Museums and galleries La Paz, Bolivia
© LucianaDeckerOrozco/Wikimedia

The La Paz Precious Metals Museum, sometimes referred to as the Gold Museum, houses a glimmering collection of pre-Colombian treasures. More than 2,000 shining jewels are on display, the highlight of which is the impressive Treasure of San Sebastian collection. A series of sensor lights illuminating the ornaments as visitors pass by adds a nice touch. Informative guides are on hand to ask questions about anything that takes your fancy. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino

13. National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore (MUSEF)


museum la paz
© MiltonCapuma/Wikimedia

Conveniently close to Plaza Murillo and packed to the rafters with textiles, masks, basketry and crafts typical of Bolivia for you to browse. With exhibitions on folklore, farming and nature, a visit will leave you armed with knowledge on the birth of Bolivia and its development through the ages. Tours are available, but get here early if you want to nab a spot. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino and Andrea Puente Mancilla

14. Museo de Textiles Andinos Bolivianos


Bolivian textiles are traditionally made using sheep, alpaca, vicuna or llama wool. Each animal is carefully sheared; its wool is then cleaned, dyed and woven to a yarn. The bright colors typical of Bolivian Andean fabrics are chosen with meaning and represent dignity and identity to the wearer. The Museo de Textiles Andinos Bolivianos is an absolute treasure chest of textiles and clothing and the history of its production. Buy yourself a snippet of Bolivian history in the gift shop at the end. Recommended by local insider Lucas Cosentino

This is an update of an article by Harry Stewart

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