Sucre – Bolivia’s Prettiest City

Sucre is undeniably the prettiest city in all of Bolivia. It was once very wealthy due to its proximity to the silver mines in Potosi. As a result, its historical centre is filled with stunning 16th century Spanish architecture making Sucre a great place to pretend you’ve stepped back in time.

Sucre is called ‘The White City’ because most of the homes, churches and government buildings in its historical centre are white. As you wander through the small streets in Casco Viejo (Old Town) you’ll fall in love with Sucre. Street after street is lined by white homes with small second-story balconies and intricate adornments on their gables. At their bases are brown stones which come right to the sidewalks. The many elaborate churches in the city add even more beauty. Established by the Spanish in the 1538, it seems as if they put their best architects to work on building this pretty city.

In addition to its many charming neighbourhood streets there are many must-see spots in the historic centre.

Plaza 25 de Mayo (25th of May Square)

As you enter Plaza 25 de Mayo, your eyes are immediately drawn to Sucre Cathedral. Its tall, white bell tower rises majestically from one end of the long building. Then you see the gorgeous stone façade that surrounds the main door.

We were there on a Sunday morning and heard the many bells loudly chime; calling everyone to mass. Inside, the high domed ceiling and pergola-style alter match the building’s elegant exterior.

Immediately beside the cathedral is Casa de la Libertad. The ornately designed government building is where the Act of Independence was signed in 1825. The rest of the square is bordered with even more well maintained colonial buildings.

Inside the plaza, stone tiled pathways take you by immaculate gardens and under manicured trees. The square was always busy with people. Some were meeting with friends on park benches, others were going for walks and many were getting snacks from one of the many vendors.

The plaza was a busy spot at night too. Many of the buildings were lit up making it look magical.

San Felipe Neri Monastery

An imposing, red stone wall surrounds San Filipe Neri Monastery. Looking up at the top of it gives you a hint of what’s inside. Above the wall you can just see the tips of the domed roof and some of the bell towers that make up the monastery.

Enticed by this glimpse of the roof tops, we decided to take a tour of the monastery. It is a massive building, taking up an entire city block. As you enter, you’re led to a long corridor with white arches that lead to a cobblestone courtyard. Around the edges of the corridors are many doors leading to what would have been the monk’s residences. The monastery is now used as a school for girls. The rooms are classrooms so we couldn’t see inside.

We were allowed to go on the roof where we had an amazing view of the terracotta roof of the dome surrounded by many bell towers. There are many different levels to the roof, each separated by elaborate walls and railings. There were so many features to look at, much more than we had anticipated.

We also had a bird’s eye view of the rooftops in the city and the cathedral at Plaza 25 de Mayo. It is such a fabulous roof and our favourite part of the tour.

Plaza de la Libertad (Liberty Square)

This small but lovely plaza sits in front of the beautiful colonial theatre building. At the other end of the park is Santa Barbara Church and Hospital. Built in 1554 the church has a stunning Spanish-style bell tower.

The rest of the square’s colonial buildings are now used as government buildings. Sucre is the constitutional capital of Bolivia, while La Paz is the administrative capital. We felt that Sucre has the style suited to a capital city more than La Paz.

When we were there farmers were walking through the streets toward the plaza with their prize winning llamas. It doesn’t get any more stereotypical than that!

Recoleta

This cute neighbourhood is located on the slopes of Cerro Churuquella above town. We loved the walk from Plaza 25 de Mayo up the hill to Recoleta. The lovely neighbourhood streets have beautiful one and two story colonial homes. Most of the homes are white with brown stone bases. It seemed as if every street corner we passed had a different church.

At the top of the hill we found a small lookout that gives great views of the city. From here you can see an endless stream of terracotta rooftops. In the distance the cathedral pokes above them all.

Behind the lookout is Convent de la Recoleta on the side of Plaza Pedro de Anzúrez. Built in the early 1600s it is a well maintained, simple yet gorgeous white building.

On the walk back down the hill we noticed several bromeliads growing on the electrical wires. Apparently bromeliad seeds are dropped by birds or carried in the wind and land on the wires. The seeds somehow find enough water and soil to grow into small plants on the wires. We were told that this is a common site in parts of South and Central America.

Cemetario General

After visiting the General Cemetary in La Paz we weren’t sure if we needed to visit the one in Sucre. We’re glad we did though because the two are quite different. As soon as we walked in to the cemetery we saw the main difference between the two. In Sucre there are lovely gardens, large trees and manicured hedges throughout the large complex.

Both cities have many vertical burial chambers, each with a small glass shrine in front filled with personal favourites of the deceased.

Another big difference is that in La Paz, the cemetery was mostly used by poor people. In Sucre however, the cemetery is used by every one and has different areas depending on the deceased’s job or stature. Wealthy citizens have large mausoleums and famous actors and musicians are honored with elaborate memorials. In Sucre, there are specific areas for different professions. We saw indoor vertical crypts with the title of the professions of those interred there such as: teachers, lawyers and miners.

Something that we didn’t notice in La Paz, but definitely saw in Sucre were professional mourners. Sitting on benches in front of crypts, people’s jobs were to pray and mourn for someone else’s family member.

When we were there a funeral service was taking place. It must have been for an important or wealthy person. A large band was playing songs, and there were guards standing on duty.

As odd as it sounds, the cemetery is a nice place to visit.

Where to stay

There are many hotels, hostels and guesthouses for all budgets in Sucre. Try to stay in or near Casco Viejo.

Where to eat

Cochabamba may be called the Culinary Capital of Bolivia, but Sucre is no slouch. We actually had more delicious meals from excellent restaurants and coffee shops in Sucre than we did in Cochabamba. Most are located in Casco Viejo.

Coming Next – A Miner’s Life in Potosi

For pictures from other blogs go to Gallery at monkeystale.ca

To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.

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