Choose from 11 Fun Things to Do in Cali
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A National Monument and among the city's most impressive buildings, the National Palace is one of Cali's most photographed attractions, demanding attention from its perch at the head of the central Plaza de Caicedo. Built in 1928, the Palace's French-influenced Neoclassical design was the work of Belgian architect Joseph Martens and the four-story building is unmissable, with its ornate chalk-white faÃƒÂ§ade capped with a slate-grey roof and dome.
Today, the National Palace serves as the Administrative Court of the Valle del Cauca and Cali High Court, as well as housing a small museum dedicated to the regional production of sugarcane.
The National Palace is located on Plaza de Caicedo in downtown Cali.
Address: Calle 12, entre Carrera 4 y Carrera 5 # 12 - 04, Cali, Valle Del Cauca, Colombia
Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-12pm, 1pm-5pm
From $ 35
Founded by Sebastián de Belalcázar in 1537, the one-time regional capital of Popayán is best known for its abundance of whitewashed buildings, earning it the nickname "Ciudad Blanca" or the "White City." Today, Popayán remains among Colombia’s most remarkably preserved colonial cities, flanked by dramatic mountain peaks and home to one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious universities, which counts an impressive 16 Colombian presidents among its alumni.
Popayán's principal attraction is its colonial architecture, highlights of which include the San Francisco, Santo Domingo and La Hermita churches; the monumental Puente del Humilladero bridge; the central Parque de Caldas, overlooked by the landmark Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower); and the cathedral, which houses the 16th-century Crown of the Andes. Another draw is the nearby Purace National Park, where the now-dormant Puracé volcano has sculpted a landscape of snow-capped peaks, natural waterfalls and hot springs.
Popayán also made history in 2005, when it became UNESCO’s first ever City of Gastronomy (and the only one in Latin America), honoring the city’s varied culinary traditions and making it the ideal destination for traveling foodies to sample regional specialties like Sancocho, Tamales de Pipían and Carantanta.
Popayán is located in Cauca, southwest Colombia, about 130 km south of Cali.
Address: Popayán, Cauca, Colombia, Colombia
From $ 124
With its white adobe façade, single, squat tower made of red brick and an entryway fronted by a set of crumbling stone steps, the simple yet elegant San Antonio Church stands in stark contrast to the fanciful Metropolitan Cathedral just a few blocks east. Perched on a small hill in Cali’s historic old town, the church boasts an atmospheric location, surrounded by tree-lined gardens and looking out over the lively bohemian district of San Antonio.
This is Cali’s oldest church, having opened its doors back in 1747 and today housing a museum of art and artifacts, most notably a collection of tallas quiteñas, 17th-century wooden statues of the saints, carved by artists of the Quito School.
The San Antonio Church and Museum is located in the San Antonio neighborhood of Cali, about a 10-minute walk from Plaza Caicedo. Admission is free, and the church is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Address: Carrera 10, Esquina Calle 1 oeste # SN, Cali, Valle Del Cauca N/A, Colombia
Hours: Daily 8am-8pm
From $ 35
A short walk from the central Plaza Caicedo, Barrio San Antonio is the historic heart of Cali, a lively neighborhood lined with elegant colonial houses and overlooked by the hilltop San Antonio Church. This is not only Cali’s oldest district, but its most bohemian and the streets of San Antonio are a jumble of cosy cafes and gourmet restaurants, art galleries and street art installations, local designer boutiques and market stalls, and dance clubs blasting out salsa until the early hours.
19th-century Colombian writer Jorge Isaacs was San Antonio’s most famous former resident and today the neighborhood remains a creative hub, home to many of the city’s artists, writers, photographers and designers. Once you’ve strolled around the colorful shops and galleries, watched the musicians and cuenteros (story tellers) in the hillside park, and learnt a few steps of Colombian salsa, be sure to stick around for dinner – San Antonio is also the gastronomic center of Cali and boasts the city’s best selection of restaurants and traditional cuisine.
The neighborhood of San Antonio is located just west of downtown Cali, about 10 minutes’ walk from Plaza Caicedo.
Address: Cali, Colombia
From $ 35
The brainchild of local painter and sculptor Hernando Tejada, the aptly named Cat Park (Parque del Gato) started life in 1996, when a giant bronze sculpture, El Gato Rio (The River Cat) was erected along the banks of the Cali River. The impressive sculpture was created in Bogota and transported to Cali—no easy feat as the huge cat measures around 3.5 meters in height and weighs about three tons—and became the centerpiece of the newly renovated parklands stretching along the riverfront.
The River Cat was so popular, it was soon joined by more feline friends and today a series of 15 smaller cats can be found in the park, including a fiberglass cat model and colorful sculptures by local artists like Alejandro Valencia Tejada, Mario Gordillo, Nadin Ospina, Omar Rayo and Maripaz Jaramillo.
The Cat Park (Parque del Gato) is located in Cali’s central park on the banks of the Cali River. Entrance is free.
Address: Cali, Valle Del Cauca, Colombia
From $ 35
Cali has no shortage of impressive churches, but the grand Metropolitan Cathedral (or Cathedral of San Pedro) stands out from the crowd, with its powder-white faÃƒÂ§ade and trio of domes looming over the busy central square of Plaza de Caicedo.
Although construction originally started in 1772, the cathedral wasn't completed until 1841 and was extensively restored in 1930 after being damaged by a series of earthquakes. Today, the Metropolitan Cathedral is most memorable for its ornate, neoclassical design, exquisite stained glass windows and hammered silver altar, as well as housing an important collection of Quito school paintings and a European Walcker Organ.
The Metropolitan Cathedral is located on Plaza de Caicedo, adjacent to the National Palace, and is open weekdays from 6am-midday and 3pm-8pm, and weekends from 7am- 8pm. Admission is free.
Address: Carrera 5 # 11-2, Cali, Valle Del Cauca, Colombia
Hours: Mon-Fri: 6am-Midday & 3pm-8pm, Sat-Sun: 7am-8pm
From $ 35
A charming mix of old and new, Plaza Caicedo is a fitting showcase of modern Cali and as the central hub and main navigational landmark, most visitors will start their tour of the city from here.
Once the epicenter of the colonial city, Plaza Caicedo’s stately architecture lends the square an air of grandeur, with the snow-white facades of the National Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral looming over the south and east corners. But the square is also full of life, teeming with street artists, food carts and shoeshine boys, and making a popular picnic spot for locals, with its central gardens shaded by towering palm trees and linked by star-shaped walkways.
Plaza Caicedo is located at the center of downtown Cali, between Calle 11 and Calle 12.
Address: Carrera 4 # 11-1, Cali, Valle Del Cauca, Colombia
From $ 35
As Cali’s oldest church, Iglesia de la Merced was established in the 16th century. Built in the typical whitewashed Spanish colonial style, it features wood and stucco construction and a long, narrow nave. Adjacent to the church is the La Merced Church Museum, housed in the oldest building in the city, the former La Merced convent. It features centuries old artifacts, including an impressive collection of pre-Columbian pottery left behind by different cultures from central and southern parts of Colombia. The church and museum can be visited as part of a Cali city sightseeing tour, which includes a visit to the city’s other major attractions, including Plaza Caicedo, San Antonio hill, and El Gato del Rio park.
Within the church itself is a heavily gilded baroque high altar, topped with the Virgen de las Mercedes, the patron saint of the city. La Merced Church Museum is located in Cali’s historic area. If not arriving as part of an organized tour, this can be easily reached by taxi or on foot.
Did You Know? Within the church itself is a heavily gilded baroque high altar, topped with the Virgen de las Mercedes, the patron saint of the city.
Address: Carrera 4, Calle 659, Cali, Colombia
Hours: Church: 6:30am-10am and 4pm-7pm / Museum: 9am-1pm and 2pm-6pm, Monday to Saturday
From $ 35
Looking down over the city from its hilltop perch, the Sebastian de Belalcázar Statue is one of Cali’s most iconic landmarks, erected in honor of the Spanish conquistador who founded the city in 1536. Built in celebration of the city’s 400th birthday, the statue depicts Belalcázar leaning on his sword and pointing towards the ocean as he looks out over the city below.
As well as being an important monument, the Sebastian de Belalcázar Statue also marks one of Cali’s most popular lookout points, with views stretching out over the city below. For the most atmospheric experience, visit in the evening hours when locals gather to watch the sunset and food vendors and street entertainers work their way through the crowds.
The Sebastian de Belalcázar Statue is located in the Arboledas neighborhood, about three miles (5 km) from downtown Cali and is best reached by taxi. There is no admission fee.
Address: Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia
From $ 35
Founded by Sebastian de Belalcázar in 1555, Buga (or Guadalajara de Buga) was among Colombia's first colonial cities and the historic town is now both a National Monument and one of the top attractions of Valle del Cauca. The undisputed star attraction of Buga is the magnificent Basilica del SeÃƒÂ±or de los Milagros (Basilica of the Lord of Miracles), which draws more than 3 million annual pilgrims and is famous for its cast iron statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Visiting the sacred site isn't the only thing to do in Buga, though. Visitors can also admire the architecture of the Cathedral of St. Peter and the Church of Santo Domingo; take in the views from the hilltop Mirador Al Derumbado; or escape the city for the surrounding countryside "“ canoeing and bird watching in the Laguna de Sonso Natural Park, swimming beneath the Los Pailones waterfalls and hiking or biking in the El Vínculo forest all make popular side trips.
Buga is located in Valle del Cauca, approximately 74 km northeast of Cali.
Address: Buga, Valle del Cauca, Colombia, Colombia
From $ 100
With its flower-lined lawns, colorful rose gardens and gurgling water features, it's easy to see how the Hacienda el Paraíso (the Paradise Hacienda) earned its name, and the grand 120-acre estate is one of the most striking cultural attractions of the Valle del Cauca. Built in 1816 to oversee the region's sugarcane plantations, the Hacienda el Paraíso became famous later in the 19th century, as the home of iconic Colombian writer Jorge Isaacs and the romantic setting for his only novel, María.
Today, the Hacienda el Paraíso is protected as a National Monument and the main property has been converted into the Hacienda Paradise House Museum, which offers a fascinating glimpse into 19th-century Colombia. While the museum is the main draw for literary fans, the showstopping grounds are also worthy of attention, shaded by towering saman trees and dotted with cosy chalets, landscaped gardens and intimate event spaces.
The Hacienda el Paraíso is located near Amaime, 36 km southeast of Cali, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission costs $1.75.
Address: Vía Santa Elena - El Pomo, Corregimiento de Santa Elena, El Cerrito, Colombia, Colombia
Hours: Tues-Sun 9:30am-5pm
Admission: Adult $1.75
From $ 100