Overlooking the Río Cali, Iglesia de la Ermita has become a landmark of Cali and it is certainly the most photographed church in the city. The original church, a small baroque chapel, was built here in the early 17th-century and its name was Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad del Río. It was totally destroyed in the 1925 earthquake.
Today stands a very different structure, a neo-gothic blue and white church that was built between 1930 and 1948. It was inspired by the cathedral in Cologne, Germany. There is a fine marble altar and the painting El Señor de la Caña (Lord of the Sugarcane), which dates back to 1787, reflecting the local importance of sugar cane, one of the few items that survived the earthquake.
The church is open weekdays 06:30am-noon and 02:30pm-07:00pm, Sat 06:30am-noon and 04:00pm-05:30pm, Sun 08:00am-noon and 05:00pm-07:00pm; free admision.
Construction of the beautiful yellow Teatro Municipal began in April 1918 and it was inaugurated on November 1927 with the opera The Troubadour by the Italian company Bracale. In 1953 it was remodeled and reopened in 1954, during the 450 years of the founding of the city. Inspired by the Italian opera theatre, this neoclassical theatre holds up to 1.200 people in its stylish and elaborate European-like interior. It was declared a national monument in 1982.
The theatre is located in the historic centre, along with other institutions that form the epicentre of culture and heritage of Cali. Today it is used for various artistic performances, including musical concerts, theatre and ballet.
Cali's oldest existing building dates back to around 1538-1540 and was formerly La Merced convent but today houses the Museo Arqueológico La Merced. This archeological museum displays regional pre-Columbian pottery and a scale model of the city. In five rooms you'll find a collection of pottery of the major cultures from central and southern Colombia, including Quimbaya, Tolima, Calima, Tierradentro, San Agustin, Nariño and Tumaco.
The museum is open Tues-Sat 09:00am-01:00pm and 02:00pm-06:00pm; admission is 4.000 COP (December 2008).
In the corner of Carrera 5 and Calle 6 you will be amazed by a huge brick building, Centro Cultural de Cali. This is one of the most representative cultural institutions of Cali. Photography exhibitions, music festivals, salsa workshops, as well as theatre and music groups, come together in this excellent cultural space. Besides, if you like dance performances, independent film and enjoy a varied cultural program, this is certainly the place to visit.
Since 1997 Centro Cultural de Cali is considered the cultural centre of the city and headquarters of the Secretarías Municipales de Turismo y Cultura.
It is open Mon-Fri 08:00am-12:30pm and 02:00pm-05:30pm.
Between two cultural landmarks of Cali, Iglesia de la Ermita and Teatro Jorge Isaacs, is found Parque de los Poetas. The park was built in 1995 in tribute to the poets of Valle del Cauca. It is used as the venue for cultural presentations of all kinds. The last Thursday of each month it becomes a meeting place of poetry lovers with writers and poets as guests.
In the park you find five inanimate muses and can appreciate the immortality of important writers of the city, such as Jorge Isaacs, Ricardo Niero, Carlos Villafañe, Antonio Llanos and Octavio Gamboa. Here you find an inspiring power of a place of social and cultural tradition which does not die with the years. Sculptor José Antonio Moreno is the author of the works set out in the park.
If you are interested in Colombian cinematography, Video Charlot is certainly the place to visit. Decorated with taste, it has nicely painted walls with b&w pictures from old films, and several pieces of old furniture. They have the greatest selection of Colombian films to borrow, along with other productions. There is a also a small café (Marcela makes delicious cappuccino!) with a few tables and chairs.
I made a list of Colombian films that I wanted to buy but unfortunately could not get all of them. Luckily, I came across Video Charlot and the friendly owners Andres and Marcela offered they could provide me with the missing ones. I left the list and two days later I came back to pick my films :)
It was a Sunday afternoon, just a couple of hours before my departure. Before I left to Isla de San Andres I wanted to burn the pictures from my camera on CD to get more space on the memory card but could not find any cyber cafés open. And Andres kindly offered he could do it for me (and he did not want to charge anything).
I have very nice memories of Video Charlot!
With its neoclasical architecture, Teatro Jorge Isaacs is one of the most beautiful theatres in Cali. It is named after a Colombian writer, politician and soldier. The theatre is located in downtown Cali, just a short walk from Plaza de Caycedo to Rio Cali. In 1930 Hermann S. Bohmer bought the land where they built Teatro Jorge Isaacs. In 1986 the theatre was acquired by the municipality. They found the need for revitalization the traditional downtown Cali and gave a special importance to the building as one of the landmarks and key elements of the image of the city.
During the year the theatre hosts music concerts, dance performances, theatre, stand up comedy, among others. There is something for all tastes and budgets. I visited Cali two times for the Feria de Cali. The whole week of salsa music and dance all around the town, with some extraordinary performances in Teatro Jorge Isaacs. Here I saw for the first time Yuri Buenaventura (in December 2008) and since then he is my favourite Colombian/salsa musician! A year later (in December 2009) I attended two great spectacles here: Noche de Puerto Rico with Cheo Feliciano and Toni Vega and La Noche Cubana with El Conjunte de Felix Chapotin and Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro. All excellent performances!!
San Antonio is a bohemian neighbourhood of Cali, a cultural and artistic attraction of the city. It is not surprising that Phazan Gallery and Art Workshop have been built here. He arrived in Cali back in the 60's from Cuenca (Ecuador) where he was born. Hippie movement, Cuban revolution, socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile and emergence of armed groups in Ecuador and Uruguay, provoked him to leave the country and get to know what was happening outside.
Mauro Phazan is an artist with a long career and his work has been dedicated to learning and experimentation of various ceramics techniques. Popular Latin-American senses and feelings illuminate his incredible works of art. Among his over 780 designs there are virgins, angels, birds, horses, mythological figurines, bulls and others. Phazan's work is inspired by pre-Columbian ceramic creations as well by churches (he comes from a family of carvers of saints), convents and colonial houses. His style is unique, rich in detail, symbols and images.
Phazan Gallery is a mystical space constructed in a natural environment, handling the elements of Mother Earth. It is surrounded with lush garden and lovely decoration details, such as mosaics, ceramic tiles, a fountain, lamps and ceramic figures. A very pleasant place to visit, attractive and beautiful!
more pics in the travelogue
If you're in Cali, try to mix with locals and go salsa dancing.
Cali is said to be the capital of salsa music (an important number of salsa groups are from there: grupo niche is a great example...). There's plenty of places to pick from. I personally loved the laid back friendly atmosphere in a place called "tin tin deo". People from other tables would approach us to chat, offer us a glass of something, ask a girl of our group to dance ... The music is excellent with salsa "classics" like El Gran Combo, Hector Lavoe, and off course Grupo Niche...
I would say it's the contrary of "chango" in Juanchito...
The huge park known as Centenario bisects the downtown and old town from the more affluent uptown but beside that it offers a very nice open space to escape the hustle bustle of the big city that Cali surely is. We were surprised to find it fairly empty but was during the day, during the week and can only assume weekends bring bigger crowds.
One of the most colorful areas of Cali to wander around is San Antonio. This once proud and then dilapidated neighborhoods is fast on the rebound with lots of renovations in the making. There are many great old buildings painted in bright colors, making for a great spot for wandering around and snapping tons of photos.
While Cali might not be an architectural marvel like other better preserved Colombian cities, it does have its share of fine colonial buildings scattered about the town. The Teatro Municipal is one of the prettiest with it yellow and white trim motif.
Cali's main square is Plaza Caycedo and while lacking the charm of many other big city squares, it does exude quite a bit of affluence compared to the rest of town. The park that is its centerpiece is nice enough but what sets it apart is the grandiose buildings that line it. Oddly enough, we did not really discover it until our last day as we'd spent more time at the square on which Iglesia de San Francisco is located. Plaza Caycedo is a more upscale area but perhaps a bit less interesting overall.
La Iglesia de San Antonio is unassuming from outside but within its simple walls it houses fine wooden carved 17th century depictions of saints from the Quito School. Another good reason to climb Colina de San Antonio, the hill on which it is built, is for the fine views of the city that it affords.
One of the city's newer churches is the neo-Gothic Iglesia de la Ermita which was built 1930 and 1948. The pastel blue with white trim structure is quite large and reminiscent of La Santurario Las Lajas, south of Ipiales. If you are not going to what is virtually the bottom of Colombia, it well worth going over to see La Ermita. Its ample interior features fine stain-glass windows and the famed 18th century painting, Lord of the Sugar Cane. It has become the city's symbol and is the most photographed church too.