Adjacent to La Iglesia de San Francisco sits the simple Capilla de la Immaculata which is physically if not stylistically linked to the Torre Mudejar. The capilla has a white-washed facade and pretty but very pretty interior in shades of blue. Its altar features golden angels. The Torre is a bell tower more fitting to La Iglesia de San Francisco with its red brick construction and even more pronounced Mudejar influence.
While it may not be to everyone's tastes, the 18th century neo-classical Iglesia de San Francisco features some Mudejar influence in its red brick construction especially in its odd shaped entrance. The chartreuse interior however is stunning once you run the gauntlet of beggars and make it inside.
Iglesia de la Merced is Cali's oldest, dating back to the mid 1500s, and with its white-washed exterior and Spanish colonial style, it is not only its most traditional looking but also its loveliest. The simple exterior belies a stunning heavily gilded baroque altar topped by its namesake Virgen de las Mercedes.
It is nicely lit in the evening which makes for atmospheric photos
It's rare that a zoo is the top attraction of a big city like Cali but this is one special one. It's not only the wide variety of animals that makes it so though many of the ones on display are indigenous to Colombia and hence more interesting. No, what truly sets this place apart are the large natural setting the animals call home. There is room to roam and with Cali's great warm climate, the animals all look not only very healthy but actually fairly happy.
Highlights include a great collection of monkeys that are particularly active and some of the most beautiful big cats found in any zoo. There is also a very impressive aviary that houses some amazing birds like toucans and another bonus is a butterfly enclosure featuring not only those winged beauties but also hummingbirds. For those who argue against spending time in a foreign country gawking at animals behind bars, this has none of that. It's quite natural looking and nearly all visitors are indeed Colombians so you get to see local people enjoying an activity they obviously like.
It's not cheap by local standards. At 9800 COP (nearly $5), you could have a pretty sizable and good meal, but the quality of the zoo experience is about as good as it gets. You would pay a lot more for a zoo of comparable quality in North America or Europe. Also, with such natural settings, you can get great photos if you have a good zoom lens since there are no bars between you and beauties that call Cali Zoo home.
There are several produce markets with fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood, meat, grains and beans, but the best quality is Galería Alameda. One morning my new local friends, Claudia, Lenny and Ricardo, brought me there. Though this large market is somehow out of the way of the usual sightseeing, it was well worth a visit. I especially enjoyed the fruits area and ended up buying two bags full of delicious tropical fruits. Most of them, such as pitaya (this little weird yellow spiky fruit was my favourite), chirimoya and níspero (sapodilla), I never tried before.
You also find a good selection of beautiful tropical flowers (oh, I wished I could take some with me) and places with local food (tamales, arepas, sancocho). We stopped at the place with the greatest variety of fruit juices and had some delicious new flavours, such as lulo (naranjilla), curuba (banana passionfruit) and guanábana (soursop). Outside there are several shops with unique arts and crafts which were worth having a look as well.
It is open daily from 05:00am to 06:00pm.
San Antonio is the most traditional neighbourhood of Cali. In the colonial times it was the extension of the downtown. Although it was split by Calle Quinta, it conserves its colonial feel. All the neighbourhood is on a hill, and at the top you'll find a calm and peaceful park and a beautiful Iglesia de San Antonio.
This old, bohemian neighbourhood is a lovely area to explore by day and night. In the afternoon you can wander around the quiet streets lined with picturesque colonial houses, small and independent theatres, arty cafés, eclectic bars and artists workshops. And at night Caleños come to a hillside park in front of the church and enjoy the breeze and occasionally relaxing music while watching the sparkling lights of Cali.
I loved San Antonio and was really happy that I was staying here. The area is very calm and only a 10-minutes walk to historic centre.
One of the few places where you can get a fine view of Cali is atop the hill in San Antonio. Here you will find a small church Iglesia de San Antonio with a splendid baroque altar. The church was built in 1757 and contains some highly valuable tallas quiteñas from the 17th century, a rather fine set of Quito carved-wood statues of saints. There's also a little stall selling religious art.
In front of the church is a pleasant park where you can take a rest in the shadow of trees, get fresh air and admire a view of the city below. In the afternoon street vendors set the tables with cold drinks, coffee and variety of snacks. More people come in the evening, sit around the stairs, have a drink and sometimes you can even hear the music.
The church is open 07:00am-04:00pm; admission by donation.
Plaza de Caycedo is the main square and the civic centre of the city. It was named after Cali's hero Joaquin de Cayzedo y Cuero and since its foundation it has been a useful point of reference for other places in the city. The square is fringed by beautiful tall palm trees. It is surrounded by many important historical and modern buildings.
Facing the square is the Catedral, a large three aisle church with clerestory, elaborate aisle niches and stained glass windows. The original church dated from around 1539 and the present building is from the mid 19th century. The Palacio Nacional is on the eastern side of the square, a French neo-classical building, now the city archive. Next to it is Edificio Otero.
Notary publics, hawkers, lottery ticket sellers, food vendors and shoeshine boys among others can be found here offering customers their services.
Iglesia de la Merced is the Cali's oldest church, laid in 1545, just nine years after the founding of the city. It's a lovely whitewashed building in the Spanish colonial style. A beautiful exterior hides rather simple interior of wood and stucco containing a long, narrow nave. It has a heavily gilded baroque high altar is topped by the Virgen de las Mercedes, the patron saint of the city.
In the same complex, in the former La Merced convent, you'll find the Museo Arqueológico La Merced.
The church is open from 06:30am-10:00am and 04:00pm-07:00pm; admission by donation.
Plaza de San Francisco is a huge brick square and one of the largest in Cali, where people gather to chill out, and it's also a much liked place of pigeons. Sometimes there are concerts. During my visit of Cali the 1st Marimba festival took place here for three nights, and during the day sometimes some small groups played as well.
Though the square is most famous for its church, Iglesia de San Francisco. Dating from the 18th century, this large brick neo-classical church is next to the Convento de San Francisco and Capilla de la Immaculada. Opposite stands Torre Mudéjar (Moorish Tower), an unusual brick tower which is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish-Moorish architecture in South America.
This is one of the most popular zones in the city, full of restaurants and bars. Whether you want to party or just to have a nice diner, you will find where to pass nice moments. The park actually has a dog's monument in its center.
The historical centre is centred around the Plaza de Caycedo and runs south to Calle 1 and the Iglesia de San Antonio. On the main plaza is the Palacio Nacional and the Catedral de San Pedro. In this area the buildings are more grandiose in style. To the south the buildings get smaller and more of the whitewashed style, giving this area an almost small town feel.
The museum is housed in the same complex as the church, which is the oldest church in the city, having been built in 1545. The church is a typical whitewashed Spanish colonial style building.
The archeological museum is in the former convent. It is a small museum that has pottery and relics from pre-colonial times.
Museum open Mon-Sat, 9am-1pm & 2pm-6pm
This park stradles the river that separates the city. It has grassy areas by the river under the shade of trees, making for a great place to escape the heat of the city. There is also a paved part that serves as a walkway connecting the two halves of the city, and a pedestrian bridge. Along this paved area are lots of people selling snacks and different things, also there are often street performers.
On the north side of the Rio Cali is the modern town of Cali, of which Av Sexta (Av 6N) is the main street. Along this street are many cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as different shops and stores at the south end. Following the street north will bring you to Chipchape shopping centre.
Despite being 'downtown' the new town has a very suburban look and feel to it, in its buildings and street layouts.