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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
This neighborhood in the Northwest of Cali is where you find the colonial past of Cali. You start at Calle 5 where the taxi lets you off at the small, man-made water fall with hundreds of young people hanging out. As you climb from the street to the top of the hill, you will find locals selling hand made crafts, shoes, clothes, and traditional Valle food. (arepas, chorizo, mazorca, champus, and chontaduros).
At the half way point of the hill, you will find a spot where street musicians will play and people telling stories of Cali past. A little further up, you will find some restaurants and dance clubs. This is where you will find many, many teenagers and college students hanging out with their wine, beer, and aguardiente from Thurs through Sunday.
At the top of the hill is the Church of San Antonio which you see in the picture. From there you get a great view of the city of Cali below.
San Antonio is safe during the night, but beware of pick pockets. Also, while the bottom and middle of San Antonio is safe at night....PLEASE only visit the Church at top during the daytime. Many drug addicts and homeless hang out at the top during the night asking for money from tourists.
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.
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
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!!