The ideal La Paz day is a slow one with plenty of time for appreciative wandering through its stall- and people-laden streets and with café breaks for high-altitude recuperation.
After a good start to the day with breakfast in a café on Linares or Sagárnaga, check out the Witches’ Market along Calle Linares, note the aroma of the medicinal herbs and ask the vendors about the use of the special items sold here. If you need to purchase souvenirs or a warm alpaca sweater, you are in the right area; Sagárnaga and Linares are full of shops selling all sorts of handicrafts. If you want to get a feel for a more authentic market, continue uphill along Sagárnaga, the area becomes much less touristy and stalls sell fruit, traditional dresses, bits of engines and hats.
Back down Sagárnaga, at Plaza San Francisco you reach the church of the same name. To see this impressive colonial church and the art treasures it holds, take a tour of the Centro Cultural Museo San Francisco. If you would rather focus on pre-colonial treasures, wander down El Prado, the city’s main thoroughfare, towards the Museo Nacional de Arqueología and marvel at the Inca and Tiwanaku artefacts and mummies. Along the way, be sure to join locals in the mid-morning tradition of having a salteña and hot drink.
Weather permitting, the one thing not to miss in La Paz is the view of Illimani; walk along Puente de las Américas, the bridge joining Sopocahi and Miraflores, and you will be rewarded. For great views of the city, Parque Laikakota is nearby. By now you are surely tired and hungry. Many of the best lunch places are back near Sagárnaga, where you will find Bolivian fare and a choice of Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese and other options. Most offices and shops close until 1500, so you can catch your breath until then.
After lunch you could have a look at the fascinating history of the famous leaf in the Museo de la Coca or head straight across to the eastern side of El Prado to the heart of the city, Plaza Murillo, a good place to sit, people-watch and admire the public buildings. Around you are the cathedral, the Palacio Presidencial and the Congreso Nacional. North of here is Calle Jaén, a small street with much of the city’s notable colonial architecture and several interesting little museums.
After a rest at your hotel, get ready for a night out in Sopocachi, one of La Paz’s trendy eating and drinking areas. Take a taxi to Plaza Avaroa and have a look around the plaza and on neighbouring streets. Eating options are plentiful and international.
This is also a good area for evening entertainment – the Thelonius Jazz Bar is on Avenida 20 de Octubre, or if you prefer rock, Equinoccio is on Sánchez Lima. Alternatively, if you fancy your music and drink mixed with other fellow travellers, try Mongo’s before heading home for a well-earned rest.