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Plaza San Francisco

See historic architecture, watch street performers and browse the stands of handicraft and food markets at this lively central square.

Architectural masterpieces and street performers, handicraft vendors and a food market make Plaza San Francisco one of the most animated public squares in La Paz. The square marks the point where the city’s colonial quarter bordered with the Aymara indigenous districts.

The square is a constant hive of activity and a popular meeting point of La Paz’s Aymara population. Observe the families and groups of friends that convene on the square’s steps to chat and share peanuts and other snacks. Find local vendors offering everything from handicrafts and colorful fruits, to art and herbal medicines. Let yourself be entertained by street performers, such as comedians and magicians.

Visit the San Francisco Church to see a fusion of baroque, mestizo and neoclassical architectural styles. Check out the façade’s stone carvings that portray animals and mythological creatures. Enjoy views of the square and La Paz’s cityscape from the church’s tower. Visit the adjacent Museo San Francisco, housed in a convent, to see religious and indigenous arts, period clothing and chalices.

On the upper level of the square stone carvings represent the country’s most significant historical eras: the ancient Tiwanaku people; the Incan Empire; and modern-day Bolivia. Walk pass the sculptures to the dazzling Lanza Market. Browse the stands for fresh local produce, including tropical fruits, cheese and freshly baked breads. Sample traditional Bolivian cuisine such as a salteña, a baked savory pastry filled with meat and vegetables.

At this central gathering place, it is likely that you will witness demonstrations and street parades. The strikes are held by political groups, teachers and striking workers and are part of every-day life in La Paz. It is safest to keep out of the way, but you are welcome to take photos of group celebrations.

Plaza San Francisco is in La Paz’s city center. Shared mini buses stop at the plaza and provide easy access from most areas in the city. Other major city attractions, such as the Museo de la Coca and the Witches’ Market, are a 5-minute walk from the square.

Guide to Exploring around Plaza San Francisco