Sucre, considered Bolivia’s most beautiful city, appeals to visitors at first sight. The whitewashed facades of the colonial buildings in the historic centre create a harmonic ensemble that has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
A strict building code, which came into force years before the World Heritage designation and continues the Spanish colonial architectural style, helped to ensure the architectural coherence of the city. Historically, Sucre marks the site where Simon Bolívar and Marshal Sucre, after whom the town was named, militarily achieved independence from Spain in 1825.
Sucre’s manageable size (225000 inhabitants) and by Bolivian standards moderate altitude of almost 2800 meters invite you to explore the city on foot. The lavish buildings of the colonial city centre owe their existence to the silver from Potosí’s infamous Cerro Rico mine.
Thanks to the thousands of students at the Universidad San Francisco Xavier that Sucre does not make a museum impression today. Among the classic sights of the city are churches, squares and secular colonial buildings as well as two curiosities: The Parque Cretácico with the world’s largest collection of dinosaur footprints and a remarkable series of lifelike models, as well as the pink Castillo de La Glorieta, seemingly the product of a Disney film, whose creator couple was appointed Prince and Princess by Pope Leo XIII in 1898. La Recoleta offers the best panoramic view over Sucre with the viewing platform called “El Mirador” at the end of the rather steep Calle Dalence. The Café Gourmet Mirador, located just below the Mirador, is well suited for a drink with a view, even if the food is considered rather mediocre. The Franciscan monastery of La Recoleta, built at the beginning of the 17th century, now houses a museum of sacral art.
Among Sucre’s churches the cathedral and the monastery San Felipe Neri are worth seeing. The Catedral Metropolitana was built over two centuries (1559-1712) and is architecturally a mixture of late Renaissance and Baroque elements. Outside the masses it can only be entered with a guide and admission fee via the newly renovated Museo Eclesiástico. The highlight of a guided tour is a visit to the side chapel with the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe. It has been decorated for centuries with countless diamonds, emeralds, pearls and gold, their estimated value would restore the Bolivian state budget for years to come.
The monastery of San Felipe Neri is characterized by pure neoclassicism, a two-storey arcade courtyard and a roof terrace with beautiful views over Sucre.
Even the sight of the Artesonado ceiling inside is worth a visit to the Templo de San Francisco, one of the oldest churches in the city. The mortal remains of the conquistadors and city founders were laid to rest in its crypt, and the ringing of the bells in one of the churchs square towers called the people to join the independence movement on May 25th of 1809.
The Casa de la Libertad is one of the historically most important buildings in the city. It was here that the Bolivian independence movement and the Bolivian state were founded.
Built in 1621 by the Jesuit Order as the administrative building of the Pontifical University of San Francisco Xavier, the complex is considered a jewel of colonial architecture.
Today’s museum includes the former monastery with its cloister, the round arches of which rest on granite columns, the chapel where doctoral students once defended their work. Today, the chapel exhibits the Charter of the independent State, portraits of the liberators Bolívar, Sucre and Ballivián along with their swords.