La Paz, Bolivia - October 23, 2015: San Francisco Church in the historic city centre.; Shutterstock ID 1650888649; your: Barbara Di Castro; gl: 65050; netsuite: digital; full: poi

Shutterstock / Oliver Foerstner

Iglesia de San Francisco

La Paz

The hewed stone basilica of San Francisco was founded in 1548 by Fray Francisco de los Ángeles. The original structure collapsed under heavy snowfall around 1610, but it was rebuilt between 1743 and 1772. The second building is made of stone quarried at nearby Viacha. The facade is decorated with carvings of natural themes such as chirimoyas (custard apples), pine cones and tropical birds.

The mass of rock pillars and stone faces in the upper portion of Plaza San Francisco is intended to represent Bolivia’s three great cultures – Tiwanaku, Inca and modern (Aymará).

The cloisters and garden of Museo San Francisco, adjacent to the basilica, beautifully revive the history and art of the city’s landmark. There are heavenly religious paintings, historical artifacts, an interesting anteroom and a God-like, if quirky, view from the roof.

As one of the city’s focal points, the plaza is often the staging ground for rallies and protests.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby La Paz attractions

1. Museo San Francisco

The cloisters and garden of the Museo San Francisco, adjacent to the basilica, beautifully revive the history and art of the city’s landmark. There are…

2. Mercado de las Brujas

0.08 MILES

The city’s most unusual market lies along Calles Jiménez and Linares between Sagárnaga and Av Mariscal Santa Cruz, amid lively tourist artesanías (stores…

3. Museo de la Coca

0.12 MILES

Chew on some facts inside the small, slightly tired Coca Museum, which explores the sacred leaf’s role in traditional societies, its use by the soft-drink…

4. Museo de Etnografía y Folklore


Anthropology buffs should check out this museum, one of the city's best. The building, itself a real treasure, was constructed in 1720 and was once the…

5. Museo Nacional del Arte


This colonial building was constructed in 1775 of pink sandstone and has been restored to its original grandeur, in mestizo (mixed) baroque and Andino…

6. Museo Tambo Quirquincho


This intriguing museum, a former tambo (wayside market and inn), houses 10 rooms of temporary art exhibitions that change monthly. Past exhibitions have…

7. Catedral Metropolitana

0.22 MILES

Although it’s a relatively recent addition to La Paz’s religious structures, the 1835 cathedral is impressive – mostly because it is built on a steep…

8. Mercado Negro

0.24 MILES

Tight travelers can grab a bargain at the Mercado Negro, a clogged maze of makeshift stalls that sprawls over several blocks to the west of Isaac Tamayo…