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Bolivia Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Bolivia

La Paz’s shopping scene offers a wealth of artisan goods from all over the country, and plenty of memorable souvenirs. Similar products are available at the markets of Sucre and Potosí so don’t worry if you can’t decide on the spot as you’ll probably find something similar at another market. Pick up llama and alpaca wool scarves, jumpers and socks, Indian handicrafts, woodcarvings, accessories made from traditional materials and gold and silver costume jewellery. Sucre’s markets are known for their range of weaved goods available (ponchos, bags and belts) in different styles by the Jalq’a and Tarabuco groups.

The streets around the market area, notably Calle Sagárnaga, Linares and Illampu, are full of small vendors offering goods at lower prices but quality can be variable. There are, however, only a few places around La Paz where you can buy good-quality products and be sure that a percentage of your money is directly going back into the hands of artisans. For example, the craft shop Ayni Bolivia at the Hotel Rosario supports over 300 artisans from poor, rural communities, and stocks over 300 items across a range of designs and styles.

Head to the Mercado de Hechicería where you can pick up keepsakes such as protective talismans and colourful lucky charms, as well as traditional Aymara remedies (including dried up llama foetuses) and herbal medicines. It’s a must-see, just for the insight into ancient Aymaran culture.

For a bit of fun shopping, head to either the Mercado de Buenos Aires or the Feria de El Alto. Mercado de Buenos Aires, situated a few blocks away from Sagárnaga, is a vast open-air market selling everything from fruit and coca leaves to smuggled televisions and imitation designer goods. Head to the nearby Calle Max Peredes to see the shops selling traditional clothing – you can even pick up a bowler hat for yourself. The Feria de El Alto, situated on the rim of La Paz’s canyon, is also an interesting experience – see all kinds of bric-a-brac from live animals to plastic Chinese toys.

Shopping hours

Mon-Sat 0930-1900, usually with a long lunch break from 1200-1400.

Nightlife in Bolivia

For a buzzing nightlife, La Paz should be your port of call. While other major cities boast a growing number of discos and bars, it is in La Paz where you’ll find the most variety. The club scene is largely contained to Calles Linares, Tarija and Murillo with bars and clubs playing Latin jazz, pop, R’n’B, reggae and even 80s music – Mongo’s, Oliver’s Travels and Traffic are popular spots amongst travellers. Alternatively, try the designer hangouts of Sopocachi to see where La Paz’s elite choose to party. Watch out for Friday nights as these are viernes de solteros (Bachelor Fridays), where most of the male population go out drinking in the city centre.

For a more traditional take on evening fun, try a peña, a live folk music and dancing show, often accompanied by a late dinner. Peña restaurants Huari and Marka Tambo both serve traditional Andean food and attract performances by well-known local musicians. International visitors may also be interested in events, shows and performances arranged by local cultural centres.

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