Old Town of Sucre, Bolivia

With its old town full of magnificent colonial buildings that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, its pleasant climate and its many green spaces, Sucre is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Bolivia.

With its historic district, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sucre is one of the most beautiful cities in Bolivia. Accordingly, the Bolivian capital is one of our top 10 sights of Bolivia.


In recent years, the tourist offer has been expanded more and more and the Andalusian-like Sucre has become one of the most popular holiday destinations in Bolivia. After a journey through the barren highlands, the climatically pleasant city is worth a stopover!

PICTURES: Old town of Sucre

Photo gallery: Old town of Sucre

Designation of Sucre as the capital

Sucre was founded in 1538 by Pedro Anzurez Marques de Campo Redondo. At that time, the city's full name was Ciudad de la Plata de la Nueva Toledo, but it was also called La Plata, Charcas or Chuquisaca for short.

When Bolivia became independent from Spain in 1825, the White City became the capital of Bolivia. It was named after the independence fighter and first president Mariscal António José de Sucre. However, this fame did not last long.

When the silver reserves in the nearby mining town of Potosi were exhausted, Sucre became more and more marginalised and finally, in 1898, the more centrally located La Paz was chosen as the new seat of government. As the location of the Supreme Court of Bolivia, Sucre can still call itself the official capital of Bolivia.

Sights in the old town of Sucre

The entire old town of Sucre, Bolivia, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its elaborately restored colonial architecture - © saiko3p / Shutterstock
© saiko3p / Shutterstock

The entire old town of Sucre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its monumental buildings and lavishly restored colonial mansions. The country's elite settled in Potosi during the colonial period. This was one of the most important cities in the world at the time due to its silver wealth in Cerro Rico.

The 4,000m above sea level did not suit everyone, however, and so Sucre also came to enjoy Spanish colonial architecture. The gleaming white buildings gave Sucre the nickname Ciudad Blanca, "White City of Bolivia". Due to its high location at 2,800 metres, the climate is temperate and ideal for sightseeing.


Plaza 25 de Mayo

In the centre of Plaza 25 de Mayo is a monument to Antonio José de Sucre, the city's namesake and Bolivia's first president - © Dmitry Burlakov / Shutterstock
© Dmitry Burlakov / Shutterstock

The Plaza 25 de Mayo in the centre of Sucre is one of the most beautiful squares in South America with its magnificent buildings, numerous cafés and restaurants as well as shady trees and an ideal starting point for sightseeing in Sucre. Around the idyllic green square, souvenir shops invite you to browse and cosy restaurants and cafés invite you to linger.

Here you can see some of the top 10 sights of Sucre:

  • the pompous cathedral of Sucre with its friendly designed chancel
  • The historic Casa de la Libertad, where Bolivia's Declaration of Independence was signed.
  • the government palace with its elaborately designed façade and magnificent offices
  • the Museo del Tesoro, which presents some of the most valuable jewels in Latin America

Monastery of San Felipe de Neri

The picturesque monastery of San Felipe the Neri in the centre of Sucre offers a breathtaking view over Sucre, Bolivia - © sunsinger / Shutterstock
© sunsinger / Shutterstock

The picturesque monastery of San Felipe de Neri just one block southwest of the cathedral dates from the late 16th century and offers probably the most beautiful view over Sucre. Stunning holiday photos are taken between the gleaming white bell towers on the panoramic terrace.

Iglesia La Merced

The Iglesia La Merced in the centre of Sucre, Bolivia, was built in the 16th century - © saiko3p / Shutterstock
© saiko3p / Shutterstock

Another block south of the monastery of San Felipe de Neri lies the snow-white Iglesia La Merced, one of the most wonderful baroque churches in Sucre, which also houses the most beautiful chancel in the city. The three-nave cathedral was built between 1581 and 1630 and is dedicated to the Virgin of Mercy.

The Mercedarian order left Sucre in 1826 to settle in Cusco, Peru, yet the church has remained over the centuries. From the bell tower of the Iglesia La Merced, a breathtaking view of the "white city" reveals itself.

The most beautiful sanctuary in Sucre?

Behind the gleaming white walls of the Iglesia La Merced hides one of the most beautiful altar rooms in Sucre, Bolivia - © Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock
© Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

Behind the gleaming white walls of the Iglesia La Merced hides one of the most beautiful altar rooms of all the churches in Sucre. Just as on its façade, its interior is dominated by light colours that lend the interior a majestic elegance.

On closer inspection, the masterful paintings created by the widely known baroque painter Melchor Pérez Holguin from Cochabamba stand out. Particularly remarkable among the 16 works are "The Birth of Jesus" and "The Birth of Mary". The artist himself has also immortalised himself in the church. In his self-portrait, he has just emerged from purgatory.

The towering main altar is decorated with cedar wood carvings and gold leaf. The wooden pulpit also bears the elaborate gold ornamentation typical of baroque churches. Like the left side altar, it is said to have been made by the Indian artist Luis Niño.


Museo Colonial Charcas

The Museo Colonial Charcas in the centre of Sucre presents Bolivia's art and human history through multi-layered exhibits - © saiko3p / Shutterstock
© saiko3p / Shutterstock

The Bolivar Street leads to the Museo Colonial Charcas from the Iglesia La Merced, which branches off to the left from Calle Azurduy. It is located on the corner of Calle Dalence and Calle Bolivar just one block from the central Plaza 25 de Mayo.

The museum is run by the Universidad San Francisco Xavier and presents Bolivia's history of art and humanity through multi-layered exhibits ranging from paintings to traditional costumes to mummies. Due to the often missing signage, a guided tour is highly recommended!

In its picturesque 17th century colonial villa, the Museo Colonial Charcas is divided into three parts:

  • Anthropological Museum: Since 1944, exhibits from 3600 years ago to the time of Spanish colonisation have been presented here. Highlights include the intricately crafted pottery of the Yampara and human mummies from the 7th century.
  • Colonial Museum: In the Colonial Museum, the visitor is transported to Sucre's colonial era with a wealth of exhibits. The varied collection ranges from traditional furniture and costumes to valuable paintings of Bolivia's president and numerous objects made of the famous Potosi silver.
  • Art Museum: The Gallery of Contemporary Art primarily shows works by local artists, most of which, along with several abstract paintings, focus on the harsh working conditions in the silver mines of Potosi.
    Among the most famous works are those by Gaspar Miguel de Berrio and the painting "Cerro de Potosi" by Pedro Cieza de León, which was created in 1553 as the first image of Cerro Rico in Potosi.

Iglesia San Francisco

The baroque Basilica of San Francisco in the old town of Sucre, Bolivia, dates from the 16th century and was rededicated in 1925 - © Gabor Kovacs Photography / Shutterstock
© Gabor Kovacs Photography / Shutterstock

The baroque Iglesia San Francisco de Charcas is located north of Plaza 25 de Mayo, one block behind the Museo del Tesoro on Calle Aniceto Arce. The baroque basilica dates from the 16th century and was rededicated in 1925. In the Campana de la Libertad, the highest tower of the basilica, the "Bell of Liberty" called for the revolution in Bolivia in 1825.

Origin of the Iglesia San Francisco

In 1539, Don Pedro Hinojosa donated a plot of land to the Franciscan Order on which a new church was to be built. In 1580, the cathedral was completed and dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi.

Immediately after the completion of the nave, the mortal remains of Pedro Anzurez Marques de Campo Redondo, the founder of Sucre, were transferred from the Church of the Immaculate Conception to the new San Francisco Cathedral. A year later, still a few years before the completion of the side chapels, the official consecration of the new church took place.

In 1825, with the beginning of the revolution, the cathedral was expropriated from the Order and handed over to the Ministry of War as a base for the Bolivian military. Until 1868, the place of worship was used as a stable and armoury and it was not until 1925, exactly 100 years later, that the Franciscan Order was allowed to move back in. Holy Masses have been held again since 1946.


Visit to the San Francisco Basilica of Sucre

The baroque Basilica of San Francisco in the old town of Sucre, Bolivia, dates from the 16th century and was rededicated in 1925 - © Gabor Kovacs Photography / Shutterstock
© Gabor Kovacs Photography / Shutterstock

With its single aisle and towers of different heights, the cathedral appears very asymmetrical, but this also lends it a certain uniqueness. The white limestone façade is surprisingly simple for a baroque church and the interior also lacks elaborate ornamentation.

The only ornamentation is limited to the ornately painted coffered ceiling in Moorish style and the original 18th-century retables, whose luxurious gold-leaf decoration displays the pomp typical of the Baroque.

Right next to the church is the former Franciscan monastery, which is still in military hands.

Mercado Central

Right next to the Basilica San Francisco is the Mercado Central, Sucre's largest farmers' market. Here you can buy herbs, fruits, spices, bread, meat and vegetables in excellent quality at ridiculous prices.

The restaurants on the top floor offer regional cuisine (although you should already be somewhat used to their hygiene standards). On the middle floor, freshly cut flowers can be found alongside homemade cheese and exotic products.

The ground floor belongs to the meat choppers (also not for the faint-hearted) and the so-called "jugo ladies", who offer freshly squeezed fruit juices and delicious fruit salads as well as hamburgers, sandwiches and chicken wings with fries.

More shopping in and around Sucre

Also worth seeing are the Mercado Campesino, the largest market in the city with an extension of 10 blocks, which also has furniture, car spare parts and DVDs in its assortment, and the market of Tarabuco. The latter is located in Tarabuco about 2 hours by car from Sucre and delights its visitors with colourful handmade art objects and textiles of the Yampara.


Teatro Gran Mariscal

After the Mercado Central, turn left into Junin Street and right again into Arenales. If you follow this to the north, you will come to the Teatro Gran Mariscal, considered by many to be the most beautiful theatre in Bolivia.

Parque Bolivar and Parque Infantil

Parque Bolivar is the largest and probably most beautiful park in Sucre, Bolivia - © saiko3p / Shutterstock
© saiko3p / Shutterstock

Right behind the theatre is Bolivar Park, the largest and most beautiful park in Sucre. A small Eiffel Tower, designed by Gustav Eiffel like the Eiffel Tower in the French capital, and a triumphal arch exude Parisian flair and a musical fountain provides entertainment in the evening hours.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Bolivia is housed in Sucre in a majestic building on Parque Bolivar - © saiko3p / Shutterstock
© saiko3p / Shutterstock

The Corte Suprema de Justicia of Bolivia was founded on 16 July 1827 by the first president of Bolivia, Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre, the general after whom the city is named. At that time, the independent state of Bolivia was created from the Spanish-ruled Real Audiencia of Charcas. Together with the Casa de la Libertad, the magnificent neoclassical building directly on Parque Bolivar is probably the most historic place in the city.