The third-largest city in Colombia, Cali is famous worldwide as the ‘Salsa Capital’. The place is known for its colorful streets, rich culture, indigenous cuisines, and cheerful and friendly people. Every arterial street and vintage district in this modern urban sprawl has preserved an architectural past. Granada’s Bauhaus houses and San Antonio’s Republican façades are reminiscent of the “Golden Age” of Cali. Although various former households have now become art galleries and studios for local fashion designers, the central Cali offers a retro atmosphere.
From the popular Afro-Colombian heritage to contemporary art and historical architecture, here are ways an architecture-buff can discover Cali.
1. Edificio Coltabaco
This emblematic building designed by Guillermo Garrido is a site of National Cultural Interest. An example of Renaissance architecture, the ornamental work displays Spanish and Arab influence.
The 16 romantic balconies on its facade make you fall in love with the building’s aesthetic details.
2. Iglesia Ermita Church
Characterized by its Neo-Gothic architectural style, the design of the Ermita Church is inspired by the Ulm Minster in Germany. The church stands on the ruins of a chapel destroyed in an earthquake.
Its turquoise paint scheme, Dutch musical clocks and windows, French bells, Italian marble, and neo-gothic spires strike a sharp contrast with the modern neighborhood.
3. Cristo Rey
Erected to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of a tragic war that led the country to depression, this statue can be seen from the four cardinal points of the city. Constructed out of iron and concrete, it was designed by the Italian artist Alideo Tazzioli. Carlos Andrés Gómez, an artist has sculpted fascinating images on the stones leading up to the top of the hill.
4. La Tertulia Museum
The museum of art is a piece of art in itself. The avant-garde design of the external wing reminds us of the modern architecture that flourished in the 60s. The building houses exhibition rooms, an outdoor and an art-house theater, as well as a workshop.
5. La Merced Archaeological Museum
Dating back to 1538-40, Cali’s oldest existing building, previously a convent now houses an archaeological museum boasting a collection of pre-Colombian pottery and a church. Designed in the typical Spanish style, the stunning whitewashed exterior masks a simple wooden and stucco interior.
6. San Antonio Church
Dotted with old colonial houses and hipster shops and restaurants, the San Antonio neighborhood abounds in colors and artwork. The church constructed in 1747 sits atop a little hill, surrounded by a beautiful garden. The simple brick and whitewashed facade, and the baroque altar of the church have become synonymous with the cultural identity of the city. The cobbled steps of the church provide panoramic views of the sprawling city below.
7. San Francisco Complex
This huge complex houses The Chapel of Immaculate, the Mudéjar bell tower, the church of San Francisco, the convent of San Joaquín, and a museum of religious art.
The impressive mixture of architectural styles from the beautiful pale green facade of the chapel alongside the Hispano Arabic style of the tower to the Neo-classical architecture of the Church gives this religious complex great architectural value.
8. Hacienda Paraíso
The house Hacienda Paraiso meaning ‘Paradise’ is true to its name. This lovingly restored mansion is a fine example of passive cooling practices and landscaping. Surrounded by sugarcane plantations, this house provides us a glimpse into how the Colombian elites lived in the 19th century.
9. Municipal Theatre
Constructed in 1917, the design of the theatre is influenced by Creole Classicism. The richly decorated interior, the finely painted ceiling, elaborate figures on the sills of the boxes, famous paintings, eloquent lighting, and the perfect acoustics of the place, together harmoniously provoke an intimate idyll.
10. The Cañasgordas Estate
This place was once considered one of the largest estates in Southwest Colombia and, due to its archaeological, architectural, and cultural value, has been restored and declared a National Monument. Despite the urbanization of the neighborhood, the place retains a tranquil character.
11. Cali Cultural Centre
Designed by the famous Colombian architect, Rogelio Salmona, the Cali Cultural Centre is a piece of modern architecture designed to show an intelligent mix of Mudejar citadels and medieval castles. The brick building incorporates Hispanic concepts such as the eaves for protecting the passers-by from the sun, the second-floor balconies, and the inland open spaces, for gatherings. This colossal building has been awarded the National Architecture Prize.
12. Jorge Isaacs Theater
This beautiful theatre built in French Neo-classical style has a sumptuous facade of capitals and neoclassical garlands. Belonging to an era of splendor and art deco, it hosts a variety of events, including ballet, opera, and classical music.
13. National Palace
The Neoclassical structure designed by Belgian architect Joseph Martens, houses the Administrative Court, the Cali High Court, as well as a small museum dedicated to the regional production of sugarcane. Its ornate chalk-white façade capped with a slate-grey roof and dome strikes visitors’ attention.
14. Cathedral of St. Peter The Apostle
Also called the Metropolitan Cathedral, it is one of the National Monuments of the country. Designed by Antonio García, it is constructed in Baroque style and after sustaining two earthquakes some elements were rebuilt under Neo-classical standards.
15. Bulevar The Rio
A fine example of urban space, the Boulevard received the Colombian Architecture Biennial award for the best urban design and landscaping in the country. This pedestrian-friendly boulevard runs along the river Cali and is seated above the longest urban tunnel in Colombia. This project has introduced a dynamic platform to the city, where all kinds of physical and cultural recreational activities take place.