The Top 25 Most Creative Cities in South America

The San Cristobal neighborhood's mountainside display of painted houses and murals is seen from a lower-lying area of the city, in Lima, Peru November 9, 2021. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda

Exploring South America’s Creative Cities

South America is filled with vibrant, creative cities that are hubs for arts, culture, design, and innovation. From Buenos Aires to Medellín, these destinations attract artists, entrepreneurs, and free thinkers from around the world. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in South America’s creative scene, here are the top 10 creative cities you must visit.

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina

With its European inspired architecture, passionate tango culture, and lively arts scene, Argentina’s capital is one of the continent’s most captivating creative hubs.

Buenos Aires exudes creativity through its bustling fashion industry, contemporary art galleries, underground music venues, and colorful local traditions. Known as the “Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires is brimming with Belle Époque buildings, Beaux-Arts palaces, and Art Nouveau architecture.

You can spend days wandering through charming neighborhoods like Palermo and San Telmo, which are filled with vibrant street art, trendy boutiques, and hip bars and restaurants. Don’t miss the famous Sunday antiques fair in San Telmo, where you can find everything from vintage jewelry to old-world treasures.

At night, take in a sultry tango show or head to a jazz club to experience Buenos Aires’ lively music scene. This cosmopolitan capital knows how to balance nostalgia and innovation.

Some top attractions and neighborhoods to explore Buenos Aires’ creative side include:

  • Palermo Soho – This trendy district is packed with fashion boutiques, design shops, art galleries, and stylish cafés.
  • Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Argentina’s fine arts museum has an impressive collection of European and Argentine paintings and sculptures.
  • Teatro Colon – Take in a performance at this world-renowned opera house and national historic monument.
  • La Boca – Wander the colorful corrugated metal houses and street art of this lively neighborhood.
  • Plaza Dorrego – Browse handicrafts and antiques on weekends at the famous San Telmo fair.
  • Cementerio de la Recoleta – Wander through this labyrinth-like necropolis, the final resting place of Eva Perón.

With its European vibe, passionate locals, and lively creative spirit, Buenos Aires is an essential stop on any South American cultural journey.

2. Bogotá, Colombia

Bogotá has transformed from a place plagued by crime and violence into a forward-thinking city with a thriving arts, food, and culture scene.

Once Colombia’s most dangerous city, Bogotá has worked hard to shed its negative reputation and is now safer than ever. The diverse capital is at the forefront of Colombia’s cultural renaissance.

Bogotá’s historic La Candelaria neighborhood has colorful colonial architecture and excellent museums like the Gold Museum, home to an immense collection of pre-Hispanic gold artifacts. Don’t miss the towering neo-Gothic Cathedral Primada in the main square.

For an infusion of art and creativity, visit the galleries and street art of La Macarena and stop by the visionary buildings of architect Rogelio Salmona. The city’s universities, cultural centers, and libraries are hubs of innovation and design.

Usaquén is a hip bohemian neighborhood with Sunday flea markets, street performers, and bars with live music. Foodies will love the city’s creative fusion cuisine showcasing local and international flavors.

Some top spots to experience Bogotá’s thriving creative scene:

  • Plaza de Bolivar – This picturesque main square is surrounded by impressive colonial architecture like the Capitol building.
  • Museo Botero – Famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero donated much of his own work and private collection to this world-class art museum.
  • Monserrate – Ride the funicular up this iconic mountain for sweeping views of Bogotá.
  • La Zona Rosa & La Zona G – These adjoining neighborhoods have excellent restaurants, bars, boutiques, and nightlife.
  • Museo del Oro – Marvel at the sheer amount of pre-Hispanic gold work on display.
  • Ciclovía – Every Sunday, 120 km of city streets are closed to cars for cyclists and pedestrians to enjoy.

With colorful street art, cutting-edge galleries, and historic sites, Bogotá is one of South America’s top creative urban destinations.

3. Santiago, Chile

Chile’s capital city Santiago is a cosmopolitan cultural hub filled with world-class museums, captivating architecture, lively markets, and delicious food.

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Andes Mountains, Santiago is sophisticated and energetic. The city boasts excellent art galleries and design shops concentrated around Barrio Lastarria and Barrio Italia.

Must-see museums include the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, featuring artifacts from ancient Chilean cultures, and the striking Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

For great eats, stroll through the bustling markets at Mercado Central and discover Santiago’s burgeoning food scene. The funky neighborhood of Bella Vista is home to colorful street art, hip cafés, and creative shops.

Top attractions and areas in Santiago showing off the city’s creative side:

  • Cerro Santa Lucia – Ascend this urban hill and small park designed by a Neoclassical architect in the 19th century.
  • La Chascona House – Quirky home of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda, filled with nautical details and hidden rooms.
  • Plaza de Armas – Lovely main square with a statue honoring founder Pedro de Valdivia.
  • Museo de la Moda – Fashion museum inside a striking modern building with regularly changing exhibits.
  • Patio Bellavista – Vibrant open-air complex with street performers, artisans, shops, and international eateries.
  • Parque Forestal – Picturesque park fronting the fine arts museum, often filled with musicians and street performers.

With its rich culture, vibrant street life, and stunning setting, it’s easy to be inspired in Chile’s creative capital of Santiago.

4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Famous for its iconic beaches, beautiful natural setting, and nonstop carnival celebrations, Rio de Janeiro is also one of South America’s most vibrant hubs for arts and culture.

Marvel at the soaring granite monolith of Sugarloaf Mountain rising straight from the sea, and take in sweeping views of Guanabara Bay from Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain.

See creative civic design at the contemporary Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR) built to resemble iconic cartographic markers. Dance along to samba and bossa nova rhythms in lively neighborhoods like Lapa and Santa Teresa, filled with music clubs and bars.

Don’t miss colorful favelas like Santa Marta and Vidigal where vibrant murals cover the hillside homes. Stop by the eclectic antique shops and small museums in artsy Urca.

Some top spots for soaking up Rio’s creative spirit include:

  • Escadaria Selaron – Rio’s iconic steps decorated with brilliant ceramic tiles by Chilean artist Jorge Selaron.
  • Feira de São Cristóvão – Lively fair with handicrafts, food, and music representing Brazilian culture.
  • Museu Histórico Nacional – Housed in a majestic former palace, with a wide range of historic relics and artwork.
  • Arcos da Lapa – Dramatic 18th century aqueduct framing the lively Lapa neighborhood.
  • Parque Lage – Beautiful park home to a historic mansion and visual arts school.
  • Instituto Moreira Salles – Charming cultural center in a historic home, hosting impressive photography exhibits.

With spectacular natural beauty, rich Afro-Brazilian culture, and celebrations like carnival, Rio offers endless inspiration.

5. Medellín, Colombia

From a dangerous center of drug cartel violence in the 1990s, Medellín has transformed itself into a modern, socially progressive city with thriving business, arts, and nightlife scenes.

Take the Metrocable gondola up to view vibrant street art and lively neighborhoods clinging to the steep valley walls. Visit museums like the Museo de Antioquia to see works by native son Fernando Botero, and cutting-edge science museum Parque Explora.

Stroll through Plaza Botero downtown to see 23 large Botero sculptures in an open-air display, then people watch from a terrace café in hip El Poblado.

Medellín’s mild climate, modern architecture and infrastructure make it an ideal city for creativity and innovation. Top spots include:

  • Jardín Botánico – Lovely gardens with orchids and other tropical plants, plus an impressive butterfly house.
  • Museo Casa de la Memoria – Moving museum recounting Medellín’s complex history and path to peace.
  • Parque Arví – Huge nature reserve just outside the city with hiking trails, lakes, and even zip lining.
  • Teatro Pablo Tobón Uribe – Grand 1920s era theater hosting ballet, orchestral performances, and visiting artists.
  • Barrio Colombia – Upscale residential district with colorful street art and great restaurants.
  • Parque de los Deseos – Whimsical park with interactive kinetic sculptures.

Though its past still resonates, Medellín now pulsates with creative energy and life.

6. Montevideo, Uruguay

The laidback capital of Uruguay, Montevideo exudes a nostalgic vintage vibe, with Neoclassical architecture, bustling markets, and lively cultural attractions.

Montevideo’s charming Ciudad Vieja (Old City) is dotted with 18th and 19th century buildings housing cafés, shops, and art galleries. Inside the imposing Salvo Palace is the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales, showcasing Uruguayan art.

Just east lies Mercado del Puerto, where parrillada grills serve up juicy steaks. Along the waterfront, stroll the Paseo del Puerto promenade or relax in Plaza Independencia.

Top experiences for getting a taste of Montevideo’s creative side include:

  • Teatro Solís – Uruguay’s premier performing arts theater located in a beautiful 1859 building.
  • Museo Torres García – Showcases works by Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres García and other prominent Latin American artists.
  • Estadio Centenario – Historic art deco soccer stadium built for the first FIFA World Cup in 1930.
  • Rambla of Montevideo – 22 km long waterfront promenade popular for strolling and cycling.
  • Eacalera de la Barra – Quirky outdoor stairway displaying mosaic artwork of indigenous symbols.
  • Mercado de los Artesanos – Large indoor craft market with jewelry, leather goods, art, and antiques.

Relaxed, nostalgic, and brimming with creativity, Montevideo is the perfect gateway to Uruguay’s arts and culture.

7. Cartagena, Colombia

With winding cobblestone streets, majestic colonial architecture, and Caribbean flavor, the coastal city of Cartagena de Indias is an enchanting getaway steeped in history, culture, and creativity.

Cartagena’s old walled city has been beautifully preserved with imposing forts, churches, monasteries, and stately homes boasting romantic balconies and lush hidden courtyards.

Get lost wandering narrow lanes lined with vibrant flowers, opening up onto lively plazas. Stop for a fruit juice on La Matuna fruit cart-lined streets, and admire the Baroque facade of Iglesia de San Pedro Claver.

Make time for the excellent Gold Museum and Palace of the Inquisition. In the evenings, soak up live salsa music and dance along the beachfront.

Top experiences in captivating Cartagena include:

  • Las Bóvedas – Stroll by these vaulted arcades lining the stone ramparts.
  • Plaza de la Aduana – Lively main square surrounded by statues, a cathedral, and buildings with arched walkways.
  • Alejandro Obregón House Museum – Showcases works by this famous Cartagena-born painter.
  • Getsemaní – Former red light district turned hip neighborhood with street art, bars, and plazas.
  • Iglesia de Santo Domingo – Step inside this 17th century church to view the tomb of St. Luis Beltrán.
  • Palenquera Women – Admire the iconic fruit-balancing hats of women descended from former slaves.

With its postcard-perfect architecture and laidback Caribbean vibe, Cartagena is a joy to explore.

8. Cusco, Peru

The ancient Incan capital of Cusco seamlessly blends indigenous tradition with Spanish colonial influences, making it Peru’s most captivating cultural destination.

Steeped in history, Cusco is loaded with archeological treasures. Marvel at the incredible stonework of sites like Sacsayhuaman Fortress and Qorikancha temple. Baroque cathedrals built with remnants of Incan structures feature ornate altars and gilded artworks from the Cusco School.

Weave through lively indoor markets overflowing with handmade textiles, ceramics, and woven goods. Hike high in the Andes to remote weaving villages unchanged for centuries.

Cusco’s creative highlights include:

  • Plaza de Armas – Handsome main square lined with arched colonial buildings and Incan ruins.
  • Choco Museo – Unique museum spotlighting Peru’s famous cacao, with tastings and chocolate making classes.
  • Museo de Arte Precolombino – Excellent collection of ceramics, gold, and textiles from indigenous cultures across Peru.
  • San Blas Neighborhood – Charming artistic quarter blanketed in street art and artisan shops.
  • Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo – Government-sponsored folk art center promoting local artisans.
  • Mercado de San Pedro – Bustling local market selling exotic fruits, vegetables, meats, and handicrafts.

Blending indigenous and colonial heritage, Cusco remains the artistic soul of the Andes.

9. La Paz, Bolivia

Set in a deep canyon against the breathtaking backdrop of snow-capped Mt. Illimani, Bolivia’s de facto capital La Paz is a chaotic city rich in tradition, culture, and creativity.

From vibrant witchcraft markets to exciting lucha libre wrestling matches, this energetic city perfectly balances past and present. Visitors can browse bowler hat vendors, herb stalls, and coca leaf readings at the sprawling outdoor Mercado de las Brujas.

See the UNESCO-listed colonial street Calle Jaén, lined with interesting museums and Baroque architecture. Browse stalls piled high with handicrafts, antiques, and art at Mercado de los Artesanos La Paz.

Top spots capturing La Paz’s creative spirit:

  • Plaza Murillo – Flanked by the Presidential Palace and cathedral, this is the main square.
  • Valle de la Luna – Surreal lunar landscapes created by erosion just outside the city.
  • Mi Teleférico – Ride these mountainside cable cars for excellent city views.
  • Museo Nacional del Arte – Housed in a grand former palace with works spanning colonial to contemporary periods.
  • Museo de Etnografía y Folklore – Highlights Bolivia’s diverse indigenous cultures.
  • Lucha Libre – Don’t miss Bolivia’s WWF-style wrestling matches at Multifuncional.

Chaotic yet captivating, La Paz embraces its indigenous soul.

10. Quito, Ecuador

Surrounded by volcanic peaks, Ecuador’s historic capital Quito blends Spanish colonial charm with important indigenous heritage and contemporary creative arts.

Quito’s remarkably preserved Old Town is a UNESCO site, with ornate churches and monasteries, lively plazas, and grand public spaces. Highlights include Plaza Grande’s arched buildings and the decorated domes of Church of the Society of Jesus.

For great museums, see colonial art at Casa del Alabado, indigenous works and artifacts at Museo Nacional del Banco Central, and Ecuadorian art spanning history at Museo de Arte Colonial.

Don’t miss Otavalo Market, where indigenous highland communities sell handmade textiles, clothing, carvings, paintings, and more.

Top spots for absorbing Quito’s creative culture:

  • TelefériQo – Ride this cable car for views of surrounding volcanoes.
  • La Ronda Street – Atmospheric narrow street with shops, galleries, and museums.
  • Plaza and Church of San Francisco – Massive plaza fronting an elaborate 17th century church and monastery.
  • Casa del Murillo – ContainsQuito School artworks and offers panoramic city views.
  • Parque Carolina – Spacious park hosting art/handicraft markets on weekends.
  • Centro de Arte Contemporáneo – Modern art museum with avant-garde painting, sculpture, and multimedia works.

11. Lima, Peru

The San Cristobal neighborhood’s mountainside display of painted houses and murals is seen from a lower-lying area of the city, in Lima, Peru November 9, 2021. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda

As Peru’s cultural and culinary capital, Lima seamlessly fuses history with modernity across its museums, historic sites, arts scene, and of course – food.

In Lima’s historic center, stroll the ornate balconies and arched walkways of Plaza Mayor, and explore the catacombs beneath the grand Cathedral of Lima. Nearby, the Larco Museum houses a superb collection of pre-Columbian artifacts.

For art, see avant garde exhibits at MATE Museo Mario Testino, indigenous and Republican-era paintings at the Museum of Art, and contemporary photography at the Mario Vargas Llosa Institute.

Don’t miss Lima’s buzzing food scene, from high-end Nikkei fusion to humble ceviche stands. Top creative spots include:

  • Barranco – Bohemian oceanside district with street art, galleries, shops, and nightlife.
  • Miraflores – Upscale neighborhood with great museums, artisanal markets, and Central Park.
  • Parque de la Reserva – Stunning water feature show choreographed to music and lights.
  • El Circuito Mágico del Agua – Series of imaginative fountains representing Peru’s diverse ecology.
  • Museo Pedro de Osma – Beautifully preserved colonial mansion with an excellent art collection.
  • El Mercado Indio – Feel the textile traditions of Peru’s Andean cultures through weaving demonstrations and handicrafts.

Fusing heritage and innovation through arts, food, and culture, Lima offers countless creative attractions.

12. Valparaíso, Chile

With its steep coastal hills blanketed in colorful houses, charming funiculars, and gritty bohemian vibe, Valparaíso is one of Chile’s most intriguing creative destinations.

This hilly port city exudes artsy character, from vibrant street art and poetry painted on walls, to imaginative graffiti and murals tucked along the winding cobbled lanes. Creativity seeps through daily life, with impromptu music and dance performances popping up in plazas.

Ride antique elevators like Ascensor Artillería up to the neighborhoods of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción. Here, visit the former home of poet Pablo Neruda which showcases his collection of oddities and exotic ship figurines that inspired his poetry. Stroll along the harborfront promenade and stop in lively bars where locals drink Chilean wine and dance to live music.

Top creative spots in Valparaíso include:

  • La Sebastiana – Whimsical hilltop home of Pablo Neruda showcasing nautical treasures and his writing room.
  • Museo de Bellas Artes de Valparaíso – Excellent fine arts museum set in a handsome early 20th century mansion.
  • Mercado Puerto – Bustling market to try fresh seafood, sample Chilean street food, and buy handicrafts.
  • Cerro Cárcel – Once a prison, now home to striking murals and panoramic views.
  • Paseo Yugoslavo – Beautiful oceanside walkway decorated with colorful mosaics.
  • Museo Naval y Marítimo – Naval museum with historical artifacts, model ships, navigation tools, and more.

With its bohemian character and coastal charm, Valparaíso nourishes creativity.

13. Salvador, Brazil

Considered the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture, lively Salvador is known for its vibrant music, dance, art, and food deeply linked to its West African roots.

Watch capoeira performers blend dance and martial arts on the streets of the historic Pelourinho neighborhood. Listen to stirring rhythms echo through the colorful houses of Alto do Santo Antônio as percussionists jam.

Admire the pastel facades of colonial buildings surrounding Praça da Sé, and see sacred Afro-Brazilian artworks inside the baroque São Francisco Church. Learn traditional Bahian crafts like embroidery, weaving, and ceramics at the Oficina de Oyá cultural center.

Top spots to experience Salvador’s rich African-inspired culture include:

  • Mercado Modelo – Lively craft market containing hundreds of stalls selling art, jewelry, clay figurines, instruments, and more.
  • Instituto Mauá – Cultural center with museums, exhibitions, and classes focused on Bahia’s African heritage.
  • Museu de Arte da Bahia – Housed in a 19th century mansion with paintings and sculpture from Brazilian artists.
  • Bairro da Liberdade – Salvador’s old town with strong African roots, home to samba schools and Candomblé houses.
  • Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra – Brazil’s oldest fort with excellent coastal views.
  • Museu Náutico – Maritime museum with cultural artifacts and historic navigation equipment.

Creativity pulses through Salvador’s music, art, traditions, and architecture.

14. Asunción, Paraguay

Paraguay’s riverside capital city Asunción mixes colonial heritage with indigenous influence and modern arts and culture.

The historic city center still has blocks of 19th and 20th century buildings featuring decorative tilework and wrought iron balconies. Plaza de los Héroes is surrounded by the Metropolitan Cathedral and Palacio de López government palace displaying dictator Francisco Solano López’s grand residence.

Check out arts and crafts like woven textiles, leatherwork, and ceramics at the Municipal Handicrafts Market. Don’t miss the iconic “Manzana de la Rivera” city block, a creative hub with quirky museums like the Museum of the City displaying the evolution of Asunción.

Top spots to experience Asunción’s cultural treasures include:

  • Teatro Municipal – Beautiful 19th century opera house modeled after the Paris Opera.
  • Museo del Barro – Unique museum with a focus on Paraguayan indigenous ceramics and artifacts.
  • Casa de la Independencia – Where independence from Spain was declared in 1811, now a museum.
  • Paseo La Galeria – Open-air mall with artisan shops and stalls along a scenic riverbank.
  • Plaza Uruguaya – Relaxed leafy plaza ringed with monumental buildings like the National Pantheon of Heroes.
  • Museo Memoria de la Ciudad – Museum narrating Asunción’s history through photos, videos, and historic objects.

Blending tradition, heritage, and creativity, Asunción has a distinctive culture waiting to be discovered.

15. Arequipa, Peru

Surrounded by volcanoes and boasting architectural treasures, Arequipa showcases Peru’s rich history and culture through its museums, colonial buildings, and thriving arts scene.

Arequipa’s picturesque UNESCO-listed city center teems with ornate mansions, cloisters, and intricate Baroque churches hewn from white volcanic sillar rock. Plaza de Armas is an elegant main square framed by the twin-towered Cathedral Basilica of Arequipa.

Top museums include the labyrinthine Monasterio de Santa Catalina, a 16th century convent turned museum, and the Museo Santuarios Andinos, showcasing the frozen Inca mummy Juanita.

Don’t miss the traditional handicrafts of the district of Paucarpata, and the peculiar two-story architecture of rural saber-dog dwellings unique to Arequipa.

Creative highlights include:

  • Yanahuara Viewpoint – Admire the postcard views of Arequipa and its volcanoes from this scenic lookout.
  • Casa del Moral – Historic home showcasing the mansion’s original 1800s furnishings, relics, and artwork.
  • Plaza de Armas – Gorgeous main square flanked by Arequipa’s cathedral and arched colonial buildings.
  • Mirador de Carmen Alto – Hilltop lookout with panoramic vistas of Arequipa and the surrounding countryside.
  • Museo de la Universidad Católica de Santa María – Extensive collection of pre-Incan and Incan artifacts and mummies.

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo – Rotating exhibits of modern painting, photography, and sculpture in a minimalist space.

With stunning landscapes and historic charm, Arequipa offers inspiration around each corner.

16. Guayaquil, Ecuador

Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil has undergone revitalization efforts in recent years, with an infusion of art, culture, great food, and vibrant public spaces.

Several excellent museums anchor Parque Histórico, including the Museo Antropológico showcasing Ecuadorian cultures and pre-Columbian ceramics. Nearby, stroll the waterfront Malecón 2000 boardwalk then ride the colorful funicular up Santa Ana Hill for sweeping city views.

In Las Peñas neighborhood, walk past art galleries and handicraft shops housed in brightly painted colonial homes along Numa Pompilio Llona street. Stop for a bite in Guayaquil’s exciting culinary scene, with creative fusion cuisine.

Top creative spots in rejuvenated Guayaquil:

  • Museo Municipal – Modern and contemporary art museum with a mixture of painting, sculpture, and multimedia works.
  • Malecón del Salado – Riverside promenade flanked by gardens, fountains, cafes, and food stalls.
  • La Rotonda – Striking monument topped by statues honoring the founders of Guayaquil.
  • Mercado Sur – Vibrant market to try fresh ceviche, tropical fruits, and street food.
  • Museo Presley Norton – Eclectic museum with a private collection of strange curiosities and oddities.
  • Cathedral of Guayaquil – Imposing cathedral overlooking Parque Seminario featuring a mix of architecture styles.

With revitalized public areas and a flourishing arts scene, Guayaquil entices visitors to get creative.

17. Sucre, Bolivia

Nicknamed “The White City” for its refined colonial architecture, Bolivia’s judicial capital Sucre charms visitors with its grand historic buildings, charming plazas, and wealth of museums.

Sucre’s beautifully preserved downtown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with highlights like the impressive twin bell towers of the Sucre Cathedral. Visit Casa de la Libertad where Bolivia’s declaration of independence was signed in 1825.

There are excellent museums dedicated to indigenous art, colonial relics, anthropology, and Bolivian culture. Go on guided walks to admire the elaborately carved wooden friezes of historic homes. Sign up for a folkloric dance performance or take a workshop to learn traditional Andean textile weaving techniques.

Top attractions celebrating Sucre’s creative side:

  • Recoleta Viewpoint – Scenic lookout with the best views of Sucre, known as the “Balcony of the City.”
  • Museo de La Recoleta – Housed in a Baroque monastery, with exhibits on Franciscan history and religious artwork.
  • Cementerio General – Explore this fascinating cemetery with unique tombs and mausoleums.
  • Plaza 25 de Mayo – Lively central plaza flanked by the cathedral and city hall.
  • Museo del Tesoro – Collection of riches from the colonial era, including gold, jewels, and religious artifacts.
  • Parque Cretácico Cal Orckó – Unusual dinosaur footprint park on the outskirts of the city.

From museum hopping to glimpsing creative architecture, Sucre is a delight to discover.

18. Potosí, Bolivia

The lofty Bolivian city of Potosí sits at an altitude of 13,200 ft (4,020 m), with a fascinating history tied to the area’s lucrative silver mines which financed the Spanish empire.

The historic center is characterized by colonial architecture, churches, and convents built following the discovery of vast silver reserves. Trek down a mine on Cerro Rico Mountain for a glimpse at the harsh working conditions. Visit Casa Nacional de Moneda, a grandiose mint funded by silver wealth, which now houses cultural exhibits.

See Bolivian paintings from the time of Spanish rule at Museo de Arte Conventual, housed in the Santa Teresa Monastery. Browse the workshops of colonial-era street Quijarro, where artisans still hammer silver jewelry and ornaments.

Top sights celebrating Potosí’s rich history and culture:

  • Lagunas de Kari Kari – Dramatic landscapes shaped by mining activity, with lakes filled by vibrant mineral deposits.
  • Cerro Rico – The “Rich Hill” dominating Potosí, where vast silver reserves were mined since the 1500s.
  • Casa de las Tres Portadas – Historic home with three ornate doorways showcasing the wealth from Potosí’s silver boom.
  • Convento-Museo Santa Teresa – Magnificent convent housing sacred colonial art and decadent decor.
  • Museo de la Catedral – Cathedral museum displaying altarpieces, paintings, carvings, silverwork and relics.
  • Puente de San Francisco – The city’s oldest bridge, built in 1623.

Potosi’s architecture, traditions, and history are still shaped by its prosperous silver mines.

19. Antigua, Guatemala

Surrounded by volcanoes, historic Antigua shows off an exceptionally well-preserved Spanish Baroque architecture, with cultural attractions found around every corner.

Antigua’s cobblestone streets lined with brightly painted colonial buildings feel like stepping back in time. Some highlights surrounding the lovely Parque Central include the intricate Moorish facade of Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the grand Arco de Santa Catalina, and Antigua Cathedral with its ornate interior.

Visit excellent museums like Casa del Tejido Antigueño to learn backstrap weaving techniques from Maya women, and Museo de Arte Colonial showcasing relics from Antigua’s churches. Don’t miss the spooky abandoned La Recolección Architectural Complex, destroyed by earthquakes.

Top creative spots in Antigua:

  • Cerro de la Cruz – Hike up to this hilltop viewpoint for panoramic vistas of Antigua and its surrounding volcanoes.
  • Palacio de los Capitanes Generales – One-time seat of the Spanish colonial government, now the Museum of Ancient Books and Documents.
  • Arco de Santa Catalina – Iconic landmark arch fronting a pedestrian street lined with boutiques and cafés.
  • Mercado de Artesanías – Large craft market with colorful textiles, pottery, woodwork, and leather goods.
  • Centro Cultural La Azotea – Cultural center, gallery, and café set in an 18th century mansion.
  • Iglesia y Convento de Nuestra Señora de la Merced – Striking yellow Baroque church and monastery.

With cultural centers, historic sites, galleries, and museums, Antigua celebrates creativity.

20. Rosario, Argentina

Known as Argentina’s “cradle of gauchos and national flags,” vibrant river port Rosario has an expanding creative culture, from street art and alternative theater to avant garde museums.

Rosario’s beloved adoptive son Che Guevara is memorialized in iconic murals across the city. Browse the contemporary art museum Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Rosario, set in a renovated grain silo. Take in experimental theater and independent cinema at cultural complex La Toma.

Stroll along the riverfront promenade, stopping to admire landmarks like the striking black-and-white Monumento Nacional a la Bandera. Duck into El Cairo, an atmospheric old café with creative literary ties. Look for colorful street art transforming neighborhoods like Pichincha.

Top spots to spark creativity:

  • Museo Histórico Provincial Julio Marc – Housed in Argentina’s oldest railway building, with exhibits recounting Rosario’s heritage.
  • Parque España – Beautiful park designed in Spanish Baroque style, with striking landmarks.
  • Pasaje Juramento – Historic pedestrian shopping gallery lined with lovely murals.
  • Plaza Montenegro – Enjoy street performers and handicraft vendors in this public square.
  • Teatro El Círculo – Ornate historic theater in the heart of Rosario, hosting theater, dance, and music.
  • Parque de la Independencia – Lively green space with a large sculpture dedicated to national icon José de San Martín.

With an exciting arts scene developing against a backdrop of gaucho history, Rosario offers plenty of inspiration.

21. Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This atmospheric port town transports visitors back in time, with its UNESCO-listed Barrio Histórico neighborhood teeming with picturesque cobblestone streets, colonial landmarks, and charming plazas.

Founded in 1680 by the Portuguese, Colonia retains an old world character, with beautiful Portuguese-style architecture and intriguing history as a smuggling hub.

Plaza Mayor 25 de Mayo is lined with galleries, boutiques, and eateries set in historical buildings painted in muted yellow and pink shades. The lighthouse El Faro, built in 1857, offers panoramic river views.

Visit the remnants of the 17th century Convento de San Francisco, passed between Spanish and Portuguese rule. Pop into quirky museums like the Portuguese Museum housed in a former mansion. Dine on fresh seafood with sunset views along the coast.

Top attractions celebrating Colonia’s rich history and relaxed vibe:

  • Museo Municipal – Set in Casa Nacarello, this museum exhibits historical artifacts from Colonia’s past.
  • Museo del Azulejo – Showcases Portuguese-style tilework and 18th century paintings salvaged from ruins.
  • Puerta de Campo – One of the remaining city gates in the historic walls that surrounded Colonia.
  • Calles de los Suspiros – Charming narrow “Street of Sighs” lined with tiles and flowers.
  • Real de San Carlos – Bullfighting ring that hosts summer concerts.
  • Mercado Municipal – Browse handicrafts, wines, artwork, and antiques at this covered market.

With its nostalgic ambiance and historic charm, Colonia offers a rewarding glimpse into Uruguay’s past.

22. Valdivia, Chile

Set along wooded banks of the Calle-Calle River, Valdivia charms visitors with its colorful waterside houses, laidback vibe, and distinctive mix of German and Mapuche indigenous influences.

Walk past market stalls and street musicians at the riverside Feria Fluvial, or relax in a riverboat restaurant. Explore the imposing 19th century naval base at Fort Niebla. Visit cervecerías like Kunstmann to sample craft beer styles descended from German immigrant traditions.

See whimsical artifacts like teapots and tin toys at Museo Historia Natural. Glimpse Mapuche culture through artifacts and dioramas at Museo Austral de la Universidad Austral. Take a boat ride to the Río Cruces wetlands for birdwatching.

Top spots to spark creativity in Valdivia:

  • Mercado Municipal – Lively indoor market with seafood eateries, meats, fruits, spices, and more.
  • Cerveceria Haus Malzen – Historic brewpub featuring German-style craft beer and pub fare.
  • Parque Saval – Waterfront park with tree-lined paths and sculptures.
  • Museo Arte y Artesania Contemporanea – Small museum of contemporary crafts focused on local artisans.
  • Parque Oncol – Relaxing park featuring animals native to Chile’s south.
  • Museo Philippi – Set in Chile’s first agricultural school, highlighting Valdivian history and nature.

Blending Germanic and indigenous Mapuche influences, Valdivia celebrates traditions old and new.

23. Córdoba, Argentina

With its well-preserved colonial architecture, lively culture, and youthful energy as Argentina’s second largest city, Córdoba allows visitors to dive into history while experiencing an exciting urban vibe.

Córdoba’s historic quarter contains ornate churches and the 17th century Jesuit Block, a UNESCO site. Barrio Güemes is dotted with art nouveau buildings, bustling cafés, and colorful street art.

See one of Latin America’s oldest universities at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba. Visit salons practicing traditional dance styles at Cultural Córdoba. Experience alternative theater and warehouse parties in Nueva Córdoba.

Top attractions showcasing Córdoba’s creative spirit:

  • Museo Superior de Bellas Artes Evita – Argentina’s second largest fine arts museum located in a striking brutalist building.
  • Paseo del Buen Pastor – Creative cultural center with an artisan market, exhibits, concerts, and events.
  • Manzana Jesuítica – Historic Jesuit block containing the Jesuit Church and the University of Córdoba.
  • Museo Palacio Dionisi – Set in a restored Italianate mansion with regional art.
  • Mercado Norte – Lively traditional market to sample local dishes and handicrafts.
  • Parque Sarmiento – Vibrant green space containing a museum, lake, and Córdoba’s Zoo.

Blending old and new, Córdoba celebrates history and creativity.

24. Olinda, Brazil

With its winding cobblestone lanes, colorful colonial architecture, and Carnival spirit, Olinda’s well-preserved historic center allows visitors to step back in time and experience Brazilian heritage.

Wandering picturesque streets lined with Baroque churches, tiled homes in rainbow hues, and flowering jacaranda trees, it’s easy to see why Olinda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

See one of Brazil’s best folk art collections at Oficina Brennand, an imaginative ceramic studio set in an abandoned factory. Browse contemporary work from Pernambuco artists at Galeria Janete Costa. Time your visit for Carnival to dance along with frenetic frevo and maracatú parades.

Top creative spots in enchanting Olinda:

  • Igreja da Sé – Olinda’s main church, unique for its Renaissance-inspired octagonal shape.
  • Convento de São Francisco – Franciscan complex housing historic mission artifacts and baroque woodcarvings.
  • Museu do Mamulengo – Dedicated to the tradition of Brazilian puppetry, with performances.
  • Alto da Sé – Hilltop viewpoint overlooking Olinda’s scenic historic churches and terra cotta rooftops.
  • Praça do Carmo – Lively plaza home to the Nossa Senhora do Carmo Church, shops, and cafes.
  • Igreja da Misericórdia – The oldest church in Olinda, built in 1540.

With lively street culture and artistic flair, Olinda is an unforgettable Brazilian jewel.

25. Ouro Preto, Brazil

Nestled in the mountains of Minas Gerais, Baroque splendor abounds in historic Ouro Preto, which was once the booming center of Brazil’s gold rush in the 18th century.

Wandering steep cobblestone streets lined with ornate churches, elaborate sculptures, and lavishly decorated homes, it’s easy to see how Ouro Preto became a World Heritage Site. The former mining town contains masterpieces of colonial Baroque architecture, with soapstone and wood carved facades and richly gilded altarpieces.

Visit the Casa dos Contos to learn about Brazil’s gold history and early mint. Climb the hilltop with sweeping town views to see Tiradentes statue, honoring the martyr of Brazilian independence. Don’t miss the impressive artistic talents of sculptor Aleijadinho.

Top spots for discovering Ouro Preto’s creative wealth:

  • Praça Tiradentes – Historic town square with the Matriz da Nossa Senhora do Pilar cathedral.
  • Mina do Chico Rei – Gold mine named after the legendary slave king and pioneering prospector.
  • Casa Guignard – Former home of Brazilian painter Alberto da Veiga Guignard, now an art museum.
  • Museu da Inconfidência – Housed in a Baroque mansion, the museum chronicles the failed 1789 independence movement.
  • Igreja de São Francisco de Assis – Rococo church adorned with intricate carvings and Aleijadinho’s sculptures.
  • Museu do Oratório – Collection of richly decorated 18th century portable prayer altars.

With beautifully preserved churches, creative legacy, and gold rush appeal, Ouro Preto is a Baroque jewel.


From rejuvenated cities like Medellín to colonial masterpieces like Cartagena and Antigua, creativity and culture pulse through South America’s urban centers. Vibrant street art transforms neighborhoods in Chile’s Valparaíso and Argentina’s Rosario, while Peru’s Cusco and Bolivia’s Potosí offer windows into indigenous traditions.

Cutting-edge galleries and museums thrive in Colombia’s Bogotá and Santiago, Chile, while lively markets selling artisan goods abound from Ecuador’s Quito to Asunción, Paraguay. Salvador celebrates Brazil’s African roots through music, dance, and food, while Argentina’s second city Córdoba blends colonial architecture with youthful energy.

Uruguay’s nostalgic capital Montevideo exudes a vintage artsy vibe, while the Brazilian cities of Paraty, Ouro Preto, and Olinda dazzle with Baroque splendor. From impromptu festivals to meticulous UNESCO sites, creativity seeps through daily life. By exploring these cultural hubs, it’s easy to discover South America’s inspiring creative spirit.

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