Cali, the city of the salsa and a heavenly place, that’s how the locals know it. Why? Most men say because of the women, and most women say because of the amazing dancers. The truth is that the Caleños, the locals, steal your heart and charm you with their warmth.
The salsa capital of Colombia is the third most populous city of the country and one of the most beloved because of its weather and culture. Cali is in a valley and is surrounded by mountains on the west side, which makes the city a hot place with an average temperature of 77°F (25°C), so be sure to bring the right clothes and sunscreen.
To explore the city be sure to have comfortable shoes and the best attitude. You’ll learn about history, resilience, and you’ll taste fruits that’ll redefine your concept of exotic. Here’s the list of the best 5 things you can’t miss in a Cali city tour.
Let’s start with history and the foundation of the city. This plaza is located in downtown and has been the witness of the urbanistic development of Cali. Originally was called the Constitution Square, but it was renamed in 1913 to Cayzedo Square, to honor a Politian that fought for the early independence of the city.
Surrounding the square, you’ll find the National Palace, where the local government works, the Otero building, now a bank, and the San Pedro Cathedral. Every building has a unique architecture and history. The National Palace, for example, was abandoned by the architect that started the project, and the Otero building was the place of a massacre in 1984.
So, Plaza de Cayzedo is definitely one of the first places you need to visit to understand the different moments of the history of Cali. It was the starting point of the city, around it the first houses of the rich people were built, so it became a commercial spot, and eventually an emblem of the city.
Now that you’ve had a glimpse of political history, you can’t miss religious art and architecture. Everywhere in Colombia you’ll find churches, and in everyone you’ll see something unique.
The San Francisco Square refers to four religious buildings in the same area: the San Francisco church, the San Joaquin convent, the temple of the Immaculate Virgin, and the Mudéjar tower. The oldest building is the convent, followed by the temple, the tower, and the church.
Even though all the places have a special story, the Mudéjar tower is famous for the legend of its origins. First of all, this building is one the most important in the country for being a representation of the mudejar architecture: is a 23mts tall brick bell tower.
Legend says that a moor architect came to America running away from Spaniard authorities. Seeking refuge, he went to the convent and in exchange for the hospitality, he promised to build the tower that we now know.
After all the history, is time for traditional food. Before you try to eat these, keep in mind its pronunciation starts with the equivalent to sholado, shampoo and shontaduro.
Given that Cali has very warm weather and a lot o rivers come down the mountains, it’s a very fertile land for fruits and sugar cane. So let’s start with the cholado: it’s a mix of fruits, with condensed milk and ice, which has become the favorite snack of locals because is tasty and perfect for a warm afternoon.
Then we have the Champú, a shake-like drink that is made of pineapple and lulo. These two fruits are put in a blender just enough to produce juice, but not too long in order to keep the pieces of fruit solid. So, we could say is a juice you can chew. It is sour and delicious, don’t miss it!
Finally, we have the chontaduro, an exotic fruit that is most popular in the southwest of the country, but not so much in the center. You can find it in juices, fried, boiled and even grounded to be used as a dough.
The special thing about chontaduro is all the properties that people say it has: it gives you energy, boosts your mind, and the most popular one, it’ll give you the strength to stay up all night with your partner.
The best viewpoint of the city has a fascinating history. It is one of the places that you can’t miss in Cali. Just like going to Monserrate in Bogotá, going to the Cristo Rey monument is an experience you must book. Along the way up to the viewpoint, you’ll find more statues made with cement and clay, by the artist Carlos Andrés Gómez.
The monument is 26mts tall and was built as a commemoration of the fifty years following the war of One thousand days. It is on the top of the Crystals hill, wherein 1862 there was a battle, famous because the two generals in charge could only communicate through mirrors, hence the name of the mountain.
Also, the place is special due to the amount of quartz you can find, and that used to be collected.
Finally, we have the perfect place if you’re passionate about art. The Tertulia Museum was founded un 1956 but it moved in 1962 to the building where you find it today.
The museum was born out of the necessity to build a place where artists and intellectuals could gather and talk about art, but also about the city and its culture. That’s the reason behind its name, Tertulia means bull session.
Nowadays the museum is next to the Cali river, the guardian of the green areas, and over 300 national and international pieces that the museum displays. Inside You’ll find five rooms with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and thanks to recent remodeling, now also a library and coffee shop.
So, after visiting and trying everything on the list, all you have left is to take a salsa lesson to learn everything about Cali. What’s the first thing you’ll see or try?