12 Best Sights in Asunción, Paraguay

Casa de la Independencia

This 1774 house with whitewashed walls, brick floors, and a lovely patio was once the secret meeting place of revolutionaries plotting to break away from Spain. They entered and left in the dead of night through the callejón (alleyway) in back. Relics from the May 1811 revolution, which secured Paraguay's independence, are displayed in this well-maintained museum, as are religious artifacts and furnishings depicting a typical colonial-era home.

Casa de los Diputados

This Spanish colonial building, containing offices for members of Congress, once served as a convent, then a much-needed blood bank during the Chaco War, then a military museum, and then a cultural center. The newer glass congress building, Palacio Legislativo, seems to swallow the historic building.

Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

Inside the renovated seat of the Archdiocese of Asunción, portions of which date from 1687, are an enormous gilded altar and many 18th and 19th century religious statues and paintings.

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Gran Hotel del Paraguay

This well-preserved mansion has an illustrious past as the former home of Madame Elisa Lynch, the Irish mistress of Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López. Now the oldest hotel in Asunción, and not quite where the action is, it's nonetheless surrounded by verandas and manicured gardens. Duck inside to see the collection of 19th-century furniture and paintings and enjoy a cool cocktail at the bar.

Jardín Botánico y Zoológico

Besides plenty of plants and a small zoo, you'll find a fine example of a country house, once the home of President Francisco Solano López. It's now a museum with exhibits on Paraguayan wildlife, ethnology, and history.

Gral Artigas and Primer Presidente, Asunción, Paraguay
Sight Details
Rate Includes: G5,000; students and children under 12 free

Manzana de la Rivera

In a model for urban planners everywhere, the city of Asunción combined this manzana (block) of nine historic houses near the river into a pleasing cultural center. The oldest of these, the 1764 Casa Viola, the name by which many Asunceños refer to as the "complex," serves as a small city museum called the Museo Memoria de la Ciudad. The Casa Emasa, once a customs office, now houses La Galería, the center's art gallery. The 1914 art nouveau Casa Clari, the newest house, is the complex's café.

Museo de Bellas Artes

The region's artistic legacy is displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts, which has a collection of paintings and sculpture by Paraguayan and other South American artists. Some of the country's most important documents are found in the museum's archive, but the records are geared toward scholarly research rather than tourist perusal.

Mariscal Jose Felix Estigarribia at Vicente Iturbe, Asunción, Paraguay
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free

Museo del Barro

Though billed as a modern art museum, the so-called "Museum of Clay" includes colonial and indigenous art, but is actually better known for its collection of pre-colonial Guaraní ceramics.

Museo del Cabildo

During the Francia dictatorship, Paraguayans were not permitted to view the exterior of this building, but today you can even tour the interior. Paraguay's constitution was proclaimed on the first floor of the Legislative Palace in 1870. The second floor was added in 1857, destroying the original symmetry of the single-story Jesuit design. Following a long tenure as the Palacio Legislativo (Legislative Palace), the building presently serves as a museum of Paraguayan history. (Paraguay's congress now meets in the gleaming glass building, donated and constructed by the government of Taiwan, across the plaza.)

Palacio del Gobierno

The elegant horseshoe-shaped Government Palace, with verandas and wide staircases, overlooks the bay and is Asunción's iconic sight. It's only open to the public on most holidays, but tours are offered on Thursdays and Fridays if you arrange a day in advance. Of course, you can admire the outside view with its soft white illumination every night from dusk to dawn.

Panteón Nacional de los Héroes

Nothing symbolizes Paraguayan history more than the National Pantheon of Heroes, a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the country's hopeless battles and disastrous wars. Construction began in 1864 under the regime of Francisco Solano López, who envisioned a chapel modeled after Les Invalides in Paris. López was soon to lead Paraguay into the catastrophic War of the Triple Alliance. The building was completed in 1936 after the Pyrrhic victory of the Chaco War against Bolivia. López is interred here, as are the remains of two of Paraguay's unknown soldiers. The wars still loom large in Paraguay's consciousness, but commemorative plaques placed on the walls by the old enemies—Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Uruguay—illustrate that all is forgiven if not forgotten. Two sentinels guard the eerily quiet memorial, a place of pilgrimage for every Paraguayan who visits Asunción.

Plaza de los Héroes

This plaza, whose centerpiece is the Panteón Nacional de los Héroes, is the heart of Asunción. Since the subtleties of Paraguayan life are laid bare in its busy plazas, this is a good place to rest in the shade and watch the locals. Guaraní vendors sell feather headdresses and bows and arrows, artisans display their pottery, and traveling salespeople hawk anything from medical cures to miracle knife sharpeners. You can also climb onto a chair for a shoe shine or have your picture taken with an old box camera. On public holidays the square is often the scene of live music and folk-dance performances. The plaza's northeast quadrant contains a monument to the victims of torture and execution under the Stroessner dictatorship.