The Top 12 Things to Do in Asunción, Paraguay

Lopez palace in Asuncion, Paraguay
Leonid Andronov / Getty Images

With a history dating back to the 1530s, Paraguay's capital city is rife with historical sites, long-held communal practices, and museums documenting the mythology and art of the Indigenous Guarani people. With 65 percent of the current population under 30, though, Asunción is also a city full of new ideas: young people give educational talks and throw parties at cultural centers, boisterous crowds flock to soccer club stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams, and the gastronomy scene is evolving at a rapid pace. Wherever you might go in Paraguay, chances are you’ll end up here at some point, as nearby Silvio Pettirossi International Airport is the main international flight hub. So take a few days and get to know this South American city.

01 of 12

Learn History at the National Pantheon of Heroes

National Pantheon of the Heroes in Asuncion, Paraguay
Leonid Andronov / Getty Images
Address
Chile, Asunción, Paraguay

A national mausoleum where the remains of Paraguayan leaders are interred—including the country's first president, Don Carlos Antonio López, and the victor of the Chaco War, Marshal José Félix Estigarribia—the Panteón Nacional de los Héroes (National Pantheon of Heroes) acts as a memorial to Paraguay’s war-torn history. Modeled after the classical and Baroque style of Paris’ Les Invalides, it has a high dome and stained glass windows, with commemorative plaques from the Paraguayan Navy and foreign dignitaries hung throughout its chambers. See the changing of the guard and consider booking a guided tour with the tourist office, located in the historic center.

02 of 12

See Homegrown Art at Museo del Barro

Art at the Museo del Barro

Courtesy of the Museo del Barro

Address
Grabadores del Kabichu'i, Asunción, Paraguay
Phone +595 21 607 996

Spend several hours in the Museo del Barro for a crash course on Paraguay’s past and present art scene. Free to the public, it contains three sections focused on Indigenous art, pottery, and contemporary art. Here you can see ñandutí (traditional Paraguayan lace), miniatures of Jesuit reductions, and clay sculptures and vessels from pre-Colombian times. Browse the Indigenous art section to familiarize yourself with some of the country’s Indigenous groups, whose ceremonial clothing, statues, and baskets make up the 1,750 piece-strong collection. After, learn about current art in Paraguay by viewing more than 3,000 contemporary paintings, drawings, and installations. In addition to featuring Paraguayan artists, works of other creatives from throughout South America are displayed as well.

03 of 12

Watch Soccer at the Estadio General Pablo Rojas

Cerro Porteño v Fluminense - Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores 2021
Pool / Getty Images
Address
Av. Acuña de Figueroa, Asunción, Paraguay
Phone +595 21 371 022

See one of Paraguay’s most popular soccer teams, the Club Cerro Porteño, at their home stadium, Estadio General Pablo Rojas. With a record of 38 appearances in the Copa Libertadores and 33 Primera División titles, the team is one of the country’s best—yet their skill isn’t the only reason to attend. Expect fireworks, thundering chants, and high energy commentary from the stands, where 45,000 seats hold diehard fans who call the stadium by its nickname, La Olla (the cooking pot). Tickets to league games can be purchased in the Obrero neighborhood, within several blocks of La Olla.

04 of 12

Wander Loma San Jerónimo's Graffiti Art Alleys

Address
Loma San Jerónimo, Asunción, Paraguay

Only a 20-minute walk from the city center lies Loma San Jerónimo, a small, colorful neighborhood of graffiti murals, a literary café, and a staircase adorned with a meta mosaic of Asunción. One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, it is said to have been the site of the founding of Asunción in 1537, and was named after its resident monks of the Order of Jerónimo. Tour the small church, see the city from the mirador (viewing platform), and drink some herb-infused libations at sunset at La Casa del Mojito rooftop bar. Though small, you’ll find many spots to snap pics, lots of traditional houses to observe, and dancing performances on the weekends.

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05 of 12

Shop at Mercado 4

Central market in Asuncion
JackF / Getty Images
Address
Av. Eusebio Ayala 454, Asunción, Paraguay

Go to Asunción's largest open-air market for souvenirs, electronics, fresh fruits, street food, and traditional Paraguayan dishes like pira caldo (fish stew) and asado with chunks of yucca. Find the stalls with the tea sellers grinding yerba mate with a giant mortar and pestle, and order some tereré (a highly caffeinated cold tea). If you like it, consider purchasing the freshly ground herb, along with your own guampo (a cup shaped like a horn) and bombilla (metal filtered straw) to drink it properly after you leave Paraguay.

06 of 12

Observe Strange Sights at Asunción's Botanical Garden and Zoo

Tree in the Botanical Garden of Asuncion

Courtesy of the Botanical Garden and Zoo of Asuncion

Address
QC3H+HF3, Asunción, Paraguay

While the 270-acre forest of 150-year-old trees at the Jardín Botánico y Zoológico de Asunción (Botanical Garden and Zoo of Asunción) might draw you in, the ground’s natural history museum is what will keep you enthralled. Strange scenes of taxidermy wildlife from the Chaco in their recreated habitats, embalmed animals with various oddities (like two heads), and a large collection of native butterflies will give you a sample of the varied and distinctive wildlife that call the country home. Check out the medicinal plant nursery or Herbarium (seed repository) to learn more about the country’s flora.

07 of 12

Grab a South American Meal at Bolsi

Food at El Bolsi

Courtesy of El Bolsi

Address
Estrella 399, Asunción, Paraguay
Phone +595 981 293130

The only restaurant in Asunción with 24-hour service, El Bolsi is known for serving primarily Paraguayan, Brazilian, and Argentina dishes—and for being a prime people-watching spot. Toeing the line between casual and sleek, the best seats are at the counter, where you'll get views of the whole restaurant. Order a crispy yet soft coxinha (shredded chicken that's breaded then fried into a cone), plump salmon sashimi, or fudgy carrot cake. With fresh ingredients, vegan and vegetarian options, and seasonal specials, El Bolsi delivers good food at affordable prices.

08 of 12

Photograph the López Presidential Palace

Vista exterior del Palacio de los López (Palacio de Gobierno). Asunción, Paraguay.
Javier Ghersi / Getty Images
Address
Paraguayo Independiente, Asunción, Paraguay
Phone +595 21 414 0000

Deeply tied to the history of the country and currently its seat of government, the Palacio de los López stands on the Costanera del Río Paraguay. Construction started in 1857, with the pink palace intended to be the home of Paraguay’s second president, General Francisco Solano López. The Neoclassical building incorporated the finest of Paraguay’s raw materials—Emboscada stone, Ybycuí iron, and Yaguarón wood—and was still under construction when López left to fight the War of the Triple Alliance (from which he would not return). Today, you can only tour the inside of the building on national holidays in May and August. However, you can take a picture of the exterior at any time; head across the street to Casa Viola's balcony for the best angle.

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09 of 12

Retrace Revolutionary Steps at the Casa de la Independencia

Asunción, Paraguay: House of the Independence corner
mtcurado / Getty Images
Address
Pdte. Franco, Asunción, Paraguay
Phone +595 21 493 918

The focal point for the planning and commencement of Paraguay’s independence from Spanish rule, the Casa de la Independencia (Independence House) is now a small museum commemorating the saga of the Martínez Sáenz-Caballero de Bazán family and their revolutionary associates. Take the free guided tour to learn how the revolutionaries strong-armed the governor into agreeing to independence in 1811. During your visit, you'll see clandestine documents, stately clothes from the 19th century, an odd toilet, and various paintings and busts of prominent Paraguayan historical figures. Take note of the alley outside, as it was the route the revolutionaries ran down to confront the governor the day independence was declared.

10 of 12

Go to a Mixer at a Cultural Center

Trumpet player at a Dracena jazz show

Courtesy of Dracena

Centro culturales (cultural centers) dot the city, showcasing concerts, educational talks, traditional dance, and international cultural encounters—and they’re usually free to attend. Some spaces, like the Centro Cultural de España Juan de Salazar, focus on disseminating information about specific countries, while others boost creative practices, like Drácena and its regular jazz shows. Meanwhile, one of the most popular cultural centers, Manzana de la Rivera, contains a library, theater, café, and museum in a restored city block. It's best to attend a mixer here at night to enjoy not only the space and event, but the lights of the López Presidential Palace, glowing across the street.

11 of 12

Learn to Speak Guaraní

Address
Manduvira 963 entre Colón y, Montevideo, Asunción, Paraguay
Phone +595 971 343900

Studying language helps to understand culture, meaning you’ll want to learn two languages to better know Paraguay: Spanish and Guaraní. The country claims both as its official languages, and both can be studied at IDIPAR, a language school operating since 1982. Take a course for one to four weeks, or do the monthly option (time permitting). Offering online classes as well as in-person private, semi-private, and group classes, the school can also set up a homestay and host meals for you to try traditional Paraguayan food with local families.

12 of 12

Ride on the Río Paraguay

Two cranes at Asuncion river port in Paraguay
Leonid Andronov / Getty Images

Head across the Paraguay River to the town of Chaco-í. Once the abode of Asunción’s wealthy, it's now a humble settlement where goats run through the streets and mom-and-pop shops sell homemade dulce de leche and Paraguayan cheese. Some residents run boats to and from Asunción, but you can also hire a fisherman to take you across. Once back, promenade along La Costanera (Asunción’s Riverwalk) and check out the abandoned port with its poetic rusty cranes. Throughout the excursion, be on the lookout for the area’s many birds, who use the river as a water source. Paraguay has nearly 700 avian species, making the capital a dream for birdwatchers.

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The Top 12 Things to Do in Asunción, Paraguay