The Best Clubs and Bars in La Paz: Nightlife at Altitude
January 1, 1970
by Sophia Vahdati
Welcome to La Paz, Bolivia: a cultural fusion of indigenous, colonialist and commercial influences. The city is set in the mountains at the heart of South America and offers stunning views, cheap cable car rides and so much more… After a busy day travelling the city by cable car or maybe cycling down the thrilling Death Road, you might find you fancy a couple of drinks, but where should you go? Where are the good places to party in La Paz? It’s too tiring to trek around the city searching for the top spots, especially at this altitude, but if you know where to look then you’ll discover a nightlife of curiosities, time warps and sweaty, hip-swinging beats. If you’re in La Paz, it’d be a shame to miss out on the cultural experience of the fiesta, so I’ve compiled a definitive list of the weirdest, wackiest and must-see clubs and bars. To truly experience the magic of La Paz at night you need to know where the party is, and lucky for you, I’ve lived through enough altitude hangovers to let you in on a few nighttime secrets. So, step out of the hostel, make your excuses for beer pong competition and take a rain check on the Irish pub, because Bolivia has so much more to offer.
The Best Bars
Cocktails and wine
Head uptown to Sopocachi for a myriad of bars ranging from dingy to delectable and prepare to meet some interesting characters. First stop is Hallwright’s, a wine bar fit for an Ernest Hemingway novel. It’s the perfect place for some relaxed drinks and introspective conversation. The music transports you from the chaotic atmosphere outside to a tranquil evening of wine and cheese. It boasts a selection of the finest wine and Bolivian tapas, indulging your taste buds without emptying your wallet. If Hallwright’s leaves you wanting more, there’s no need to worry, just a short stroll down a block and you’ll be in front of Diesel. Don’t be put off by the faux barbed wire and warehouse aesthetic, Diesel is one of Sopocachi’s longest running and most innovative bars. The interior (and much of the exterior) were fashioned from recycled junk lending a dingy but up-and-coming air to the place. It’s a popular haunt of mine for a quiet cocktail or several less quiet drinks to kick start the night.
The secret bar
The self-styled best kept secret of La Paz is La Costilla de Adán (Adam’s rib in English). At number 2974 on calle Armaza, if the lights are on then so is the party. Roberto, the owner of the bar, has spent years collecting curiosities, antiques, retro decorations and good times. The culmination of his efforts are this bar of wonders. For some the location marks the start of the night, for others, the start of the next day. There’s no telling how long the enchantment will hold you in this corner of cocktails, big characters and secrets. If you’re in La Paz, it’s not a place you can afford to miss.
Partying in La Paz
Funk and Electronic Music
If you’re a fan of reggaeton music and salsa, then you’ll be happy in any night-time establishment you find. However, if you find yourself craving some good funk, soul and disco you might have a harder time locating a good haunt. The solution? MagicK. That’s not to refer to an Old English way of spelling magic, but a cultural café and bar that runs regular alternative music nights. Funk nights are a breath of fresh air and sequins to the La Paz music scene, and they’re not the only nights on offer at this colourful and energetic bar. The clientele are young and international, the dancing is smooth and assured and the cocktails are rejuvenating. Check the event programme on their Facebook page for electronic and trance music nights, improvised jazz, comedy and reggae nights. The staff like to party away the night with the punters and are always on hand to help you continue the party.
Popular with the locals
For a true Bolivian clubbing experience you’ll want to visit Gold, an 80s club located in the San Pedro neighbourhood. It’s impossible to miss the luminescent signs and lit-up stairs worthy of a game-show set that mark the entrance of Gold. The inside is a coliseum of carpeted seating areas surrounding the mirrored gladiator dancing ring. Pop to the bar to order a drink from a white-coated waiter or head straight into the melee of sweating, pulsing 80s beats. The club is filled with Bolivians of all ages that like to rock out to Latin and English language 80s music all night, buying bottles of whisky and singani that they customarily share with friends and friendly strangers, be prepared to be spun around, sent back in time and to dance until your feet hurt.
Clubbing with a twist
Malegria is another jewel of Sopocachi’s nightlife. On most nights of the week it’s a hub of sexy salsa dancers and mind-boggling hip movements. However, the night that you’ll remember, no matter how many beers you consume, is Saya Thursdays. Saya is an Afro-Bolivian style of music that comes from the Afro-Bolivian community found in the Yungas, a jungle region close to La Paz. Without warning, halfway through your favourite Rihanna song, the band descend. All dressed in white and playing bongos of all shapes and sizes, the dancing gets low and primal. As the beats of the drum matches the clubbers’ pounding hearts you’ll join in the cries of despair as they exit, leaving you with Shakira and Maluma for comfort.
Ttkos is the Marmite of Bolivian revellers. You either love it or you hate it. On calle México, down a slightly dodgy flight of stairs you’ll find La Paz’s most popular reggae-style joint. If you’re lucky you might hear some Bob and Damian Marley but in all likelihood you’ll be in for a night of Latino reggae, passionate, political and often a precursor to some salsa. Don’t forget to order a ‘tutuma’, the infamous concoction of Bolivian soda, liquor and spirit presented in a wooden bowl with many straws, it is inadvisable to share with less than four people.
So, what are you waiting for? La Paz is full of unexpected and vibrant bars and clubs that many travellers and tourists miss out on because they stick to hostel and hotel-managed nights out. Be adventurous, try some of my recommended establishments and you won’t regret it. Although the party officially ends before three in the morning every night, no one can stop Bolivians from dancing on a weekend, not even the police.