Cali is Colombia’s third-largest city, and while it has a bad reputation for crime, it’s actually a lively, fun city where you can stay safe if you know where to go. There aren’t many tourist attractions, but there are plenty of things to do, see, and experience culture, food, neighbourhoods, and nightlife.
1 Salsa Dancing
Because California is the birthplace of salsa, it’s almost mandatory that you either learn to dance or go out and wing it while you’re here. You’ll hear upbeat music all over town, and there are numerous salsa dance schools, including El Manicero, Son de Luz, and Swing Latino. You’ll be spoiled for choice for a true salsa experience, with old pros dancing alongside tourists, but check out Zaperoco, Tin Tin Deo, and La Topa Tolondra.
If you can’t get enough of salsa (and when it’s good, you can’t), make a reservation to see Delirio, Cali’s famous salsa circus. These dancers have performed all over the world, and they only perform here on the last week of every month, so plan your trip around one of them! The shows resemble a mash-up of music, dancing, and Cirque du Soleil, with a dash of cabaret thrown in for good measure. The shows are in a circus-style tent with 1,000 seats, and you are to get up and dance between acts.
3 The Cat Park
The Rio Cali is in the city’s northwestern outskirts, and its banks are with pedestrian areas, bike lanes, statues, and shady areas where you can relax. You’ll also come across Cali’s famous Cat Park, also known as El Parque del Gato de Tejada, a city improvement project that houses a three-ton bronze cat donated by Colombian artist Hernando Tejada. Today, there are 15 smaller cat statues in the park, all painted by local artists.
4 Capilla La Ermita
This is the church that everyone in Cali visits because it is stunning. The opulent chapel, built in an ornate neo-Gothic style and located in the heart of town, began construction in 1930 and was in 1948. The architecture incorporates Dutch windows, French church bells, Italian marble, and inspiration from a German cathedral. The bright white exterior is impossible to miss, and you can go inside, though it is quite small.
5 Barrio San Antonio
Cali, San Antonio’s bohemian neighborhood, is the city’s oldest part and is ideal for a meandering walk through narrow streets. Before, this area was home to many Colombian artists and writers, but it is now a trendy coffee spot. You can see the church and get some great views of Cali and the valley below if you climb the hill to Iglesia San Antonio.
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6 Eat Local Cali Cuisine
You may have tried a variety of Colombian dishes, but Cali is famous for a few in particular. You should get a cholado, which are a cup of mixed fruit covered in sweet condensed milk syrup. Drink a lulado, a refreshing drink made of fruit juice, ice, and water. Pandebono, a simple roll of bread filled with cheese that is for breakfast, is also available. Arroz atollado is a rice dish flavoured with pork, chicken, potatoes, and vegetables. Champus is the strangest of all, a soupy snack made of corn and fruits that is with a spoon. Callejeros Tours offers a food tour that will introduce you to Cali cuisine.