Bolivia’s constitutional capital, Sucre, was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1991. As a result its historic centre is overflowing with a wealth of impressive museums, well-preserved colonial buildings, and ornate churches.
If you’ve been reading my most recent blog posts you’ll know that, of all the sights I visited during the three weeks I spent in Sucre, my favourite was the Convento de San Felipe Neri. I loved it so much the first time around that I knew I had to return before I left the city. And with an entrance fee of just B10 (98 pence), I could easily afford to.
Whilst it’s one of the most popular attractions in Sucre (and with very good reason), the fact that the gate remains padlocked even when it’s open – and you have to ring a bell (to the right of the padlocked gate) to be let in – means that visiting the Convento de San Felipe Neri feels a little bit exclusive.
Built between 1795 and 1799 by Friar Antonio de San José Alberto, the neoclassical-style San Felipe Neri historically the served as a monastery, but is now used as an all-girls parochial school.
Depending on what time of day you visit, you might even find yourself greeted by one of the pupils there.
As you enter you’ll be shown into a large inner courtyard that’s surrounded by some beautifully-preserved corridors. When I first visited, late in the afternoon in order to watch the sunset from the rooftops, the courtyard was wonderfully devoid of other tourists.
However when I visited a week later shortly after 2:30pm, the entire courtyard was decked out in preparation for a wedding reception that evening, lengths of blue and white ribbon draped from wall to wall, shading the area from the heat of the afternoon sun.
I remember thinking what a delightful venue it was for such a celebration, but at the same time feeling equally glad that I’d visited before the arrival of all this additional furniture.
Chairs, tables, and a small makeshift stage crowded this otherwise empty space, and a sense of chaos and urgency prevailed as sound engineers busied themselves performing tests on the P.A system. It was a far cry from the wonderful sense of quietness that I experienced the first time around.
The beautifully preserved corridors reminded me in many ways of those in Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa, Peru – only the rich blues and burnt oranges were replaced with accents of forest greens, rusts, and burgundies set against vast swathes of dazzling whites.
Whilst I absolutely adored the internal design and detail of this incredible structure, the real joy of visiting the Convento de San Felipe Neri can be found up on the tiled rooftops, where you’ll be rewarded with some incredible 360 degree views of the city.
It’s from here that you truly begin to appreciate why Sucre is known as La Ciudad Blanca – The White City.
You can still see the stone seats on the roof terraces that the monks once used for meditation. Despite spending a lot of time in Southeast Asia, I’ve never once attempted to explore the concept of mediation, but I immediately felt an enormous sense of peace and serenity up here.
Akin to the feeling of being on top of a mountain, there is a beauty and openness that allows your thoughts to wander and your mind to feel free.
Even at sunset I don’t recall there being more than about six or seven people up on the rooftops with me at any one time. And I spent hours up here; I saw a lot of people come and go.
Not only did I circumnavigate the entire roof space of the Convento de San Felipe Neri, photographing every detail as I walked, but I also used the time to sit down and write, taking inspiration from the beauty and tranquility of my surroundings.
If you’re looking for somewhere in Sucre to study, read, or work without distractions or interruption, you’d be hard pushed to find a more perfect spot.
- You can find the Convento de San Felipe Neri at Nicolas Ortiz 165 (a couple of blocks from Plaza 25 de Mayo)
- Opening times are 2:30-6:00pm Monday-Saturday. As I mentioned earlier, if the gate is padlocked when you arrive, just ring the bell to be let in.
- If you’re looking for somewhere to stay nearby, I cannot recommend my hostel (where I spent three weeks), Hostal CasArte Takubamba enough. They have dorms and private rooms available, with shared or private bathrooms, as well as studio apartments with their own kitchen (although ther is a communal kitchen on-site).
- If you’re looking for somewhere to eat nearby, take a look at my article on some of the best places to eat and drink in Sucre.
Have you visited the Convento de San Felipe Neri in Sucre? Or maybe you know of somewhere similar in another city? Please tell me about it in the comments below, as I’d love to add it to my travel hit list!
If you like this article, please please share it on social media using the share buttons at the top of the post. Alternatively you can follow along on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ or you can look me up on Instagram or Pinterest too!
**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. All this means is that if you make a booking through one of the links I have provided, I will earn a small commission as a result but the cost to you will remain exactly the same**