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Asunción is the capital and economic centre of Paraguay.
The city of Asuncion is home to a little more than 500,000 people. It is a young city: 65% of its residents are under the age of 30. From Saturday in the evening and all Sunday most businesses are closed and the city centre can appear fairly deserted.
From Central America: Copa Airlines flies to Asuncion from Panama City(Tocumen international airport).
From North America: American Airlines has a direct flight from Miami to Asunción (Silvio Pettirossi International Airport).
From Europe: Air Europa has a direct flight from Madrid to Asuncion.
From South America: There are flights from São Paulo, Lima, Santiago de Chile, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Montevideo and Buenos Aires through carriers like AVIANCA, TAM, LAN, GOL Airlines, Amaszonas, Alas Uruguay and Aerolineas Argentinas.
Taxis are available at the airport.. If you walk a block outside the airport (on the only road) there is a small bus stop. Two city buses are available one takes you into the city on the main road Mariscal Lopez and the other down Espana (you can tell where the buses go by the sign in the bus window).
There are no trains, apart from a tourist train to Areguá which departs on Sunday from Jardín Botánico station. The building near Plaza Uruguaya once used as the main train station is now a museum and cultural events venue.
Driving a car yourself is not recommended since many streets are in disrepair and apart from the main roads many are unpaved. The traffic in the city can be quite chaotic for unaccustomed drivers. However, it gets much better once outside of the city. The car rental companies can also provide drivers.
The bus terminal is about about 5 km from the centre, so it is advisable to take a taxi or bus (bus number 38, 2350 Gs pp) into town. The street Fernando de La Mora in front of the terminal leads to the centre. Some bus companies maintain offices around Plaza Urugaya in the centre, but most are now inside the Terminal. It is fairly easy to catch a bus to that bus station; actually people refer to it as "terminal" and you can see that on buses; there are well-marked bus stops.
There are normally two types of services to the bigger cities: común and rápido. While the first are cheaper, they also stop in every small town or community along the way and hence take longer then the rápidos which run direct or with a few stops only. Rapidos are less frequent.
The port is at the riverside end of Montevideo just after Paraguayo Independiente.
"Cacique II" leaves Concepción to Asunción on Sundays between 6-7AM 22 hours, 55,000 Gs. Returns to Concepción on Wednesday morning. Bring warm clothes and your own food. A cheap meal might be bought on board but don't count on it.
Travelers can occasionally book passage on cargo boats doing the trip to Concepción and even further up the Rio Paraguay.
The historic centre of Asunción is small enough to be explored by foot. However, some of the attractions, such as the Jardín Botánico (Botanical Garden) are a bit outside. In addition to the city's historical core - which is essentially between the streets Colón and Antequera - the Carmelitas area has become a hub for retail and entertainment, containing several large shopping centres and North American-style bars and restaurants. East-west street names change at Independencia Nacional, and North-South ones at Avenida Mariscal López.
Asunción may not have many conventional tourist attractions, but if you are willing to be your own tour guide, Asunción can be an interesting place to visit.
Every July there is a trade fair with exhibition booths, food, music and liquor. This is a good way to learn about what goes on in the country, the exhibitors range from agricultural suppliers to liquor manufacturers. Keep an eye out for the many free samples of food, soap, drinks, etc.
National Congress One of the more impressive new buildings in the city. It was built in 2002 with $20 million from the Republic of China(Taiwan) government.
The National Cathedral Across the broad and picturesque plaza with fountains, but it is frequently closed, especially at midday siesta.
The Municipal Museum is modest, but has some tidbits about the old tram line from the 1880s and other civic history. Nearby is the Visual Arts Museum with temporary exhibits from national artists.
The Fine Arts museum is fairly unimpressive.
The Panteón del los Heroes houses the tomb of the unknown soldier along with other "heroes" from Paraguay's disastrous wars, as well as plaques for the heroes of the Chaco war. Changing of the guard occurs every other day.
Backyard birds in the city are interesting. There is the Great Kiskadee, Saffron Finch and Hornero. Kiskadee is like a yellow blue jay-- aggressive and large. Saffron finch is similar to a yellow house finch, Hornero is much like American Robin without the red breast. It builds a unique nest about the size and shape of a football completely out of mud and resembles a Paraguayan oven or horno. Thus the name: "baker".
What to do
Running, Parque Ñu Guazú. and Parque de la Salud. Lots of elite Asunceños work off the stresses of their days at these parks. Parque de la Salud is located in Asunción on the Sgt. Maerecos avenue in the Las Lomas neighborhood (also known as Carmelitas). Ñu Guazu is located just outside Asunción in the city of Luque, on the way to the airport. There's a great paved 9K loop for jogging or walking.
The cost of buying goods and services is cheap. This is only partly due to the fact that Paraguay is a piracy and smuggling haven. Be aware that some goods may be cheaply made.
Indigenous crafts and artisan work are available such as tooled leather, carved wood, pottery and a particularly Paraguayan lace based on a spider's web called "Ñanduti". Check out the artisan shops in Plaza de los Heroes. Most goods are in fact locally made.
Shopping malls There are two main malls in Asuncion Shopping del Sol on Aviadores del Chaco and Shopping Mariscal López on Avenida Mariscal Lopez, exist in the suburbs of Villa Mora and Carmelitas. Take buses 28 or 30 to reach them. Mall Excelsior on Chile, and the more basic Asuncion Supercentro on the western end of Oliva are both in the centre. These "Shoppings" are useful as places to eat on Sunday evenings, when many more central places are closed.
Mercado 4 along Avenida Sivio Pettirossi, is a chaotic market where you can buy just about anything very cheaply, it is particularly good for counterfeit clothing and pirated CDs and DVDs (of varying quality). Good street food and some foreign, mostly Chinese, restaurants.
Typical souvenirs from Asunción would include guampas/bombillas, t-shirts, traditional lace, or leather goods.
Palma is the main shopping street. Pretty much everything you can buy here, you can get cheaper in one of the parallel streets.
American Express Traveller Cheques can be changed at Banco de la Nacion Argentina (at Plaza de los Heroes). Above average exchange rate, 3 US$ comission. It will take a while though - time to experience the place which could be a sight in itself. BBVN supposedly does as well. Casa de Cambios don't. All banks close by 1:30PM. Also can be changed at Maxicambios which are located in all main shopping-malls.
Paraguay has a tradition for beef which is normally good quality and cheap. Grilled meat (asado) is the thing to eat. Pasta is also popular as are the street stalls selling panchos (hot-dogs), hamburgers, empanadas and similar fast-food. Vegetables, salad and other types of meat are not that common but available. In restaurants you normally get manioc as a side dish for free (similar to bread in other countries).
You must try the Paraguayan traditional food, which includes dishes like the following:
Mbeju is a starch cake made with manioc flour and cheese. Pastel madi'o is a manioc pastry stuffed with "So'o ku'í" or minced meat. Payagua mascada (Guarani for chewing gum for dogs but has nothing to do with that) is a tortilla also made with manioc and beef (high in proteins and calories). The famous chipa is a kind of cheese bread made with manioc flour. Chipa So'o is chipa stuffed with meat, usually beef. Note that in Paraguay, "Sopa" refers to a dish similar to cheesy cornbread, not soup (you'll need to say "caldo"). Vori Vori (sometimes Bori Bori) is a traditional soup adorned with balls of cornmeal.
At lunch time there is no shortage of cheap restaurants to dine in or take away - you can't miss them. The places where you help yourself and pay by weight are usually very cheap and a decent option besides the slightly more expensive restaurants with their daily menu. At dinner time only very few eating places are still open and finding a good deal - especially if you are budget-conscious - is a lot harder.
Bars & Clubs
Britannia Pub, Cerro Corá 851. The number 1 hangout for English speaking foreigners, still outnumbered by locals however. Try their microbrewed Britannia Beer and the chicken platter. Fuller's British beers on sale.
Older, Cerro Cora. Great bar opposite Brittania. Run by a friendly guy named Francisco. Excellent selection of retro classic rock. Friendly local crew and local prices. Food darts and outdoor seating area available.
Coyote, Sucre 1655 (corner San Martin Avenue), . Dance club, fashionable but loud edit
Hollywood Dance, Independencia Nacional and Teniente Fariña (One block away from Mall Excelsior). Fri and Sat from around midnight. Dance venue for mostly gay people. 20.000 Gs.
Glam, Av. San Martin 1155 and Agustin Barrios (Next to Salemma Carmelitas Supermarket). Thu Fri Sat from midnight. One of the finest dance clubs in Asuncion
Kandi, Av. Aviadores del Chaco (Two or three blocks from Sheraton Hotel and Shopping del Sol). edit
Planta Alta, first floor, Caballero 294 (corner Mariscal Estigarribia). A lounge-style hangout for artistic types, often playing live jazz. Reasonably cheap drinks. 10,000 Gs.
Paseo Carmelitas. from morning till late. A gallery with lots of stores to do shopping during the day and an excellent selection of bars and restaurants to go during the night, probably the most popular place in Asuncion during the night. Selection of bars include the "Kilkenny Irish Pub" "Cover Singing Bar" "Kamastro Resto Arte & Bar" in between others.