Asuncion is the capital of Paraguay and it’s principle city. The city consists of a large number of districts spread over a wide geographical area.

Whilst individual districts are walkable there can be great distances between them. Transport such as a taxi or a bus is often required to travel from one to another. As such it is useful to know before arriving in the city which districts you wish to visit,

Of all the various areas of the city the two that have the most to offer to a visitor are the old town and the new town.

The old town is the historic centre of the city and new town the districts that make up the modern retail and commercial heart of the city.

Both have their pros and cons. Both as places to visit and as areas of the city in which to be based.

The Old Town

Asuncion old town is wrapped around Asuncion Bay and is where in the 16th century the city was founded.

This is the very heart of Paraguay and for many years was the extent of the city. Bit by bit Asuncion grew and spread but this is where many of the most historic buildings are to be found.

There are many fine colonial era buildings to be found in the old town as well from the time of President Carlos Lopez in the mid 19th century.

These buildings include some of the most important ones in Paraguay such as the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral and the Pantheon de los Heroes.

It is a pleasure to walk the streets around here and just take in the architecture.

Many of the buildings are in a less than pristine state. Gradually however more and more are being renovated and repainted, restoring their former glory.

The main street running through the centre of the old town is Calle Palma. This runs from Plaza Uruguaya to Calle Colon. It is the city’s principal shopping street but has suffered over recent years as more and more businesses have relocated to the modern shopping malls.

This has made Calle Palma a bit empty but recent renovations, such as burying all the previously untidy electric cables, have helped breath a bit of life into it.

Another sight to see in the old town is the Costa Nera, the smart modern boulevard that sweeps around Asuncion Bay. An oasis of quiet just a block or two from the bustling city streets.

All these are very much worth seeing but consideration must be given as to whether this is an area to be staying in.

Tales of the old town being a place where it is dangerous to walk the streets are greatly exaggerated. However caution is needed at night especially away from well lit Calle Palma.

The old town has become mainly a place to visit rather stay in. As such there is aside from the occasional event little in the way of night life. There are a few restaurants such as the Bolsi but not much in the way of bars.

Here exploring the streets by day and then a meal in a hotel restaurant at night is the safest way to enjoy the area.

With much of the trade moving to elsewhere in the city hotels receive less guests. To encourage more visitors to stay they must adjust their prices. Accordingly hotels are cheaper in the old town than in the new.

The New Town

The new town of Asuncion is located about 6 km distant from the old town. It consists of Villa Morra and it’s neighbouring districts.

This is the modern face of the city. Here is to be found the high rise glass and steel that can be seen in any modern city around the world.

In the new town there are a number of modern shopping malls all located within walking distance of each other. Although a taxi may be advisable on a hot summer day.

The largest of these mall is Shopping Mariscal and the newest and most modern Paseo la Galeria. Inside these air conditioned spaces international as well as upmarket Paraguayan brands can be found.

All around the new town there are modern hotels including chains such as Sheraton and Holiday Inn that can be found all across the world. In general the hotels in the new town are modern, upmarket and well maintained.

The district is also just a short drive from the airport making it an ideal first port of call when arriving in Paraguay.

It is an affluent area and so in addition to the shopping malls and hotels there is an abundance of bars and restaurants. Enough for there to be a different experience on offer every night.

There is a much livelier nightlife scene in this part of the city which often goes through until the early hours. Paseo Carmelitas is given over almost entirely to bars and is packed with a local crowd at the weekend.

The new town is considered safe to walk at night. However as with any city a degree of caution is advised.

This part of the city is it’s most upmarket and so also it’s most expensive. It is though a safe area to be staying in and a gentle introduction to Paraguay. There is enough modernity on hand to allow a new arrival to slowly find their feet at their own pace.

The new town though is not the real Paraguay. The one that most of the population live in. As such although all of life’s comforts can be found there is very little in the way of culture on show.

It can be a slightly soulless place and despite it’s buzzing night life a little bland.

A place without a past, but then not everyone wants to spend their days looking round museums.


So then, in conclusion. Where to visit and where to stay?

I would suggest that both the old and new towns should be visited. To experience traditional Paraguay and to see how it is moving forward. The two offer a great contrast.

As for where to stay, for the first time visitor the new town offers a more comfortable base. Air conditioning and a modern skyline.

However for someone who’s reason for visiting is history and culture the old town would place them closer to that side of Paraguay.

I will leave it to you to decide which suits you best.