By Maddie Townsend, ISA Program Manager; Svaja Pakalniskis, Site Specialist, Argentina and Costa Rica; and Eric Mackintosh, Director, Academic Resources and Assessment
Art lovers, foodies, and night owls, welcome! Latin America isn’t just beautiful natural landscapes, it’s also home to modern urban centers with plenty of museums, restaurants, and night life venues waiting to be discovered. Four of our ten ISA program locations are in capital cities brimming with history, culture, politics, art, and entertainment. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture than to live it?
We picked our favorite locations with plenty to do in your free time after class to help you pack your time abroad to the fullest. Whether you’re the type of person that enjoys planning your schedule ahead of time or a spur of the moment explorer, consider studying in these bustling cities that will keep you on your toes.
As the capital city and home to approximately one-third of Peru’s population, Lima is full of world-class restaurants, live music venues, museums, night clubs, and theaters. You’re always bound to find something new to do in the diverse urban jungle of Lima.
Our students’ favorite weekend activities often include visiting a museum (like the MATE, Museo Larco, or LUM for example), dining out at one of the hundreds of restaurants that have earned Lima the nickname of Culinary Capital of Latin America, or catching a show that they found on the agenda cultural.
Although Lima is a large city, affordable entertainment options are endless. You can use your student ID to visit museums at a discount or opt for free activities like a self-guided mural tour of the bohemian Barranco district. If you’re feeling adventurous on the weekend, take a bus to the centro histórico where parades, festivals, outdoor art exhibits, live music, and window shopping are bound to enchant you.
As you wander the assorted streets of Buenos Aires, you’ll be dazzled by the elegant, European-styled architecture, the sweet scent of pastries drifting from a panaderia on every street corner, and the buzz of life in one of the largest international hubs of Latin America. This sprawling and passionate capital is truly one of the world’s cities that never sleeps. Whether you crave music, art, literature, fashion, gastronomy, or sport, you won’t have trouble being enticed by new discoveries at every hour of the day.
For art-enthusiasts, a mere stroll through the neighborhood Palermo may lead you to diverse and sophisticated art galleries, curating works by local and international artists. As you walk, you will also notice walls embellished by marvelous street art. From there, you can take a quick bus ride to the MALBA, or the Museum of Latin American Art. This innovative, modern-looking museum holds the works of hundreds of monumental works by Latin American artists.
Do you have a musical ear? This city is brimming with musical events and venues. A quick search through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram will lead you to events where you can dance into the early hours of the morning to live funk, blues, and rock or take a seat in a cozy, candle-lit room and be serenaded by inviting jazz and raw folk music. Or, dress up for a night at the Teatro Colón, acoustically one the best concert venues in the world, and become mesmerized by magnificent classical music. Finally, make sure to find your way to a live tango show or a milonga, a tango dance club, to experience the dance and song that Buenos Aires is most renowned for.
Buenos Aires also regularly hosts festivals that celebrate fashion, music, literature, food, art, and film. Once you arrive abroad, the ISA resident staff will be happy to recommend festivals, fairs, and other events in Buenos Aires. Additionally, feel free to utilize websites like The Bubble to discover fun events throughout the city.
Around 10% of the entire Cuban population lives within Havana’s city limits, making it a dynamic melting pot of culture, art, food, and entertainment. Privately owned paladares use locally sourced produce and ingenuity, (thanks to the blockade), to concoct mouthwatering Cuban cuisine. While strolling down Havana’s famous malecón, tourists and Habaneros alike can take in a glorious mixture of sight, sound, and smell in the salty air and serenading guitar players – whose typical go-to song is Guantanamera, (but ask them to play Hasta Siempre Comandante, the Ché Guevara song).
Havana is a mecca of vibrant art and entertainment, so you can’t go wrong with visiting the well-known dance cabaret, la Tropicana, or the famous jazz club, El Zorro y el Cuervo, for live music and dancing, but one place that stands out among the rest is La Fábrica de Arte Cubano (F.A.C.).
Locally known as la Fábrica, this maze-like structure was built in 1910, and initially served as a cooking oil factory and was converted into an art studio in 2008. Since then, the studio has expanded into a communal space filled with live music, food, dance, and avant-garde exhibitions that never fail to capture the imagination of its visitors – causing them to collectively question their preconceived notions of normalcy and nationalism.
All ISA programs include a trip to la Fábrica, but if you decide to go on your own, remember to arrive early when the doors open around 8 pm. If you arrive at 10, expect to wait in line. Check the F.A.C. website to make sure it is open the day you plan to visit as the studio closes for two to three-week intervals when curators change the art exhibits and coordinate new shows. Because of this, it is important to remember that each visit to la Fábrica is unique and special – so take pictures, reflect on what you experience, and just like the studio itself, don’t be afraid to evolve, grow, and change.