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Visit Paseo El Carmen in Santa Tecla

Updated on May 2, 2014

5 reasons to visit Paseo El Carmen on a Saturday evening

Paseo El Carmen is an ordinary road in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, that has been transformed from a run down back street into a thriving attraction.

Santa Tecla was founded in 1854, and was briefly the capital city of El Salvador, from 1855-1859, until the government decided to return the capital to earthquake prone San Salvador. This was a period of great economic success, due to the profitable coffee industry and Santa Tecla grew into a well developed city, with parks, grand buildings and a magnificent church.

Gradually, over a period of many years Santa Tecla went into a period of decline. Currently the mayor of Santa Tecla is investing in the city, in an attempt to make it a safe and attractive place to visit.

During the last two years I have seen Paseo El Carmen blossom, with restaurants opening, new stretches of the road resurfaced and the area is indeed becoming attractive. There are permanent art features on the street, an increased police presence and more than 10,000 people are visiting each week.

El Salvador does not attract large numbers of foreign tourists, despite there being numerous places worthy of visiting. This is largely due to the perception that it is not safe to visit, with most people focusing on the civil war or the subsequent gang related problems.

If areas like Santa Tecla can continue to develop in this way and encourage visitors then perhaps El Salvador will gain its rightful place on the international tourist stage.

Please join me as we take a Saturday evening stroll along pedestrianised Paseo El Carmen, and savour the delights it has to offer.

Photo Credit: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved.

Welcome to Paseo El Carmen!

Paseo El Carmen

Paseo El Carmen
Paseo El Carmen

Where is Paseo El Carmen?

Photo Credit: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

1 Calle Poniente is situated in Santa Tecla, on the outskirts of El Salvador's capital city and it runs parallel to the Panamericana, the major highway that connects Alaska in the north with Argentina in the south (give or take a missing piece through the Darian Gap between Panama and Columbia).

Even though this road is eleven blocks long, if you were to ask any expat in San Salvador the whereabouts of 1 Calle Poniente in Santa Tecla you would probably draw a blank stare.

On the other hand, Paseo El Carmen is just a one block section of 1 Calle Poniente, that runs from the Palacio Municipal to the Church of El Carmen, and it's name is synonymous with culture, restaurants, bars, entertainment and the most important quality of all - safety.

On a Saturday evening, it is pedestrianised from outside the Palacio all the way to 7 Avenida Norte, where a new car park has just been built adjacent to El Cafetalon, providing a safe place for evening tourists to leave their cars.

Stalls line the streets, selling everything from freshly produced food to artisanal souvenirs, tables and chairs are set out to enable people to pause from their strolling to eat and drink, live music plays and the place is a hive of activity, almost like a much smaller version of Los Ramblas in Barcelona.

Admire the Architecture

Excellent colonial architecture - Photo Credit: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The exterior of the PalacioThe interior of the PalacioA view of Paseo el CarmenThe church of el CarmenFernando Llort inspired decorations
The exterior of the Palacio
The exterior of the Palacio
The interior of the Palacio
The interior of the Palacio
A view of Paseo el Carmen
A view of Paseo el Carmen
The church of el Carmen
The church of el Carmen
Fernando Llort inspired decorations
Fernando Llort inspired decorations

Paseo El Carmen Architecture

Photo Credits: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

Just over halfway along 1 Calle Poniente, on the corner of 2 Avenida Norte stands the impressive Palace of Fine Arts.

Built in a Colonial style in 1911, and currently painted in pale green and white, it stands out against the backdrop of inner city decay and grime.

Amazingly, it was originally built as a private house, by the Casteneda family and handed over to the municipality in the 1920s, as a result of debts owed, to become home to the municipal council.

Despite being damaged by the 2001 earthquake, large parts of the building are accessible to the public, with a coffee shop, bar and El Salvador's first children's library situated around the inner courtyard.

One block further along is the impressive 19th century neo-gothic church of El Carmen, which was built from brick and talpetate, a building material that is made from volcanic ash. The inside of the building was declared unsafe after the 2001 earthquake, but the facade and steeple still provide a very visible and ornate landmark.

Paseo El Carmen Tourist Area

Shop for Salvadoran Arts and Crafts

Quality artisan products for sale - Photo Credits: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Hand painted t-shirtsFernando Llort style paintingsOriginal paintings while you waitArt in progressJewellery for sale
Hand painted t-shirts
Hand painted t-shirts
Fernando Llort style paintings
Fernando Llort style paintings
Original paintings while you wait
Original paintings while you wait
Art in progress
Art in progress
Jewellery for sale
Jewellery for sale

Paseo el Carmen - Arts and Crafts

Photo Credist: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

El Salvador is most famous for its Fernando Llort inspired work, which is very bright and colourful.

There are examples of this along Paseo el Carmen, notably the brightly painted Galeria de Tecla that sells all manner of artisanal goods.

Along Paseo el Carmen you will see all kinds of artists at work: painters, jewellery makers, people making themselves the art (check out the photo below of the lady tied in red string).

Being able to see them in action on the street, or catching a glimpse of a workshop through an open doorway and being able to wander in to watch just helps to give Paseo el Carmen a truly Bohemian feel.

Urban Art, Paseo el Carmen

Excellent Street Food

Street food at its best - Photo Credits: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

Click thumbnail to view full-size
KebabsMexican foodHot toddyDelicious cakesFresh sushi
Kebabs
Kebabs
Mexican food
Mexican food
Hot toddy
Hot toddy
Delicious cakes
Delicious cakes
Fresh sushi
Fresh sushi

Paseo El Carmen - Street Food

Photo Credit: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

You will find a wide range of foods available as you walk along Paseo El Carmen. From Salvadoran delicacies such as pupusas and crazy corn, Mexican food, pizza, kebabs, freshly squeezed fruit juices and locally produced alcoholic drinks. The choice is almost limitless.

There are tables and chairs set out so that you can sit down to eat, and maybe people watch as the street gets busy after nightfall. Or, you can do as many others do and graze you way along, eating whatever takes your fancy as you walk from one end of Paseo El Carmen to the other.

Street food on Paseo El Carmen

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Fantastic Cafes and Bars

A wide range of bars and cafes - Photo Credits: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Paseo El Carmen - Restaurants

Photo Credit: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

There are within the region of twenty bars and restaurants on Paseo El Carmen, so you are bound to find somewhere to suit your requirements.

You will find everything from bars where you can dance to quiet family run venues that serve local food. Cake shops, bread shops, vegetarian (Yemaya), cafe bars (Lima limon), upscale restaurants and everything in between.

We like to start at one end, and visit maybe seven or eight bars, cafes and stalls, having a drink and a boca (snack) at each one. We have tried having a proper meal at one restaurant but we prefer to move on and enjoy the evolving atmosphere.

Lima Limón Café, Paseo El Carmen

Entertainment

Varied street entertainment - Photo Credits: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

Click thumbnail to view full-size
All in the name of art?
All in the name of art?
All in the name of art?

Paseo El Carmen - Entertainment

Photo Credit: Casa Cicak, all rights reserved

From clubs and bars, to street entertainment, Paseo El Carmen has it all.

There is an area on one of the street corners that is an empty space that is used to host bands at a weekend, and there are always musicians playing inside and outside various bars and restaurants.

In an evening it is completely safe to take the whole family. You see entire families out for an evening together, from great grandparents right down to baby sleeping in the pushchair. It is the Salvadoran way to allow their children to stay up late in an evening, and this helps to give it a very family friendly atmosphere. Whenever we go we take Cicka Junior in his pushchair and we are always made to feel welcome wherever we stop to eat or drink.

The Paseo El Carmen website has an updated list of what events are on.

Replay Band Concert, Paseo El Carmen

Did you enjoy your stroll along Paseo El Carmen?

The El Salvador Directory - for up to date info on El Salvador

Photo Credit: Casa Cicak
Photo Credit: Casa Cicak

Have I tempted you to visit Paseo El Carmen in Santa Tecla?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Yes, you have temped me to visit Paseo El Carmen,

      It looks like a lovely place that you love. - Blessed! :)

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 4 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      beautifully presented lens. congrats on your purple star.

    • purpleclouds profile image

      purpleclouds 4 years ago

      Yes you did - it looks very exciting!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 4 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Lovely lens and congratulations on your Purple Star award. I actually worked in Santa Tecla for two weeks at the end of 1988, a week before the revolution blew up. I was working for one of the oil companies, installing a computer system for them.

      I remember visiting the Mayan ruins at San Andres, and also sitting eating pupusas at a circle somewhere where there were a lot of hole in the wall eateries and bars. Good memories, especially of walking to the top of the volcano.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Yes - it is so colorful!

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 4 years ago

      looks a fine place to visit...congrats on your giant-squid status...a great job you did

    • eTravelSense profile image

      eTravelSense 4 years ago

      Great lens. Certainly looks like a great place to visit!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What a wonderful lens! I must visit Paseo El Carmen!

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 4 years ago from Kent, UK

      You've certainly tempted me to visit although I realise it's most unlikely, sadly, to come about. But at least I have your superbly colourful pictures to make me feel the atmosphere and imagine I'm there.

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 4 years ago

      This temptation coming from this lens is too big to ignore it :)

    • Sara Krentz profile image

      Sara Krentz 4 years ago from USA

      Yes, it looks like a wonderful place to visit!

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 4 years ago

      This was great! I lived in Santa Tecla for a couple months back in...1994. It looks like it's much more developed and FUN now. Thanks for the memories!

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 4 years ago

      I definitely would love to go there, it looks like a rocking place!!

    • Teapixie LM profile image

      Tea Pixie 4 years ago

      Yes! It would be so fun. Thank you for including photos and a Map! The map is invaluable.

    • profile image

      GarminApproachGPS 4 years ago

      Nice idea, nice lens...:)

    • JohnSmith86 profile image

      JohnSmith86 4 years ago

      What a comforting lens, thank you.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      Congratulations on having 2 Lenses on the Squidoo Landing Page and one LOTD.

    • Wedding Mom profile image

      Wedding Mom 4 years ago

      Paseo El Carmen looks like a beautiful and interesting place to visit.

    • alaiamax lm profile image

      alaiamax lm 4 years ago

      Yes my dear! This lens is great

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 4 years ago

      Very informative and presented, i like that you put the map as well. Great lens

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      This looks like a spectacular place. I have never been to South America before, but this is certainly a place rich with music, history and culture that I would enjoy exploring.

    • Alenkita1 profile image

      Alenkita1 4 years ago from Slovenia

      Looks great, maybe ill visit some day.

    • thememorybooksh1 profile image

      thememorybooksh1 4 years ago

      very nice lens.

    • Ardyn25 profile image

      Ardyn25 4 years ago

      Very much so...great lens, and the photos were so vivid.

    • Ardyn25 profile image

      Ardyn25 4 years ago

      Very much so...great lens, and the photos were so vivid.

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 4 years ago

      Beautiful, fun place - very tempting, too... :)

    • suzy-t profile image

      suzy-t 4 years ago

      Thank you for the wonderful virtual trip to Paseo El Carmen. I would love to visit in person some day. Blessed and pinned to my SquidAngel board.

    • RedShoesGirl profile image

      RedShoesGirl 4 years ago

      I sure hope that I will visit this place somewhere in the future. Lovely lens.

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 4 years ago from Ohio

      SquidAngel blessings.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      Definitely! And well done on that purple star!

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 4 years ago

      I certainly did enjoy my stroll. Congratulations on your well-earned Purple Star!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Yes, I'm definitely tempted!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This looks like a very interesting place to visit. I love the crafts (need extra suitcase to bring home goodies).

    • kburns421 lm profile image

      kburns421 lm 4 years ago

      It looks like a fascinating place. I love all the vibrant colors in the photos! I'm a little confused though by the red string picture... Did I miss the explanation?