The city of Ibagué is known as the Musical Capital of Colombia due to it’s important conservatory and the numerous music and folklore festivals it hosts throughout the year. Other than that, it’s a rather unimpressive, bland, and uninteresting city. There’s no wow factor to draw in a visitor on a normal day. In addition, there is a slight safety issue, especially at night.
If you do find yourself in Ibagué, the tourism board put together a nice guide and map that makes the city appear much more interesting than it really is. This guide should be available at your hotel.
Ibagué’s main street, Carrera 3, is partly pedestrianized and makes up the heart of the city. Along this street you’ll find lots of shopping, some restaurants, plenty of bars, and generally a lot of people wandering around.
The Teatro Tolima is located on Carrera 3. Opposite is a small square, Plazoleta Dario Echandía.
Further down Carrera 3 is Parque Murillo Toro. This wide open plaza is the home of the government of the department of Tolima. There’s a nice monument of a musical instrument that pays homage to the city’s musical roots.
Plaza de Bolívar
Plaza de Bolívar is the main square of Ibagué. It features a statue of Simón Bolívar and several nicely manicured bushes and trees, including a few coffee trees.
Important buildings on the plaza include Catedral Inmaculada Concepción, built in 1926, and Edificio Urrutia, built in 1923.
Conservatorio del Tolima
A block south of Plaza de Bolívar is Conservatorio del Tolima, which is considered by many to be the most important music school in Colombia. It was founded in 1889.
Outside of the conservatory is a park called Parque de la Música, with sculptures dedicated to musicians.
North of Plaza de Bolívar
A few blocks north of Plaza de Bolívar is Plazoleta de los Artesanos, a small strip of stores selling traditional Colombian handicrafts, and Parque Centenario, a huge park full of broad leafy trees and an outdoor auditorium.
The Museo Panóptico de Ibagué is probably the most fascinating building in the city. It’s a 19th century building built in the shape of a Greek cross, once used to hold the most dangerous prisoners. There are only 3 other buildings like it in Latin America. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation during our visit and we couldn’t get too close.
Museo de Arte del Tolima
The Museo de Arte del Tolima is in an upscale neighborhood in town. It was closed for an installation when we tried to visit. On normal days, it’s open from 10am to 6pm with an admission of COP$3,500.
Cerro Pan de Azúcar
For somewhat decent views of the city, climb to the top of Cerro Pan de Azúcar. This small hill has a path to the top featuring the Stations of the Cross. At the top is a large statue of the Virgin.