Things to Do in Bogotá
Towering 10,341 feet (3,152 meters) tall at the edge of Bogotá, forested Mt. Monserrate (Cerro de Monserrate) can be spotted from across the city. Set like a pearl on the summit is the Monserrate Sanctuary, a 17th-century church whose shrine is a major pilgrimage place for Colombian Catholics.
Bogotá’s main square is built on a grand scale, from a landmark statue of Simón Bolívar to the 16th-century La Catedral Primada. In between is a colorful crowd of vendors, travelers, and downtown workers. A starting point for exploring the historic La Candelaria neighborhood, the Plaza de Bolivar is a key stop for visitors to Bogotá.
The graceful and carefully planned Spanish colonial city center, known as La Candelaria, is the oldest part of Bogotá, Colombia. Now a vibrant hub of activity for young artists, bohemian university students, and hip indie businesses, La Candelaria centers on Plazuela del Chorro del Quevedo, the spot where the city was founded in 1537.
Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) is one of the city’s most popular attractions. It sparkles with more than 55,000 priceless archaeological and artistic treasures. Only a fraction can be displayed at any one time, laid out to tell tales of pre-Colombian mining, manufacturing, and metallurgy of pre-Hispanic Colombians.
This spacious cathedral is carved into a warren of salt mines 600 feet (183 mt) below the ground. Venture into the Salt Cathedral to see chapels and altars carved directly into solid rock, learn about the mine’s history, and see intricate statues in chapels representing the Stations of the Cross.
While the plump proportions of Fernando Botero’s sculptures have earned him international acclaim, it’s his generosity that’s made the artist Colombia’s favorite son. At the peak of his fame, the artist donated more than 150 pieces worth $200 million to the Colombian government—you can enjoy all of this art for free at Museo Botero.
Aside from the thrill of “discovering” new lands, the Spanish conquistadoreswere endlessly driven by thoughts of discovering gold. Here at the Bogotá Mint Museum (Museo Casa de la Moneda), walk amidst the spot where gold was first minted in Colombia, having stood in this spot since 1622 when the King of Spain ordered the production of gold coins in Bogota. Since money and power seem to go hand in hand, this museum that’s based around Colombian currency has many political undertones, where the type of currency that’s been minted through the years shows fascinating parallels between the political era and Colombia’s historical events. From the initial barter of ceramics and pots that was used by indigenous tribes, the currencies weave a chronological tale as viewed through production of money.
Conquistadors dreamed of a golden city called El Dorado, and modern-day archaeologists find traces of that myth in historic practices at Colombia’s Lake Guatavita. Here, the Indigenous Muisca people are believed to have made offerings to the gods by casting gold figures into the crater lake—a scenic and popular day trip from Bogotá.
Simon Bolivar is an absolute legend in much of Latin America. Considered “The Liberator” for much of the continent, he fought tirelessly for numerous nations to gain their independence—and lived here, in Quinta de Bolivar, between his political conquests. Set in Bogota’s eastern hills, Quinta de Bolivar Museum is a humble home that’s rung by spectacular gardens, and riddled with history on South America’s most notorious and popular son. When visiting the small, but fascinating house, hear the tales of how Simon Bolivar would relax and rest between battles, and five flags now fly in the garden that mark the modern, Latin American countries where Bolivar brought independence. Aside from the history of Bolivar himself, the house is a look at Bogota life in the 18th and 19th century, with antique furniture, clothing, and weaponry displayed throughout the home. Though the building is nowhere as near grandiose as the story of Bolivar himself, it’s a laidback, calming, and fascinating look at Bolivar’s moments of peace. To maximize what you can learn at the site, visit as part of a guided historical tour of greaterBogota, or as part of a private Bogota tour that’s catered around its best sites.
As Colombia is the world's largest producer of emeralds, a trip to the International Emerald Museum (Museo Internacional de la Esmeralda) in Bogota comes highly recommended. Located on the 23rd floor of the Avianca Building, here you’ll get the chance to learn about the history and processes of emerald mining in Colombia, as well as admiring some of the country’s most prized pieces. This small museum boasts in the region of 3000 of the finest emeralds in the world. On the museum tour, you’ll enter a 27 square meter tunnel with samples of the emerald deposits, plus real veins extracted from real mines. In the workshop, you’ll learn about the process of how an emerald is created, and observe the different qualities and characteristics of the collections on display. The gift shop is a big draw for those interested in taking some of Columbia's finest gems home with them, with a range of jewellery and cut emeralds for sale. Those particularly interested in emeralds and their history in Columbia should join a dedicated Bogotá emerald gemstone tour, which includes visiting the attractions of Parque Santander, a stroll through the center of the emerald market, and a trip to theGalería de Artesanías y Esmeraldas de Colombia.
More Things to Do in Bogotá
A slim cascade tumbling nearly 2,000 feet (590 meters) from a cliff side in the middle of the jungle, La Chorrera is Colombia’s tallest waterfall and among it’s most striking natural attractions, hidden away in the mountains surrounding Bogota. Despite being less than an hour from the capital, La Chorrera is still one of the region’s least visited sights, making it a top choice for those looking to get off-the-beaten-track and the tranquil falls offer the ideal backdrop for adventure activities like horseback riding and abseiling.
The only way to reach La Chorrera is on foot and the scenic journey is all part of the experience – an easy 1-hour hike from the nearby El Chiflón waterfalls, winding through wild rainforest trails and misty cloud forest, and offering impressive views over the Colombian Andes.
Bolivar. Nariño. Santander. Many of Colombia’s most prominent names have all had ties to Casa de Nariño, Colombia’s Presidential Palace. Built in a Neoclassical style, the palace is located in La Candeleria—Bogotá’s popular historic district—and decorated with furniture, paintings and sculptures that date back to second century Rome and Renaissance era treasures. Even without visiting inside the palace, travelers are treated to an architectural treat outside, where fountains, sculptures and the Plaza de Armas all add to the regal exterior. Noticeable, of course, are the many guards who vigilantly stand watch by the palace, where their crisp uniforms and colorful hats form a festive, though serious, atmosphere. While the President no longer lives in the building, it’s still the site of executive offices and Colombia’s top politicians, and is the frequent site of ceremonies welcoming groups of visiting dignitaries.
With a grand perch by Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá’s biggest cathedral is a neoclassical landmark with centuries of history. A chapel houses the tomb of Bogotá’s founder, and paintings deck the walls and the dome’s interior. While not as elaborate as some Colombian cathedrals, this historic place remains one of Bogota’s top attractions.
Founded by Spanish settlers in 1537, the town of Nemocón in Colombia earned fame for itshighly productive salt mine. Between 1816 and 1968, some 8 million tons of alt were extractedfrom the mine via a process of collecting water from the salt spring in clay vessels and allowingthe liquid to evaporate.
The mine’s tunnels and chambers have been preserved, allowing visitors to learn about thehistory of Colombia’s salt mining industry while take in the spectacular saline formations. Attractions inside the mines include a 3,527-pound (1,600-kilogram) salt crystal carved into aheart shape and a cascade of salt. A small church within the salt mines hosts Catholic mass each Sunday.
Visitors wishing to learn more about the history and importance of salt in Colombia can visit theSalt Museum, located in one ofNemocón'soldest buildings.
The country’s history and heritage are on display in the Colombian National Museum, whose vast collections include more than 20,000 objects. Permanent exhibitions range from golden treasures to colonial-era artwork, paintings, sculpture, and ethnography. It’s easy to see why Colombia’s first museum remains a top destination in Bogotá.
See what it would be like to live in the world’s largest piece of artisanal pottery at Terracotta House (Casa Terracota). Located outside of Villa de Leyva, Casa Terracota, also referred to as Casa de Flintstone by locals, is a 5,400-square-foot (500-square-meter) house made entirely out of clay, baked and hardened by the sun.
Home to both the Columbian Congress and Senate, the grand National Capitol (Capitolio Nacional) building is the center of Colombian politics and makes a striking sight, looming over the south end of Bolivar Square.
With its dramatic colonnaded frontage, central dome and neoclassical design, the National Capitol building is also one of Bogota’s most significant architectural works. The masterpiece of British architect, Thomas Reed, it took over 75 years to complete and was finally completed in 1926. The building’s crowning glory was added in 1947 – a magnificent fresco by Santiago Martínez Delgado, depicting the Bolivar and Santander leaving the famous Cucuta congress.
93 Park (Parque 93) is more than a grassy square in the center of Bogotá. It is one of the centerpieces of the city with great restaurants, exciting nightlife and outdoor activities. Many locals come here for a walk, for a sporty outing and a picnic with friends or decide to attend one of the numerous events. Not only are there are regular festivals and art installations taking place under the shady trees, but the park is often frequented by Bogotá’s wealthy. Thus, if you plan on a night out in 93 Park (Parque 93), be prepared to be surrounded by the local jet set crowd.
Head to Bardot Bar, which is popular with the Colombian models and actors, or pop in at the Bogota Beer Company, where you can get some of the city’s best brews. At El Salto Del Angel you can grab both a steak and prove your salsa skills on the dance floor. Classic Colombian parties can be found at Kukaramakara and El Sitio, which are a favorite among the local crowd and feature local bands.
One of Bogota’s top family attractions, Salitre Magico is an adventure theme park with around 40 attractions suitable for a variety of age groups. Rides include classics such as roller coasters, bumper cars, flying swings, a carousel, and a miniwheel, along with high octane rides such as the Tornado, the Double Loop, and the Screw.
In addition to rides, there are also various shows, activities, and places to eat and drink within the park. Those looking for an actionpacked familyfriendly day out can visit Salitre Magico as part of a half or fullday tour that includes the Children’s Museum of Bogota, the Maloka Museum, and the Mundo Aventura Theme Park.
Located in the historic neighborhood of La Candelaria in downtown Bogotá, the Gabriel García Márquez Cultural Center is a modern addition to the area, having opened its doors in 2008. The center naturally pays homage to Colombia's most famous author from which it takes its name, but in fact hosts a whole range of cultural events that is not limited to purely literature. The complex features an auditorium, a temporary exhibitions space, an expansive bookstore, a restaurant, and a Juan Valdez cafe.
In order to get a good sense of Bogota’s history and culture, many choose to visit the Gabriel García Márquez Cultural Center as part of a La Candelaria and Monserrate walking tour, which also incorporates the attractions of the Plaza de Bolívar and Chorro de Quevedo, as well as including a trip to the summit of Mount Monserrate for sweeping views across the city.
Towering 50 storys above downtown Bogotá, the Colpatria Tower (Torre Colpatria) was once the tallest building in Colombia and remains a key Bogotá landmark. Now clocking in at fourth tallest in the country, each night visitors can admire the impressive LED light show or ascend to the 49th floor observation deck for 360-degree views over the capital on select days.
Located in Villavicencio, Bioparque Los Ocarros is a nature reserve dedicated to protecting the flora and fauna of the Orinoquia region of Colombia. Spanning 14.3 acres (5.8 hectares), the biopark is home to more than 190 species and 1,900 specimens of mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish, many of which were rescued.
Learn about marine dinosaurs that inhabited prehistoric Colombia and modern paleontological research techniques at the Paleontological Research Center (Centro de Investigaciones Paleontológicas). A modern research facility, CIP also houses a large collection of fossils from the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras.
At Biopark Reserve (Bioparque La Reserva) outside Bogotá, get up close and personal with animals rescued from illegal trafficking, while immersing yourself in several unique and varied Colombian ecosystems. Visitors can learn about the importance of conservation and sustainability at this family-friendly animal sanctuary.
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