Bogota Attractions: What to do and Where to go
Bogota is a beautiful city, full of lots of interesting things to do. The selection of attractions ranges from picturesque old neighborhoods to mountains and dense forests. Bogota is an interesting capital city with magnificent buildings and public squares that are well worth exploring if you want to learn more about the city's fascinating history.
In the downtown streets and "carreras" (the name for the streets that run from north to south) of Bogota, there are lots of spectacular colonial buildings. Many of them are located between modern skyscrapers that reach up into the sky as if competing with the towering Andes. This illustrious city was awarded by UNESCO as the World Book Capital, in 2007. Its vibrant cultural activity, along with the many museums found here have made it one of the most culturally rich cities both in Colombia and Latin America as a whole.
La Candelaria Neighborhood, Bogota's Historic Downtown
The neighborhood of La Candelaria was one of the first areas to be settled in the city. It was the site chosen for the city's original main square, the Plaza Mayor of Santafe de Bogota, almost five hundred years ago. La Candelaria's colonial architecture has remained throughout the years, offering visitors charming colorful views and a glimpse into the past. Because of its beautiful old facades, cobblestone streets and wrought iron balconies, La Candelaria is one of the most popular neighborhoods with the local people, as well as an obligatory stop for all tourists visiting the capital of Colombia.
One of the most distinguished estates in La Candelaria is "La Quinta de Bolivar", an old house that once belonged to Simon "El Libertador" Bolivar, the leader of Colombia's War of Independence. Nowadays, this beautiful estate functions as a museum where the original belongings of "El Libertador" are on public display. Clothes, furniture and utensils are displayed in several rooms throughout the property. Items in the kitchen, barn, even the bedroom and bathroom are laid out just as they were in the times when Bolivar lived here. This house is undoubtedly an exceptional attraction for any fan of history.
Plaza de Bolivar
This majestic esplanade, one of Colombia's National Monuments, is an integral part of the La Candelaria neighborhood. The nation's main institutions are all present here on the four sides of Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota's main square. The Catholic Church is represented by the beautiful Bogota Primate Cathedral and the old Sagrario Chapel, built in the 17th century. These two temples stand on the east side of the square, near to the foot of the Monserrate and Guadalupe mountains, both of which are part of the Andes. The Colombian National Capitol, home to the country's main government offices, is located on the southern side of the square. It is connected to the beautiful Palacio de Narino, the opulent presidential house. The western flank is taken by Palacio Lievano, Bogota's City Hall, which features charming French architecture. On the northern side of Plaza de Bolivar is the modern and impressive Palace of Justice (Palacio de Justicia).
It's definitely worth walking through the streets of Bogota and visiting as many museums as you can. Your feet will probably need a soothing massage after this extensive tour, but your intellect will surely be thankful. There's an incredible amount of museums and galleries in Bogota, therefore we made a selection of the most popular ones that you should definitely visit on your next trip to the city.
Museo del Oro
This museum's interesting collection includes more than 34,000 pieces made of gold in all sizes and forms. Many of the pieces have useful purposes, but most of them are merely ornamental. This splendid showcase of fine metal artwork is the legacy of the indigenous cultures, such as the Muiscas, Taironas, Quimbayas and Calimas, along with many other ancient tribes who settled in this extensive Colombian territory. The collection at the Museo del Oro de Bogota is regarded as one of Colombia's National Monuments, and it's actually considered as the most important collection of gold pieces in the whole world.
Get ready to enjoy the largest collection of paintings and sculptures of the robust and yet famous figures created by the award winning artist Fernando Botero, who is proudly born and raised in Colombia. This collection is made up of 123 original pieces, and features sculptures and paintings done with different materials such as oil, watercolors and pastels. This museum also offers visitors a fascinating selection of original artwork by Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Monet, Renoir and Chagall.
Museo Nacional de Colombia
The National Museum of Colombia is not only the oldest museum in the country but it is actually the oldest in the whole of North and South America. This extensive building was constructed in 1874 and originally functioned as a prison. It showcases the largest collection of historic objects in Colombia, including more than 20,000 pieces of artwork and representative objects from important times in the nation's history. Archeological and ethnographic items, along with magnificent pieces of the Colombian avant-garde art from the 20th century, can all be found here.
Museo de la Esmeralda
Enter this museum and get to know first hand the process and origins of the renowned green emeralds that have made Colombia famous around the world. You'll get to learn interesting details about these precious stones that are easy to find in stores throughout the country. The Museo de la Esmeralda has a fantastic selection of precious artwork made out of these beautiful Colombian emeralds.
The Sanctuaries of Monserrate and Guadalupe
The Monserrate and Guadalupe hills are considered "the custodians of Bogota" by the local people, because of their powerful presence overlooking the city as if they are protecting it. On top of each hill there is a religious sanctuary, both of which are Catholic. Every year they attract many visitors, who come to pray here or just admire the architecture. Without a doubt, they are two of Bogota's most popular attractions.The history of Monserrate began in 1640, when the first chapel, dedicated to Santa Maria de La Cruz de Monserrate, was built on top of the hill. Ever since its construction, Monserrate has attracted many faithful pilgrims.
Behind the Sanctuary of Monserrate there is a reproduction of 17th century Bogota, featuring shops, restaurants and cobblestone walkways, which all add even more charm to this already picturesque place. You can get to Monserrate by walking up a cobblestone pathway that starts in La Candelaria, or also by a funicular railway. Which ever way you choose, you will have a fantastic view of Bogota. Located south of Monserrate is Guadalupe, another green hill topped with a popular religious sanctuary and an almost 50 ft tall statue that represents the Immaculate Virgin Mary. There is also a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe and a lookout point where you can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the large metropolitan area of Bogota.
Salto del Tequendama
This legendary waterfall is a beautiful natural attraction, located less than 20 miles from Bogota's historic downtown. This geographic "accident" is caused when the waters of the Bogota River, after crossing the central plains of Colombia, arrive to this point and find no other option but to dramatically fall from a height of 515 feet. In the area surrounding the waterfall there are recreational facilities and services, such as restaurants and restrooms. Don't miss out on the chance to visit this spectacular landmark, which is closely linked to Bogota's origins and history.
Catedral de Sal de Zipaquira
Driving through the Bogota savannah, about 30 miles north of the capital city, you'll find the picturesque village of Zipaquira, a traditional town where the houses have beautiful wooden balconies and quaint red tile roofs. When you arrive here you'll already have crossed the green prairies and fields that surround the capital city, but the adventure is just about to start. Zipaquira has its own charm and attractions, like the impressive Salt Cathedral, which was actually carved into the mountains surrounding this lovely city.
The economy of Zipaquira was mostly based around the mining industry, due to the mineral richness of the soil. In the middle of the 20th century, deep mines were dug and in one of them a magnificent temple was built. Zipaquira's Salt Cathedral has altars, walls, columns and beautiful religious figures all made out of mineral salt, the local soil's main component. If this is hard for you to believe then you can lick the walls and you'll realize that it is really mineral salt that is completely surrounding you (don't be shy, everyone does it!). It's definitely worth a visit to the interesting town of Zipaquira on your next trip to Bogota, especially to this extraordinary temple inside the mine.
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