Botero, graffiti, and gold: Experience Bogotá’s rich history, art, and culture
Backed by verdant Andes peaks, Bogotá is Colombia’s energetic capital, a modern city known for its colonial heart. Head to La Candelaria to experience the city’s bustling historic center, where you can explore narrow cobbled streets lined with colorful buildings and filled with street carts selling snacks and souvenirs. Stop in the Botero Museum to see modern paintings and sculptures in Fernando Botero’s signature style—figures inflated larger than life. Afterward, discover a part of the city’s past at the Gold Museum, home to tens of thousands of dazzling pre-Hispanic gold pieces.
Art and history span pre-colonial times to the present day in Bogotá, from the National Museum of Colombia, housed in a former jail, to innovative works at MAMBO, the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art. The city has a strong religious heritage too, with elegant colonial churches like the neoclassical Cathedral of Colombia, whose twin bell towers overlook Bolivar Square.
For all of its fascinating history, Bogotá feels vibrant and contemporary. You’ll find chic boutiques highlighting the hottest Colombian fashion designers as well as a dynamic dining scene. Order top-notch tasting menus at the sleek eateries on Avenida Calle 85, or dine on a budget at food stalls dishing up the local favorite: deep-fried corn cakes called arepas.
Reasons to go:
- Monserrate: Topped by a white church and overlooking the city center, this forested mountain offers expansive views across Bogotá. It takes about an hour to hike to the peak, or you can whiz up via cable car and return aboard a funicular train.
- La Ciclovía: On average, 1.5 million walkers, joggers, and cyclists hit the streets between 7 am and 2 pm each Sunday, when nearly 80 miles of the city’s roads are closed to cars. The event has been a weekend institution since 1974, with a party atmosphere that might tempt you to stop and listen to a live band or join a salsa class along your way.
- Traditional souvenirs: Colombian coffee, handwoven baskets, and colorful bags designed by local craftspeople fill the stalls of Galería Artesanal de Colombia, a compact covered market. In the chaotic Pasaje Rivas market, you can also haggle over items like leather goods and painted ceramics.
- Street art: Bogotá embraces its graffiti and street art culture, with bold murals adorning walls across the city, some of them spanning several stories. Don’t miss the work of artists in La Candelaria, where vivid paintings of fantastical creatures and historical figures brighten up shop fronts and parks.
- Zona Rosa: The epicenter of Bogotá’s buzzing nightlife scene, the chic Zona Rosa district is crammed with trendy bars and clubs. Go bar-hopping at spots for craft beer and karaoke, stylish martini lounges, or pulsating clubs with dancing well past midnight.
When to go
Thanks to the city’s high altitude—more than 8,500 feet above sea level—temperatures in Bogotá are mild year-round, typically hovering in the 60s. Dry and rainy spells tend to alternate throughout the year.
Popular annual events include a massive free music festival in August, Rock al Parque, which stages local acts that perform everything from rock and jazz to salsa and opera. If you’re visiting over the holiday season, you can expect to see elaborately illuminated monuments and a gigantic Christmas tree in Parque El Tunal.
Planning a visit to Bogotá? Take a look at the area’s Radisson hotels to find a great base for experiencing all the city has to offer.
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