What to do in Bogotá
The official name of the country is “Republic of Colombia“. The liberator, Simón Bolívar, chose this name to honour Christopher Columbus (in Spanish, Cristóbal Colón), who led the conquest of the American continent. The form of government is presidential, the territory is divided into 32 departments (states, provinces), and the capital district which is Bogotá. The population is of approximately 50.5 million inhabitants, making it the 2nd country in the world with the biggest crowd of Spanish speakers (if you consider the countries where Spanish is the official language). The official currency is the Colombian Peso.
When you hear this name for the first time, think of the land that it represents. This is one of the oldest registered cities in America, and it’s believed that the origin of the word Bogotá comes from the native word Bacatá. The meaning the experts give to this word is “field of tillage” or “field for seeds”. It’s the name that the “muiscas” gave to a fertile land with good space for farming, that today is the capital of the country.
If you just arrived to Bogotá and aren’t sure of what to do, here we have some good ideas for places to visit:
Bolivar Square (Plaza Bolívar)
This is the most important one in the Colombian capital. The neighbourhood where it’s located is Barrio de la Candelaria. It used to be a market where the local producers used to sell their products to those in the political / economical / cultural centre of the country. Around this square you’ll see the Palace of Justice, the National Capitol, the Cathedral, the City Hall, among others.
There’s a typical remnant of the Hispanic domination: among the most expensive buildings you can always find cathedrals and churches. The crown had made it mandatory to build a church right next to the main square. But if the area in particular was a key urban center for the crown, you had to build the cathedral there. This is the case of the Cathedral Metropolitan Basilica of Bogotá & Primate of Colombia. For purposes of this article, we’re going to stick with the short version and just say “Cathedral”.
It has the typical form of a latin cross, with a lantern above the transept. As many American churches the style is a mixture of American baroque and neoclassicism. If you want more information on some of the buildings listed in this article, there are free tours around the city, take a look here.
It’s very close to the main square on Calle 11 N° 4-41. It displays the works of great artist Fernando Botero. The building used to be the city’s archbishopric, so the architecture is also beautiful. The museum is closed only on Tuesdays, and the entrance is free. Don’t forget to check out one of the most important contemporary artists in Colombia here!
If you know a bit about the history of America, you may have read that one of the main interests of the Spanish Crown about the New World was the huge amount of minerals in the continent, especially gold, silver and gemstones. This is why you can’t miss one of the most interesting museums in the city.
It has over 30.000 pieces of gold, belonging to cultures like Calima, Quimbaya, Muisca Tayrona, Tolima, Tumaco, Zenú among others. It’s the largest pre-hispanic collection in the world. Besides the golden pieces, you’ll find objects made in stone, ceramics and textiles. Closed on Mondays, the entrance is $4000 colombian pesos (prices of 2020). If you’re interested in museums with free access, you can check out the Mint, the regional Gold Museum or the MAMU Art Museum.
–Emerald shopping: in the city centre you’ll find plenty of stores dedicated to these gemstones, so beloved in the world of jewellery. You’ll be looking mostly at prices from 20USD and upwards. If you decide to purchase anything, go to the stores that offer the authenticity certificate. Colombia is recognized worldwide as one of the most important producers of this gemstone.
–Monserrate Hill (cable car): one of the most amazing views, both during daytime and sunset.
–Pink Zone and T Zone: neighbourhoods with plenty of stores, clubs and restaurants
–7th Carrera Cultural Corridor: a boulevard full of shops, paintings and artisans market.
Map of Atractions