Colombia’s capital is a vast, sprawling, traffic-choked metropolis set high in a valley surrounded by the mountains of the Cordillera Oriental. Yet it is a proud, cosmopolitan city with impressive modern buildings and services. The historical centre, La Candelaria, has a wealth of fine colonial churches and buildings. For a great view of the city, take the cable car to the top of Monserrate. A visit to the Gold Museum, with its dazzling collection of pre-Columbian art, is a mind-boggling experience.
Thanks to some enterprising local governance, Bogotá has undergone something of a renaissance in the past 15 years and has become one of the most exciting capitals in Latin America, its nightlife, dining, fashion and culture equal to anything that Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro can offer.
Because the main commercial and residential focus of the city moved down the hill and to the north early on, much of the original colonial town remains. It is one of the best-preserved major historical centres in Latin America, and as such has attracted artists, writers and academics to fill the sector with theatres, libraries and universities, for which Colombia has a very high reputation in the Spanish-speaking world. There are some delightful sights, especially the colonial houses with their barred windows, carved doorways, red-tiled roofs and sheltering eaves.
The Plaza de Bolívar, marked out by the city’s founders (as Plaza Mayor), is at the heart of the historic centre. Around the Plaza are the narrow streets and mansions of the Barrio La Candelaria, a rabbit warren of colonial buildings, narrow, cobbled streets, theatres, universities and countless cafés buzzing with intellectual debate. La Candelaria is home to one of Latin America’s most impressive cultural attractions, the Gold Museum, a dazzling display of pre-Columbian treasures.