Things to see in Bogotá

Tourist offices

The District Institute of Tourism of Bogotá

Carrera 24 No.40-66, Bogotá
Tel: (1) 217 0711.
Opening Hours:

0800-1700.


www.Bogotáturismo.gov.co

Catedral Primada

The imposing cathedral on Plaza de Bolivar’s eastern end is the biggest in Colombia and one of the biggest in South America. A neoclassical masterpiece that would match almost any in Spain, it looms over the rest of the square like an old lord surveying his subjects. La Catedral Primada was erected in 1823 on the site of the city’s first humble church, when Bogotá was made up of a few simple houses. The city’s inaugural mass is also said to have taken place on the site in 1538. The inside is eerily solemn and surprisingly bare. Paul Theroux generalised Bogotá’s church interiors as “elegant…with a touch of voodoo”, and in the case of its cathedral, he was onto something. Apart from some paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries, it houses one of the largest organs in Latin America and the tomb of the city’s founder, Jiménez de Quesada.

Opening Times: Mon-Sat 0830-1300; Sun 0830-1400.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: 7 No.10-80, Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: (1) 341 1954.
El Museo del Oro (Gold Museum)

Internationally renowned, the Banco de la República Gold Museum boasts some 34,000 gold pieces from all major pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia, making it one of the most important gold museums in the world. Spread across two floors, visitors will find incredibly intricate jewellery, shamanic tools, headdresses and plenty more from numerous cultures and civilisations spanning the millennia before the Spanish Conquest. Guided tours in English and Spanish are conducted daily.

Opening Times: Tues-Sat 0900-1800, Sun 1000-1600.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Calle 16, Corner of Carreras 5 and 6, Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: (1) 343 2222.
Museo Botero

The art collection at Museo Botero, donated by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, is thought to be one of the most important in the country's history. The collection consists of 120 artworks, mainly paintings, drawings and sculptures by European artists such as Picasso, Chagal, Dali, Renoir, Matisse and Monet. There are also a number of oil paintings and sculptures by Botero himself, especially from the last 20 years. His earlier work (up to 1960s) can be found in the National Museum, also in Bogotá.

Opening Times: Mon-Sat 0900-1900, Sun 1000-1700.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Calle 11 no 4-21, Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: (1) 3431316.
Cerro de Monserrate

One of the peaks overlooking the sprawling city (Sabana de Bogotá) from the east, Cerro de Monserrate towers 3,160m (10,367 ft) high. There is a church on the top, which was erected when the original chapel was destroyed in the 1917 earthquake. It gets very busy on Sundays when pilgrims and tourists flood the place. Apart from the church itself, the surrounding area is commercialised with food and souvenir stalls, but the view from the peak is magnificent. On a clear day one can spot Los Nevados, the volcano range in the Cordillera Central, 135km (84 miles) away to the west. Cerro de Monserrate is accessible via cable car, funicular railway or by foot along a recently restored footpath.

Opening Times: Mon-Sat 1200-0000, Sun 0930-2130 (cable car); Mon-Sat 0745-1145, Sun 0600-2130 (funicular).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Carrera 2E No. 21-48 (at the foot of the mountain), Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: (1) 284 5700.
La Candelaria

This is the historic centre around the Plaza de Bolivar. Despite some unfortunate architectural influences from 20th century, the barrio remains largely soaked in the colonial spirit and lifestyle. Some buildings are being restored to their former glory, others remain dilapidated. The first buildings were built in the 16th century and today's La Candelaria is actually a group of old districts such as La Catedral, Egypto and La Concordial. The area was declared a National Monument in 1964. The streets of the old Santa Fe are full of old Spanish-style mansions with heavy doors, large halls, spacious rooms, patios, thick walls and various styles of balconies. The 19th- and 20th-century buildings are locally known as Republican. La Candelaria of today has a strong bohemian, cultural and academic flavour.

Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Plaza de Bolivar, Bogotá, Colombia
Plaza de Bolivar

This is the first port of call for most visitors to Bogotá. Built in the centre of the historic district, this square has a statue of Simon Bolivar in the middle (built by Pietro Tenerani, an Italian artist, in 1846). Little is preserved from the original colonial times, but a walk around the square still makes for an interesting venture and will allow you to take in governmental, political and other buildings, including an astronomical observatory.

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Plaza de Bolivar, Bogotá, Colombia
The Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace is another neoclassical jewel in Bogotá’s architectural crown. Also known as Casa de Nariño, the palace was originally the house of Antonio Nariño, one of the fathers of independence. Rebuilt and extended in 1908, it is as grand and impressive as you’d expect for the home of the President of Colombia. It’s also heavily guarded. However, the palace does open its gates each afternoon for the changing of the guard and it’s worth seeing this extravagant march, which is full of pomp. The palace gardens also feature the oldest observatory in the new world. Visits to the palace must be arranged through the website.

Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Carrera 8 No.7-26, Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: (1) 562 9300.
Church of Santa Clara

Thought to be the most representative of a cluster of colonial churches in the old town, the Church of Santa Clara was built between 1629 and 1674 as a part of the Poor Clares Convent. As one of the city’s oldest churches, it is lavishly decorated with 112 paintings and 24 sculptures dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s a museum church run by the municipality, so not free to enter, but is certainly worth every peso.

Opening Times: Tue-Fri 0900-1700; Sat-Sun 1000-1600.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Carrera 8 no 8-91, Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: (1) 337 6762.
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Standing a little higher than nearby Cerro Monserrate, at some 3,300m (10,827 ft), Guadalupe Hill provides a similar view of the city. This verdant precipice is more isolated and tranquil than its neighbour, but more difficult to reach. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe church first stood atop the hill in 1656, but was reduced to ruins four times by earthquakes. The church was last rebuilt in 1967 and features a striking wood-carving of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Her appearance to the Mexican peasant in 16th century is one of the defining moments in the conversion of indigenous people to Catholicism, and she is revered throughout Latin America. One of Bogotá’s main icons stands outside the church, the 15m (49 ft) sculpture of the Virgin by local artist, Gustavo Arcila Uribe.

Opening Times: Sun 0700-1600.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Bogotá-Coachi, Bogotá, Colombia
Telephone: (1) 350 5511.
Tren Turístico de la Sabana (Savana Tourist Train)

Take a trip from Bogotá to Nemocón and the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral and back to explore the Savannah around Bogotá. The train leaves on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays at 0830 from the Estación de la Sabana and at 0930 from Estación de Usaquen in the city’s north. Book advance tickets at the station. The trip usually includes a papayera (a small band playing Colombian music) and food is also available from one of the carriages. Nemocón is normally reached by 1145, and visitors have a couple of hours to stroll through the village and have some lunch before boarding the train for the journey back to Bogotá.

Opening Times: Mon-Fri 0830-1730, Sat 0800-1700.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Estación de Usaquen, Calle 13 No. 18 - 24, Colombia
Telephone: (1) 375 0557.
Newsletter