Nestled below rolling mountains and a short hop from a sun-drenched coastline, Caracas is a frenetic city of petrodollar wealth, modern high-rise architecture and thriving culture.
The birthplace of South American independence hero Simón Bolívar, Venezuela’s capital is among the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan places in South America. It is inordinately proud of its past, and has its eyes set firmly on the future – even if not all its inhabitants are looking in the same direction.
Caracas can boast one of the most dramatic settings of any world city. The Parque Nacional El Ávila looms directly over its northern outskirts, and its green forested slopes are riddled with walking trails. It is also home to a spectacular cable car ride, making a cool and breezy escape from the urban sprawl an easy reality.
Architecturally, Caracas is a modern concrete and glass jungle, but many buildings also have sleek lines that betray art deco roots with some recent constructions designed in a distinct, postmodern style. Culturally, the city also has plenty to offer but it’s good to start at the Museum of Fine Arts before moving onto the Museum of Contemporary Arts; both are worthy of a visit.
Famed for its dedication to the good life, Caracas fizzes with energy at night when clubs and bars absorb tireless revellers hell-bent on having a good time. Another thing the Caraqueños take seriously is food, and arguably South America’s best eating options are found here, be they gourmet, international, down-home or freshly sizzled street fare.
However, a word of caution: safety is an important issue here that cannot be ignored. Crime is a serious problem and some areas are strictly off limits. Evidence of poverty is omnipresent and you may be shocked by homeless families camping outside corporate skyscrapers and glitzy malls. At night, the twinkling lights decorating the mountainsides are beautiful, yet bitter-sweet reminders that shanty towns encircle the city.
Don’t be put off. It may seem daunting at first, but with a few common sense precautions, Caracas is a richly rewarding place to visit.