Colombia’s capital is not a beauty. The long stretched 9 million metropolis sits at the foot of the steeply rising mountain walls of the Monserrate and the Guadalupe.
The famous sights of Bogotá, which also include some excellent museums, are, with a few exceptions, located in the historic centre of La Candelaria.
The monumental Plaza de Bolívar is dominated by three large building complexes: The classicist cathedral, completed in 1823, with the adjoining “Capilla del Sagrario”, the “Capitolio Nacional” with a mighty columned hall and the “Alcaldía de Bogotá”. Both palaces are built in the style of classicism, with the latter clearly showing French influence. The concrete building of the Palace of Justice, which occupies the northern side of the plaza, reminds us that dramatic scenes took place here in 1985: The former Palace of Justice had been occupied by guerrillas in a spectacular hostage-taking, whereupon the army stormed the palace which was finally destroyed in such a way that it had to be rebuilt.
Just one block south of Plaza de Bolívar is the former church of Santa Clara, with its lavish Baroque interior.
The Museo del Oro, whose exhibits are regarded as the most important collection of pre-Columbian gold artefacts in the world, is a must in Bogotá – even for those who don’t like museums.
The remarkable museum complex “Manzana Cultural” houses four collections, among them the generous donation of the master Botero to his hometown, including one hundred Botero works as well as originals by Corot, Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Dalí, Chagall, Bacon and de Kooning.
A popular destination within the city limits on a clear and sunny day is the summit of Monserrate with the shrine of Señor Caído de Monserrate, which can be reached either by 3957 steps, interspersed with the 14 stations of the Way of the Cross, or by cable car and cog railway.
While La Candelaria can be easily discovered on foot, other parts of the city are best explored by bicycle. Bogotá has the most extensive network of cycle paths in Latin America, and a growing number of tour operators offer thematic bike tours through the city’s highly diverse districts, even in areas that tourists would otherwise hardly see.