Modern Day Bogotá
It has often been stated throughout history that diversity makes for harmony and this is no exception for the city of Bogotá. New buildings and modern architecture has sprung up near the traditional barrios which have transformed Bogotá into a city of contrast. Many of the large mansions have been beautifully restored in the older barrios and converted into government offices, auditoriums and museums. Much of the colonial architecture has been carefully preserved to reflect traditional Andalusian style of homes as well as the city’s extraordinary antique churches and beautiful republican buildings.
Examples include the former Jesuit complex made up of San Bartolomé, the Church of San Ignacio, and the Seminary of Las Aulas – today the Colonial Art Museum and the Palace of San Carlos – the Coin House, built in the 17th century, where the ovens for forging gold and silver coins were stored; the Religious Art Museum; the house of the Marqués de San Jorge where the Archeological Museums resides; the 20de Julio Museum, known as the Casa del Florero, also known as the place of the fight that sparked the uprising of 1810; the Astronomical Observatory; and The Colón Theatre, in which eminent Italian architects, sculptors and decorators were commissioned to construct and create. Throughout many parts of the city exist elegant and pristine examples of republican architecture such as the Echeverry Palace and the government offices of the state of Cundimarca.
City Sectors of Bogota
Traditional barrios such as Egipto and La Candelaria make up the city center, together with the space around which the city was founded in 1538, and which has since then been the setting for Bogotá’s most notable events.The International Center has large modern buildings occupied by financial institutions, banks, hotels and multinational tenants. The Gonzalo Jiménez de Queseda Convention Center and Bavaria Central Park make up part of the area’s sleek and majestic epicenter. To one side of the towering buildings stands the old colonial style San Diego church, Mudejar style Bull Ring (Plaza del Toros) and the 19th century former prison that is known today as the National Museum.
The most modern sectors of Bogotá are found mainly in the north and northeast sectors of the city. Here you will find amazing and beautiful buildings that line the Avenida Chile (calle 72) and help to make up part of the ever important financial sector of town. Among these buildings is located the old Franciscan church of La Porciúncula. To the north, the calle 100 and carrera 7 remain important thoroughfares lined by blocks of modern real estate and many large hospitals. Recently there have been a surge in shopping mall construction that have speckled the landscape of Bogotá including Unicentro, Granahorrar, Hacienda Santa Bárbara, Bulevar, Andino, Atlantis and Santafe, the second largest Mall in all of South America which provide attractions for shoppers and offer a grand variety of entertainment and culinary delights.
On the grounds of the Corferias Trade Fair pavilions you will find an array of social, entertainment and economic events that attract a myriad of productive, technical and agricultural sectors. These include publishing, crafts, fashion, automotive, science and engineering themes just to name a few. Here you will find modern and functional pavilions as well as majestic conference rooms, perfectly equipped for both national and international events. These events are held several times a year for both locals and tourists alike to share and enjoy.
Situated in the southwest area of Bogotá is the industrial zone. Here you can witness a truly spectacular economic hub of growth that is full of immense manufacturing complexes and expansive and modern warehouses. On the plains surrounding Bogotá, you will find an extensive and highly technical industry that is dedicated to the cultivation of some of the worlds most sought after and beautiful flowers in existence today. This is one of Colombia’s principal exports. Colombia is the number two flower exporter in the world, just behind Holland.
Since the 18th century, Bogotá has been a major cultural influence in Colombia, giving birth to such important undertakings as the Botanicals Expedition and the Comisión Corográfica, which traveled across most of the country making maps and illustrating the nations’ customs and cultural expressions with painstaking precision sketching by hand. Today these artistic pieces can be seen at the National Museum.
Bogotá has magnificent cultural institutions and boasts more than forty museums across the city with the concentration being located in the downtown sector. Some of these include:
Banco de Republica Gold Museum – This collection of gold pieces and artifacts was declared a National Monument and is considered one of the most impressive collections of pre-columbian art in the world. It includes nearly 34,000 pieces of gold and 20,000 bone, lithic and ceramic objects as well as textiles pertaining to Calima, Quimbaya, Muisca, Tairona, Sinu, Tolima and Malagana cultures among others. Poporos, masks, pectorals, hangers, necklaces, bracelets and hundreds of figures are exhibited in windows or as models. The Golden Room exhibits in a mysterious environment over 8,000 gold pieces.
National Museum of Colombia – built in 1823, the National Museum is the oldest museum in the country and one of the oldest on the South American continent. Its fortress architecture is constructed from stone and brick elements. The museum houses a collection of over 20,000 pieces including works of art and objects representing different national historical periods. The fifty seven paintings by masters Fernando Botero, Alejandro Obregon and Guillermo Wiedemann are exquisite in detail and of special interest to the patron public.
Botero Museum – houses an extraordinary art collection donated by Colombian master Fernando Botero. This collection is catalogued as one of the most important in the history of the country and includes nearly 120 drawings, paintings and sculptures. There are also over 60 canvas paintings from creators including Picasso, Renoir, Dali, Matisse, Monet, Degas, Chagall, Giacometti and Bonard among others.
Modern Art Museum of Bogota (MamBo) – Exhibits a complete collection of modern art work basically consisting of drawings, paintings, engraved work, sculpture and assembly. The museum houses work of Colombian masters Fernando Botero, Alejandro Obregón, Enrique Grau and édgar Negret, among many others together with important Latin American artist’s pinacotheca. The moderns building, designed by architect Rogelio Salmona, achieves optimum space and natural light management in soft overtones and rich hues. Temporary exhibitions take place in different rooms and on patios gathering topics associated to modern art.
Quinta de Bolívar Museum – the house, whose restoration was completed in 1998, is a great sample of domestic rural Colonial architecture. Exhibits include furniture, garments, arms, documents and other objects belonging to the Liberator, and varied nature pieces organized by rooms intended to recreate the interior of the home as it once looked. Stove rooms, Manuelita Sáenz room and playroom, the great room, Simón Bolívar Liberator’s bedroom, the barn and sitting bath, among others are places of special interest.
One should not overlook the numerous libraries and theatres that exist in Bogotá. Libraries such as the National Library and the Luis Angel Arango Library are two of the most notable in the city. The Luis Angel Arango Library is one of the most important cultural complexes in the county and one of the most modern buildings in Latin America offering the public more than 475,000 square feet of beautifully designed space in which to read, research and just relax. The library has ten specialized rooms including music, geography, social sciences, economy, arts and humanities, audiovisuals, constitutional, rare books and manuscripts as well as science and technology. Included in the library is a concert room that boasts a modern auditorium that will seat 367 spectators. The room periodically features many prestigious chamber and soloist groups from the country as well as the entire world.
Other notable interests include theatres such as the Colón, Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, Colsubsidio and Libre. Auditoriums also include the León de Greiff and Camarín del Carmen. Finally, cultural centers such as the Gimnasio Moderno School and the Skandia provide a place of learning for many gifted and talented dancers and musicians to train and perform.
Bogota Urban Living
Today’s Bogotá is a modern city, alive and vibrant, where its inhabitants have access to a variety of cultural events, recreation and relaxation. The city has several sports centers such as Campin stadium and coliseum, and El Salitre which has a fun park, coliseum, free sports facilities and a water toboggan. At Simon Bolívar Park there is a lake for water sports, athletic tracks, bicycle paths and a large plaza where sports competitions and cultural events are held.
As night falls, the city lights up and a multitude of places open their doors for business. Here you can enjoy a fine meal at an upscale restaurant or dine informally and dance to the sounds of many different music selections and rhythms across the city.
Nighttime activity is extremely lively in areas such as the International Center, the Zona Rosa, or the north of the city.
Bogota & Beyond / Day Trips outside the City
Bogotá is surrounded by villages which preserve their traditional charm and provide healthy relaxation for those who take a break from the city and trek to the countryside for weekends and holidays. Along the northbound trunk road which crosses the highland plain there are recreational parks and lakes such as Fúquene Laguna Guatavit? was once sacred to the local Muisca people who made offerings to the spirit of a former chieftain’s wife, said by legend to live in the depths of the lake in the company of a terrible monster.and the legendary Guatavita Lake.
Lake Guatavita was once sacred to the Muisca people who made offerings to the spirit of a former chieftain’s wife whose legend claimed to live in the depths of the lake in the company of a terrible and ferocious monster.
Reservoirs such as Tominé, Sisga and Neusa are great places to enjoy camping, sailing, water skiing and other watersports. Near the city lie the villages of Chía, Cajicá, Tabio, Tenjo and the town of Zipaquirá, famous for the salt deposits which the Muisca Indians mined and exploited. This historic site is a true gem to be discovered just outside of the city of Bogotá.
All around Bogotá you can enjoy the exuberance of the tropics and discover multiple climates, changing vegetation and many different kinds of recreational activities. Just a few hours south or west of the city, you will find the highland villages of La Vega, Fusagasugá or Villeta. These towns enjoy a nice cool climate and are ideal for enjoying exotic fruits while the sun warms your face. Another city in this region is Guaduas, a village rich in historical flavor and rich Colombian culture. Or, if you prefer a warmer climate, you can visit the “hot country” of the Magdalena River Valley and spend the weekend at one of the beautiful hotels at Melgar or Girardot.