Bogota: capitalin gold
After years in the shadows, Colombia has found the light and taken its place in international tourism. The fourth highest capital in the world, Bogota displays an intriguing personality that is at once mesmerising and progressive.
A metropolis of more than eight million people, the capital city of Colombia, sitting high in the mountains and surrounded by vertiginous Andean peaks, has turned into a tourist destination, as well as the country's epicentre of business, politics, and culture. To the north are the posh quarters, with well-maintained parks and ‘Tudor'-style homes: El Chicó, Zona G, and the Parque de la 93, known for their trendy restaurants, and Zona T, the focus for night-life. In the centre are the Macarena, the Centro Internacional, and the colonial neighbourhood of La Candelaria, the city's cultural centre.
Bogota's four centuries of history can be read like an open book around the Plaza Bolivar, with its Art Deco, Modernist, Gothic and Renaissance buildings. To capture the rich culture and history, the capital has over 120 museums and galleries. Among them are the Gold Museum, which houses the largest collection of pre-Columbian gold and silverware in the world; MAMBO, the Modern Art Museum, which exhibits paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Colombian and international artists; and the Botero Museum,with its oversized sculptures of ample figures carved by Fernando Botero.
To complete the panorama, an ascent to the Cerro de Monserrate, located at 3,152 metres above sea level, is needed to fully embrace this huge metropolis of 20 districts and more than 1,200 quarters. Bogota's zest for life is boundless. Enterprising and bustling, it looks to itself with a mixed population that likes to dress, eat, drink, and dance. To travel to Bogota is to pass from one era to another, from a Baroque church to a neoclassical house on through to a colonial square that still maintains the feel of yesteryear.
Everything is there, the aboriginals, the conquistadors, the revolutionaries and the liberators. But even though Bogota's reputation has improved, it would be naïve to imagine that the entire centre is safe. It is best to know where you are going and to not walk alone in the streets at night.