The Museo del Oro, the Colonial Candelaria and the Cerro de Monserrate ensure that tourists do not leave Colombia’s capital disappointed. Just recently in Colombia’s largest and only national daily broadsheet of El Tiempo, an interesting forum was raised regarding which are the most visited tourist attractions in the Colombian capital city of Bogota. It appears that over the last few months the tourist offices and ticket offices for the main sights of interest have been taking careful note of who is visiting them and from whence they hail. According the Instituto Distrital de Turismo which recorded the data, Bogota received 1.5 million tourists in 2010.
The very fact that the Colombian Ministry of Tourism and Commerce feels confident enough to release figures of a survey of this kind puts paid to the dark era of yesteryear when Bogota was a place that you avoided at all costs due to its security risks. Indeed, there is still petty and violent crime in this city of over eight million inhabitants and given the massive displacement of rural inhabitants to the city from the warring zones in the countryside this should come as no surprise. But, it is worth recognizing that in comparison to some other Latin American capitals feels distinctly spring-like and bucolic.
The top six tourist attractions including visits from both nationals and foreigners, reads as a relatively predictable list to those who know the city, but there are a couple of lesser known sights that have snuck in as well.
Museo Del Oro
Situated in an imposing fortress like block in downtown Bogota, the Museo del Oro is one of the world’s great museums. The displays and information here, aided by recordings in your language if you so please, rate highly up there with those in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Here in the Gold Museum you can view intricate Muisca ceremonial artefacts and will gain an invaluable insight into the culture in this territory prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
Bogota’s colonial and historical center of the Candelaria is home to a vast array of cultural activities. You could spend hours wandering these antiquated streets, entering the Botero Collection, the Luis Angel Arango library and many points of interest including the Chorro de Quevedo where Bogota was founded by the Spanish. If you tire of the emphasis on all things cultural there are dozens of fine restaurants (referred to as the Zona C) for lunch and an even greater number of watering holes for something stronger.
On religious holidays you’ll encounter pilgrims making the hike up to the top of the Cerro de Monserrate to ask favors of the Milagrosa here. For the less energetic (hiking up on week days is not recommended for security reasons) there are the options of the Funicular train or the Cable Car to get up here a further 500m above Bogota. The views are outstanding.
The Catedral Primada de Bogota
Building work began on Bogota’s classically constructed Cathedral bordering the northeastern corner of the Plaza de Bolivar in 1792 although there had been a religious building here since the mid-16th Century. Completed in 1829 this building has survived numerous earthquakes and even the riots of the Bogotazo and houses the tomb of the founder of Bogota, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada.
The José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden is a fantastic place to while away a few hours amongst the greenery so ever present in Colombia. Here you can see plant species from all corners of the country, engage in workshops and visit the always popular butterfly vivarium.
A real treat for your children, this is the surprise addition to the six most popular tourist sights in Bogota. The Maloka resembles Bogota’s answer to the Epcot Center, only smaller. This is an interactive science museum spread over several rooms all named accordingly, Telecommunications, the City, Human, Universe, Petroleum, Water, Activities and a movie viewing center.