Bogotá’s rich legacy has crossed the centuries and established the basis of a young contemporary face for Colombian gastronomy, culture, and art
In the culture of the Colombian capital, gold has a special place. This memory is expressed through art and stories like that of the El Dorado mine, a legendary city in which they believed to be an endless source of wealth. And even though no one has found the mythical golden site, the city shines on its own. When you look at it from Cerro de Monserrate, in the urban limit, it glimmers like a mine filled with gold grains. Its altitude of 8,675 ft [2,644 m] above sea level brings it closer to the starry sky illuminating Plaza de Bolívar, the National Congress, and the Palace of Justice.
The Museo del Oro is a symbol of memory. “Its 30,000 pre-Columbian artifacts bring us closer to our roots,” explains Eduardo Londoño, the institution’s anthropologist. “Here we guard the treasure. But beyond its monetary value, it is its historic relevance that expresses the Colombian identity,” he affirms.
All this gold from the past reflects itself in a present that looks at culture as its new treasure. In the past, there was an abundance of precious minerals, but now Bogotá stands out for its intense art scene and world-class gastronomy. The old values have been redefined with eyes set on the future.
Like many Colombian cities, the capital turned the page on its past guided by the lighthouse of art. Its appreciation for literature, for example, made Bogotá the first Latin American city to be recognized as UNESCO’s World Book Capital, in 2007.
One proof that Bogotá deserves this title is the abundance of libraries and bookstores across the city, especially in the historic district of La Candelaria. Among them, the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango has a concert hall and a rich collection of old publications available to the public.
You only have to cross the street to arrive at Manzana Cultural, a sector comprised of three institutions: the Museo Botero, which exhibits the curvilinear figures created by the most famous Colombian artist alongside works by such masters as Miró and Renoir; the Casa de la Moneda, which tells the story of money in the country; and the Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia, which has a collection of local and international art.
Right in front is the Centro Cultural García Márquez, which invites you to watch the sun set on the Catedral Primada from its terrace. The space was designed by architect Rogelio Salmon, the author of several imposing buildings in the city, including the Biblioteca Virgilio Barco. Walking around this brick circular structure — a trademark in the city — will make you want to go further, to the Parque Metropolitano Simón Bolívar. Every year, this enormous green area hosts Rock al Parque, one of the biggest, free, open-air festivals in Latin America. At least in this aspect, stereotypes are true: Colombians know how to throw a party.
Bogotá’s beauty seems to spring from the ground. Each wall is either a canvas or a historical site, as you’ll learn on the Bogotá Graffiti Tour. Groups of tourists explore the neighborhood of La Candelaria, camera in hand, to learn about artists and their creations.
“By the end of the tour, some people say they learned more about history here than at museums,” says the guide, Jahir Dimate. On the tour, looking at these big old houses, you’ll be able to see the typical rectangular patios of colonial structures. A contrast of the ages, since they usually house hostels and bars. L’Aldea, a combination bar and urban art gallery, is a good spot to wrap up the tour.
New winds are blowing for local culture in the global landscape. The biggest art fair in the country, ARTBO, has put Colombia in the international market under the baton of its director, María Paz Gaviria. “ARTBO was central for the growth of the public and the art market,” she affirms. The event is held in October, but it also hosts exhibitions and residencies all year round. “There has been a proliferation of galleries, independent spaces, foundations, and institutions.”
It’s the case of neighborhoods like San Felipe, located a bit up north. Even though it’s not touristy, in the last years it has seen the birth of more than 10 galleries between Calle 72A and Calle 75A. Not far, in a discrete building, a space called La Casita attracts contemporary artists painting Colombia with new colors.
María Paz Gaviria
“ARTBO was central for the growth of the public and the art market”
Touristic guide at Bogotá Graffiti Tour
'Some people say they learn more about Colombian history going through the tour than going to the museums.'
Anthropologist at Museo del Oro
“Its 30,000 pre-Columbian artifacts bring us closer to our roots”
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