Bogota: Art in the Streets and Gold in the Museums
Finally we arrived. The streets aren’t paved with gold, but the museums are full of it; and conversely, the streets are full of art. Bogotá, ‘una ciudad 2600 metros más cerca de las estrellas’, which is ‘above your expectations’ and ‘mejor para todos’. These are tag lines from the Instituto Distrital de Turismo .
Bogota became our home for 10 weeks in 2008, and we had really been looking forward to our return to the city this trip. So we booked an apartment in Teusaquillo for 2 weeks, searching for museum gold and street art.
‘When we lived in Bogota’ , as we often refer to that previous visit, we really enjoyed the friendly and helpful people we met. But we were there for major repairs on our truck, and had little time for any other activities. We saw the inside of many workshops but this time we were determined to see something of the capital city of the country that became our favourite on our first Pan-American trip.
Here we share what we did in 2 weeks in Bogota.
El Museo de Oro
The Gold Museum of Bogota is famous. In 2008 it was closed for extensive renovations. We were very disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to visit.
This time it was right on the top of our list. In fact, we visited it on our very first foray into the historical centre of Bogota. And what a pleasant surprise – people over 60 were admitted free. We love it when this happens. It feels like such a gift of respect.
There are over 30,000 pieces of gold work from pre-Hispanic cultures on display, as well as around 20,000 objects of ceramic, textiles, and precious stones. We love the ancient history of South America, and the craftsmanship collected in the Gold Museum is almost overwhelming.
I don’t know what it was like pre-renovation, but we were totally impressed by the display of this vast collection, and the information provided (including the audio-guide I took).
Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
If you have spent any time checking out dare2go, you will already know we are great fans of street art. And Bogota definitely didn’t disappoint! Our first street art sightings were as we drove into the city on our way to our accommodation. We saw one large piece in the process of creation.
The volume of street art in Bogota is overwhelming. Simple daily tasks like going to the corner shop, on the way to the supermarket, or looking for a cash machine, always took longer because we were constantly stopping to admire and photograph yet another amazing piece of public art.
Much of Colombia’s street art evolves out of the troubles the country has seen. We experienced this in Comuna 13 in Medellin , and it was again obvious with many pieces in Bogotá, especially along Calle 26.
It’s always good to just walk in a city, and see what you find.
Walking the Streets – Teusaquillo
Bogotá has 20 localidades (localities) and Teusaquillo is the 13th. It is located just out of the city centre and we found it to be a convenient walk to many of the places we wanted to go.
One day, we went out walking in search of a supermarket and an ATM. We found them, but also found the National Museum.
Another day we walked, in a different direction, to a Carulla – this is a rather upmarket supermarket chain in Colombia, but it sells good bread. To reach it we walked along the ParkWay. It is an avenue divided by a large park, built in the 1950s to beautify the city and create green areas. There are also bike paths, which we rode along on our bicycle tour.
The streets surrounding our rental were also full of street art. Avenida 28, with its huge street art gallery, was within easy walking distance. We visited it several times.
Walking the Streets – La Candelaria
The 17th Localidad of Bogotá is known as the Historic Centre. Therefore, it has hostels, hotels, restaurants and lots of tourists. But it is also a beautiful historic area and we spent a lot of time just wandering around it.
Plaza de Bolivar is the original centre of the city, where Bogotá was founded on August 6, 1538. The Congress of Colombia, the Supreme Court, the Mayor’s office, and the Cathedral of Colombia surround this great Plaza.
There are many museums and we chose to re-visit the Botero Museum.
And lots and lots of fantastic street art!
Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Cycling is a very popular activity in Colombia. In 2008, we were surprised and impressed by the closure of major arterial roads and city streets on Sundays and public holidays, for the use of cyclists, walkers, runners, skaters and so on. It seemed like a very innovative idea, which we hadn’t seen elsewhere. Now it is popular in many cities in South America.
So we opted for a bicycle tour on a Sunday. I hadn’t been on a bicycle since we left Australia almost 5 years ago. But you know what they say: a skill that is learned and never forgotten is “just like riding a bike.”
Our tour was with Bogotravel , but there are other options and we don’t necessarily recommend this company as a standout – we have no point of comparison, and there were aspects of their service, which we found a little disappointing.
But the actual tour was a great experience. Felipe, our guide, spoke good English, and looked after us all very well. We shared the tour with 2 friendly German girls.
The tour included fruit tasting at a local fruit market, cycling through historical areas with colonial architecture, some city parks, a coffee shop with tasting available, and Avenida 26 – the largest street gallery of graffiti in Bogotá. It began at 10:30 and lasted around 4 hours.
We paid 40000 Colombian Pesos each for this tour.
Street Art Walking Tour
When we booked our bicycle tour, we had thought it was a streetart bicycle tour. But it turned out to be a more general tour, which took us beyond the central city. So, we also signed up for a city walking tour, which was specifically street art focused, with Bogotá Graffiti Tour .
I suppose we could have walked the streets of central Bogotá and La Candelaria, and possibly seen most of the pieces we saw during the tour. But our guide, Carlos, was really knowledgeable about the artists and the pieces he was showing us. We walked for almost 2½ hours and ended up with almost 100 photos, after keeping only the best.
Like the bicycle tour, and the walking tours we did in Medellin , the troubled history of Colombia was a feature of this tour. Each of the tour guides we encountered on these tours, gave their own take on the recent history, which they had all lived through. We find it very positive that urban art plays such an important part in the healing process for the people of Colombia. Graffiti is definitely not ‘just vandalism’.
The Street Art Walking Tour is free, but a tip is expected – 20-30,000 Colombian Pesos is suggested in the booking confirmation email.
We know Botero from his works, donated by the artist, in public plazas in Medellin, the city of his birth. But we had also been to this museum ‘when we lived in Bogotá’ in 2008.
The collection in the Botero Museum was also donated by the artist, Fernando Botero. There are 123 of the artist’s own works and 85 from well-known international artists such as Dali, Picasso and Cezanne.
The gallery is free of charge for all to enjoy.
Colombia’s oldest museum, was created by law in 1823, and is one of the oldest in South America. Its early inauguration meant that it began collecting items of future historical interest, almost immediately. This included some Spanish flags and standards from the independence wars happening in different parts of the continent around this time.
It continued in various locations for 123 years until 1946, when it was given a permanent home in the former Central Penitentiary of Cundinamarca. The building is very impressive, utilising the prison cells to display the collection.
The National Museum holds more than 20,000 pieces of the country’s history and cultural heritage. They are held and displayed in 4 separate collections: Archaeology, Art, History and Ethnography.
Among those pieces there was more Botero, and we also found gold.
Catching Up With Old Friends
Alvaro and his family had been so helpful ‘when we lived in Bogotá’, and we were happy to see him again. He gave us a unique experience when he took us out of the city in his Landcruiser to go ‘rock crawling’. We also spent some time with him and his wife, Liliana, and his daughter, Mariana. She was just 18 months old when we first met her in 2008!
We were also pleasantly surprised to find that Olga, a good Colombian friend from Australia, was visiting her mother in Bogotá while we were there. It was lovely to see a face from home and spend time catching up.
We visited the Gold Museum and were in its thrall for more than 3 hours. Walking the streets, we discovered the wealth of street art displayed on every available space. Taking a walking tour and a bicycle tour, we learnt more about the city from some interesting and well-informed young people.
There are many sites that we didn’t visit, but we certainly enjoyed the art in the streets and the gold in the museums.