Bogota is the gateway to both commerce and growing tourism in Colombia. Nearly one-third of the country's domestic companies are headquartered in this modern city of skyscrapers. Yet the capital also reflects its colonial past, most evident in the charming streetscapes of the old town known as La Candelaria.
The city's many cultural institutions, theatre, music and film festivals, as well as the cultural sophistication of its people (Bogotanians), have earned it the nickname "Athens of South America." In recent years, UNESCO selected it both as a City of Books and a City of Music – and not merely for the sound of the native Colombian cumbia. As Colombia produces more than half the world's emeralds, Bogotá might also be called "Emerald City." Excellent museums dedicated to emeralds and gold are a few of the allures for tourists, as is the contemporary art museum named for Latin America's greatest living artist, the Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero.
When it comes to gastronomy and nightlife, Bogota is a city that eats well and never sleeps. Multiple cosmopolitan food zones include the Zona T – an exclusive enclave in the Zona Rosa, the city's top destination for shopping and nightlife – and the Zona G, a centre for international haute cuisine near the financial district.
Yet Bogota is also a green city that boasts 5,200 parks, including large protected ecosystems amidst the urban bustle, with more eco-tourism destinations just a half-hour drive away.
This unique destination is becoming one of the world's hottest new places to visit.
Zona G (for Gastronomy)
For elegant romance by candlelight or the very best table for a high-powered business lunch, the Zona G is the place to eat in Bogotá. Whatever your taste, choice after choice in five-star dining waits side by side within just a few blocks.
Long before Europeans landed in the New World, Colombia's indigenous peoples were celebrating their cultures in gold. Marvel at the world's largest collection, over 55,000 extraordinary golden objects, at the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum).
International Emerald Museum
No country in the world produces more high-quality emeralds than Colombia, and this small private museum gives a glimpse into their production and beauty. An added perk: bird's-eye views of Bogotá from the 23rd floor of the tower.
In Bogotá's historical Candelaria district, discover drawings, paintings and sculptures by Colombia's most famous artist Fernando Botero, along with works from the artist's private collection by modern masters from Corot to Picasso.
Almost anywhere you are in Bogotá, this beautiful hilltop sanctuary looks down on you. Join pilgrims, nature lovers and sightseers who venture – on foot, by cable car or funicular – more than three kilometres up for stunning views of city and sunsets.
Bogotá Botanical Garden
A beautiful park and botanical research centre, the Jardín Botánico José Celestino Mutis collects and displays the flora of all the regions of Colombia, from Andes to Amazon, including endangered species, xeric plants and thousands of orchids.
Its streets lined with Spanish colonial, baroque and art deco architecture, Bogotá's "old town" La Candelaria is a charming setting for a casual stroll, a browse through museums and churches or a taste of the history of the Bogotanos.
Iglesia de San Francisco
Colonials began constructing the Church of San Francisco, located in La Candelaria in 1557. It remains one of the oldest churches in Bogotá. Take in its 17th-century interior, magnificent altar and mysterious statue of Christ.
Zona Rosa/Zona T
The Zona Rosa, and especially the Zona T at its core, is not only where it all happens for Bogotá nightlife, but where the chic come for upscale shopping – including centres such as the exclusive El Retiro – and every flavour of top restaurants.
Usaquen Sunday Market
With its cobbled streets and 17th-century villas, the neighbourhood of Usaquén is a picturesque setting for its lively Sunday market. Peruse the colourful stalls, bargain for handicrafts with local artisans, and watch street performers.