As Colombia’s largest city, Bogotá has many tourist sites but three of the top tourist sites in Bogotá that many tourists to the city visit are Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), Monserrate and the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral, which we look at in more detail in this post.
The number of foreign visitors to Colombia has been increasing every year with Bogotá receiving more foreign visitors than any other city in the country. Bogotá is often referred to as the ‘Athens of South America’ with 58 museums, over 150 art galleries, 33 library networks, 45 stage theaters, 75 sports and attraction parks, and over 150 national monuments. Bogotá has a tremendous number to tourist sites and restaurants as well as a lively nightlife. The city also has well over 500 hotels including a number of hotels from the top global hotel chains.
Museo de Oro (Gold Museum)
The Gold Museum is the most famous museum in Bogotá. The museum displays a large selection of Pre Hispanic gold work — which is reportedly the biggest collection in the world — in exhibition rooms located on the second and third floors. The museum has a collection of 55,000 pieces, with about 6,000 pieces on display. Many of the descriptions of exhibits in the museum are bilingual in Spanish and English.
On the first floor of the museum is located the museum’s main entrance as well as a shop and a restaurant, The Gold Museum Restaurant and Café. Exhibits are found on the second and third floor in four exhibition galleries:
- The Working of Metals gallery – describes mining and manufacturing techniques employed by ancient metallurgists.
- People and Gold in Pre-Hispanic Colombia – depicts how and in what contexts people used metals as part of their political and religious organization.
- Cosmology and Symbolism – explores mythical subjects, shamanism, and the symbology of metals.
- The Offering – explores the world of rituals and ceremonies at which offerings were made.
The museum has free one-hour tours Tuesday through Saturday (in Spanish and English; 11am and 4pm), which varies the part of the museum to be highlighted. Audio guides are also available in Spanish, English and French.
Monserrate is a mountain that dominates the city center in Bogotá. It rises to over 10,000 feet above see level and it has a church that was built in the seventeenth century with a shrine, which is devoted to “El Señor Caído” (Fallen Lord). In addition to the church, the mountain summit contains restaurants, a cafeteria, souvenir shops and several smaller tourist facilities. Monserrate can be accessed by cable car, a funicular (cliff railway) or by climbing the mountain via a pathway.
The history of Monserrate can be traced back to between 1620 and 1630, when the Cofradia de la Vera Cruz (Brotherhood of Vera Cruz) started using Monserrate’s hilltop, then known as the Snow hilltop for religious celebration. In 1650 permission was granted to build a small religious retreat on the mountaintop. The hermitage retreat used the name of Monserrat’s Morena Virgin, whose sanctuary was located in Catalonia, near Barcelona, which resulted in the entire mountain being named Montserrat.
By 1656 Father Rojas ordered a carving of a crucifix and a statue of Jesus Christ after being taken off the cross, earning it the name Fallen Lord. Originally, the sculptures were placed inside a small chapel dedicated to Christ instead of being placed inside the religious retreat itself.
However, as time passed, more people began visiting the sanctuary in order to see the statue of Jesus, rather than the matron saint of Monserrat. By the nineteenth century, the Fallen Lord Statue had become much more popular, which resulted in the Sculpture to the Virgin of Montserrat being removed from the center piece of the sanctuary and replaced with The Fallen Lord. But the mountain has still retained the name of Monserrate to the present time.
Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral
Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral is an impressive Roman Catholic church built underground within the tunnels of a salt mine that is over 650 feet underground near the town of Zipaquirá, which is located about 30 miles from Bogotá. It is possible to travel to Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral via car, bus or the Tren Turistico de la Sabana (Savanna tourist train).
The Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral is part of a larger complex including “Parque de la Sal” (Salt Park) as well as a museum of mining, mineralogy, geology and natural resources.
The Salt Cathedral was inaugurated in August 1954 and was dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary, the patron saint of minors. The church consists of three naves and reported has a maximum capacity of 8,000. In 1991, construction of a new cathedral was undertaken, located about 200 feet under the older cathedral. The new cathedral opened in 1995 and also has three naves.
The Bottom Line
We expect that Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), Monserrate and the Zipaquirá Salt Cathedral will remain three of the top tourist sites in Bogotá. We also believe that Bogotá will remain the most popular foreign tourist entry point into Colombia with continued strong Bogotá tourism growth expected over the next several years.