I made my first visit to Bogota earlier this week on a tour through Colombia. Some aspects of the city are definitely holding it back (it may have the trashiest Plaza Principal in South America), but it is home to two great museums worth visiting.
Bogota Gold Museum
The Gold Museum (Museo de Oro) is an educational look at Pre-Colombian history and shows how the precious metal was used by various indigenous groups in different areas. Much of what the Spanish found they melted down, but a lot of great pieces survived. Some are delicate and intricate, others meant to dazzle subjects with their sheer glow on the head and body.
The presentation is well-designed and the pieces great and small are enhanced by great lighting. Many of the interesting pieces are mounted in glass boxes that can be viewed from all sides. Some of the chieftain adornments are shown on a head and body shadow to give a sense of placement on a person.
Admission is less than $2 but is free on Sunday, so assume there will be a big crowd that day. There are four sections on multiple floors, so plan on staying for a while if you want to take it all in.
Botero Museum of Bogota
The other must-see is the museum of Fernando Botero. Even if you don’t know his name, you certainly have seen the work of this Colombian painter and sculptor. (And if you stay at Sofitel Santa Clara in Cartagena, there’s a sculpture in the main courtyard and a painting in the best suite.) He’s the man behind the fleshy, whimsical works like the one shown here.
This free museum is not huge, but it has an excellent collection of Botero paintings. Try to see it with a guide or someone who knows how to interpret the symbolism in the works to fully appreciate the levels.
The Botero Museum is in a collection offered free each day, in the Bank of the Republic’s museum complex in Bogota’s historical Candelaria district. If you’re interested in money and its history, next door is the Casa de Moneda (Money Museum).