Bogotá, Colombia’s vibrant capital city, is a museum-lover’s paradise, with upwards of 50 museums covering every imaginable aspect of Colombian culture. So far, we’ve made it to two museums in Bogotá: the world-famous Gold Museum (or in Spanish “El Museo del Oro”), and the National Museum, which we stumbled on quite by accident on a New Year’s Eve stroll through downtown Bogotá.
Museo del Oro
Ask visitors to name their favorite museums in Bogotá, and they’ll always say, “Don’t miss the Gold Museum!” It’s the showcase for more than 55,000 priceless archaeological and artistic treasures from each of Colombia’s many pre-Colombian indigenous groups. We’re told that only a fraction of the artifacts can be displayed at any one time, and it’s the largest collection of its type in the world. It took us almost four hours to go through all of the exhibits, and the audio tour is well worth it, adding details that aren’t available in the exhibits themselves (which are described in both Spanish and English). The museum charts the history of an incredibly rich and vibrant culture that existed before Europeans set foot in the Americas, stressing the importance of goldcraft in the daily lives of these ancient ones.
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $3 (you read that right!) with an additional $5 for the audio tour
Museo Nacional de Colombia
The National Museum is Colombia’s biggest and is also one of the oldest museums in South America, housed in the Panóptico prison built in 1823. This fortress-like building operated as a prison right up until 1946.
It’s easy to imagine the hopelessness of being incarcerated in one of the tiny cells and cellblocks, most of which have been converted to bright and airy galleries for a dazzling display of history and art exhibits from every era. There are a sizable number of Botero paintings here (if you don’t know the name Fernando Botero, he’s a living national treasure and one of Colombia’s most celebrated artists), along with pre-Colombian artifacts dating back to 10,000 BC.
We were surprised to find the museum open on New Year’s Eve, and so glad we stumbled on it. It’s an absolute must-see!
Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Admission: the bank-breaking cost of $2, free on Sundays