Centro Internacional

Centro Internacional, Bogota, Colombia (A)

Some of Bogota's top cultural and tourist attractions are found in the Centro Internacional area. The Museo Nacional and the Museo de Arte Moderno are two of Colombia's top museums. Art galleries and cozy restaurants bring charm to the Macarena neighborhood. Iconic architecture such as the planetarium, bullfighting ring, Torres del Parque and the imposing Colpatria Tower complete the tour.
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Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: Centro Internacional
Guide Location: Colombia » Bogota
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 3.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 9.4 Km or 5.8 Miles
Author: Andrew Dier
Author Bio: Originally from Florida, I have lived in Colombia for over eight years.
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Museo Nacional
  • Carrera Séptima
  • Planetario
  • Plaza de Toros Santamaría
  • Torres del Parque
  • Macarena Neighborhood
  • Parque de la Independencia
  • Torre Colpatria
  • Cementerio Central
Museo Nacional

1) Museo Nacional

Colombia’s National Museum was designed by English architect Thomas Reed in the late 1800s to serve as the penitentiary for Cundinamarca, at that time one of nine states of the United States of Colombia. Reed, who also designed the Capitolio Nacional on the Plaza de Bolívar, had arrived in Bogotá from Venezuela after designing another prison near Caracas. Like that one, the Cundinamarca Penitentiary was also a panopticon, a prison with a central tower where guards could monitor all prisoners without them noticing it. The cross shaped design served the province (and later department) for over 70 years, when prisoners were moved to La Picota in the south of the city in 1946. The National Museum, which had been established in 1823 – it is one of the oldest museums in Latin America - was then moved to that sight on the Carrera Séptima. The museum’s permanent collection covers the pre-Columbian cultures from the area, tells the story of the Conquest, has somewhat dull collections of portraits of “dead white men” who fought or governed in the country following independence and a sampling of modern art from Colombia’s masters. Temporary exhibits on the ground floor are often more interesting. These often showcase Colombian artists or touring exhibitions from abroad such as China’s “Terra Cotta Warriors.” The museum store has the usual mix of posters, books and knick knacks and Juan Valdez Café recently began brewing in the beautiful courtyard.
Carrera Séptima

2) Carrera Séptima

Under Spanish rule, this thoroughfare in what was then known as Santa Fe was called the Calle Real. Spend anytime whatsoever in the Colombian capital and you will become quite familiar with today’s Carrera Séptima – Seventh Avenue. Connecting the northern neighborhoods with the historic center, some of Bogota’s most important points of interest are along the avenue: the Plaza de Bolívar, the Gold Museum, the Parque Nacional. It is also where peace marches, the gay pride parade, the Sunday Ciclovia and the Septimazo, sort of a Friday street party, take place. Further downtown the Séptima is a bustling place on weekdays, if you want some sensory overload you could make a detour from this tour after MAMBO and walk on towards the Gold Museum. So many people: shoelace vendors, destitute elderly people begging, caricaturists, lottery ticket sellers, indigenous families selling trinkets, blood pressure checkers, bank employees and government bureaucrats, Catholic faithful returning from mass, shoe shiners, the occasional prostitute, mimes, mobile tinto guys, European backpackers, police searching young men looking for drugs or weapons. Dull it isn’t. Local media like to call the Séptima “emblematic” but with the congestion, fumes and noise you could be forgiven if you call it horrible. But there is hope yet for the Séptima. Intense debate has raged in Bogotá for years on how to improve it and it now appears that, after costly studies and intense political rancor, a TransMilenio line will finally be constructed at least from downtown to Calle 72.

3) Planetario

The retro Bogotá planetarium was built in the late 1960s, a productive time for the city when architectural icons, centers of culture and parks, including the massive Parque Simón Bolívar, were built. The planetarium is a popular field trip destination for Bogotá schoolchildren, attracting over 200,000 each year. By the end of 2011, the new Museo del Espacio (Space Museum) will open its doors in the same building. The terrace café in the planetarium overlooking the Parque del Centenario is a nice place to watch the goings on along the busy Séptima. Be sure to say hello to the statue of Copernicus outside.
Plaza de Toros Santamaría

4) Plaza de Toros Santamaría

Just across from the Planetarium stands the bullfighting ring. It was built in the 1930s, designed by a Spanish architect, following a “neo-mudejar” design that had been used in the construction of the old bull-fighting ring in Madrid. Bullfighting arrived in Colombia in the 16th century and despite its colonial legacy, it continued as a Colombian tradition after independence. Anti-bullfighting protesters gather religiously every Sunday along the Avenida Séptima during bullfighting season (January-February) chanting, “No más olé!” During the rest of the year the venue is used for concerts, productions of the Ibero-Americano Festival de Teatro and has even hosted Davis Cup tennis matches.
Torres del Parque

5) Torres del Parque

Steps up from the bullfighting ring and planetarium are the iconic and perfectly integrated Torres del Parque. Take your time- it's a steep climb! These three brick apartment buildings, rising parallel to the eastern mountains, were designed by Rogelio Salmona, Bogota's most accomplished architect. Salmona grew up and studied in Bogotá, but returned to his native Paris to work under Le Corbusier. He was recognized with the Alvar Aalto Prize in 2003 for his lifetime achievements. Built in the late 1960s, the towers were originally conceived to be middle-class housing and built to complement the adjacent bullfighting ring. Many intellectuals, professors, artists and the architect himself became residents of the 300 or so apartments. Public space takes up almost ¾ of the area and art galleries (such as Mundo), atmospheric bodegas (Soluciones) and cafes (Andante Pan y Café) occupy the ground floors of the towers. Cross over to the next sight - the Macarena - at the pedestrian crosswalk at Calle 26A.
Macarena Neighborhood

6) Macarena Neighborhood

For this introduction to the Macarena, you'll make a loop of the neighborhood. Walk north along Carrera 5, take a right up Calle 27, take a right along Carrera 4A, then a right down Calle 26 and cross the Quinta again at Calle 26A to go to the next sight. "Bohemian." That's how the Macarena neighborhood is described in guidebooks. "Buzzing" is how the New York Times called it in a recent article. Those descriptions may be a little over-enthusiastic. But it is true that this grungy-ish barrio has character. It's home to quite a few artists, starving college students and a considerable number of foreigners. It's also one of the city's art gallery districts: three of the best known are the Galeria Mundo, Valenzuela Klenner, the new N-ce and the Alonso Garcés. After a few evenings in flashy restaurants in the north of the city, the laid-back Macarena dining and drinking scene along the Carrera 4a and Calle 29 is quite refreshing. Look out for the Lebanese joint Al Wabi, Colombia's only Serbian restaurant (Beograd) and the hip food and drinks spot Enobra. If you'd like you can take a quick detour continuing south on Carrera 4a to the green enclave of the Bosque Izquierdo neighborhood built in the 1930s.
Parque de la Independencia

7) Parque de la Independencia

Meander down, once again through the Torres del Parque and along the park pathways. This park, an oasis of tranquility in the busy downtown of Bogotá, has long been a favorite for young lovers and those seeking a pleasant stroll under the towering eucalyptus trees. It was created in 1910 in celebration of the country’s centennial of independence from Spain. In commemoration of this occasion, a fair was held in the new park with kiosks built throughout: the industry kiosk, fine arts kiosk, Japanese kiosk, Egyptian kiosk, music kiosk and the light kiosk. This last one, the Quiosko de la Luz, is the only one that remains and is today used as a tourist information center. A statue of the Liberator as well as various poets, some now decapitated because of vandalism or falling branches, dot the landscape under towering palms. The park is undergoing a major expansion with the construction of a Parque del Bicentenario (it was to be completed in 2010). This exciting project will bring greenspace above the TransMilenio line on the Calle 26 all the way to the Cementerio Central. There should be easy access to MAMBO directly from the park, but as of this writing, head down to the Séptima and walk towards downtown.


Next to the National Library, the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá (MAMBO) was designed by, you guessed it: Rogelio Salmona. The museum has hosted many provocative exhibits in the past, including an exhibit on the violence in Colombia as portrayed by peasants and soldiers (La Guerra Que No Hemos Visto) and retospectives on noteworthy Colombian and Latin American artists. Independent films are often shown in the small cinema, and the museum also has a cafe and bookstore. If able to raise enough funds, the museum is hoping to triple its size in the near future, adding on to the current building with another design created by Salmona, who passed away in 2007.
Torre Colpatria

9) Torre Colpatria

In all likelihood, your discovery of Bogotá has been limited to just a tiny sliver of the metropolis, along the Séptima from the historic center to the shopping and dining areas in the north of the city. But if you take the elevator up to the observation deck at the Torre Colpatria, you will see just how massive sprawling Bogotá has become. The city has nearly tripled in size since the 1970s, thanks unfortunately in part to the armed conflict and violence throughout much of Colombia. This stunning 360-degree view is open to the public on weekends and holidays. For many, this vista of the city is superior to that of Monserrate. The 47-floor tower remains, for now at least, the country's tallest building. As you might have suspected, it was constructed in the 1970s and is the headquarters of the Colpatria bank. Each year the tower holds a popular race to the top and back that attracts hundreds. And at night the building switches into full disco mode, with multicolored lights making it the most festive building in town by far. The best way to get to the next sight, the cemetery, is along Calle 26 (El Dorado).
Cementerio Central

10) Cementerio Central

Many of Colombia's most famous political, cultural and business figures are buried at the national cemetery, on Calle 26. Before the cemetery was built in 1830, distinguished persons were buried in churches adhering to Spanish tradition. Of the many notable personalities resting here are Francisco Paula Santander, who is known as Colombia’s Thomas Jefferson; Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, a military dictator from the 1950s; Luis Carlos Galán, a Liberal presidential candidate – and enemy of Pablo Escobar - who was assassinated in 1989; and Leo Kopp, the German founder of the Bavaria brewery. Kopp is said to grant wishes, making his tomb a place of pilgrimage for some. There is also a part of the cemetery where thousands of victims from the Bogotazo riots from April 1948 are buried, many of them listed as “N.N.” – no name. Adjacent to the cemetery is a remarkable art installation "Auras Anonimas" by well-known Colombian artist Beatriz González. She created this reflection on the Colombian violence and an homage to the dead in 2009 in a columbarium that had been abandoned and was set to be razed. González painted figures carrying the dead in a variety of ways on nearly 9,000 of these empty niches. Plans are underway to construct a Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliación, which would be the first national memorial to all victims of violence in Colombia. Neighboring the cemetery are the English, German and Jewish cemeteries and the Parque Renacamiento, that is adorned with a bronze sculpture "Man on a Horse," donated by Fernando Botero.

Walking Tours in Bogota, Colombia

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Bogota Old Town Walking Tour

In 1538, the indigenous Muisca of the Colombian Altiplano had the advantage in numbers over the force of conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada. Arriving in the Muisca Federation, the Spanish had only 162 exhausted men. However, the guecha warriors of Chief Tisquesusa were no match. The Federation fell in bloody battle.

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Bogota Shopping Tour

Bogota Shopping Tour

Colombia is known for its gold and emeralds, recognizable national clothing, pottery, accessories, and other crafts. The country's capital Bogota is so rich in authentic shopping that it's almost mind-boggling to decide what to buy first and most importantly, where to buy it at the best possible price!

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Architectural Jewels

Architectural Jewels

Bogota, Colombia, is quite a city for an architectural experience. Attentive to the local historical heritage, the city has managed to preserve in full splendor most of its colonial buildings.

One such gem is the Palace (or House) of Nariño, the official residence of the President of Colombia. Its grandeur and historical significance make it a prominent landmark.

Not far away from it...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles

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