Colombia‘s architecture is a heady mix of historic and modern, and has been heavily influenced by the styles of other countries, most notably Spain and Britain. While the big cities feature some striking buildings, the rural towns have plenty of lesser-known gems, too. Here’s our selection of the most historical landmarks in Colombia – and the stories behind them.
Monserrate is a mountain overlooking the east side of Bogotá, above La Candelaria neighbourhood, which rises to 3,152 metres above sea level. Its beautiful neo-Gothic church (Basílica Santuario del Señor de Monserrate), built between 1650-1657, can be seen for miles around and is considered one of the city’s most treasured landmarks. The mountain was considered a sacred place by the native inhabitants of the city, a people called Muisca. You can reach the top in an hour on foot, or, if you’d rather avoid the steep ascent, you can take the funicular or cable car.
Plaza Bolívar has been Bogotá’s main square since pre-Columbian times, and used to be the site of a public circus and bull market. It’s surrounded by elaborately crafted buildings such as the Primatial Cathedral of Bogotá (destroyed by several earthquakes in previous centuries, and re-constructed between 1807 and 1823 by descendants of Jesuit missionaries), and the Palacio Liévano. These are some of the country’s most iconic landmarks, and a must-visit on any Colombia trip.
The historic centre of Popayán contains some of Colombia’s finest examples of colonial architecture, such as the churches of San Francisco and La Ermita. The city was founded by Sebastian de Belalcázar in 1537, and was once an important stop-off point for travellers and delivery drivers driving between Cartagena and Quito. Aesthetically, it retains many of the same features since that time. It’s also a Unesco-recognised city of gastronomy; head to La Fresa to try the best empanaditas (small, potato-filled empanadas served with spicy peanut sauce).
Casa Terracota is a house created by architect and environmentalist Octavio Mendoza. It was crafted from clay hardened in the sunlight and is effectively the biggest piece of pottery in the world. It is open to visitors, and has to be seen to be believed.