DESTINATION BOGOTÁ

Colombia 2014 | TOURISM | FOCUS: ELEGANCE RISES

Bogotá is showing its true face as a vibrant and cosmopolitan cultural capital.

In addition to being the national capital, Bogotá is Colombia's primary economic and financial center. Most companies in Colombia have their headquarters in Bogotá, and it is home to most of the international concerns doing business in the country. Most of the destinations that visitors are drawn to are found in the central and northern areas of the city. The picturesque historic district, La Candelaria, and most of the grand churches and architecture, are located in these neighborhoods. To the east of the city, the mountains offer a stunning natural backdrop. Norte is the most modern upmarket area, boasting gentrified neighborhoods, important commercial centers, and shopping malls; a wide choice of restaurants and bars and nightlife are in the zona rosa quarter. Centro is Bogotá's most important commercial, cultural, political, and financial zone.

Bogotá is awash with beautiful and sophisticated sights and distractions. The Catedral Primada de Bogotá, located on the main Bolívar Square, is a well-known neoclassical landmark, and is thought to have been built on the site where the first Catholic Mass may have been celebrated after Bogotá was founded in 1538. The emerald trade is a huge traditional business in Bogotá, as evidenced by the popularity of both the Emerald Market and Emerald Museum; the latter is located on the top floor of the Avianca Skyscraper, and offers sweeping views of the city and the La Candelaria district. The Gold Museum has an impressive collection of golden and pre-Colombian artifacts from all around Latin America, as well as an unparalleled collection of indigenous artwork.

The world class Museo Botero collection holds over 3,000 paintings, sculptures and an impressive array of Colombian and internationally recognized art works from the 16th century to the present. Named after Colombia's most influential painter, Botero donated a major part of his collection to the museum under the condition that the public would always have free admittance.

Known for everything from its fresh ceviche to its famous steak houses, there are certain standards of Colombian cuisine that no visitor should miss. The arepa is a typical breakfast or snack food found in Bogotá and is a flat, round, bread roll made from cornmeal or unleavened flour. Stuffed or garnished with cheese, steak, chicken, eggs, or chorizo, it is then grilled, baked, or fried. Another local favorite is ajiaco, a savory traditional soup made with shredded chicken, fresh cream, potatoes, corn, and avocado.

And of course, after the business day is through, nothing helps lift the spirits like a taste of Colombia's national drink, aguardiente (firewater). Derived from sugarcane and flavored with aniseed, Colombian aguardiente is an alternative to rum-based cocktails, which are also very popular.

Truly emerging as a world-class destination, Bogotá embodies the sense of optimism and renewal that has blossomed alongside the peace process and the framework of economic growth Colombia is currently experiencing. Overlook it at your own peril.