Enormous and austere, Bogota’s broad, bricked central plaza was designed in 1553 to be the gathering place for tens of thousands at the hub of the federal government. Then, known simply as the Plaza Mayor, “Main Plaza,” and home to the city market, it is a classic example of monumental Spanish civil engineering. The city’s heart is surrounded by its most important edifices: the soaring neoclassical national cathedral; the appropriately federalist capitol building; French neoclassical Edificio Liévano, seat of city government; and the ultra-modern stylized arches of the imposing Palace of Justice, most recently rebuilt after a 1985 terrorist attack.
At the center of it all is Simon Bolivar, a statue erected in 1846 to honor the man who liberated so much of South America from the Spanish.
Unless there’s a festival or political rally the enormous brick expanse is fairly quiet, quickly crisscrossed by crisply suited officials talking seriously into cell phones, vendors selling snacks, souvenirs, and photos with adorably outfitted llamas, and the constant thrum of pigeon wings as great flocks whirl around endlessly. The people watching is outstanding and you’re a stones’ throw from a dozen museums, churches and other attractions well worth seeing.