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Colombian Culture and Arts

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Colombian Culture and Arts
Whether it’s on display in a sophisticated gallery or as street art in Bogotá, played as a sweaty salsa or a folksy tune in Barranquilla, or experienced on a colonial patio or a cutting-edge lounge in Cartagena, culture in Colombia transcends all conventional definitions.
Photo by Estefani González
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    Venerable Cartagena de Indias
    History buffs never tire of wandering downtown Cartagena with its imposing city walls, dazzling churches, quaint plazas, and intriguing museums…not to mention the city's mind-blowing Teatro Heredia, constructed in 1911 and now the site of almost innumerable cultural events, including the annual Hay Festival. Just outside the downtown area, Castillo San Felipe covers almost the whole top of 130-foot-high San Lázaro Hill—the castle figures among the most formidable fortifications the Spaniards built anywhere.
    Photo by Estefani González
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    Coffee Culture
    Up in the rolling hills of the country’s Caldas, Quindío, and Risaralda areas, the so-called Triángulo del Café contains a number of plantations that provide guest accommodations for visitors looking to get a taste of Colombia’s traditional coffee culture. If you're visiting the region, you might also consider an overnight in Salento. Founded in 1865, it is one of the nation’s quaintest and most traditional towns.
    Photo by Tom Griggs
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    Nuevo Medellín: All Are Invited
    The Metrocable system—a transit network made up of suspended cable cars that connect the city center to steep hillside neighborhoods that were once considered the city’s most dangerous—has become a proud emblem of Medellín’s post-cartel comeback. Parque Explora is another point of pride: The four huge, red cube structures, which look like monumental toys set amid verdant mountains, house a science museum. Casa de la Música, designed to foment learning and create awareness about various musical disciplines, is also part of the cultural equation that, little by little, has gone far to improve everyday life in complex, intriguing Medellín.
    Photo by Diego Berruecos
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    Bogotá’s Must-Do Museums and Galleries
    If there’s only time to visit one museum in all of Colombia, make it Bogotá's Museo del Oro. In addition to its dazzling displays culled from the museum's 34,000 gold objects, the museum draws from a collection of 20,000 clay, textile, and other artifacts that further reveal the history of Colombia’s diverse pre-Hispanic cultures. While you're in Bogotá, stop at the Museo Botero, which offers a survey of paintings and sculptures by famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero, as well as 85 works from his personal art collection, including treasures by Chagall, Picasso, Monet, and Miró. The museum’s colonial-era mansion also has an annex with contemporary Latin American and European pieces. To see edgier work, few galleries are as compelling as Galería Nueveochenta, which occupies a 1960s house restored by Colombian architect Luis Restrepo.
    Photo courtesy of Museo del Oro
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    Barranquilla for Nightcrawlers
    The pre-Lenten carnival at Barranquilla, though smaller than its Rio de Janeiro counterpart, is a boisterous blowout nonetheless, and has now been given Intangible Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO. During the rest of the year, visitors and locals relive the carnival spirit at La Cueva. Founded in 1954, it gained renown as a favorite watering hole of the so-called Barranquilla Group, which included Gabriel García Márquez; painter Enrique Grau was also a regular. Another sure bet for fun is La Troja, a no-frills, open-air bar where weekend crowds regularly spill out into the street in a veritable tornado of salsa dancing.
    Photo by Nicolás Sastoque
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    Look-At and Take-Away Art in Bogotá
    Since Bogotá relaxed local rules about street art, the hurriedly produced graffiti that used to cover walls in some neighborhoods have been replaced by beautiful murals of vivid color and pleasing forms, so don’t miss taking a graffiti tour on foot or on bike. Another kind of street-level art—one that includes artisanal handicrafts—can be found in the antique dealers’ stalls in the Calle 80 area, or at the Sunday Usaquén Market, whose namesake neighborhood retains a small-town feel, right down to a charming central plaza and parish church.
    Photo by Alejandra Cardona