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What is Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá, Colombia?

Plaza de Bolívar is the true centre of Bogotá and lots of its activities. Most congregations usually happen at Plaza Bolívar, even any marching protests, the goal is to get to the Plaza. The size of Plaza Bolívar is 13,903 square metres (149,650 square feet) and can hold approximately 55,600 people.

Be sure to make sure there is no protest before going because it is not a place that you would want to be when something big is going on. Throughout this article you will see different photos of how Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá looks.

Related: Things to do in Bogotá

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Where is Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá?

The good thing about Bogotá is that the street numbers are incremental from the center to the North. They refer to streets South to North as “calle” and those East to West as “carrera”.

This method is very helpful especially for someone like me with no sense of direction to figure out where somewhere is or the general area it may be in just from the number of the calle or Carrera. It took a while to get the hang of it but definitely a lot easier once you get acquainted with the names of different areas.

Plaza de Bolívar is in La Candeleria with the exact address being Cra. 7 #11-10, La Candelaria, Bogotá, Colombia. The streets surrounding the square are Calle 10 (south), Calle 11 (north), Carrera 7 (east) and Carrera 8 (west).

Related: Monserrate, Bogotá

Below is the map location to Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá:

History and Facts: Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá

Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá has a rich history that spans hundreds of years. Plaza de Bolívar was first known as La Plaza Mayor. After independence, the name changed to La Plaza de la Constitución. From 1846, the name changed Plaza de Bolívar which most people refer to today as simply Plaza Bolívar.

But where did this name come from? General Simón Bolívar who fought against the Spanish for Colombian independence.

Simón Bolívar is significant in South America as having fought for the independence of many South American countries from the Spanish Empire. Many of these countries remember Simón Bolívar in a similar way with a “Plaza de Bolívar”.

Related: Botanical Garden, Bogotá

The history of Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá is as follows:

1538 – construction of a stone column, La Picota. This was a location for punishment for nearly half a century

1681 – erection of a water fountain for locals to collect water and the Plaza was used as a market, circus, bullfights, and other events

1776- incineration of the Viceroy’s Palace

1806 – the first trained architect of Bogotá began building the first Cathedral of Colombia on the eastern area of the Plaza as can be seen today

1842 – construction of the Congress of the Republic Headquarters, National Capitol (Capitolio Nacional). The location coincided with where the Viceroy’s Palace was burned at the south of the plaza.

National Capitol / Capitolio Nacional (South)

1861 – ban of food sales

1876 – replacing the water fountain by a bronze statue of General Simón Bolívar who the Plaza was named after. This was also Bogotá’s first public monument.

Simón Bolívar Statue

1881 – construction of English-style garden around the statue

1883 – installation of four water fountains

1890s – people of Bogotá used the steps of the Church for socialising

1900 – a fire destroyed Galerías Arrubla

1905 – completion of Liévano Palace (Palacio Liévano) to the west of the plaza

1927 – converting the town to a city by mounting fountains with lights

1948 the killing of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán , turning the square into a location to burn trams and used as a trench for the army. These riots were referred to as “El Bogotazo”.

1960 – the final remodel of the square, as can be seen today. The city then grew with the Plaza de Bolívar at the center. This center is where the most respected persons lived as opposed to those who lived further away.

1998 – construction of Palace of Justice (Palacio de Justicia) to the north of the plaza

Related: Salt Cathedral, Zipaquirá

Palace of Justice / Palacio de Justicia (North)

Entrance Fee/Ticket Prices for Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá?

There’s not much to say here because the entrance fee is absolutely free. But you do want to keep some change handy in case you see anything you want to buy from any vendors around or if you want to take any photos with people in costume.

When to Go and What to Do at Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá?

You can go any day and see most of the below except for the Sunday Market.

(i) See the Church – Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción y San Pedro de Colombia.

(ii) See the Simón Bolívar Statue

(iii) Feed pigeons – there are lots of pigeons in this area and there are people who sell food for less than $5,000 Colombian pesos (US$1.30). 

(iv) Food – there are several stalls around the plaza with things like corn, juice, and fruits. If you go on a Sundays, there are far more options including obleahs (customisable wafers which is something very traditional to Bogotá).

Obleahs

(v) Llama – sometimes there are llamas for kids to ride.

(vi) Sunday Street Market – this is the best and worst day to go. Sundays have the most vendors which allows you to see so much more. However, it is very busy which makes it a high risk location for pick-pockets. Sunday at Plaza de Bolívar, I’d recommend you be on highest alert and awareness (other than anything at night of course).

I took a few friends to the Sunday market at Plaza de Bolívar and one of the guys left his wallet in his back pocket. Walking behind, I saw someone with his hand outstretched reaching towards his pocket. I felt like I was watching in slow motion because somehow I reached my friend in time, interlocked our arms, and pulled him closer to me to block his pocket.

Thankfully the person about to steal the wallet disappeared and we were unharmed. But this is definitely not the place to let your guard down. It is totally fine to go but here are some recommendations I have for staying safe in Bogotá

Events at Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá

Aside from everything within the Plaza and around it, you can easily spend a day or more exploring it all. However, be sure to note when anything big is happening in Bogotá, because it is likely to happen here. As I mentioned, Sunday in Plaza de Bolívar are very busy so be sure to be prepared for this. Look up any protests to make sure they are not happening the day you plan to go as they usually all meet at this center spot.

Related: Best Cities in South America

What Else Can You Do Close to Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá?

Since Plaza de Bolívar is the center of everything in Bogotá, there is a lot around it to visit.

(i) La Candeleria – this is a popular area in Bogotá to see the Spanish architecture, colourful houses, and beautiful graffiti. There is a tram tour that can drive you around.

(ii) Museums – there are a few museums near Plaza de Bolívar that you can go and explore as well including Museo Botero, Museo de Oro, and Museo Internacional de la Esmeralda.

(iii) Parque de los Periodistas / Journalists’ Park

Journalist’s Park

Related: Things to do in Bogotá

What to Wear to Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá?

I would suggest dressing in layers for anywhere you go in Bogotá because the weather can change quickly and rain can just come out of nowhere. For anything outdoors in Bogotá, always have an umbrella.

The first time I went to Plaza de Bolívar, it was rainy the entire time and it is not really a place where finding shelter is easy unless you go into a store. I’d recommend jeans, a t-shirt, a waterproof jacket with a hood, a comfortable pair of sneakers, and an umbrella.

It’s easier to take off layers than wish you had more. Make sure to not have anything in your back pockets as this is a major place for pick-pocketing simply because there are often crowds (depending on the day) as with any big city.

Related: Jaime Duque, Bogotá

Is Bogotá Safe?

I get this question a lot about safety in Bogotá so I have written a separate post dedicated just to safety. The basic being no dar papaya and more safety tips for Bogotá that I learned as I travelled throughout Bogotá, many times as a solo female.

Conclusion to Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá

Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá is rich with history from even before Colombia was independent. This deep history is known by most in Bogotá and still forms part of their habits today, including the Sunday market and using this location as the pinnacle spot for protests. Plaza de Bolívar is definitely somewhere you cannot miss the next time you’re in Bogotá. Did you know the history behind this famous plaza?

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13 thoughts on “A Guide and Short History of the Remarkable Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá  

  1. Would love to see more of Colombia, as I have only really been to Cartagena. Bogota’s architecture looks pretty cool!

  2. Enjoyed reading about the history of the plaza. The Sunday market, while busy, would be interesting to experience. And I would definitely try one of those wafer snacks! Would love to go to Colombia one day.

  3. Looks like a beautiful spot to explore! The obleahs also sound delicious. Also – nice move blocking the pick pocketer, you sound like the best person to travel with!

  4. The architecture of the plaza is spectacular. I would love to visit on a Sunday when there are more vendors and it’s busier. Since I travel solo, I would have to be more careful and leave my purse behind.

  5. Plaza Bolivar looks like an amazing place to check out! I love that entrance is free, because that gives me more money to spend on all of that amazing street food. Great to know it’s also close to La Candelaria to check out afterwards.

  6. I love a destination with history and it seems like there is no shortage here! Colombia is such a unique place and I’ll definitely be saving your recommendations for my next trip.

  7. Thanks for this fascinating history of Plaza de Bolívar. It sounds like such an interesting place to visit! I’d love to see it in person one day!

  8. We had family that lived in Bogata for many years and we never got a chance to visit. But they always spoke so highly of their time there. One day we will visit and see the Plaza de Bolivar. Interesting to read about this history of this spot. And to see all the changes over the year. Good warning about the risks of visiting on the Sunday market day!

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