Housed in a former prison originally designed by British architect Thomas Reed, the Museo Nacional holds a rich collection of of over twenty thousand artefacts designed to chart Colombia’s history from the pre-Colombian period right through to the present day. The colonial rooms are especially interesting, touching on Colombian social change and slavery during the era, and include an interesting section on the development of the Spanish language in Colombia. There’s also a good art collection with important works by Botero and Obregón, and the museum frequently hosts exhibitions. Past ones have focussed on Picasso, Rembrandt and the Terracotta Army. Entry to the permanent collection is free, while there's usually a fee for temporary exhibitions.
In the Candelaria district, the delightful Museo Botero doesn’t only contain works by the Colombian artist himself. Drawing on Botero’s large hoard of mostly impressionist art, the museum offers up one of the best collections on the continent and includes works by Pissarro, Monet and Degas. It also contains a sizeable chunk of Botero’s own painting, so well known in Colombia for its depiction of bloated figures. Entry is free.
Close by, the Museo del Oro ranks among the country’s top museums, and contains some genuinely beautiful examples of pre-Columbian gold art. The collection is worth more the $200 million in weight alone, and is priceless in its current form. There’s a comprehensive explanation of the various processes used to forge the artifacts, some of which were incredibly advanced for their era. Not only does the collection present a beguiling example of the beauty of non-European art, but also throws light on life and culture in Colombia prior to its conquest by the Spanish. The undisputed highlight is the Muisca raft, a golden diorama illustrating the investiture ceremony of a Muisca tribal chief which is stunning in its detail. Free on Sundays.