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Fact File

Capital: Bogotá

Major cities: Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena de Indias, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Santa Marta

Currency: Colombian peso COP $

Population: 52.5 million (2024 estimate)

Official language: Spanish (castellano)

Demonym in Spanish: colombiano

Image ©LanguagesonaPlate



Image ©LanguagesonaPlate


Bogota (Bogotá in Spanish), the capital of Colombia, and its most populous city, stands as a hub of art and culture that intertwines indigenous heritage with Spanish colonial influence. 

While there were indigenous groups, namely the Muisca, who lived in the region prior to the Spanish colonisation of the area, in 1538, after understanding its strategic position the Spanish Conquistadors founded the city, under the name Santa Fe de Bogotá.

After being established by the Spanish colonisers, the city quickly rose to being one of the most important administrative centres in the Spanish colonies. It soon became the capital of the Spanish colony, the Viceroyalty of New Granada (modern day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama). As such, its importance and subsequence wealth grew. 

After Colombia gained its independence from Spain in the 1800s, the city, much like the nation, underwent significant change and upheaval as it tried to define its identity and assert its sovereignty. One symbolic change was that the city became known as just Bogotá, to symbolise a detachment from Spain.

In the modern era, Bogotá has sought to define its identity through institutions such as the Gold Museum. While gold historically symbolised Spain's quest for wealth in the Americas, the museum focuses on pre-Columbian artefacts, reflecting Colombia's evolving sense of self.

Moreover, Bogotá has emerged as a beacon of cultural excellence, attracting artistic talent from various fields. The Botero Museum, dedicated to Medellín-born artist Fernando Botero, showcases works of art from the country's most famous artist, while the city itself is a canvas adorned with vibrant murals.

Cartagena de Indias


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Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias (sometimes informally referred to as Cartagena), Colombia's jewel on its Caribbean Coast, is a city steeped in history and importance. 

Similarly to many sites in the Hispanic America, there was a local indigenous population in the area before the Spanish colonised, and the city of Cartagena was founded on top of a Calamarí tribe's settlement in 1533.

During Spain's colonial period, the city emerged as a strategic port as it was from where Spain exported its treasures from its South American colonies. Not surprisingly, this attracted unwanted visitors to the area in the form of pirates from Spain's competitors, England and France.

As a result of the frequent attacks from their European rivals, the Spanish Crown commissioned walls to be built around the city, which still stand to this day. The construction on these walls started in 1614, and give the city's historic centre its nickname, la Ciudad Amurallada


Following Colombia's Declaration of Independence in 1810, Cartagena witnessed many bloody attacks as Spain tried to keep hold of its colony. However, the city was greatly impacted by the conflict, and was neglected in the initial post-independence era, meaning that it took a long time to recover. However, in modern times, Cartagena's historic centre has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its colonial architecture attracts numerous tourists to the country.




Medellin (Medellín in Spanish), Colombia's second city, has a fascinating recent history. Although the city does have a historic past, its journey into being globally recognised really started in the 20th Century when coffee exportation (and businesses associated with it) propelled it into being one of the most important cities in Latin America.

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Unfortunately, Medellin's positive trajectory took a negative turn in the 1980s with an influx of drug-related gang violence, notably through Pablo Escobar (as recently depicted by Netflix's Narcos). As a consequence, the city was one of the most dangerous cities in the West, and synonymous with violence up until Escobar's death in 1993.

Following this uneasy period, Medellin (and the nation as a whole) has gone above above and beyond to improve the quality of life in the city and project that improved image to the rest of the world, reclaiming the narrative surrounding it. As such, the city has undergone a sort of cultural renaissance, with Medellin now being one of the hotspots of Spanish-language music, with major artists, Karol G, J Balvin, Sebastián Yatra and Maluma all hailing from the city.

In addition to its recent musical success, the city is renowned as the birthplace of Colombia's most celebrated artist, Botero, whose larger-than-life sculptures and paintings reflect the city's vibrant spirit and creative soul. Many of his works can be seen adorning its galleries and squares, adding a distinctive image to Medellin's urban landscape and reinforcing its cultural identity as a hub of artistic expression.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the city's Feria de las Flores (flower festival), held annually in Medellin, is perhaps Colombia's most well-known festival internationally. It is a celebration that embodies the city's vibrant culture and is often associated with its nickname, "la primavera eterna" (the eternal spring), symbolising both its floral abundance and ongoing development.

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