Sights

Centre

The shady
Plaza Bolívar
, with its fine equestrian statue of the Liberator and pleasant colonial cathedral, is still the official centre of the city, though no longer geographically so. Much of its colonial surroundings is being restored. In the
Capitolio Nacional
, the Elliptical Salon has some impressive paintings and murals by the Venezuelan artist Martín Tovar y Tovar and a bronze urn with the 1811 Declaration of Independence, which was signed here. The present
Cathedral
dating from 1674 has a beautiful façade, the Bolívar family chapel and paintings by Michelena, Murillo and an alleged Rubens 'Resurrection'. Bolívar was baptized in this Cathedral and the remains of his parents and wife are kept here.

The
Consejo Municipal
(City Hall) on Plaza Bolívar contains three
museums
: a collection of the paintings of Emilio Boggio, a Venezuelan painter; the Raúl Santana Museum of the Creole Way of Life, a collection of miniature figures in costumes, all handmade by Raúl Santana; and the Sala de Arqueología Gaspar Marcano, exhibiting ceramics, mostly discovered on the coast.

Casa Natal del Libertador
, is a fascinating reconstruction of the house where Bolívar was born (24 July 1783). Interesting pictures and furniture and murals tell Bolívar's life story. The first house, of adobe, was destroyed by an earthquake. The second became a stable, and was later pulled down. The
Museo Bolivariano
is alongside the Casa Natal and contains the Liberator's war relics.

San Francisco
, the oldest church in Caracas, rebuilt 1641, should be seen for its colonial altars.
Santa Teresa
, has good interior chapels and a supposedly miraculous portrait of Nazareno de San Pablo (popular devotions on Good Friday).

Panteón Nacional
. The remains of Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, lie here in the Plaza Panteón. The tomb of Francisco Miranda (the Precursor of Independence), who died in a Spanish prison, has been left open to await the return of his body, likewise the tomb of Antonio José de Sucre, who was assassinated in Colombia. Every 25 years the President opens Bolívar's casket to verify that the remains are still there. Daniel O'Leary, Bolívar's Irish aide-de camp, is buried alongside.

Museo Histórico Fundación John Boulton
. Previously in La Guaira, this museum contains many historical items, a small art collection and a library of
19th-century research, historical archives and commercial records of the Casa Boulton (e
asy access).

Museo de Arte Colonial
, www.quintadeanauco.org.ve, is a delightful house in the beautiful suburb of San Bernardino. Built in 1720 it was formerly the residence of the Marqués del Toro. The museum holds cultural events and chamber concerts most Saturdays and Sundays.

Sabana Grande and east of the centre

In the
Parque Central
, a concrete jungle complex between Avenida Lecuna (east end) and the elevated section of Avenida Bolívar, there are two, run-down octagonal towers (56 floors each - ask the security guard to let you go up to the roof, leave passport and they will guide you, not Monday) and four large, shabby apartment blocks with cafés, shops and Cantv centres below. Four museums are located here:
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
. It has some 3,000 works on display, including modern sculptures and the works by, among others, Miró, Chagall and Matisse. There is a room devoted to Picasso. The
Museo de los
 Niños
, www.curiosikid.com, is an extremely popular and highly sophisticated interactive science museum. Also in the Parque Central complex, is the
Museo del Teclado
(Museum of Keyboard Instruments).

Parque Los Caobos
is peaceful, with fountains, and has a cafeteria in the middle. By the entrance in Avenida México is the cultural centre,
Ateneo de Caracas
, with a cinema, theatre, art gallery, concert room, bookshop and the imposing
Teresa Carreño theatre
complex.
Museo de
Bellas Artes
, www.fmn.gob.ve/fmn_mba.htm, the oldest museum in Caracas, designed by Carlos Raúl Villanueva. It contains works by mainly Venezuelan and South American artists. Adjacent is the
Galería de Arte Nacional
, www.fmn.gob.ve/fmn_gan.htm, displays
the history of Venezuelan art and also houses the
Cinemateca Nacional
.
Museo de Ciencias Naturales
, www.fmn.gob.ve/fmn_mc.htm, has archaeological,
particularly pre- Columbian, zoological and botanical exhibits, interesting temporary shows.

Jardín Botánico
, is worth a visit, with extensive plant collections and a small area of
'natural forest'. Here you can see the world's largest palm tree (
Corypha Sp
) and the Elephant A
pple with its huge edible fruit. You need permission to take photographs.

Parque Nacional del Este
, is a popular place to relax, especially at weekends. There is a boating lake, a replica of Columbus' Santa María (being renovated since 1991), the Humboldt Planetarium, a number of different sunken lakes featuring caiman and turtles, monkeys, a
caged jaguar and a Harpy Eagle in an upsetting small cage, many types of water birds as well as a terrarium.
Museo de Transporte
,
has a large collection o
f locomotives and old cars.

Other parks

The densely wooded
Parque Caricuao
, is at the southwest end of the Metro line, and forms part of the Parque Nacional Macuro. A pleasant day out. At the foot of the Avila mountain, the
Parque Los Chorros
 has impressive waterfalls and forest walks.
El Calvario
, west of El Silencio, with the Arch of Confederation at the entrance, has a good view of Centro Simón Bolívar, but muggings have been reported. It has a small Museo Ornitológico, botanical gardens and a picturesque chapel.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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