Many people pass through Caracas, Venezuela, on their way to other destinations in the country, such as Angel Falls, Margarita Island, or Los Roques National Park. However, there are numerous things to do in the capital city, and visitors will come across everything from some of Latin America's highest skyscrapers to a colonial and historic center around Plaza Bolívar, the heart of the city. It is well worth adding some days in Caracas to your itinerary. You'll have a chance to see beautiful landscapes, whether you ride a cable car into the mountains, swim in a waterfall, or stroll around beloved historic cathedrals and buildings.
Take the usual safety precautions for any large city in South America, such as keeping valuables hidden, avoiding walking alone at night (particularly on dark streets), and traveling in groups when possible. By being prepared, most travelers have hassle-free trips.
For spectacular views of the city and the mountains, ride one of the world's longest telefericos (cable cars) to the top of Cerro El Ávila, an approximately 20-minute drive from Caracas. On clear days, you can see the Caribbean Sea from the mountaintop. The park's forests are home to many butterflies, birds, and orchids, including the country's national flower, the Easter orchid.
While visiting the park, enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants or shop for handcrafted souvenirs. If you seek something more adventurous, try zip-lining, rock climbing, or camping. Take a sweater or a jacket, for it can be cool where the cable car reaches a height of about 7,005 feet (2,135 meters).
The Panteón Nacional, formerly a church, became the resting place for prominent Venezuelans in the 1870s. Located in the northern part of the old town in Caracas, the site's ceremonial changing of the guard is worth seeing. The central nave is dedicated to Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan known as El Libertador (The Liberator), famous for directing the secession of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama from the Spanish Empire. You'll see paintings depicting his life and accomplishments.
It's only about a 30-minute drive from Caracas to El Hatillo in the southeast side of the city; the relaxing small town with a mild climate makes for a great tranquil getaway. Gorgeous colonial houses centered around a plaza have been made into bars, handicraft shops, and restaurants. If you are in the area during the last two weeks of October, you'll have a chance to see the El Hatillo Music Festival at which Venezuela’s popular musicians play rock, folk, jazz, and other styles.
Plaza Bolívar marks the spot where Diego de Losada of Spain founded the city in 1567 and serves as the vibrant civic and cultural hub of the old town, where locals, visitors, and vendors have all converged since 1874. In the plaza's corners, statues of four women represent the states of the previous Gran Colombia: Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. An equestrian statue of national hero Bolívar is another prominent plaza feature.
Public buildings like El Capitolio Nacional, La Catedral de Caracas, and the Palacio Municipal de Caracas surround the square.
With its original facade dating from the middle of the 17th century, the imposing La Catedral de Caracas grounds the Plaza Bolívar. The cathedral has had an interesting history of various renovations and earthquakes. Its main altar is a magnificent Baroque creation gilded with more than 300 pounds of gold leaf.
Adjoining the cathedral in a former cemetery lies Museo Sacro de Caracas. Displaying religious statues, paintings, furniture, and colonial costumes, the small museum sometimes hosts concerts and recitals as well. The silver canopy made to cover the statue of Our Lady of the Rosary is particularly ornate.
Located at the foot of Caracas' Cerro El Ávila, Parque de Recreacion Los Chorros consists of about 9 acres (3.8 hectares) of exuberant scenery, including a natural waterfall to swim in—a rare find in a capital city park. The lush landscape spans several levels with tunnels, bridges, large trees, and benches from which to contemplate. You might encounter a variety of wildlife, including sloths, the medium-sized, rather vocal guacharaca birds, squirrels, and fish.
Centro de Arte Los Galpones in eastern Caracas is a favorite place to visit; numerous mango trees and an outdoor terrace create a tropical getaway in the middle of an urban environment. There are about 15 spaces in which to soak up local culture, including art galleries and eateries like Hache Bistro—try Venezuela's renowned arepas, round corn patties topped or filled with meat, eggs, tomatoes, or various other ingredients. The center also features book stores, and everything from tango and yoga classes to outdoor movies and concerts. Centro de Arte Los Galpones is closed on Mondays.
In a city that abundantly honors the national hero, it’s no surprise that great care is taken over the maintenance of Simón Bolívar's birthplace: a 17th century colonial central Caracas house built by his great-grandfather. The visitor can feel the past in the family portraits, antique furniture, and overall decor in the home, which was listed as a National Monument in 2002. There are several epic paintings by Venezuelan artist Tito Salas.
The Museo Bolívar onsite features a big collection of personal items and documents, plus military uniforms and weapons, and more.
The Iglesia de San Francisco—a national monument located south of El Capitolio Nacional—was the site of Simón Bolívar's proclamation as El Libertador in 1813 as well as his huge funeral in 1842 (12 years after his death). The church is a marvelous display of colonial architecture with its richly gilded altars. Built during the 1570s, this is one of the city's oldest churches, though the popular tourist attraction has gone through many remodels.
To enrich your visit to the historical center of Caracas, include the Casa Amarilla (Yellow House), a building that became a National Historical Monument in 1979. The structure was the city's prison in 1696, then the City Council, the government palace, and the official residence of some Venezuelan presidents. Visitors enjoy the traditional style in the construction and furniture, plus seeing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, housed in the building since 1912.
Known around town as the "GAN," the La Galería de Arte Nacional opened in 1976 and is one of the most interesting things to do in Caracas. Located near the circular Plaza Morelos in front of Puente Brión, the gallery has more than 10 rooms with displays of more than 4,000 works of art by famed artists, including colonial, pre-Hispanic, sculptures, and modern art.
Strolling around a local public market is an ideal way to do some people watching and familiarize yourself with both the local culture and the region's fresh fruits and vegetables, crafts, and more. At Mercado Municipal de Chacao in Caracas, you'll also have fun perusing all the teas, snacks, meat and dairy products, home decor items, and beyond. The market, which is open Wednesday through Sunday, is located on Avenida Mohedano between Calle Avila and Avenida Urdaneta.
If you are in Caracas and passionate about birds, don't miss Colección Ornitológica Phelps, a nongovernmental organization that started in 1949 to preserve, study, and exhibit Latin American and Venezuelan birds—the country boasts almost 1,400 species. Check out the thousands of books and diversity of bird taxidermies at the collection east of Caracas in the heart of the Sabana Grande district. Contact the organization regarding special educational seminars and events.
Craft lovers and those seeking souvenirs will want to head to Centro Artesanal Los Goajiros, open daily and found west of Plaza Chacaíto, where a bounty of items like musical instruments, hammocks, wallets, bags, and clothing are for sale. Various vendors are located underneath the street level selling Orinoco crafts—the Orinoco River is one of the most significant and longest rivers in South America, and it primarily runs through Venezuela.
Leave the urban jungle behind and head to Parque Los Caobos, within walking distance of local museums and galleries like Galería de Arte Nacional. In one of the city's most historic parks, you'll have a chance to see lovely old trees and statues, and the famous Fuente Venezuela fountain displaying many human figures from around the country. Plus it's fun to watch locals walking their dogs and playing sports.
Bring the little ones to the Museo de los Niños de Caracas for an interactive experience in biology, communication, space, medicine, and more. The whole family can enjoy exhibits like one that explores colors and their uses in daily life, and another on the relationship between humans and their environment. The museum, located between the two towers of Parque Central, is open daily.
Trasnocho Cultural, located inside the shopping center Paseo Las Mercedes, offers a plethora of artistic and cultural experiences for people of all ages. Locals and tourists can have fun by enjoying the four movie theaters, hunting for old and rare finds in the bookstore called El Buscón Librería, watching plays, and more. Soma Café is great for homemade Venezuelan dishes; to satiate your sweet tooth, stop in the Kakao chocolate shop and factory.