History of Caracas
In 1567, and after many slips, the expedition commanded by Diego de Losada arrived at a beautiful valley surrounded by waters of the river Guaire, and formed by the El Avila, Parque Nacional, and parts of the coastal mountain range. Losada and his expedition of 136 men defeated fierce Indian resistance and established the settlement on July 25th.
Nowadays, Caracas is a cosmopolitan city full of contrasts, customs and traditions, and with a population that has grown from 400,000, to more than four million. It has some of the continent's finest modern architecture and it is the cultural, artistic, educational, scientific and economic center of Venezuela. Here you can find theater, dance, museums, historic monuments, luxurious hotels, parks, movie theaters, the finest restaurants, and toward the north stands the magnificent Avila, watching over the city.
During a public ceremony, with the words, "I take possession of these lands in the name of God, His Majesty the King and the Spanish nation," Losada founded the famous city of Caracas. The new city was named Santiago de León de Caracas: Santiago, after the patron saint of Spain; León, after the governor of the day, and Caracas, after the Indian group which inhabited the coastal mountain range.
The city was elected as the administrative seat of the Province of Venezuela in 1577. It was the ideal place to establish the colony, owing to its proximity to the sea, abundant soil and defense from pirates, provided by the Avila. Thus it was turned into the principle seat of power.
The city's distribution was established in accordance with the Laws of India for the creation of the capitals of the New World, which adhered to regulations laid down by Spanish government. The specifications varied from the design of the houses, security, and accessibility and transport of water, to the dimensions used for squares and streets. A very typical way to name streets in the Caracas of Diego de Losada was to refer to events that occurred in specific places. In fact, it is not so much the streets as the corners, which are named in this way, for example, "Peligro a Pele el Ojo" or "Pinto to Miseria," among many others.
In 1812 the city was turned into ruins by a violent earthquake which catholic priests declared to be a punishment from God for the rebellion against the Spanish Crown. In the 19th century, under the leadership of Simon Bolívar, the city became the center of the first revolt in the war for independence from Spain (1810-1821). Caracas became the capital of the Venezuelan Republic in 1829 and also one of the most prosperous Spanish colonial communities in South America .
In spite of its political achievements, Caracas continued to grow. During the mandate of Antonio Guzmán Blanco, who was obsessed with turning Caracas into a portrait of Paris, the city was made a great piece of urbanism: theaters, boulevards, monuments, churches, statues, hospitals, an aqueduct, a Observatorio Cajigal, and the Capitolio Nacional, were constructed. Years later, the start of the oil industry brought great transformations and saw the demographic concentration, social mobility and the great accomplishment of the public works. Thanks to the oil, Caracas became the dream of modernity. In the 1950s, the modernizing vocation of Dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, and his ideological efficiency, converted Caracas into a city full of technological and aesthetic buildings, with new, modern physical environments brought about through the involvement of qualified craftsmen. All of this stemmed from the oil boom.
Interesting Places to Visit in Caracas
El Silencio (downtown): History at a glance! El Silencio proudly shows an important part of Venezuela from the 17th and 18th centuries. Distinguished by beautiful architectural treasures, this part of Caracas is well worth a visit. Places such as La Plaza Bolívar (Bolívar Square), Catedral Metropolitana de Caracas, dating from 1665, the Casa Natal El Libertador, the house where Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, was born; the 17th-century La Casa Amarilla, once a prison, but now used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; El Capitolio Nacional, seat of the legislative council; the Teatro Nacional, (National Theater), El Panteón Nacional, the resting place for prominent Venezuelans; the Basílica de Santa Teresa; El Palacio de Miraflores (the presidential palace) and the Museo Arturo Michelena, should not be forgotten.
El Parque Central: Innovation, architecture, art and culture, and the country's two highest towers… if there is any place that shows how modern Caracas is, it is El Parque Central. Located one and a half kilometers to the southeast of La Plaza Bolívar, the park contains a concrete structure with two 53-floor octagonal towers and residential buildings. However, if it is not architecture and structural designs, but rather culture that takes your interest, you will be pleasantly surprised to find a great number of art centers here:
Complejo Cultural Teresa Carreño, where the arts reach the utmost expression, through theater, dance, concerts and ballet performances among others.
The most important museums of the city include: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas Sofía Imber , Museo de los Niños (Children's Museum), Museo de Ciencias Naturales (Natural Science Museum), Fundación Museo de Bella Artes (Fine Arts), and the Galería de Arte Nacional, the immense Botanical Garden and the Ateneo de Caracas, where you will find a cinema, theaters, an art gallery, a cafeteria and a bookstore.
Entertainment in Caracas
When it comes to culture, art and recreation, Caracas is the place to be. Always full of life and with so much going on each day, visitors to this Carribbean capital will never have to be bored during their stay.
Owing to the city's cosmopolitan character, the Caracas art scene is fascinating and worthwhile. Every day you can find some sort of cultural activity and, particularly at the weekend, Caracas ' talented artists show off their creativity, taking advantage of the many Caraqueños who are out and about. There are always a number of cultural centers with something on. Some of the places where you can get a good idea of what Venezuelan art has to offer are Complejo Cultural Teresa Carreño; the National Art Gallery; Ateneo de Caracas, and Quinta Ateneo.
The museums of Caracas are distinguished by the beauty and magnificence, not only of their architecture, but also the art exhibited inside. Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas Sofía Imber, in Parque Cental, is one example of such excellence. Another is the Fine Arts Museum and then there is the Children's Museum, where not only children, but also parents enjoy themselves immensely. Remember, there is also the Natural Science Museum, the Audiovisual Museum, the Keyboard Museum and the Museo Bolíviariano. All together, Caracas has a total of around 50 art galleries and museums, and whichever your field of interest, you will find something to your liking.
When it comes to theaters there also is a great variety to choose from. One of the most famous theater groups is Sala Rajatablas, which stages its plays at the Ateneo de Caracas. Other theaters well worth a visit are the National Theater, the Foundación Celarg, El Teatro Municipal, the Tilingo Theater and the Teatro Palacios. At the end of April the Festival Internacional de Teatro is held. It takes place every two years and offers some theater from around the world.
The best places to enjoy classical, Latin, jazz and Venezuelan music are the Complejo Cultural Teresa Carreño, the Centro de Cultura Corp Banca and the Central University of Venezuela's Aula Magna. Every month each presents a recital from symphonic orchestras and guests from abroad.
The best nightclubs are to the east of the city. Clubs such as Tiffany's in Altamira , are perfect for those who love house and techno music. Flanagan's Pub, in the Paseo Las Mercedes, is the place to go for salsa, meringue and pop. The Fly Pub in El Rosal is great for rock and heavy metal fans and it has live shows performed by lesser known local rock bands. Primer Piso in Las Mercedes offers live salsa shows on "Latin Thursdays" and on Friday and Saturday, meringue, African rhythms and techno. However, this is not the only place where you will find salsa and meringue because it is played at most of the discos and nightclubs, such as Latino's and Pal's.
Caracas has more than 40 cinemas. The most recommended are, of course, in the east of the city. For lovers of the alternative circuit there are a good number of art cinemas, for example, at the El Ateneo and the National Art Gallery.