Caracas, Venezuela, is a bustling metropolis and the country’s capital. It began as a Spanish colonial settlement more than 400 years ago. But since the country’s oil boom, which started in the 1970s, Caracas has become one of the world’s most modern cities. Here, visitors can enjoy a thriving nightlife in one of the city’s “centros commerciales,” shop ‘til they drop at department stores and shopping districts, dine at a range of restaurants, and visit attractions steeped in history and culture.

Among the historic attractions are La Casa Natal de Simón Bolívar (birth place of Simón Bolívar), who played a key role in Latin America’s struggle for independence from Spain in the early 1800s. Next door is the Museo Bolivariano with some of Bolívar’s war relics. The city’s culture also can be seen at several museums, including the Sofia Imber Museum of Contemporary Art, with works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall, along with Venezuelan artists. The National Gallery of Art and the Caracas Museum of Fine Art in the Plaza de los Museos feature Venezuelan, Latin American and international art. And the Natural Science Museum offers an archaeological collection from the native cultures.

Located near the Caribbean coast and surrounded by the Cerro ávila mountain range and El ávila National Park, Caracas also is a starting point for sports and recreation. Visitors can reach Avila Mountain via the ávila Cable Car for hiking and city and ocean views. Just over the mountains to the north are the Caribbean Sea, the Venezuelan island of Margarita and the Los Roques archipelago. Caracas is also a gateway to Venezuela’s natural attractions, including the Gran Sabana and Angel Falls, the Andes Mountains, and the Amazon rainforest.

Caracas’ ethnic diversity translates to an international array of cuisines, although local dishes, which are based on seafood, grilled meats and corn, are a large part of the diet. Traditional foods include pabellón criollo, Venezuela’s national dish, with shredded beef, black beans and cheese, and cachito, a hot croissant filled with chopped ham and cheese.

Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetía (Caracas Maiquetía International Airport) is served by 32 airlines including American, Continental and Delta. Taxis and major car rental companies are available, and UCAM buses run between the airport and Caracas. In town, the Metro (subway) system is efficient and inexpensive, with three lines and 39 stations. In addition, Caracas offers metrobuses, as well as minibuses (por puestos) that can be flagged down and exited almost anywhere upon request.

Separated from the Caribbean by a mountain range, Caracas sits as high as 3,000 feet above sea level, giving it a tropical savanna climate. Average daytime temperatures range from 70 degrees in January to 77 in May, making Caracas a pleasant place to visit nearly any time of year. In December and January, heavy fog may appear, and temperatures may drop to as low as 45 degrees at night — a phenomenon known as the Pacheco.