Colonial timesThe territory that became Colombia was first visited by Europeans when the first expedition of Alonso de Ojeda arrived at the Cabo de la Vela in 1499. The Spanish made several attempts to settle along the north coast of today's Colombia in the early 16th century, but their first permanent settlement, at Santa Marta, was not established until 1525. Cartagena was founded on June 1, 1533 by Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia, in the former location of the indigenous Caribbean Calamarí village. Cartegena grew rapidly, fueled first by the gold in the tombs of the Sinú Culture, and later by trade.
The Spanish advance from inland from the Caribbean coast began independently from three different directions, under Jimenéz de Quesáda, Sebastián de Benalcázar (known in Colombia as Belalcázar) and Nikolaus Federmann. Although all three were drawn by the Indian treasures, none intended to reach Muisca territory, where they finally met. In August 1538 Quesáda founded Santa Fe de Bogotá on the site of Muisca village of Bacatá.
In 1549, the institution of the Spanish Royal Audiencia in Bogotá gave that city the status of capital of New Granada, which comprised in large part what is now territory of Colombia. In 1717, the Viceroyalty of New Granada was originally created, and then it was temporarily removed, to finally be reestablished in 1739. The Viceroyalty had Santa Fé de Bogotá as its capital. This Viceroyalty included some other provinces of northwestern South America which had previously been under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalties of New Spain or Peru and correspond mainly to today's Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. So, Bogotá became one of the principal administrative centers of the Spanish possessions in the New World, along with Lima and Mexico City.