Most travelers will tell you to get out of Bogota as fast as you can and not to waste any more of your precious time in Colombia than you have to here. I wouldn’t be so quick to write off the biggest city in the country and the capital, but as I was on a time crunch to get up to Tayrona National Park, a weekend in Bogota is what I ended up giving myself, figuring that I will probably be passing through there again on my way back down towards Ecuador.
The notorious, frigid cold of Bogota is another mark against it. Unfortunately, it is lacking the pleasant climate that much of the rest of the country boasts. But for cultural stuff, Bogota is good, as all capitals are. If you are into street art and graffiti you will be in heaven here.
All of these murals were found in Candelaria, the most famous neighborhood of Bogota and one you must check out while you are there. If I could go back (and if I go back again) I would definitely stay in this neighborhood (although they say you have to be careful at night here). If you don’t book your accommodation in Candelaria than definitely plan on spending at least an afternoon walking around there. It’s a neighborhood with character that keeps begging you to see what’s around the next corner.
From Candelaria you can begin walking down towards the impressive Plaza Bolivar. This enormous square is very open and lively and reminded me a lot of Plaza Mayor in Madrid with it’s mimes, pigeon fleets, artists, and general loiterers (makes sense, as the Spanish were the ones who created this). The four sides that make up this square showcase the “4 powers” of Colombia: the Palacio de Justicia (or Congress), the Alcaldia de Bogota (Mayor’s office), Casa Narino (the President’s house), and the Catedral Primada (main Cathedral):
If you take calle 11 down from Candelaria to the Plaza, you will pass 2 things that were very important to my Bogota experience and which I highly recommend: The Botero museum and the restaurant La Puerta Falsa. The Botero museum is free and open to the public so there is no excuse to miss it. In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, Botero is the artist that did the fat people paintings, perhaps you will recognize:
And La Puerta Falsa is the oldest restaurant in Bogota and famous for it’s Tamal con chocolate which you MUST try while you are here. I recommend waiting to have it in La Puerta Falsa. It’s a tiny restaurant and they will most likely have a line but they have a system to get customers in and out fast and it works. Trust them, they’ve been at it for 200 years.
Now the other Must-do in Bogota if you only have a few days there is to take the cable car up to Montserrat. Montserrat is the big, dark mountain that is looming over you no matter where you are standing in the center of Bogota. At the top there is a pretty church, restaurants, and some great views of this city of nearly 7 million people. It will set you back around $6 dollars round trip, completely worth it.
So there you have it, that’s a lot of stuff to do in Bogota and I was only there for 2 days. I’d imagine it’s one of those places that the longer time you spend there the more secret corners you learn about, the more it grows on you. Enjoy Bogota!