Bogotá City Travel Guide
If you are heading to the capital of Colombia soon, this travel guide is my list of must visit things you should see and eat!
I visited Colombia, South America with my partner at the end of 2022 and spent several days in Bogota at the beginning and end of our trip.
One of my most favourite experiences in the city was a fruit tour around Paloquemao Market. I booked this tour via Airbnb Experiences.
I recommend doing this tour at the start of your journey through Colombia so you can look out for the different fruits throughout your trip. We tried around 30 different fruits and many different juices, smoothies and snacks along the way. The history behind the origins and introduction of the fruits into the country was also interesting. After eating our way around the market, we wandered around the outdoor flower market. Colombia exports huge amounts of fresh flowers and the market stalls were beautifully filled with florals.
A visit inside the “sweetest market in Colombia” is a must see, the guide was so informative, friendly and happy to answer any questions.
Museo Botero is situated in the La Candelaria neighbourhood and comes highly recommended. The museum is dedicated to Colombian artist – Fernando Botero. He donated his art collection to the museum which is inside an old colonial house.
I have to say I virtually know nothing of this artist, but after visiting I now appreciate his distinctive works! His artworks include a mix of oil paintings, drawings and sculptures in his signature style. Read: oversized, exaggerated and chubby characters – both human and animal.
Some pieces are almost a parody, especially the well known Mona Lisa painting. There are also a few other different artists including Dali and Picasso. My personal favourite was the oversized cat sculpture.
The museum is free to enter, and they also have a nice gift shop if you want to pick up postcards of some of the artworks.
Overlooking the city is the mountain of Cerro de Monserrate.
Perched up 10,341ft above sea level is the 17th Century church devoted to El Senor Caido (The Fallen Lord). It is a place of pilgrimage, and especially at the weekend the mountain can get exceptionally busy. We didn’t realise this when we visited on a Sunday and for that reason I would recommend you avoid that day if you can.
There are a few ways to reach the top, the two most popular are the cable car and the funicular. You can also hike the pathway up, but it can take up to three hours and bear in mind the altitude, especially if you haven’t quite acclimatised yet. In terms of safety along that route, I cannot personally comment. On top of the hill, I felt safe but perhaps read up a little on your own if you intend to climb the route yourself.
We took the cable car up and decided on the funicular railway down. If you can, I recommend pre-booking your tickets so you can skip the long lines. However, once you are up on the hill the views across Bogota are breathtaking. The area is beautiful and from there you can really see the sheer size of the city. At the top there are a few restaurants, offering traditional Colombian food. We stopped at Restaurante Santa Clara. The restaurant is beautifully set in a 1924 colonial style with window views all around. If you want to try a traditional dish look out for Bandeja Paisa, which is a combination of rice, beans, minced beef, chorizo, egg, avocado and with some fried plantain on the top.
You can pre-book your tickets through the likes of Get Your Guide or directly on their website.
We walked straight up and paid COP23,500.00 which is around £4.00. The Cable car takes four minutes to reach the top and travels up and over lush vegetation below. On Sundays the last cable car down is at 4:30pm. The funicular down is a lot slower but if you’re afraid of heights, this is probably the best option.
Eat some Tamal (Tamales)
Another foodie experience you must have, not just in Bogota – but in Latin America is trying Tamales (Tamal).
At the top of my list was a visit to La Puerta Falsa restaurant, which is very close to the Plaza De Bolivar. I had seen it in all the guidebooks and it came highly recommended.
The La Puerta Falsa on my first visit was so busy that the line outside was unattainable at that time, so we continued walking uphill on Calle 11 to another nearby restaurant – Mama Lupe. Whether it was because it was my first taste of Tamales in Colombia, but these Tamales were out of this world. The hot corn dough was filled with flavourful slow cooked pork, wrapped in the traditional banana leaf and on this occasion it was served with two aperas on the side.
At the tail end of our Colombian trip we tried again to visit La Puerta Falsa and were lucky enough to get a seat inside. The restaurant is small and crowded but we didn’t mind, we just wanted to try what was allegedly the “best tamales in the city”. Service was fast and soon enough we were opening a hot banana leaf to some chicken tamales, which were great. In my opinion Mama Lupes were better but my partner would disagree. I would also recommend you give the hot chocolate and cheese a try, this combination is popular all over the country and this place offers an opportunity to try it.
Plaza De Bolivar
If you are visiting Bogota then the Plaza De Bolivar is the main square area in the heart of La Canderlaria. It is the symbol of Bogota.
The famous Plaza is named after Simon Bolivar, whose statue is in the centre of the square. Throughout northern South America, Simon Bolivar – nicknamed the “The Liberator” led the countries of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador to independence away from the Spanish empire. Surrounding the square you’ll see the Palace of Justice, the Parliament of Colombia and on the east side the Cathedral of Bogota. The area can also be used for protesters to set up camp. When we visited we saw a passing out parade in front of the Parliament.
Walking across the pigeon popular Plaza you’ll see such a variety of market sellers, animals and musicians. If you turn up at midday you’ll see food vendors selling corn, coffee and arepas. We grabbed a quick coffee from one of the stands in the centre. The market stalls sold vibrantly coloured handbags, hats and jewellery.
You’ll also most likely come across a few Llamas dressed up which makes for a great photo opportunity.
Museo Santa Clara
Nearby to Plaza De Bolivar is one of the city’s most beautifully decorated churches.
The church was completed in 1647 and is decorated in a baroque style, the ceilings and archways are so richly decorated it reminded me of being inside an opulent jewellery box.
It was deconsecrated in the 1960’s and is now a museum and owned by the Colombian ministry of culture. As you approach the building from the outside you wouldn’t expect the inside to be so intricate inside.
When you enter inside you’ll be wowed by the beautiful high ceilings, studded with golden flowers. There is very little empty space and the walls are covered in star latticework, oil paintings and painted in a yellow and blue which is to reflect the two colours of the Immaculate Conception. Don’t be put off by the arm guards and gates outside, because of it’s close proximity to the parliament buildings this was procedure. Trust me, it’s worth gaining access to see inside Santa Clara.
I loved my time in Bogota, if you were visiting soon I would recommend you need three days to explore but if you’re on a tight time schedule then you could see the majority of these things within two days. My stand alone favourite activity was the Fruit tour. It gave such an insight into the food and culture of Colombia.
Exploring the city was easy and straightforward, we travelled a lot via Uber. It was very affordable and a fast way to get places. The city is huge, so bear this in mind when choosing where you stay. We arrived via the international airport and departed from the main bus station, onroute to Salento. Stay tuned for the next blog post on that.
I will link our hotel details below, both places were excellent but at the complete opposite end of the city so it depends on what you want to see.
Situated in the Chapinero area, this four star hotel is much more modern and stylish. The rooms were clean, had all the facilities needed and the hotel over a rooftop terrace area which was welcome. They also had a 24 reception desk, room service and a nice breakfast area.
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