5 November 2010

My top five things to do in Bogota

As you know, Bogota – the capital city of Colombia - is my hometown and the place where I spent most of my childhood and teens, but it was only after I returned from my 10 years living in England that I rediscovered it and learnt to enjoy this cosmopolitan yet traditional city. Here are Marcela’s Colombia Travel Blog top 5 things to do in Bogota by day, a mixture of very well know places and some little secrets from a native Bogotan with a traveler’s view:

5. Gold museum
This is a must, even if you don’t like museums. The Gold Museum of Bogota is not just “another” museum. I don’t know if it is just me but I truly enjoy it because is not just exhibition after exhibition and artifacts after more artifacts, it explains in a very enjoyable and interactive way the importance of the metal for pre-Hispanic societies. The museum shows you how the pre-Hispanic societies extracted the metal, transformed it, used it, made it an astronomic and religious symbol and finally returned it to mother earth as an offering.  The Offerings exhibit is my favorite one, a really well done multimedia room that you have to experience yourserlf… a place where earth meets the sky!

How to get there.
You’ll find the museum at the Santander Park on Carrera 5 and Calle 16 close to La Candelaria area.  You can get there by taxi or public transport using Transmilenio
You need to take the bus going to Las Aguas and get off at Museo de Oro station, located on Avenida Jimenez and Carrera 7 just a few steps away from the museum

It’s open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday and Bank holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. The entrance is COL$3.000 (U$1.50) and free on Sunday … can get any better than that!

4. Go up to Guadalupe a hill next to Monserrate
This one is a little off the beaten track although you can see it from anywhere in Bogota, as you have to take the road that goes behind the Bogota mountains and is kind of Monserrate’s less known (and taller) sister. Once you get there, you’ll be able to get  an amazing view of the city and its surroundings, on top of the Guadalupe mountain there is Sanctuary with an enormous statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe spreading her arms onto the city. The original building was built around 1600 and was a very popular sacred site amongst locals. 

How to get there.
Although Guadalupe is a beautiful place, it always better and safer to go only during the day. You need to take a blue van –Colectivo – from Carrera 10 and Calle 6 on the Tercer MIlenio Park. 
If you are driving, take Avenida Circunvalar south and just before the Franklin Delano Roosevelt institute take the exit to Choachi. After 6.7 k take the dirt road (clearly signed) to the right and follow the signs to the Santuario for another 2k to the car park. Then walk for 50 more meters to the Virgen de Guadalupe.
What’s there.
There are a few very local restaurants where you can have lunch for about a dollar as well as try some local delicatessen such as tamales, arepas, aguadepanela all prepared in open wood fire ovens.
It may be a good idea to take some food (rice, sugar, panela) as a donation to the local community. Make sure you deliver it at the sanctuary.

3. Have a glass of wine at around 5:30pm in Monserrate 
Once in Bogota, it is very easy to spot, all you have to do is to look east and you’ll see a beautifully green mountain – that in reality is a dormant volcano – with a Church sanctuary at its summit and you have found Monserrate. Most people go to Monserrate in the morning of for lunch which is fun because you get great views from the city but my favorite is, having walked around the sanctuary and taken some breathtaking photos of the city, to await the sunset and enjoy the beautiful redish-orange colors and a glass of wine whilst the city starts to light up right in front of your eyes.

How to get there.
Monserrate is very close to La Candelaria area located on Carrera 2 Este and Calle 21. You can get there by car (there is a car park), taxi or by public transport. The closest Transmilenio station is Las Aguas. Once there you can take two options to go up its 3.152 m.a.s.l.:
-Teleferico (cable car).  Runs Monday to Saturdays from 12 to 12 and Sundays from 9 to 5.  Tickets are US$8, U$9 after 5:30pm and U$4 on Sundays (many locals go to church on Sundays)
- Funicular (land). From Monday to Saturday runs from 7:45 to 11:45, Sundays and bank holidays go from 6am to 6pm. Tickets are the same as before.

What’s there.
The Sanctuary surrounded by nature and coble stone paths that will take you to a local market full of souvenirs from Bogota and Monserrate.
There is a lot of nature, great views of the city, some coffee shops and two restaurants: Santa Clara (U$15 for a main course)  nice traditional food at good prices and  San Isidro (U$40 for a meal) a more upscale colonial restaurant  with French cuisine and famous for its lobster.
On Sundays many locals walk all the way to the top of the mountain. Some do it as part of their training and some others pay their respects and penance following each station of the cross (viacrucis).

2. Go for a walk in La Candelaria and finish in El Chorro de Quevedo

Most people that have been to Bogota or are planning to go must have heard about this very historic and special place. For those who haven’t,  let me just say that this area of the city is magic and a must see. A few years ago La Candelaria used to be a very messy and somehow abandoned area of the city, until our “mother nation”, Spain decided to invest some money – lucky us-  in their “Colonies” to restore and keep as many colonial buildings as possible. So this neighborhood went from being an unwanted place to a very trendy and sometimes expensive but very desirable place to live in.  Not only that, it was in La Candelaria not far from the mountains that Bogota was founded back in 1538 in a little picturesque  plaza now called El Chorro de Quevedo (Calle 13 and Carrera 2).. my favorite place in La Candelaria.

How to get there.
By foot or by taxi is very easy. If you take public transport – Transmilenio – get off at Las Aguas station and head to the “Calle del Embudo” (ask around, every one knows). This little calle is a coble stone street full of colorful colonial houses that will lead you straight to La Plaza de Quevedo.  Once you get there visit a restaurant called Gato Negro... go up to the second floor and sit in the balcony for a fantastic hot chocolate (or cocktails) and a great view of La Candelaria.

1. Usaquen every day but specially it's sunday flea market
This is by far my favorite neighborhood in Bogota. It is residential, commercial and fun! It is especially beautiful during Christmas time. It used to be a town on the outskirts of Bogota about 40 years ago. As Bogota grew it  was incorporated as a new neighborhood. It has a beautiful main plaza with a church and colonial houses. I can easily say that it has become a gastronomic icon in Bogota, there you can find restaurants for every taste, from local food to Argentinean parrilla and Peruvian ceviche. 
On Sundays there is a huge flea market very popular amongst locals and tourists.
One of my favorite hotels is also located there and is called Art Suites. From their top floor you have the best view of the city, the colonial roofs and of the green mountains of Bogota.

How to get there.
Usaquen is located between Carrera 7 and 4 and Calle 116 and 120. You can get there by taxi or public transport. Many buses from Las Aguas in La Candelaria would take Carrera 7 and  cross the city all the way to the north.

That’s it, my favorite places in Bogota, as always if you have any question, contact me!



Also see my Top five places to Party in Bogota

**Some pictures on this post have been taken from various sources. Credits to Sandra Tobon, bogota.gov.co, Colombia Absolut.


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  2. I've been toying with thte idea of visiting Bogota for some time now. I keep seeing airfare deals, but I'm always at a loss for what to do once I'm there, how long to stay, if you need a car, how to find a cheap and safe place to stay, basically all the details, etc.

    I still need a lot more info, but now I'm even more interested!

  3. Hi Alanna,

    I'm so happy to hear that you want to come to my hometown and maybe the rest of Colombia, feel free to contact me with your questions here or at my e-mail colombiatravelmarcela@gmail.com , but the first thing you have to know if how long you want to stay and as of when, let's start from there!



  4. Excellent post! Bogota is such a great city. We have a very rich and diverse culture. It is a modern city where you can find everything you would in any other touristic spot. Also Bogota has lots of museums, parks, and universities, thus it is called “The Athens of South America”. And at the same time you can visit the wild part of Colmbia with a rich natural environment and lovely beaches. ¿My advice? Everyone is so welcome to come! :)
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