In this new article, I share with you my best discoveries in Bogotá, summed up in a 3-day tourist program (if you want to come and visit). Of course, you can adapt the program according to your tastes!
Arrival in the Colombian capital on Friday night
– Settling in the hotel (preferably in the historical centre, to have a greater mobility)
- Hotel Continental (apartments, hotel rooms)
Address: Avenida Jiménez #4-16, La Candelaria
- Hostal Masaya (hostel)
Address: Carrera 2 #12-48, La Candelaria
8:00 am: Breakfast at Café Florida
Address: Carrera 7 #21-46, La Candelaria
The Florida bakery turns out to be a tea room when you pass at the back of the shop. Since it opened in 1936, it is one of the oldest businesses of the city. It is furnished and decorated in a surprisingly European style, which makes us recall 19th century Austrian tea houses. The menu includes snacks, salty dishes, as well as desserts and drinks. You will certainly find what you are looking for there, while having the opportunity to try Colombian specialities!
9:00 am: Visit the Museo del Oro
Address: Carrera 6 #15-88, La Candelaria
The Bogotá Gold Museum possesses the largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold pieces in the world. It opened in 1939, to avoid the dispersion of pre-Columbian treasures that belong to the national legacy. On Sundays, the entrance is free. The rest of the week, you only have to pay 1€. The four theme rooms will amaze you through the visit!
11:00 am: Visit the Museo de la Esmeralda
Address: Calle 16 #6-66, La Candelaria
Do not pay attention to the fact that it is not known to the general public. This museum belongs to a private individual, who inaugurated it in order to promote the precious stone. Colombia is the world’s second largest producer, after Zambia. The most interesting thing about this museum is the interactive itinerary it offers: a real mine from the Boyacá region has been recreated.
11:45 am: Walk on the Carrera septima and discover Plaza Bolívar
Address: Carrera 7 #11-10, La Candelaria
A little anecdote: The « carrera » (an exclusively Colombian name for vertical streets, to distinguish from « calles », the horizontal streets on a map) 7 represents the most important street of the capital, because it hosted many historical events and geographically crossing the city from north to south.
A little anecdote bis: Bolívar Square is the main square and centre of the historical district of Bogotá. If you pay attention, almost all the main squares of Colombia’s 1122 municipalities are named in honor of Simón Bolívar. Only two among them do not wear it, and both are places that the soldier did not « liberate »: Dosquebradas and Pasto.
12h00: Enter in the Catedral Primada
Address: Carrera 7 #11-10, La Candelaria
It is considered a « national monument », its building having lasted from 1807 to 1823, on the very site where the two cathedrals that preceded it were erected. The decoration is at the same time refined and rich in gilding, as Colombians appreciate it. From time to time, classical music concerts are held there.
12h30: Visit the Museo Santa Clara
Address: Carrera 8 #8-91, La Candelaria
Nowadays it became a museum, but it originally built in 1647 to house the royal convent of Santa Clara. It is located in the historic centre of the capital, in front of the presidential palace of Nariño. You have to pay to enter (1€) and the visit is quite short, since it corresponds to the nave. But it is worth it! You will be in awe in front of the vast collection of medieval paintings and the typical gilding from the Baroque period.
13h30: Lunch at the restaurante Barcarola
Address: Calle 11 #82, La Candelaria
At affordable prices, you can have lunch or dinner like a real Colombian! On the menu: starter, main course and drink for the price of the main course! On the menu, you will find typical dishes, such as « bandeja paisa » (photo). After that, no risk of starvation for the rest of the day!
15h00: Visit the Museo Botero and the Casa de la Moneda
Address: Calle 11 #4-41, La Candelaria
The Botero Museum, which you can also visit in Medellín, the artist’s birthplace, shelters a collection of 87 works of universal art and 123 of his own pieces of art, donated by the artist to help promote art and culture in the country. His style is a unique mix of Latin American and European influences: he draws inspiration from themes, such as the female nude or still life, and represents them with smooth and sulky features.
In the same place are the Museum of the Art Collection of the Republic of Colombia and the Museum of the Coin. Feel free to continue the visit, you will discover the history of the « Colombian peso », from the importation of Spanish coins to the explanation of the design of the banknotes.
17h00: Go through the Chorro de Quevedo, do not forget to taste the Chicha
Address: Calle 12b #22, La Candelaria
It is known as the place where the city was founded in 1538. The square, where storytellers and hipsters are used to gather, is recognizable by its fountain, built on the order of the Augustinian monk Quevedo. All around, there are buildings built in the colonial architectural style, that are often covered with magnificent coloured wall paintings. Feel free to test the chicha, a drink created by the muiscas, that you can obtain from the fermentation of the corn.
17h30: Walk along the Eje Ambiental
Address: Along Avenida Jímenez
The avenue is one of the capital’s main roads, as it runs through the historic centre of Bogotá. In 2001, a tree-lined brick pedestrian path was built along the San Francisco River: the environmental axis. It is very enjoyable to walk there, as it allows you to cross several districts and reach strategic points.
18h00: Have a snack at Juan Valdez
Address: Any café
Juan Valdez is the Colombian Starbucks. Espresso, cappuccino, frappé, tea, milkshake, sweet or savoury snacks, Colombian souvenirs… it is not hard to find something for your taste.
In addition to this, the place has become a real co-working space, where workers gather around a drink to study. Prices are generally more affordable than in the United States, and the coffee is exclusively produced by Colombian specialists. If I had to give you a recommendation: taste the Colombian « tinto », a typical coffee diluted in water, or the « malteada de café », which is definitely my favorite!
18h30: Go up to the 46th floor of the Torre Colpatria to admire the sunset
Address: Carrera 7 #89, La Candelaria
The Colpatria Tower, which rises up to 196 metres, is the former highest tower of the country. It is the headquarters of Colpatria Bank, but also houses other financial companies. The advantage of this skyscraper is that you can go up, paying about 1€, to admire the panoramic view of the capital, on the 46th floor. The terrace is open from Friday to Sunday, and at night on Saturdays. It is a wonderful way to discover the vastness of the Colombian capital, as well as to take exceptional photos at sunset.
20h00: Dinner at the Crêpes & Waffles of Avenida Jiménez
Address: Avenida Jiménez De Quesada #4-55, La Candelaria
Before arriving in Colombia, a friend of mine, a native of the country, told me: « As soon as you get there, promise me you will eat at Crêpes & Waffles ». We tend to think, as French people, « Anyway, the best crepes are French. » Do not get me wrong, we are dealing with a real gem. Breton crepe, Mexican-style, vegetarian, pitas, salads; chocolate, fruit and red fruit waffles, accompanied by ice cream, sorbets and pastries. I might as well tell you, when you see my enthusiasm, that you will not be disappointed.
8:00 am: Breakfast at Hostal Masaya
Address: Carrera 2 #12-48, La Candelaria
As you may have noticed, the Masaya hostal is included in the housing recommendations that I gave you, at the beginning of the article. What is extra about this hostel, if not its central location, is its breakfast. Even if you are not staying there, you can still enter and eat there. The meal, which works as a buffet, costs about €3.50. In truth, it is more like a brunch: you will be able to choose between sweet or salty, you can also drink juice or coffee. Be careful, it ends relatively early, around noon.
9:00 am: Visit the Museo Nacional
Address: Carrera 7 #28-66, La Merced
Opened in 1823, the National Museum is both the largest and oldest museum in the country. The building was once used as a prison, hence its austere architecture. For 1€, you can discover the history of Colombia, from its colonial origin to its independence, including the advances during the 20th century. You will also find part of the national art collection, representing the evolution of the country, as well as its historical events, such as the death of Pablo Escobar, painted by Fernando Botero. In addition, temporary exhibitions on the ground floor often deal with specific and interesting themes in a interesting way.
11:00 am: Head to the Mercado Paloquemao
Address: Calle 19 #25-04, Paloquemao
Fruit and vegetable lovers, you will feel like in paradise! At about twenty minutes by bus from the city centre, Paloquemao market is the perfect place to taste the diversity of the South American food. Be careful: it is a real labyrinth, for a game of hide-and-seek, there is no better place. More seriously, this covered market is organised by product. Thus, you will find a vegetable corner, a fruit one, or dairy and cheese, biscuits, household products, typical Mexican food ones. If you want to buy a product, make your negotiating power work, you will get great deals.
12h00: Go to the Mercado de Usaquén
Address: Calle 119 #6a, Usaquén
Despite its name that depicts it as a « flea market », the Usaquén market is rather a place where you can find local crafts and gastronomy. The area is very pleasant for a Sunday walk. The salesmen offer you traditional bags, jewellery, creams or even typical sweets. In addition, it is easy to find a restaurant where you can have lunch, since there are a lot of them all around the market.
14h00: Lunch at POKE
Address: Calle 120a #5-61, Usaquén
The « poke » is a traditional Hawaiian dish, made with many raw vegetables and mixed up in a salad. The architecture of the place is original and will immerse you in an Asian and minimalist atmosphere. The menu offers pokes that are already made up, but it is also possible to create your own poke, for an affordable price of about 8 euros. The food is healthy, and it allows you to fill up your batteries for the rest of the afternoon!
16h00: Visit the Jardin Botánnico Celéstino Mutis
Address: Calle 63 #68-95, Barrios Unidos
This botanical garden is a real haven, far from the hustle and bustle of the capital. Although some nooks are sometimes closed for renovation, the diversity of the national flora its well-presented: plant and flower species from all regions of the country, in a peaceful environment. You can even visit a typical hut of the Amazonian tribes. Do not forget to take a look at the large wax palm trees, in front of the entrance. These are the highest palm trees in the world, which inhabit the Cocora Valley in Salento.
18h00: Walk in the Parque Simón Bolívar
Address: Avenida Calle 53 y Avenida Esmeralda, Barrios Unidos
A large green space with an impeccable maintenance, where there is grass as far as the eye can see and several lakes with calm waters. In this urban park that does not charge the entrance, you can walk, rest on the grass, play sports, do all kinds of activities, without feeling stuck to other people. I highly recommend it for a quiet getaway, not so far from the city centre!
8:00 pm: Dinner at Empanadas La Regional
Address: Calle 19 #5, La Candelaria
You can taste the famous « empanadas » everywhere in the Colombian capital. In fact, it is a small croissant-shaped treat, stuffed with meat, cheese, potatoes or eggs…. Flavours depend on the region in which it is prepared. In the restaurant « Empanadas La Regional », each empanada costs you about 0,60€. Colombians are used to eating them with « pico de gallo », an accompaniment made of tomatoes, onions and chilli, or hot sauce.
8:00 am: Breakfast at Hornitos in CityU
Address: Calle 20 #2-3, La Candelaria
It is very simple: if you want breakfast at low price, go to Hornitos. If you want to have lunch at low price, go to Hornitos. If you want to have a snack at low price, go to Hornitos. If you want to have dinner at low price, go to Hornitos. To put it in a nutshell, Hornitos is a bakery that offers a vast menu, from sweet to salty, including hot and fresh dishes, Colombian specialities… You’re going to love it… and your stomach too!
9:00 am: Visit the Casa Quinta de Bolívar
Address: Calle 21 #4-30, La Candelaria
Located just under the Monserrate cable car, it was in this vast property that Colombia’s « liberator », Simón Bolívar, stayed during his five years as head of the country. The dwelling, divided into several buildings, has been renovated, but the ancient decoration has been preserved, as well as the furniture that embellishes it. The most pleasant part of the visit remains the walk in the huge, flowered and silent garden. You will most certainly have the impression to go back in time.
10:00 am: Climb up to the Cerro de Monserrate
Address: Cordillera Oriental de los Andes
In other words, it is THE must-see visit if you are in Bogotá. The site, at an altitude of 3152 metres, will leave you speechless in front of the 360º panorama it offers you of the Colombian capital.
It is possible to climb by feet, but be careful: it is exhausting! I personally climbed it only once by feet, and it lasted 55 minutes. As for tourist guides, they explain that the average duration is about two hours. Don’t worry, you can always choose to go up by cable car. Some Colombians use it as stations of the cross, climbing it on their knees, until they reach the church of the Lord of Monserrate, at the summit of the mountain.
The site includes restaurants, as well as a small market where you can buy coca tea, which will help you to cope with mountain sickness, caused by the exceptional altitude. I advise you to go there on the morning, to be able to admire the view without clouds, or then in the evening at 6pm, at sunset time.
13h00: Lunch at El Corral
Address: Any restaurant
It can be considered the Colombian McDonald’s, but of better quality. A menu that includes a hamburger, a portion of fries and a drink costs you between 7 and 10€. The quantities are generous, and the flavours are different from those we know in France. I particularly recommend the « malteada de maracuyá » for dessert.
14h00: Go for a walk in the Zona T
Address: Calle 83, El Retiro
It is an urban area located between two pedestrian streets forming the letter « T », hence its name. You will find there all the trendy restaurants, as well as a huge number of culinary sweets of all kinds. Many also describe it as the best place to celebrate in the capital, as you can find there many bars, bistros and nightclubs. In daytime, you can shop there. The Andino shopping centre that is filled with luxury brands, and the shops surrounding it outside, will make you love the place.
16h00: Have a drink at Andrés D.C.
Address: Calle 82 #12-21, El Retiro
The Andrés Carne de Res restaurant is unique in the world, since you can eat gourmet dishes, listen to music and dance, at the same time. Isn’t this incredible? In addition to that, it was built on a former ranch, which explains its large size. Unfortunately, it is located in Chía, about 50 minutes by car from Bogotá.
But do not panic! If you do not have the chance to visit the original place, there are three others scattered around the capital, except that they are smaller. The food is excellent, the service is rather top of the range, and the prices are reasonable. Get ready to dance after having enjoyed your meal, while sipping a glass of « guaro », the typical Colombian liqueur!
Departure from Bogotá
If you stay one more day, or if you do not like one of the activities proposed, you may like one of these three extra visits:
Excursion to the Guatavita lagoon (duration: 10 hours):
The small village of Guatavita is two hours away by bus from the capital, a trip that will only cost you 3€! But the most interesting thing to visit is the lagoon that wears its name and which, at the opposite of what one might think, is in Sesquile, not in Guatavita. In fact, Guatavita was the name of an important muisca chief at the time. The visit is extraordinary and really worth it.
Accompanied by a local guide, from one of the original tribes of this place, you will learn that the Muiscas lived there before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers. The natives had sanctified the lagoons and were used to gathering there as part of religious ceremonies. They threw offerings of all kinds, including precious stones, to pay tribute to their gods and beg for mercy. During these gatherings, the chief of the tribe, the « cacique », would be covered with gold dust and then submerged, to be blessed by the divine water. This is how the world-famous myth of « El Dorado » was born.
Unfortunately, this beautiful tradition gave rise to bloody massacres, as soon as the conquistadors arrived, since they wanted to seize the objects buried deep in the lagoon. A consequence of the wild behaviour of the Spaniards, who destroyed this place, is still present today: the enormous cut on one side of the mountain. The guide will introduce you to the origin of this lagoon, which is not yet quite clear, and will teach you the basics of Muisca philosophy, while explaining the need to preserve this exceptional place.
The mystical energy you will feel when you reach the summit, after crossing the dense flora of the semi-paramo surrounding the holy place, will make you aware of the importance of its conservation.
Visit of the underground salt cathedral of Zipaquirá (duration: 8 hours):
It is the first wonder of the country, also considered an architectural achievement on a world scale. As you understood, this original cathedral, located 50 kilometres away from Bogotá, is one of the touristic destinations not to be missed if you come and visit the country. You will walk around the building during four hours, and it is more interesting to do so using one of the audio guides that the staff offers at the entrance. Its impressive depth of 327 metres will immerse you in a unique atmosphere, and you will have no choice but to follow, in silence, the instructions in the audio guide.
The church was actually built in a salt mine. The Way of the Cross that you will do is dictated by the rhythm of the changes in lighting and the discovery of marble or salt statues, which makes the visit even more mystical. You will feel like you are going back in time for a few hours. The Way of the Cross will lead you to discover wonderful corners, such as the chapel built inside the cathedral.
Hiking to the cascade La Chorrera (duration: 8 hours):
Who would not want to take a short getaway in the mountains surrounding the capital, with its lush vegetation? About an hour and a half away by bus, you will have to stop just before the village of Choachí. This is the opportunity to discover the highest waterfall in Colombia, as well as its miniature version: « El Chiflón ». You can scroll behind this waterfall, to immerse yourself in the humid atmosphere of the place. It is even possible to go down the waterfall to take a picture in front of it, or to soak your feet in the icy water.
Then awaits you a path of about an hour, to reach the great waterfall. This natural treasure is 590 metres high. During the climb, you will pass by coves and understand why Colombia possesses the second largest biodiversity in the world. A beautiful escapade, which you will not regret, despite the pain you will feel the next day when you wake up!