Bogotá isn’t always a favorite with first time tourists to Colombia.
Yes it might be the start of your trip but the chilly temperatures, intermittent showers and busy traffic might not be what many think of as the gateway to paradise.
Give Bogotá a Chance
Hidden away in and around the city are unique boutiques, quirky eateries and a mountain of cultural activities, which are the perfect way to kick off a memorable trip to Colombia.
Here’s Colombia Eco Travel’s guide to the best Bogotá has to offer, including suggestions for day trips close to the city if you have more time.
Colombians like a hearty start to their day, and there’s no better way to set you up for a day of sightseeing. On the menu you will find arepas – a flat corn cake, served with huevos al gusto (eggs to your liking). Try some huevos pericos – eggs with spring onion and tomato – the perfect accompaniment to a fresh fruit juice and a cup of coffee
Colombia is also famed for its slightly bizarre food combinations, those brave enough can try chocolate con queso – yes that’s hot chocolate with cheese – a salty/sweet combination that you will either love or hate.
Also worth a taste is Colombia’s take on the tamal, which vary depending on the region you are visiting. Try La Puerta Falsa (Calle 11 #6-50) just off the historic Plaza Bolívar, famed for its tamales and traditional sweet treats.
For a taste of decadent elegance, La Florida (Carrera 7 #21-46) on bustling Carrera Septima was once a haunt for Bogotá’s literary and social elite. Dining here is less rustic, with table service and a selection of more European inspired pastries also available.
A visit to Bogotá should being with a trip around the capital’s historic center – La Candelaria. A mix of bright colonial architecture and bustling street vendors, start at the Plaza Bolívar in front of the cathedral, where you can even have your picture taken with an alpaca.
Walking up Calle 11 you will find the Botero Museum (Calle 11 No. 4-41: Free entry) – a Colombian artist with a love of all things oversized.
Head even further up the hill and you will reach the Chorro de Quevedo, where Bogotá was founded. Legend has it, after the region’s indigenous Muisca tribes started using water from a spring which is allegedly where the square’s fountain can be found today.
Toddle down the infamous Calle de Chicha, a hit with students for its cheap, and deadly, fermented maiz drink which you will see being sold in bottles wrapped in brown paper bags, before crossing the Plaza de Periodistas and heading down Avenida Jimenez, the heart of Bogotá’s emerald trade.
A coffee or two
A visit to Colombia wouldn’t be complete without a few cups of coffee.
At the Plaza de Rosario try having a quick coffee break at the Café Pasaje (Carrera 6 #14-43), a favourite haunt of intellectuals from the nearby Rosario University.
Gold and all that glitters
A trip to Bogotá isn’t complete without a visit to the capital’s famous Gold Museum (Carrera 6 #15-88). Set over three floors, and having undergone a fairly recent facelift, prepare to be dazzled by the world’s largest collection of gold and pre-Colombian objects. The museum has a collection of 55,000 pieces, with around 6,000 of these on display.
Heading back to the Plaza de Bolívar and a short walk down past the presidential palace guards will take you to the Colonial Art Museum (Carrera 6 #9-77).
This stunning redbrick building, hailing from 1604, was previously a Jesuit college. After extensive renovations this hidden gem is finally open to the public once again and will leave you awestruck by the extensive collection of religious artwork and portrait art from Colombia’s favorite baroque artist, Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos (1638–1711).
If you have a bit more time on your hands, and fancy finding our more about one of the world’s richest men, and a notorious Colombian crook, then don’t miss out on a trip to the Police museum (Calle 9 #9-27, Edificio de la Policía).
The cadets in training are more than happy to provide a private tour – be it in English or Spanish – through the extensive building, home to Pablo Escobar’s motorcycle in addition to an impressive artillery collection. Don’t miss the opportunity to take photos from the museum’s rooftop terrace, providing spectacular views over Bogotá and across to Montserrate.
Azota Baldosa! (Hit the Dance Floor!)
Despite temperatures dropping after sunset, Bogotános love a good party – and the city has something for all tastes. Relative newcomer La Celia (Cl. 85 No. 14-43), is a fun-filled salsa bar – with live music on Fridays and an impressive cocktail menu to help you party the night away.
Sightseeing outside Bogotá
Catedral de Sal, Zipaquirá
An hour away from Bogotá lies the temperate town of Zipaquirá, home to an impressive salt cathedral some 200 meters underground.
Described as a Colombian “jewel” of modern architecture, visitors can also enjoy a trip to the Parque de sal explaining more about the mining and extraction of salt within the department of Cundinamarca.
Laguna de Guatavita
Allegedly the site of ‘El Dorado’, this turquoise green lake is about 90 minutes away from Bogotá. Tours are fairly frequent throughout the day, and visitors can learn more about the Muisca peoples.
The nearby modern day town of Guatavita is a great stop for lunch – trout is a local speciality – in addition to providing the perfect opportunity to testing some typical desserts and sweet treats.
Colombia Eco Travel offers tours in and around Bogotá, which include all the museums and cultural locations. We can also arrange tours to the Salt Cathedral and Guatavita lake.