Bogotá Deserves Your Attention
Why you should visit this up & coming Colombian travel destination
Felicity—a 20-something travel lover—has teamed up with her friends from around the world to provide readers with local, insider knowledge of today’s most awe-inspiring destinations. Through writing, photography, and video, they’ll share the best tricks and tips for experiencing a place authentically and getting off the beaten path.
Colombia is having a moment. An extended moment, in fact, as more travelers catch on to what a remarkable place it is. Amongst the country’s bigger cities—Bogotá, Cartagena, and Medellín, for example—Bogotá is the one that sometimes gets lost in the mix.
Colombia’s capital tends to keeps a lower profile, however that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting; rather, it’s one of the reasons it’s so fun to explore. A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit friends in Bogotá, and absolutely loved my time there. Here are five reasons why I’d return (in an instant!) to this amazing city on the rise:
1. The Street Art and Architecture
During our daily strolls around the capital, I seemed to stop every ten feet to photograph a building (unsurprisingly, we made slow progress). From an architectural perspective, Bogotá is rather surreal, a city of hills where modernism, red brick, and colorful colonial styles collide. Architects who’ve left their mark have been both Colombian and foreign, bringing with them a broad range of approaches and materials.
Amazingly, my friends actually lived in one of the city’s most iconic buildings: the Torres del Parque. Designed by preeminent Colombian architect Rogelio Salmona, the towers were considered a revolutionary concept in housing when finished in 1970, and showed off Salmona’s love of red brick, curves, and spirals. The three towers hug the Santamaria Bullring (1931), which in itself was an incredible sight to look down upon from my friends’ apartment.
Up in the mountains, the bright white Monserrate—a Catholic church built with the help of pilgrims—is worth the trek. Perched at 9300 feet, it’s visible from many areas of Bogotá.
All in all, however, it was the smaller, vibrantly-painted colonial buildings that drew me in the most.
They’re most prominently on display in the historic La Candelaria neighborhood, where my camera and I probably moved at the slowest pace of all.
Bogotá is also a winning destination for lovers of street art, a craft adding further quirk to this eclectic city. There’s even an area dedicated to the craft, appropriately named Distrito Graffiti.
2. The Food and Coffee
Colombia’s capital is home to nearly seven million people, most of whom dine daily at the city’s countless restaurants and cafes. In every neighborhood, dozens of small shops offer corrientazo—the inexpensive and protein-heavy traditional lunch of Bogotanos—while others serve more modern Colombian fare and internationally-inspired cuisine. Selected by my local friends, here are some of the best spots to eat/drink:
Les Amis Bizcocheria
Arbol del Pan
La Plaza de Andrés—a truly incredible food court where you can try all kinds of traditional Colombian foods (like arepas, a type of cornmeal cake)
La Castaña Empanadas
Tábula—my favorite meal in all of Bogota. If they have it, try the oxtail!
Bourbon Coffee Roasters (because you must drink coffee when in Colombia)
For Chocolate Con Queso (a gloriously decadent kind of hot chocolate with a chunk of super creamy cheese at the bottom of the mug. Trust me, you want it):
Ciclovia (meaning “cycleway”) is one of Bogotá’s most delightful features. Every Sunday from 7am until 2pm, 75 miles of city streets transform into car-free/bike-friendly laneways for all to enjoy, and nearly a quarter of the population turns out.
In addition to all the cycling, rollerblading, running, and strolling going on, there are also free exercise classes; lycra-clad Bogotanos gather in parks and plazas for activities like yoga, dancing, and aerobics. There is no better way to live like a local in Bogotá than to embrace Ciclovia.
Simply put, Bogotá’s museums are outstanding, and practically worth a trip to the city alone. Because I’m drawn to shiny things, my favorite of the bunch was the Museo del Oro. This “Museum of Gold” covers Colombia's major pre-Hispanic cultures, with more than 55,000 pieces laid out over three floors. I spent half a day wandering this glittering institution, and easily could have gone back for more.
Other fantastic museums include Museo Nacional, Museo de Arte Modern, Centro Cultural Gabriel García Márquez, and Museo Botero (featuring the country’s most prolific living artist).
Note: Museo Nacional and Museo Botero have free entry, and Museo del Oro is free on Sundays.
5. It’s So Green!
Bogotá is set in the mountains at 8660 feet above sea level. While this makes for misty and dramatic weather at times, it also means the city is lush and green year-round.
My main points here? It’s really darn lovely to look at, and it’s wise to pack for any/all kinds of weather. Also, if you’re wondering what months are best for visiting Bogotá, I’d recommend anytime between December and March.