Bogota,the capital of Colombia, is one of the most important cities in Latin America and it offers a cosmopolitan combination between history and economic growth, and an exciting cultural and artistic experience with a magical night life. The capital located in the Andean mountain chain and 2.600 meters closer to the starts (above the sea level), is usually the first stop for many tourists visiting Colombia. Here are four amazing ways to discover the soul of the Colombian capital.
1. Take a Tour Through the Historic Center
La Candelaria is the historic center on the city and one of the most incredible places in Bogota. The historic center will take you through time with its magical colonial architecture which juxtapose with the modern tall buildings and the red popular transportation system, transmilenio. But La Candelaria is not just about the exquisite colonial architecture, is also about the history that took place there.
To go through this magical journey through time I would recommend you to start your tour in Las Aguas transmilenio station, and to walk from there to El Chorro de Quevedo. It is only a ten minute walk that will take you across El parque de los Periodistas (the journalists park) and through beautiful small colonial streets and houses. El Chorro de Quevedo is a relatively small plaza with a small church that is surrounded by bars, coffee houses, and some restaurants. But what is important about this place is not just the beauty of its architecture, but the fact that Bogota was founded in this small plaza almost 500 years ago in 1538 by the Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada.
From there you can walk for five minutes to visit the museum of Fernando Botero (I will talk about it later on this article), and after that you would be just a block away from La Plaza de Bolivar. In this plaza you will find one of the most important cathedrals of the city, the national Justice Palace, the congress building, the mayor’s office, and the 2oth of July (Colombian independence day) museum house. This plaza is consider the heart of Bogota where major historical event have taken place, like the beginning of the Colombian Independence from Spain in 1810, the huge protest in 1941 for the assassination of the political leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan which started the famous chaos around the city called “Bogotazo”, and the tragedy that occurred when members of the guerrilla group M-19 took control of the Justice Palace for two days in 1985 in an unsuccessful attempt to take control of the government.
2. View the City from the heights
Every big city has one spot where you can appreciate the city skyline from the heights. Well, Bogota has three and you should definitely visit all of them! The first one as in many cities, is the tallest building in town. The Colpatria Tower located in the center of the city, has 50 stories and a really cool 360º viewpoint in the 48th floor. It is open on Fridays from 2 pm to 9 pm, Saturdays from 2 pm to 8 pm, and Sundays and holidays from 11 am to 7 pm, and it has a cost of 4.500 COP.
The second place you should visit is La Calera, which is a small town located in a mountain right next to Bogota from which you can appreciate the beauty of the city from a different perspective. It doesn’t take long to get there by car, and you will find many restaurants, bars, and coffee houses with incredible viewpoints of the city. I would recommend you to pick a place to have dinner or a drink while you enjoy the view of Bogota at night. It gets a little cold so don’t forget your jacket, and try our local typical warm cocktail called canelazo which is made with aguardiente (the Colombian National liquor) and agauapanela (sugar cane water).
And the third and probably most amazing viewpoint of Bogota is Monserrate. Monserrate is a mountain located in the eastern side of the Andean mountain chain with easy access from the Bogota historic center. On top of the mountain you will find the Sanctuary of the Lord of Monserrate which was build in 1920 and is the house of the fallen Lord of Monserrate which people believe has healing qualities, and the power to conceive miracles. For this reason, and specially on Sundays, you can see some people going up from the beginning of the mountain through the 1034 stairs that take you to the sanctuary located on the top, on their knees. Yes you red right, on their knees! They do that to thank the Lord of Monserrate for the miracles granted to them or their families. But don’t worry, if you don’t like stairs you can take the cable car or the funicular all the way to the top and down. The stairs however, take you through a
beautiful path surrounded by nature and are an incredible exercise. I recommend that if you have a good physical condition you take the stairs, but remember that the top of the mountain is located at 3152 meters above sea level so you should be careful specially if you are not use to the altitude. On the top, you ca explore the sanctuary, a small market, and enjoy the view of the entire city! Yes, Monserrate is the only spot where you have the view of the entire city of Bogota.
3. Have a Taste of Bogota’s Gastronomy, Art, and Culture
Bogota is a city that has been growing dramatically in the past decades, and thanks to that growth and its multicultural atmosphere its gastronomical experience has diversify vastly. You can find excellent restaurants of food from all over the world around the entire city. But if you want to experience the local flavors you must try the Ajiaco Santafereño. It is a soup made of three different local types of potatoes that are cooked in chicken broth enough time for them to dissolve creating a thick consistence. It is serve with chicken, rice, and avocado and you can find the best ones in La Candelaria.
In terms of art and culture, Bogota is a city that offers hundreds of cultural events each year, and is home of some of the best museums of the country. Two museums that you should definitely visit while you are in the city are the Botero museum and the Gold museum. The Botero museum is located in la Candelaria and is home to 123 original works from the famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero, and 85 works from international artists like Joan Miro. In the other hand the Gold museum will offer you a unique experience were you will learn about the history of gold and other metals that were used in Pre-Hispanic societies, and you will be captivated by the beauty of hundreds of amazing gold pieces. Two other places that you should also consider to visit are the Jose Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden, and the Planetary of Bogota.
There is always something happening culturally speaking in Bogota, so I would recommend you to do some research prior to your visit so that you can take advantage of these events. Rock al parque (the biggest international rock festival of Latin america), the international book fair, the Ibero-american theater festival, and the international jazz festival of the teatro Libre are just some of the events to keep in mind.
4. Enjoy Bogota’s Night Life
According to a survey by Win-Gallup in 2015 Colombia earn the tittle of the world’s happiest country for the second year in a row and this tittle doesn’t come for free. Colombians celebrate just for the sake of celebration. Yes, we do not need a reason to party and Colombian parties always involve dancing. For this reason Bogota’s night life scene has been growing and diversifying more in the past couple of years and now a days you can find pretty much any type of club or bar somewhere in the city. But if you want to experience the real “Rumba Bogotana” (Rumba is the local term for party) there are some places that you should visit.
Andres D.C. located in La Zona Rosa is one of them, and it offers a unique atmosphere, good food, and good music to dance all night long. Another place is Billares Londres in the center of the city, were you can appreciate the decoration and architecture of the place, and party to the beats of electronic music. If you are looking to party to Colombian music you should visit Gaira Cafe Cumbia House, a place were you can dance cumbia, salsa, vallenato, and many more Latin rhythms. But if you want to experience all kinds of parties in just one place, you should definitely visit Theatron in Chapinero. Theatron is the biggest club in Latin America and it offers 13th different atmospheres completely independent from each other. But don’t worry, if dancing isn’t your thing you can always have a relax night while you enjoy the best local craft beer in any of the Bogota Beer Company pubs around the city.